(May 8, 2008)— WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund commend House-Senate negotiators on inclusion of key provisions to help animals, as part of the Farm Bill conference report that will be considered soon by the full House and Senate. The package includes important measures to stop the import of puppies for commercial sale from foreign puppy mills and strengthen the federal law against animal fighting, as well as increase penalties for those who violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
"We're encouraged that key House and Senate negotiators have agreed to take these additional, vital steps to crack down on abhorrent animal fighting and to stem the tide of puppies – often sick and suffering – arriving in the U.S. from foreign puppy mills" said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Those are important breakthroughs for animal protection. On the other hand, we’re very disappointed that another priority measure that was in both the House and Senate Farm Bills – which would have prevented stolen pets from being sold for lab experiments – got dropped in the final bill."
Unfortunately, the Class B Dealer ban – included in the House and Senate Farm Bills at the behest of Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) – was removed in conference despite broad, bipartisan congressional and public support. It would have prevented stolen pets and other fraudulently acquired dogs and cats from being kept in horrible conditions and then sold for laboratory experiments by Class B dealers.
"Though we are sorely distressed that the Class B dealer ban was deleted and remain committed to ending that loathsome system, we want to express our appreciation to leaders on the Farm Bill – Representatives Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) – for their strong support of the other provisions," said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "And we are very grateful to Judiciary Committee leaders John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for their tremendous assistance in improving the federal law on animal fighting."
Puppy Imports – The Farm Bill includes provisions – championed by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) with key support by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), and Terry Everett (R-Ala.) – to curb the import of puppies for commercial sale from foreign puppy mills. A growing number of breeders in Eastern European countries, Mexico, China, and other foreign countries see the U.S. as a potential market, even though there is a strong domestic dog and cat breeding industry here and there are millions of pets available from U.S. breeders and animal shelters. The provisions require that any dog imported into the U.S. for commercial sale be at least 6 months old, to ensure that young, unweaned, and unvaccinated puppies are not forced to suffer from harsh, long-distance transport. They also ensure that any dog entering the U.S. be deemed healthy prior to entry. Exceptions are provided so as not to interfere with shelter and rescue work, veterinary treatment, or research purposes. Thanks to Sen. Durbin's extraordinary and unflagging leadership, similar language was first incorporated into the Senate Farm Bill in December.
Animal Fighting – The Farm Bill contains provisions – sought by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Reps. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) – to strengthen federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly possess or train animals for fighting, enhancing the penalty for animal fighting offenses from a potential three-year prison sentence to a maximum five-year prison sentence, and making any animal fighting affecting interstate or foreign commerce a federal crime. The Senate Farm Bill contained many similar provisions in a dogfighting amendment successfully offered by Sen. Kerry, and the conference report language is even stronger, as it also applies to cockfighting.
AWA Penalties – The Farm Bill includes a provision – included in the House Farm Bill at the request of Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) – authorizing an increase in potential fines for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, as recommended in a 2005 audit by USDA's Inspector General. The audit found that the law's maximum penalty – which has not been upgraded for over 20 years – is considered by violators as a cost of doing business rather than a deterrent. The Farm Bill allows maximum penalties of $10,000, to establish a more effective deterrent against abuses.
"Congress has addressed some important animal welfare issues in its Farm Bill, including the cruelty of animals pitted against each other to fight for the amusement and gambling of spectators, and the cruelty of importing puppies who are mass-produced in other countries under inhumane conditions and then crammed tightly into cargo containers for shipment to the U.S., where they often arrive seriously ill or dead," added Pacelle. "We urge President Bush to sign this bill and make these animal protection measures law."
Media contact: Liz Bergstrom: 301-258-1455
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at www.hslf.org.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.