We all want stronger sentences for convicted animal-fighters—and the government is listening. You can help make this a reality by telling the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting! Time to speak up is limited; take action today.
Last year, at the sentencing of Alabama dog fighters, we listened while one convicted criminal after another expressed shock at the notion that animal fighting was a serious crime. These men were entirely aware of the criminal nature of their drug deals and weapons-trafficking, but had little concept that fighting, killing, and maiming dogs within huge multistate gambling rings could land them in jail. The federal judge who heard that case likewise expressed his shock that the federal sentencing guidelines were so inadequate for a crime so brutal. The current guidelines recommend prison sentences as low as six months and almost half of all offenders only get probation. No wonder the Alabama offenders didn’t know that dog fighting could land them in prison.
Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission—the independent federal agency that constructs sentencing guidelines as a reference for federal judges—took a great step toward remedying this problem by proposing to revise the federal sentencing guideline for animal fighting in its upcoming amendment cycle.
Congress raised the maximum prison sentence for a federal animal fighting conviction to five years in 2008 in response to the Michael Vick case. The current sentencing guidelines never incorporated that increase, creating a huge gap between what is allowed under federal law and what is recommended in sentencing guidelines. As a result, convicted dog fighters too often receive unacceptably weak sentences.
We commend the U. S. Sentencing Commission for considering this critical issue. Tell the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting by making stronger animal fighting sentences a priority. The Commission will be accepting comments for the next 30 days—make sure they hear from you!
The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee this week took a step forward to protect research animals by demanding the USDA address the serious allegations of animal cruelty and neglect at its research facility or forgo millions in funding. The 2016 appropriations draft bill approved by the subcommittee contains a provision to withhold $56.1 million of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that its animal welfare protocols and reporting requirements are updated.
“The rampant cruelty taking place at this taxpayer-funded USDA research facility is inexcusable,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We cannot allow suffering of the kind exposed at USMARC to continue, and the ASPCA commends the members of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee for holding the USDA accountable for farm animal treatment at all USDA research facilities.”
Withholding funds for further animal research is an important step, but more must be done. Congress must close the loopholes that allow for this type of suffering by passing the AWARE Act, bipartisan legislation that would require animal agricultural research at federal facilities like USMARC to meet Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards, and Congress and the USDA should ensure that these facilities undergo regular inspections.
You can help! Make sure your tax dollars are used appropriately and in a transparent and humane manner: Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center today to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the AWARE Act.
The ASPCA works year-round to distribute much-needed funds to animal welfare organizations nationwide, and we’re always thrilled to hear success stories made possible by these grants. A happy update recently arrived in our inbox from the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, a Durham, North Carolina-based organization that works to improve the welfare of dogs living in under-served communities, as well as dogs who are frequently chained outdoors, by offering information and free services including wellness care, spay/neuter, vaccinations and fences.
The Coalition to Unchain Dogs utilized ASPCA grant funds to cover the cost of fencing, wellness supplies, leashes, collars, indoor crates and more, paving the way for success stories:
Neno: When a nine-year-old Pekingese mix named Neno was attacked and injured by a stray dog, his pet parent called Animal Services. Upon arrival, Animal Services issued the pet parent a citation to obtain veterinary care for Neno's injuries within 24 hours. He knew he lacked the funds to take Neno to the vet and feared his only option was to surrender him to the shelter. Fortunately, he called the Coalition, who covered Neno’s veterinary costs. ASPCA grant funds allowed Neno to stay with his family who loves him dearly.
Biscuit: When Ilene’s puppy, Biscuit, destroyed two sets of window blinds while she was at work, her landlord insisted that the dog could no longer live in his building. With ASPCA grant funding, the Coalition was able to provide Ilene with a crate for Biscuit along with a new collar and leash. With the new collar and leash, Ilene walks Biscuit twice a day, and his crate provides a place for him to stay while she's at work. Biscuit was allowed to stay in Ilene’s apartment, and today, he is happy and healthy.
