This week, the U.S. Senate passed a multi-agency spending bill, including funding for the Agriculture, Interior, Justice, and Transportation Departments. At Animal Wellness Action, we had some major victories, but the Senate funded a proposal by two leading animal welfare groups that would translate into mass round-ups of wild horses and burros, perhaps more than 20,000 per year removed from the range.
Here’s the breakdown:
Department of Justice language to further prosecution of animal cruelty crimes:
U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) led an amendment to the package with language that reflects a move toward enhanced enforcement of federal criminal animal welfare laws, including the Animal Fighting Law, Horse Protection Act, and Crush Video law. It requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide a report detailing enforcement activities of these laws and assess any barriers to enhanced enforcement.
This move complements language adopted by the Senate in September directing DOJ to make enforcement of federal animal welfare laws a priority. It thereby promotes enforcement of the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, which stipulates that dogfighting and cockfighting are banned everywhere in the United States, including the U.S. territories. The House bill included similar language and also $2 million in dedicated funding for the DOJ to create animal crimes unit to enforce these laws.
Providing funding for the new Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act:
U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led an amendment that allocates $3 million for a new grant program Animal Wellness Action secured in the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which was led by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), to help provide relief for domestic violence survivors and their companion animals. The program would allow more domestic violence shelters to provide accommodations for pets. Ensuring that families are kept safe together.
Preventing slaughter of our iconic American equines:
Numerous lawmakers led the fight to secure a provision barring USDA from spending tax dollars on horse slaughter inspections for the fiscal year of 2020, a provision that’s been in place nearly every year for more than a decade. This is a much-needed provision until the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act can be passed, which would permanently end the slaughter of American horses across the continent. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) championed this provision in the Senate.
Prohibiting Class B dog and cat dealers:
Renews the ban on use of funds by USDA to license Class B dealers, notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats attained from fraudulent means that includes pet theft, animal research and testing. The House passed funding legislation that included this provision as well.
Dangerous down payment on mass wild horse and burro roundup and removals:
The Senate Interior spending provisions included a shocking $35 million down payment (the House bill only provided $6 million in comparison) on a destructive proposal to start a mass round-up and removal of wild horses and burros from the West.
This dangerous and ambiguous provision would start the BLM down the path of rounding up and removing more than 20,000 horses a year until we have only remnant populations of the equids in the West. The proposal has been pushed by an odd coalition of the HSUS, ASPCA, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Many pro-wild horse and burro lawmakers, confused by the alignment of these groups, have simply not taken a close look at the implications of this massive infusion of money into a horse-phobic BLM.
On the upside, Animal Wellness Action, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), and The Cloud Foundation spent most of the week educating Members of Congress about the dangers of the proposal and successfully exposed the short-sighted and costly pitfalls of the proposal. Our coalition – that includes more than 60 equine and animal protection organizations – held a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday for both House and Senate offices that was sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a champion of PZP birth control.
Conclusion: We appreciate the Senate leaders who led the charge on animal welfare amendments. And we applaud you – the advocates that have spent countless hours fighting alongside us to help secure this multitude of wins by making phone calls, meeting with legislators in person, sending emails, and spreading the word.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate the wins and renew and refuel ourselves for the next battle – the conference committee – where the U.S. House and Senate will come together to work out the differences in funding and language between the two chambers. It’s imperative that we stay focused on altering the dangerous attack on wild horses and burros – a massive blunder that treats the wild horses and burros as invaders who should be removed from our western landscapes.
Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C.