by Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Kitty Block testifies before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on the Horse Racing Integrity Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in 2018. Allison Shelley/AP Image by HSUS
Note: This blog is part of a series highlighting how we fight and win for animals. In this article, I join Sara Amundson, chair of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, to tell the story of how we can address institutionalized animal suffering by changing laws and government regulations.
“Why isn’t this illegal?”
This is a question we often hear from people who are rightfully outraged after learning of some heartbreaking animal cruelty. They say there should be laws to prevent such abuse.
Of course they are right, we have staff working tirelessly to make these laws a reality.
While the word “lobbying” may conjure up images of high-profile industry representatives and backroom deals representing wealthy companies, our lobbying on behalf of animals is quite different. On any given day, our policy staff meet with members of Congress, have conversations and build relationships in the halls of the state capitol, testify before legislative committees, garner support for policies that benefit animals, and agitate against policies that harm animals. bill.
Because of them, elected officials learn about the hardships behind factory farming, trophy hunting, the fur trade, cosmetic testing, puppy grinding and other cruelty. We reminded them that most Americans loathe this kind of abuse and describe the many ways in which humanitarian reform serves the public good.
Unfortunately, the industry profiting from cruelty is large, powerful, and has its own lobbyists all bent on fighting any change in the status quo. Sometimes we feel like Sisyphus, the figure in Greek mythology who pushed a rock up a mountain only to see it roll down every time we approached the top. Or, perhaps a more apt comparison, given what we’re about to discuss, like a puppy chasing its tail within reach. Take the puppy mill, for example. America is a dog-loving country, but thousands of puppies live with their parents in small, dirty cages on commercial farms across the country. No reasonable person would consider the living conditions of these animals to be humane, but our attempts to pass a federal law to improve their quality of life have so far been unsuccessful. As we write this, the Puppy Protection Act (HR 2840/S. 1385) is a bipartisan proposal but has yet to withdraw from the House and Senate committees.
We’re not going to waive federal laws, but we know that whether we’re fighting puppy mills or other ingrained cruelty, we can’t put all our bets on one strategy or one piece of legislation. Every year, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and our Department of State Affairs lobby federal, state and local for a package of measures to end animal suffering from every angle. At the same time, our colleagues at Humane Society International are pushing for similar reforms in countries around the world.
Our work does not end with the passage of humanitarian laws: we must ensure that our hard-won reforms are implemented. Each year as Congress prepares its annual budget, we are lobbying for funding and directives to better implement and enforce animal welfare measures at the USDA and other key federal agencies, and at the same time, we are pressuring government agencies at all levels to strengthen compliance with all levels of government. Oversight of the regulatory industry.
It is an ongoing struggle, and while each year brings disappointment, each year also brings victory, bringing us closer to our vision of a truly humane world.
For puppy mills, we’ve seen higher standards of care in commercial breeding facilities in several states and a plethora of state and local laws that make it harder for commercial breeders to profit from their cruelty. New York, home to 10 percent of the nation’s puppy-selling pet stores, passed a bill in June that would stop the sale of puppy mill puppies in retail stores. The bill is now on the governor’s desk. Orange and Manatee counties in Florida, as well as Dallas and Houston, recently joined the list of more than 400 local governments that have enacted similar bans, even though Petland, the nation’s largest puppy mill dog retailer, has spent a lot of money lobbying against the measures. Since 2000, we have been able to increase funding to enforce federal animal welfare laws from an initial $9 million per year to the current $32 million per year. That means adding critical resources to oversee the treatment of animals at puppy mills, roadside zoos, animal research labs and more. We’ve also seen the USDA take steps to improve some standards of care for commercial dog breeders they oversee, such as requiring annual veterinary inspections and 24-hour access to fresh, clean water, which is a preview of upcoming upgrades if passed , under the Puppy Protection Act.
We all want to end puppy mills, cosmetic animal testing, trophy hunting and other cruelty today (preferably yesterday). It takes perseverance and resilience to tackle these issues year after year. But with public opinion on our side, change will happen, and each of us can be a part of it.
Even if you have limited knowledge of how legislation works, and even if you avoid politics in every area of your life, we encourage you to get involved in our legislative work. You don’t have to delve into the details to encourage your elected officials to support animal protection reform.
The HSLF’s slogan is “politicize for animals,” and the more we do, the sooner we’ll see the end of insidious industries like puppy mills, and the sooner our nation’s laws will ultimately reflect our humane values.
You can provide political support for animals by signing up for our Action Alerts by entering your email at the bottom of our homepage or by learning how to become a Humane Policy Volunteer Leader.
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Sara Amundson is chair of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Public Policy (Law/Legislation)