Fat Boy: When Patricia’s dog, Fat Boy, developed a severe skin infection, she didn't have the money or the transportation to take him to the veterinarian. She tried giving him allergy medications and cold baths, but Fat Boy was continually chewing and scratching. Using ASPCA grant funds, the Coalition covered the cost of a veterinary appointment for Fat Boy. With prescription medication, Fat Boy’s skin healed within two weeks and he is feeling so much better.
Sheba: When a 14-year-old named Marcus found a puppy roaming the street, he brought her home and named her Sheba. For the rest of the summer, Marcus and Sheba were inseparable, but when Marcus headed back to school in the fall, his mom requested that he tether Sheba in the backyard during the day. Even though Marcus purchased a dog house and put Sheba’s favorite toys and bed inside it, he worried about her. He was afraid someone would steal her, or other dogs would come into the yard and hurt her. The Coalition met Marcus, and he and his mom were so happy to learn the organization could cover the cost of a spay procedure, vaccinations and a fence for the backyard. Thanks to ASPCA grant funding, Sheba is in a safe, fenced-in area while Marcus is at school.
We’re so pleased the ASPCA grant funding has been put to such great use in the Durham, North Carolina community. Keep up the great work!
Pictured are dogs and pet parents assisted by the Coalition to Unchain Dogs.
During the weekend of April 24-26, more than 100 equine rescue groups held events in 33 states in conjunction with the ASPCA “Help a Horse Day” Contest—a nationwide grant competition for equine rescues and sanctuaries to raise awareness about the work they do to save and care for at-risk horses.
Today, we are excited to announce the winners of the Help a Horse Day Contest, each of which will receive a grant in the amount of $5,000 or $10,000 to support their ongoing efforts to protect equines. The winning groups include:
$10,000 Grand Prize Winners:
All About Equine Animal Rescue – El Dorado Hills, CA
Horses of Tir Na Nog – San Diego, CA
The Pegasus Project – Ben Wheeler, TX
$5,000 Prize Winners:
Freedom Hill Horse Rescue – Owings, MD
Horse Haven of Tennessee – Knoxville, TN
Livestock and Equine Awareness Network (LEARN) – Meggett, SC
RVR Horse Rescue – Riverview, FL
Contestants were judged on the creativity of their events, as well as success engaging their local communities. This year’s winning events included a Ponypalooza event for families with games and prizes, which also featured members of the U.S. Air Force and local Boy Scout Troops engaging in a shelter construction project; a family carnival with pony rides and a “Muggin’ with the Mule” photo booth; the creation of a Help a Horse Posse and Sponsorship Program that allowed community members to sponsor horses; and Dancing for the Horses, which paired local celebrities with professional dancers to compete in honor of a rescued horse. One group even hosted an aviation festival in keeping with their theme of giving rescue horses their wings. Participating rescues also worked to recruit new volunteers, expand their support base, collect donated supplies and find homes for adoptable horses.
Thanks to all of this year’s participants for making a difference for equines nationwide!
Co-chaired by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), this bipartisan caucus raises awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress and builds broad coalitions in support of common-sense animal welfare legislation. In recent years, the caucus helped pass new laws to:
close the federal loophole protecting spectators at animal fights,
ban the commerce in appalling “crush videos,” and
protect the rights of states to pass their own animal protection laws.
The ASPCA regularly works with the Animal Protection Caucus to hold briefings that inform legislators and their staff about animal issues and legislation. Additionally, the caucus co-hosts our overwhelmingly popular biannual “Paws for Love” and “Paws for Celebration” adoption events on Capitol Hill, which highlight and celebrate the important work of our nation’s shelters and rescues.
The Animal Protection Caucus currently boasts 115 House members. It is wonderful to have so many legislators engaged on animal protection issues, but that leaves over 300 Representatives who are not involved with the caucus. We’re confident that many of them would happily join the ranks if their constituents—you—encouraged them to.
You Can Help! Use the form below to send a quick email to your U.S. Representative in Washington, D.C., and ask him or her to consider joining the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. Just enter your info and we’ll provide a pre-drafted message to your legislator (and if your representative is already a member, a “thank you” message will load up!). Please feel free to tell your representative why animal protection is important to you.