As 2013 comes to a close, the ASPCA is celebrating meaningful changes in state animal welfare laws that will improve the lives of thousands of animals across the country. This year, the ASPCA worked with state legislators and other humane advocacy groups to score 87 victories for animals by enacting new laws or defeating hostile legislation, making 2013 one of the most successful years for our animal welfare policy work.
Here is a small sampling of new laws that the ASPCA and our Advocacy Brigade helped secure—as well as misguided bills we helped defeat—in 2013:
(1) Maryland passed a law to establish one of the strongest, most robustly-funded statewide spay/neuter programs in the country, and West Virginia enacted a comprehensive spay/neuter program as well. These new laws will help reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia of healthy animals.
(2) In Texas, cruel and unnecessary gas chambers can no longer be used to euthanize animals in shelters.
(3) Working with a coalition of animal welfare, environmental, and human rights organizations, the ASPCA helped ensure that none of the 11 ag-gag bills introduced in 2013 (in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming) were passed into law. Pushed by industrial agribusiness, these bills were blatant attempts to cover up illegal and unethical activities on factory farms. Defeating them was critical not only for the protection of animals and the whistleblowers exposing their mistreatment, but also for the safety of the public.
(4) Thanks to groundbreaking legislation passed in Colorado, law enforcement officers will receive training on canine behavior and alternative methods to the use of lethal force in order to reduce accidental dog shootings. A new law in New York State will increase criminal penalties for the intentional killing of police dogs and horses
(5) In California, legislation passed that will phase out lead ammunition for hunting throughout the state to protect wildlife, who are at risk of ingesting contaminated remains, as well as California’s diverse ecosystem.
(6) This was a phenomenal year for animals in Nevada, where seven animal protection bills passed, including legislation to ban horse tripping, enhance penalties for animal fighting and protect wild horses.
(7) In New Jersey, penalties for neglect have been strengthened with the passage of “Patrick’s Law,” named after a dog who was starved nearly to death and thrown down a garbage chute.
(8) Illinois enacted new laws protecting chained dogs, stray farm animals, puppy mill puppies and animals who fall victim to animal fighting.
(9) Animals in Alabama and Ohio are safer from abuse thanks to new laws that strengthen cruelty penalties.
(10) ASPCA-backed legislation passed in Connecticut established a task force to study the origin of dogs and cats in pet shops that will, ideally, pave the way for groundbreaking legislation in 2014 to prevent pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies.
Many state legislatures will reconvene in January, and the ASPCA looks forward to expanding protections for even more for animals in all 50 states.
To find out about animal advocacy events in your area and how you can be more involved in the fight to protect animals, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center.
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We’re pleased to report that 47 of the horses have been placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups to be made available for adoption. An additional four horses will be transported to 808 Equine Rescue in Calhan, Colorado, on December 21. Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS), an ASPCA Partner Community agency, will soon transport the remaining horses to a boarding facility.
When we first arrived in Spokane one month ago, the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated from having had no access to water or acceptable food. They were discovered living on an abandoned property, and were seized as part of a cruelty investigation. We’ve been on the ground assisting SCRAPS by helping to shelter and care for the horses, as well as working to find them new homes. We’ll continue to support the agency remotely with boarding costs and placement for the remaining horses.
ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker (right) on location at a dog fighting bust earlier this year.
By ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker
The holidays are a big distraction this time of year, but all the more reason to keep our eyes on the ball – and in this case, on neglected horses in need.
As you may know, in November, our Field Investigations and Response (FIR) Team traveled to Spokane, Washington, to assist Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized as part of an animal cruelty investigation.
So while many of us were celebrating Thanksgiving, the FIR team was on the ground helping to provide continuing care for these severely neglected animals (among many ASPCA staffers on the job that day). Sixty-two of the horses are responding well to treatment and are in recovery, while one, sadly, did not survive.
The negligent owner is still missing; a hearing to determine custody of the horses will be held on December 16. But our priority continues to be the health and welfare of these animals. We can’t undo their suffering, but with your support we can show them care and love, and put them on a brighter path.
Rescuing this many large animals is, of course, no easy task. So my big thanks go to SCRAPS, to the ASPCA field teams who put these horses before their own holidays, and to you as well for making such important work possible.
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Today the ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassadors issued an open letter [PDF] in response to recent developments in ongoing litigation brought by several animal welfare organizations to halt horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States. While an emergency injunction in a U.S. Court of Appeals has temporarily stalled horse slaughter plants from opening on American soil, that injunction could be lifted at any moment. The Ambassadors are calling on all animal advocates to take action to stop the inhumane slaughter industry by supporting the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act and promoting responsible horse ownership, rescue and adoption.
The ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassadors are respected equestrians and horse experts committed to animal welfare—and include several ASPCA Maclay National Champions and journalist and author Jill Rappaport. They are urging Congress to pass the SAFE Act to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and transport to slaughter outside the U.S. once and for all.
As individuals who revere, care for, and work with horses, they can speak to the importance of humane treatment of these special animals. They have joined with the ASPCA in promoting and supporting the work of the robust network of horse rescue organizations across the country. Having witnessed undercover footage showing repeated cruelties in past American, government-regulated horse slaughter plants, the Ambassadors state in the letter:
We have seen the horrifying video and photo documentation from past horse slaughter plants that were on American soil and government-regulated—horse slaughter is utterly, unmistakably inhumane . . . [C]ommercial slaughter is not about providing a kind death. It’s only about destroying as many horses as quickly as possible and making a fast profit.
The letter also acknowledges food safety concerns as another reason to ban horse slaughter.
It goes on to state:
For the roughly 130,000 horses that suffer at the hands of slaughter annually—a fraction of the 9 million horses in America—we have the power to take back the reins and lead at-risk horses to safety. Let’s refuse to allow commercial slaughter to be a convenient way out, and instead demand responsible ownership and promote rescue and adoption, just like we do for dogs and cats.
The ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response team is currently on the ground in Spokane, Washington, assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized Nov. 15 as part of an animal cruelty investigation.
ASPCA responders will remain in Spokane, an ASPCA Partner Community, for at least the next 30 days to nurse the horses to health before their placement with various rescue groups for adoption. The ASPCA is also providing a $5,000 grant to SCRAPS to help cover expenses related to the horses’ care.
SCRAPS officials discovered the severely emaciated and dehydrated horses, who had no access to water or acceptable food, on an abandoned property. Eleven horses in critical condition were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. The remaining horses are being cared for at the Spokane County fairgrounds by SCRAPS and ASPCA responders. Agencies assisting the ASPCA with care and sheltering include: Days End Rescue (Woodbine, Maryland); Code 3 (Longmont, Colorado); Equine Emergency Rescue Unit (Overland Park, Kansas); and Washington State Animal Response Team (Enumclaw, Washington).
Local authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of the property owner on charges of animal cruelty in the first degree and transporting or confining animals in an unsafe manner. The suspect has a history of animal cruelty charges, but has ceased appearing in court for proceedings related to these prior charges. Her current whereabouts are unknown.