Animal Issues Starting to Move in the 116th Congress

Key committee conduct hearing on four major animal protection bills

In 2017 and 2018, House Republican committee chairmen — such as Bob Goodlatte of Judiciary and Rob Bishop of Natural Resources — refused to conduct hearings on even a single animal welfare bill assigned to their committees.  They were at best dismissive to animal protection, and most of the time, outright hostile.

If today’s action before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee is an indicator, at least some of the Democrat committee chairs are taking a decidedly different approach. On March 26, the House Committee on Natural Resources, specifically its Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife (WOW), conducted a hearing on four bills, including a high-profile bill to end the barbaric practice of shark finning.  Typically committee hearings are a necessary antecedent to actual committee and full chamber votes on the bills, so this is a very hopeful sign.

In addition to looking at the subject of shark finning (H.R. 737), the subcommittee, led by Chairman Jared Huffman of California, examined the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380), the SAVE Right Whales Act (H.R. 1568) and the Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act (H.R. 1305). The four bills include the following:

  • H.R. 737, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would prohibit the import, export, possession, trade and distribution of shark fins and products containing shark fins. It allows for stronger enforcement of the ban on shark finning in the United States, and removes the U.S. from contributing to the global shark fin trade that has led to a decline in the species. Reps. Gregorio Sablan, D-Northern Marianas Islands,  and Mike McCaul, R-TX, are working hard to move the bill, which has 176 co-sponsors. Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019.  Its companion bill, S. 877 was introduced in the Senate today by Senators Booker, D-NJ, and Shelly Moore-Capito, R-WV, along with a number of lawmakers representing key states with large coastlines.
  • H.R. 1305, the Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act, by Alan Lowenthal, D-CA, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, would implement the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, both species of seabirds. Many of the Albatross species are in trouble. Commercial fishing practices are considered the greatest threat to the survival of many albatross species while other threats include loss of habitat, introduced predators, eating or becoming tangled up in plastic, oil spills and climate change. Petrels have lost far more populations in Oceania than any other bird family. Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act 
  • H.R. 1380, the Big Cat Safety Act, by Reps. Mike Quigley, D-IL, and Fitzpatrick would end the unregulated trade and nationwide abuse of captive big cats by prohibiting the breeding and future possession of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species in the exotic pet trade.  It is aimed at privately-owned animals and does not cover zoos that meet certain standards of care and safety, sanctuaries, and universities. This bill also restricts direct contact between the public and big cats because of the serious public threat big cats pose.  Since 1990, there have been at least 771 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats resulting in the deaths of 19 adults and four children.  Big Cat Safety Act 
  • H.R. 1568, the Save the Right Whales Act, by Seth Moulton, D-MA, and John Rutherford, R-FL, would assist in the conservation of the North Atlantic Right Whale by supporting and providing financial resources for North Atlantic right whale conservation programs and projects. Save the Right Whales Act

We want to thank Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva from Arizona and Subcommittee Chairman Huffman for their proactive approach on animal issues – they are champions of the cause and setting us up for success in the House.  Animal Wellness Action is very encouraged by this early action and look forward to continuing our work with the House and Senate on these much-needed pieces of legislation.

Penny Eastman is the Deputy Director of Federal Affairs for Animal Wellness Actio

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