January 29, 2021 – With our final 2020 Humane Scorecard now online, we invite you to check out how your federal legislators stood on a range of key issues. Please share this scorecard with family, friends, and fellow advocates and help spread the word!
In a year marked by a global pandemic and high partisan tensions on Capitol Hill, HSLF worked harder than ever to keep animal protection on legislators’ radars. With support from congressional allies, we forged ahead and won crucial gains for animals during the second session of the 116th Congress.
Many of our biggest victories, including the enactment of historic horse racing legislation, came in the “omnibus” appropriations bill that funds federal agencies for fiscal year 2021. Here are highlights of that legislation, signed into law as P.L. 116-260 in December 2020:
- Includes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act to address the widespread doping of racehorses and unsafe track conditions that have been key contributing factors in frequent equine fatalities on American racetracks.
- Renews the annual provision to “defund” U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at U.S. horse slaughter plants, effectively preventing those plants from reopening.
- Provides an increase of more than $14 million for the Bureau of Land Management to implement nonlethal management of wild horses and burros, featuring PZP, a humane, reversible fertility control vaccine. Renews language preventing horses under the care of the BLM and U.S. Forest Service from being sent to slaughter for human consumption.
- Doubles funding to $2.09 million for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) to better curb cruel “soring” of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds. House report language (deemed adopted in the final package) calls for the agency’s inspector general to audit the HPA enforcement program and makes it clear that the authority of USDA inspectors supersedes that of industry inspectors. It also urges the agency to reinstate the HPA rule—which was finalized but shelved in January 2017—to end the failed system of industry self-policing and use of devices integral to soring.
- Provides $1.5 million in the National Veterans Sports Program for equine therapy to help address PTSD and other mental health conditions.
- Provides $2.5 million—up from $2 million in FY 2020—for the Protecting Animals with Shelter (formerly known as the PAWS Act) grant program to expand shelter options for domestic violence survivors with pets.
- Encourages the USDA to vigorously enforce license requirements for dog dealers selling over the internet.
- Urges the USDA to move forward with an international agreement to ban the trade of dog and cat meat worldwide.
Animal welfare enforcement
- Directs the USDA to consider lifting the stay on a rule requiring puppy mills, roadside zoos and other facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to have emergency response plans for the animals in their care. The rule was issued in 2012 but indefinitely delayed in 2013.
- Through House report language, directs the USDA to ensure that its online databases of AWA and HPA records are at least as searchable—in function and content—as they were before these records were purged from the agency’s website in 2017. The Senate report also reminds the USDA that it must continue to comply with the transparency directives Congress enacted in 2019.
- Through House report language, directs USDA inspectors to document each observed AWA noncompliance on an inspection report.
- Provides an additional $500,000 for the USDA inspector general to better enforce the federal law against animal fighting and encourages an audit of the agency’s AWA enforcement.
Research and testing
- Upholds mandate that the USDA inspect its Agricultural Research Service laboratories for compliance with the AWA.
- Renews the bar on the use of USDA funds to license “Class B random source” dealers, notorious for obtaining cats and dogs through fraudulent means to sell them for research.
- Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to submit a plan to Congress by the end of 2021 for reducing or eliminating the use of dogs, cats and nonhuman primates in its research within five years.
- Encourages the use of nonanimal testing methods by the Food and Drug Administration for new drugs.
- Directs the USDA to review the impacts of waivers it has granted to allow increased slaughter plant line speeds—the speeds at which animals are killed—and report back to Congress within 90 days.
- Promotes USDA-funded research into innovations in plant-based protein.
- Maintains current staffing levels for oversight of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to prevent animal suffering at USDA-inspected slaughter plants and calls for an inspector general audit to improve compliance.
- Increases monitoring of antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture (which props up inhumane, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions and spurs antibiotic resistance that hurts sick people and animals).
- Increases funding for enforcement of federal wildlife protection laws, Endangered Species Act implementation and biodiversity conservation programs. Continues investment in international efforts against wildlife poaching and trafficking and in a domestic program that facilitates wolf coexistence with ranchers.
- Includes funds for a study on the connection between live wildlife markets and new zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to people). Increases funding for global health security programs to prevent, treat and control such diseases and to sustainably and ethically phase out the demand for wildlife as a food source.
- Requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a briefing to Congress on its current policy for allowing imports of sport-hunted trophies of species such as lions and elephants and to explain how such imports benefit the survival of imperiled species whose populations, Congress noted, continue to decline. The briefing was mandated in the FY 2020 appropriations package, but the agency failed to complete it.
- Increases funding to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and to strengthen the Marine Mammal Commission (a key independent oversight agency), and sustains a program that coordinates nationwide emergency response for stranded, sick, injured, distressed or dead marine mammals.
- Permanently authorizes sales by the U.S. Postal Service of remaining Save Vanishing Species stamps that fund conservation.
In 2021, we will renew the fight on several bills that passed the House during the 116th Congress but didn’t get considered by the Senate. They include the Big Cat Public Safety Act, Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, and provisions in the Moving Forward Act that would make highways safer for wildlife to cross and improve the safety of horse transport.
Also poised for renewed action, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act would phase out large-mesh driftnets that kill dolphins, sharks and sea turtles. This bill passed the Senate and House but was unexpectedly vetoed by President Trump on December 30, 2020.
On these and other measures, we look forward to new opportunities in the 117th Congress to press the case for animals. Your support and engagement are the keys to our success. Together, we can build on our victories and make even greater progress in 2021.