In the midst of Congress' budget and debt ceiling debate, a string of animal welfare-related bills have also made it to the floor.
As expected, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 (S. 1176) was introduced on June 9, 2011 by Senator Mary Landrieu (LA). This bill differs from the 2009 Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act by attaching language (prohibiting the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption) to the Horse Protection Act. The bill also increases funds authorized for the Horse Protection Program from $500,000 to $5,000,000. The legislation was introduced just prior to the release of the highly anticipated Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.
The GAO report indicates that since horse slaughter in the United States has ceased the market has shifted to Canada and Mexico. Between 2006 and 2010 the number of horses exported for slaughter to Canada and Mexico increased by 148 and 660 %, respectively. Based on information from state and local governments as well as animal welfare groups, the GAO also identified an increase in investigations and more abandonment of horses compared with 2007. Furthermore, the GAO analysis reveals that US horses intended for slaughter have been traveling significantly greater distances to reach their final destination, where they are not covered by US humane slaughter protections.
On June 27, 2011 Senators Mark Kirk (IL) and Frank Lautenberg (NJ) introduced the Horse Transportation Safety Act (S. 1281), which would prohibit interstate transportation of horses in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another. The AVMA actively supported similar legislation in past Congresses as consistent with its policy on Humane Transport of Equines.
On May 4, 2011, just prior to the running of the 137th Kentucky Derby, Congressman Ed Whitfield (KY-1st) and Senator Tom Udall (NM) introduced The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 886/H.R. 1733). This bill would amend the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs on race day in any horse participating in a race subject to interstate off-track wagering. 'Performance-enhancing drug' is defined in the legislation as "any substance capable of affecting the performance of a horse at any time by acting on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, reproductive system, musculoskeletal system, blood system, immune system (other than licensed vaccines against infectious agents), or endocrine system of the horse." Civil penalties for violations include fines and time restricted from racing for the violator and the horse. The legislation has prompted the horseracing industry to take a hard look at the use of race-day medications, leading to a recent decision by the Breeder's Cup to phase out all race-day administration of medications within 2 years.
Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14th) also reintroduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 2256) that invokes additional restrictions on sources of dogs and cats used for research. 'Permissible sources' are defined as being licensed dealers, publicly owned and operated pounds or shelters that meet specific requirements, donations from people who bred and raised the dogs or cats and owned them for not less than one year, and research facilities licensed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The goal of the legislation is to end the use of Class B dealers as source of dogs and cats for research.
Finally, Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett (MD-6th) and Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) have introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 1513/S. 810). This proposal would prohibit conducting 'invasive research' on great apes and would require retirement, within three years, of all federally-owned great apes. The AVMA has opposed similar legislation in the past because of concerns about the absence of funding for the long-term care of animals that will be placed into permanent retirement at sanctuaries, as well as potential negative impacts on research currently being conducted in zoologic settings that is focused on improving the health and welfare of affected species. The Institute of Medicine has recently launched a consensus study on The Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research in response to this legislation and other issues related to government-owned and utilized chimpanzees. Results of the study are anticipated to be available by year-end 2011.
While not a bill – yet – on July 7th United Egg Producers (UEP) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced an agreement to work together to enact federal legislation that would transition the commercial egg industry from conventional cages to enriched colony housing. Their goal is to have a law in place by June 30, 2012, and phase in the transition by 2029. According to the agreement, the enriched colony system would provide hens substantially more space, as well as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas that would allow hens to express more natural behaviors. The agreement also calls for:
UEP and HSUS will ask Congress to supersede state laws that are inconsistent with their agreed-upon approach, which presumably would preempt legislation and ballot initiatives passed in Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. California egg producers, who are governed by Proposition 2, would eliminate conventional cages by 2015 and provide all hens with the space and environmental enrichments that the rest of the egg industry will be phasing in over the next 15 to 18 years. Planned ballot measures in Oregon and Washington will be suspended under the agreement.
By passing this proposal into law, Congress would adopt federal standards for farm animal welfare for the first time. Its adoption would also create a national hen-housing standard, providing some relief for producers with customers in multiple states who may otherwise have to deal with the challenges posed by potentially inconsistent state laws and regulations.
In April, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed two pieces of legislation modifying the state's regulation of dog breeders. SB 113 and SB 161 are the result of voters' narrow approval last year of the ballot initiative known as Proposition B and negotiations involving the governor's office, legislators, the State Department of Agriculture, dog breeders and animal rights groups. The revised law has a new title, the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (deleting a reference to puppy mills), and reverses the ballot initiative's prohibitions on keeping more than 50 breeding dogs and breeding female dogs to produce more than two litters during an 18-month period. The law also revises housing and exercise requirements, while adding new penalty and enforcement provisions. The law passed with an emergency clause making it effective immediately upon the governor's signature.
Other animal welfare related bills signed into law during the past quarter include:
States are also continuing to expand their definitions of animal cruelty and increase penalties for violations of related laws. One example is Hawaii, where the governor recently signed SB 1069. The new law makes it a crime to attend or bet on a dog fight and increases penalties for those who own, train, equip, arrange or sponsor dog fights. Several other states have enacted animal cruelty protections in recent weeks that address service animals and animals used in law enforcement. Some of the newly enacted laws provide judges with authority to prohibit individuals convicted of animal cruelty or on probation for such crimes from owning animals, or require them to undergo pet ownership training.
The AVMA's Legislative Advisory Committee and its State Advocacy Committee work closely with its Animal Welfare Committee in reviewing proposals addressing animal welfare. For more information on the latest bills and regulations pending around the country, view resources compiled by our Governmental Relations Division and Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, or contact Dr. Whitney Miller, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations Division (for federal issues) or Mr. Adrian Hochstadt, Assistant Director, Communications Division, State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs (for state issues).
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