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Farm Bill should include key animal welfare reforms on horse soring, animal fighting and more

April 12, 2018
In The News

As the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees begin work on a new Farm Bill, the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are pressing for this legislation, which has the potential to affect the lives of millions of animals, to include key provisions on animal fighting, horse soring, the trade in dogs and cats for human consumption, and domestic violence against pets. A group of 40 Republican and 40 Democratic representatives recently wrote a letter to House agriculture committee leaders, urging that the bill include such pro-animal measures.

One of our top priorities this year is to defeat a bill that’s an assault on states’ rights and their ability to create and enforce a wide range of laws, including those relating to animal protection and food safety. Its sponsor, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, pushed for similar legislation during the last Farm Bill debate, but we were able to mobilize broad opposition and keep it out of the final House/Senate package. We’re working to do the same thing this time around, and have already marshaled a diverse set of opponents.

King’s legislation, H.R. 4879/H.R. 3599, could completely undermine the authority of states to pass laws to protect animals and their citizens, and could mean that if one state tolerates the way a particular agriculture product is manufactured or produced—no matter how hazardous the product or unacceptable the production process—every other state may have to do so as well. This bill has the potential to wipe out state laws protecting animals used for food from intensive confinement, such as California’s Proposition 2, and could also negate states’ efforts to combat puppy mills and prohibit the sale of foie gras, shark fins, horse meat and dog and cat meat.

Here are some of the provisions we’re working to get into the Farm Bill:

The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act: H.R. 1847 would crack down on soring—the intentional infliction of pain on the legs and hooves of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an artificial, pain-based show gait known as the “big lick.” This bill would close loopholes in the 1970 Horse Protection Act that have enabled horse soring to persist. It would also end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the devices used in the soring process, and strengthen penalties against offenders—all without additional taxpayer burden. PAST has the overwhelming support of the horse industry and 280 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle in Congress. The measure was introduced by Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., both veterinarians with experience treating horses, along with Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act: Current federal law has some ambiguities regarding the enforceability of prohibitions against animal fighting in the U.S. territories. The PACE Act, H.R. 4202, would amend the Animal Welfare Act to clarify that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting apply everywhere in the United States, including the U.S. territories. PACE would protect animals from vicious cruelty, communities from related criminal activity such as drug trafficking and violent crime, and public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission. It was introduced by Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act: H.R. 1406 would amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit interstate commerce in the trade of dog and cat meat and the import of dogs and cats for human consumption, and establish penalties for involvement in the dog or cat meat trade. This bill would prevent the cruel trade from taking hold in the United States, serve as a symbol of unity with countries that have already enacted bans, and give us greater standing to encourage other nations to follow suit. The bill was introduced by Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.

The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: H.R. 909/S. 322 would protect battered partners and their pets by extending current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorizing a small amount of grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets or arrange for pet shelter. One-third of domestic violence victims delay leaving a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, while 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. The bill was introduced by Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Please call your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators and ask them to reject King’s egregious legislation and do all they can to have the Farm Bill include the PAST Act to bring an end to horse soring, the PACE Act on animal fighting, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, and the PAWS Act on domestic violence against pets. They’re appropriate for inclusion in the Farm Bill package and every one of these measures has the support of millions of Americans.