Celebrate Meaningful Reforms! Check Out the ASPCA’s Top 10 Legislative Wins of 2019

January 6, 2020

Man with dog

The ASPCA believes that preventing suffering and developing strong, effective laws to protect animals are crucial aspects of our work. Working collaboratively with our wonderful members and supporters, we are making a real difference for animals. Check out our top 10 legislative victories from 2019 below!

Increased Oversight of Puppy Mills

Countless dogs are bred for profit by cruel commercial breeders seeking to maximize profit at the expense of animals and consumers. These puppy mill operators keep dogs in tiny cages in filthy conditions with little to no access to vet care, grooming, walks, playtime or affection.

The ASPCA successfully lobbied to include language in the final 2020 federal spending bill that directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to restore Animal Welfare Act (AWA) inspection and enforcement documents to its public website, as well as make other improvements to AWA enforcement. Congress now requires the USDA to record all citations at puppy mills and other facilities in inspection reports, ending its current approach of using weak enforcement alternatives like “teachable moments.”

Secured More Protections for Our Nation’s Equines

The 2020 federal spending bill allotted an additional $21 million of funding for wild horses and burros, with clear and unequivocal language aimed at shifting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program away from taking horses off the range in favor of maximizing on-range treatment and humane care of horses. Additionally, the ASPCA helped reverse 2018 BLM policy guidelines that made wild horses vulnerable to sale for slaughter. These protections will enable our iconic herds to live wild and free for future generations without threat of sale to slaughter or mass killing management strategies.

The ASPCA also worked to continue the longstanding ban on federal funds for horse slaughter and won new protections against the slaughter of wild horses and burros on U.S. Forest Service land. We also helped pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, moving protections for horses on the Walking Horse competition circuit closer to final enactment.

Ensured More Effective Animal Cruelty Laws

We helped secure a measure directing the Department of Justice to report to Congress about its enforcement of animal fighting and other animal welfare statutes and supported the passage of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The PACT Act creates new federal protections for animals against crushing and other cruel methods of torture.

Banned Pet Leasing in Multiple States and Cities

In 2019, IndianaWashingtonConnecticutNew Jersey and Miami-Dade County (Florida) passed legislation to prohibit pet leasing, an inhumane, predatory financing scheme offered by some retail pet sellers. Even after paying monthly installments totaling thousands of dollars, unsuspecting victims of pet leases can lose their pets if they miss a payment or are unable to buy out their contracts, leaving animals subject to repossession as if they were used cars.

Opened More Doors for Pets in Housing

Many families with pets are stressed and even torn apart by the scarcity of pet-friendly housing. Nevada acted to eliminate unnecessary and intrusive barriers to pet ownership in common-interest housing developments. It also passed a law requiring housing units financed by the state to be pet-friendly. Both the City and County of Los Angeles passed similar measures that will require all locally financed housing to be pet-friendly. These landmark protections for animals will ensure that pets and the people who care for them are not forced to separate due to arbitrary restrictions imposed by landlords.

Looked Out for Homeless Animals and Shelters

Our nation’s hardworking animal shelters are often underfunded and unable to provide all the help that is needed for their communities—that’s why it’s always exciting when shelters and homeless animals receive support from their state governments. In 2019, New York opted to provide an additional $5 million in funding for improvements to animal shelters. California continued to make strides to improve live-release rates for kittens—statistically, the most vulnerable population of shelter animals—by passing legislation to allow shelters to make kittens eligible for adoption immediately. Also, Indiana passed a bill defining humane euthanasia and requiring it of shelters.

Gained Funding for More Humane Farming Practices

Vermont became the first state to enable state grant funding to help farmers achieve animal welfare certification. This landmark law means improved conditions for farm animals, incentives for farmers who wish to provide more humane conditions and better options for conscientious shoppers.

Repealed Discriminatory Legislation to Keep Pets and People Together

The cities of Liberty, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas and Everett, Washington rejected harmful and ineffective breed-specific legislation by repealing longstanding pit bull bans that unfairly kept pets and the people who love them apart. New Jersey also repealed discriminatory language that automatically labels any dog seized from a fight as dangerous. The new law eliminates the certainty of euthanasia and instead allows the dogs to be individually evaluated for adoption to loving homes.

Protected Vulnerable Pets and People from Abuse

Animal cruelty and domestic violence are often linked, with deadly results. Victims may delay seeking help and remain in dangerous environments because they fear for the safety of the pets they would be forced to leave behind. 

Recognizing that no one should have to choose between leaving an abusive situation or ensuring their pet’s safety, California passed groundbreaking legislation that makes emergency and permanent housing support for domestic violence survivors and their pets accessible by providing reimbursement of pet boarding costs through the California Victim Compensation Board. The ASPCA’s advocacy at the federal level resulted in a $2 million appropriation to implement the lifesaving grant program authorized by the passage of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, legislation to keep domestic violence survivors and their pets together.

Expanded Access to Veterinary Care and Authorized Veterinarians to Report Cruelty

Although veterinarians swear an oath to “relieve animal suffering” when they enter their profession, an overly broad confidentiality provision in Florida law meant that veterinarians couldn’t report suspected animal cruelty to law enforcement without facing serious disciplinary action.

Under a new law, Florida’s veterinarians may now report suspected animal cruelty to law enforcement without violating the law or jeopardizing their careers, allowing more animals to get the help they need and deserve.

A big thank you to our animal advocates for helping us to score these wins and more. While it is important to celebrate these positive advances, there is so much more to accomplish for animals—and we need your help. Let’s use these victories to energize us as we launch our ambitious 2020 work. 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.