Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations
*Updated 11:00 A.M. Wednesday, January 29*
After months of negotiations, the U.S. House Representatives voted Wednesday to pass the Farm Bill—legislation to set policy for many federal agriculture programs. Thanks to all who lobbied Congress with us, animals can claim important victories on two fronts in this legislation. First, the Farm Bill contains a provision to crack down on animal fighting: gruesome spectacles where gamblers wager on animals who are forced to fight to the death. Second, this legislation protects the integrity of hundreds of state animal protection laws across the country from the grievous threat of the King Amendment. The ASPCA applauds Congress for advancing its crackdown on animal fighters while handing a defeat to animal abusers in the Farm Bill.
The animal fighting language in the Farm Bill establishes the first-ever federal penalties for attending an animal fight and criminalizes bringing a child to one of these heinous events. Reflecting the language of the Animal Fighting Spectator Act (H.R 366 / S. 666), this provision creates liability for the individuals whose illegal wagers and admission fees fuel this cruelty. It also ensures that organizers cannot easily escape prosecution by hiding in the crowd when law enforcement arrives, since now everyone in the crowd will be breaking the law.
The King Amendment, named after its sponsor, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), was an incredible federal power-grab that could have prevented states from enacting many of their own laws regarding the production of any “agricultural products”—a term so broad that it can include farm animals, dogs in puppy mills, and even locally grown fruits and vegetables. The defeat of the King Amendment preserves the historic power of states to pass laws that protect the health and welfare of animals.
After today’s vote in the House, the Farm Bill is headed to the Senate for consideration and passage.
The ASPCA Government Relations team has made passage of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act and defeat of the King Amendment top priorities this Congress. We couldn’t have achieved these victories without the members of our Advocacy Brigade, who sent thousands of emails to their Members of Congress about the animal fighting bill and the King Amendment.
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