The ASPCA Helped Animals Win Big in 2018

December 21, 2018

a happy dog

As the year comes to a close, animals and the people who love them have much to celebrate. In Congress, state legislatures and city halls across the country, the ASPCA worked all year long to pass lifesaving bills—and defeat a few bad ones, too—all with the goal of making the U.S. a safer place for animals. Check out some of the wins the ASPCA and our Advocacy Brigade helped secure for animals in 2018.

Keeping Pets and People Together 

The City Council of Springfield, Missouri, passed a local ordinance in October 2017 banning city residents from bringing new pit bulls into their homes. The ASPCA assisted the locally based Citizens Against BSL (breed-specific legislation) in educating Springfield citizens about the dangers of BSL and waging an on-the-ground campaign to repeal the ordinance via a question on the city’s August 2018 ballot. On Election Day, voters overwhelmingly voted to keep pets and families together, striking down the law by a margin of 68% to 32%.

Just weeks later, after the ASPCA joined forces with local advocates, the Yakima City Council in Washington State followed suit and voted to repeal a 30-year-old ban on the ownership of pit bulls and pit bull-mixes in the city.

In September, we worked to win a 13-0 vote from the Los Angeles City Council on a motion to create more pet-friendly housing in the city, helping more families avoid the impossible choice between their pets or a roof over their heads.

On the national level, the ASPCA helped ensure passage of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This monumental legislation ensures that victims of domestic violence and their pets can stay together in times of crisis by authorizing grants for emergency assistance and housing. It also makes the act of crossing state lines to injure a domestic partner’s pet a federal offense.

Cracking Down on Cruel Dog Breeding

After objections from the ASPCA and animal advocates nationwide, the USDA rejected an industry-backed proposal that would have allowed third-parties to inspect puppy mills as part of the agency’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Recognizing the USDA’s backsliding on prior commitments to improve AWA enforcement, the ASPCA successfully worked with Congress to secure a new audit of the USDA’s AWA enforcement of commercial breeders. We also helped secure includes language in the federal spending package which compels the USDA to restore public access to AWA and enforcement information.

Last spring, the puppy mill industry once again pushed for special protections in Georgia and Florida that would have stripped local governments of their ability to regulate the sale of cruelly bred dogs in their communities, invalidating existing bans and preventing communities from enacting similar bans in the future. ASPCA staff and advocates engaged in both states to block them, and we are pleased to report that lawmakers stood their ground for humane animal treatment. The Georgia Senate rejected repeated attempts by the puppy mill industry to attach its harmful language to unrelated bills, and the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission’s Local Government Committee unanimously voted to reject Proposition 95.

We worked closely with the Atlanta City Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting the retail sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores. They joined eight other Georgia cities that have banned pet store sales of commercially bred puppies and kittens in an effort to protect consumers, animals and public health. 

Maryland took a historic stand against puppy mills when Governor Hogan signed a new law banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores statewide. We worked at the outset of their effort to ensure that the law encourages pet stores to partner with rescues to adopt out homeless animals.

In New York, the State Legislature passed—and Governor Cuomo signed—a bill we spearheaded outlawing pet leasing of dogs and cats, making New York the third state in the nation to ban these deceptive, predatory financing schemes. New York follows California and Nevada, both of which outlawed the practice in 2017.

Helping Shelter Pets

Florida’s Governor Scott signed legislation we helped craft requiring shelters and humane organizations that accept lost/stray dogs and cats to employ reasonable procedures that better help them quickly and reliably return lost pets to their families. While many animal shelters in Florida already have these commonsense policies in place, statewide minimum standards will be crucial in ensuring more lost pets in Florida are able to return home.

Governor Brown signed a new law we developed to help California’s shelter pets by allowing rescue organizations to forgo the state’s three-day waiting period and immediately pull kittens and puppies under the age of eight weeks from shelters and place them with organizations or foster caregivers that have greater capacity to provide care, making it more likely that these animals experience happy and healthy outcomes. 

Currently, the Bronx and Queens—home to nearly 3.6 million New Yorkers—have only "animal receiving centers,” which don’t provide shelter, medical or adoption services to homeless animals. Our long-term goal has been for every borough to have these resources in place and we have been vigorously pressing for legislation mandating it. In June, the New York City Council passed critical legislation requiring full-service animal shelters in each of its five boroughs by July 1, 2024. Last month, the Council made its first steps toward breaking ground by approving the new site for the Bronx Animal Shelter.

Fighting Cruelty 

Public animal-abuser registries tend to do more harm than good. These databases create a false sense of security but may actually decrease the prosecution of serious animal cruelty cases. The ASPCA lobbied against—and Governor Malloy vetoed—a well-intentioned but misguided bill to establish an animal-abuser registry in Connecticut, instead allowing law enforcement and animal control agencies to continue to focus on preventing cruelty before it occurs.

We led the charge for a new law in Florida to strengthen protections for animals by allowing judges to issue “no contact” orders to people who have been found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty.

The Indiana State Legislature recognized the link between domestic violence and animal abuse and worked with us to pass a law permitting Child Protective Service and Adult Protective Service workers to report suspected animal abuse, opening the door for greater abuse intervention and helping more animals get the help they need.

On the federal level, ASPCA successfully lobbied for the passage of the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act as part of the final 2018 federal Farm Bill. This measure seeks to end cockfighting in U.S. territories by closing loopholes that prevent the federal prohibition of this heinous crime. We also worked to ensure that federal spending bills continued to include longstanding prohibitions to protect horses, both wild and domestic, from slaughter, while garnering over 218 cosponsors of the SAFE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Election Day, Florida voters passed Amendment 13 to end Greyhound racing by December 31, 2020, making it the 41st state to ban the cruel practice. The ASPCA was one of many organizations working for this victory and applauds Grey2k USA Worldwide for their leadership in this campaign. There are still 17 dog tracks operating in the U.S., 11 of which are in Florida—where a racing dog dies every three days. The passage of Amendment 13 ensures that thousands of dogs will no longer be forced to race and can be adopted into loving homes. 

California voters approved Proposition 12, a measure requiring cage-free housing and more space for factory farmed veal calves, mother pigs and egg-laying hens. Prop 12 further mandates that any veal, pork or eggs produced elsewhere and imported into the state must come from farms meeting these higher-welfare standards. The ASPCA was part of the national coalition of groups working in partnership with state-based groups to ensure Prop 12 became law.

To ensure that victories like Prop 12 aren’t wiped away by federal overreach, the ASPCA helped to defeat the dangerous King Amendment in the 2018 Farm Bill which would have nullified not only this victory, but countless animal-protection laws across the county.

Thank you for helping us win big for animals in 2018. There’s still so much work to be done for animals—and we can’t do it without you! Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to stay up-to-date on animal-protection legislation and learn how you can make a difference for animals in your state and community.