Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, H.R. 97 – the first stand-alone animal protection measures to pass the House in the 116th Congress. The legislation would amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to authorize rewards for thwarting wildlife trafficking linked to terrorism and organized crime.
Wildlife trafficking is a major transnational crime that is estimated to generate over $10 billion a year in illegal profits, and the drivers of the enterprise are often organized, sophisticated criminal enterprises, including known terrorist organizations. Wildlife trafficking not only threatens endangered species worldwide, but also jeopardizes local security, spreads disease, undermines rule of law, fuels corruption, and damages economic development.
“Wildlife crimes undermine national security and cause immense cruelty to animals,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “We applaud Representatives Vern Buchanan and Dina Titus for offering a creative way to crack down on these international crimes.”
“Wildlife trafficking is a nefarious and persistent threat to endangered animals across the world,” said U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL). “The RAWR Act provides another tool to crack down on the billions of dollars generated by this illegal activity.”
“Today Congress took a major step to put the world on notice that international wildlife trafficking will be treated as a serious crime,” said U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “This heinous practice decimates endangered species and generates billions of dollars for transnational criminal networks. Passage of this bill is an important bipartisan victory in the House, and I hope the Senate will move quickly to ensure that elephants, lions, rhinos, and tigers will be protected for generations to come.”
The passage of the RAWR Act comes on the heels of a recent House appropriations amendment championed by Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation that passed by a vote of 239 to 192 to bar imports of sport-hunted trophies from elephants and lions, both listed as threatened or endangered across their range. Rep. Buchanan led that amendment and Rep. Titus supported it.
Animal Wellness also supports other legislative initiatives to stop the trade in animal parts, including the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act and the Bear Protection Act, which seeks to stop the killing of bears for their gall bladders.