Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations
Last week proved quite a week for animal issues in our nation’s capitol. The U.S. House of Representatives took up the Farm Bill, a large agriculture-policy bill passed by Congress every five years. The ASPCA has worked hard to ensure that the bill contained priority language to make it illegal to bring children to, or be a spectator at, organized animal fights (it is spectators who fuel the market for these disgusting events).
Unfortunately, the Farm Bill also included several troubling provisions for animals.
The worst of these was a provision authored by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that sought to gut state and local laws that improve conditions for farm animals and any other animals that might fall under the vague “agricultural product” label. It could have invalidated important state laws that ban gestation crates and battery cages, and even undermine laws regulating puppy mills, preventing the killing of dogs or cats for food, and protecting consumers from dangerous food products.
An amendment was proposed to remove and replace this terrible provision with standards to improve the lives of egg-laying hens. Unfortunately, House leadership ruled against consideration of this amendment, as well as amendments to ban horse slaughter and clamp down on the practice of horse soring.
In a bittersweet twist of fate, the House Farm Bill was ultimately defeated on the floor last Thursday afternoon. It failed under the weight of all-too-familiar Washington gridlock. As the House of Representatives goes back to the drawing board with the Farm Bill, the ASPCA will work to make sure the bill includes animal welfare reforms and that Congress allows fair and open debate on issues like horse slaughter, horse soring and the treatment of our nation’s egg-laying hens.
On a more positive note, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to prevent horse slaughter from returning to the United States. Stay tuned for more information about that important development for our nation’s horses.
We commend the New York State Legislature for passing a bill that gives local governments better tools to regulate puppy mills and pet stores. Passed last week in the final hours of the state's 2013 session, the bill, A.740-A/S.3753-A, now moves to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his signature.
New York State’s “pet dealer” laws regulate commercial pet breeders andpet stores that sell live animals. These laws are quite weak, allowing these pet dealers to house animals inhumanely and sell sick animals to unsuspecting consumers.
Many local governments across the state want to stand up for dogs suffering in puppy mills and pet stores by enacting stronger regulations—but bizarrely, current state law expressly prohibits them from doing so. In fact, New York appears to be the only state where this is not permitted. If approved by the governor, A.740-A/S.3753-A will fix this problem by allowing local governments to exercise their home rule authority to regulate pet dealers.
If you live in New York, you can help! Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to quickly and easily contact Governor Cuomo to urge him to sign this legislation into state law.
Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations
Horses have been central to the ASPCA’s work since our founding in 1866. Trying to help horses through congressional action often demands patience and persistence, and the interests of animals are not always at the forefront in Congress—but tomorrow is the exception.
We worked closely with the House Appropriations Committee to secure a vote to accept the Moran-Young Amendment to prevent horse slaughterhouses from opening on U.S. soil. Tomorrow, it is the Senate’s turn, and our stalwart leaders, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are offering the Landrieu-Graham Amendment to do exactly the same thing in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill—to prevent the flow of our tax dollars to the horse slaughter industry. You can help by checking to see if your U.S. senator sits on the Appropriations Committee and then taking action.
Prohibiting federal funding for horse slaughter facility inspections is a critical step toward ending the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. If the Landrieu-Graham Amendment is adopted by the Senate Appropriations committee, planned horse slaughterhouses will be prevented from opening on U.S. soil, and we will have that much more support and momentum for passing a full ban on horse slaughter and transport to slaughter.
Simultaneously, our leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives worked diligently this week to offer an amendment to the House Farm Bill that would ban horse slaughter for human consumption altogether by prohibiting the slaughter of horses here as well as transport for slaughter to other countries. Unfortunately, the House Rules Committee rejected that amendment late last night—but we will persevere and direct our full energy to the Landrieu-Graham Amendment in the Senate. And when we are able to bring the issue of a full horse slaughter ban to the House floor, we will be ready.
We’ve heard it a million times: “Yes, I bought my puppy at a pet store, but he didn’t come from a puppy mill. The store told me that they only get puppies from USDA-licensed breeders.” That line is used frequently by pet store employees to reassure customers—but what does it really mean?
Sadly, it doesn’t mean much. The USDA’s standards of care are so minimal that most of us would not consider them to be humane. Dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. It's completely legal to house them in cages with wire flooring, and to breed female dogs at every opportunity. These federal standards leave a lot of room for dogs to be severely mistreated.
But seeing is believing. We wanted to make it easy for the public to truly understand where pet store puppies come from. That’s why today we’re launching a new tool on our No Pet Store Puppies website that lets users view more than 10,000 photos of USDA-licensed commercial dog breeding facilities and links some of them to specific pet stores that have sold their puppies within the past year.
You can search the website by pet store name or zip code, USDA license number, the breeder’s name, and specific breed. The photos were taken by USDA inspectors during routine inspections of the facilities.
“Our research reveals a clear disconnect between what many Americans think ‘USDA licensed’ means and what the USDA actually requires of commercial dog breeders nationwide,” explains Cori Menkin, Senior Director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. “The federal requirements fall far short of the public’s standards and expectations for the humane treatment of dogs, and we hope that people will use the new tool on the ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppies website to see for themselves.”
We hope to work with USDA to better enforce and improve the care standards for dogs in commercial breeding facilities, and you can help, too, by decreasing the demand for puppy mill puppies. Take the No Pet Store Puppies Pledge to not purchase anything—including pet food, kitty litter and toys—from a store or website that sells puppies.
The ASPCA works hard to ensure that there are good laws on the books to protect animals across the country. But we can’t do it without the grassroots advocacy of our dedicated ASPCA supporters!
The most powerful way for animal advocates to help reshape our laws is through lobbying their legislators directly. We help you do that by hosting Lobby Days, where we invite passionate citizens like you to be trained by our advocacy experts and make your voices heard at your state Capitol.
Be part of history and make real change for our animals—join our ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. Sign up now, and ask your friends and family to join, so you’ll never miss out on the next Lobby Day, grassroots training or opportunity to take action. Together, we are unstoppable!