Some very good news for the animals as we head into the holidays: This week, Congress passed a bill that includes some important provisions for the protection of animals. The bill is now on its way to the president.
The farm bill is the primary agriculture and food policy tool of the U.S. government. It covers everything that falls under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and comes up for revision and review approximately every five years. It also covers many of the regulations and protections (and often lack thereof) having to do with animals, including both livestock and companion animals.
The latest iteration passed both the Senate and the House with sweeping bipartisan votes in favor. At a time when bipartisanship is something of an endangered species, this farm bill represents a standard for how most of us believe legislation should be accomplished.
In addition to the usual big-ticket agenda items, such as farm subsidies and the food stamp program, the 2018 version of the bill also contains some important things that benefit our animal companions, including:
The Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act: As the name implies, while the consumption of meat derived from dogs and cats is banned in some states, the bill will ban it nationwide and help provide the standing for the U.S. to advocate for the ban of the dog and cat meat trade internationally. Currently, tens of millions of dogs and cats are victims of this practice around the world every year.
The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: This is important. Many victims of domestic violence are reluctant to seek help at domestic violence shelters because they fear that revenge will be taken out on their pets if they leave them behind. Currently, less than 5 percent of existing shelters for domestic violence take pets. The PAWS Act will extend the current federal protections to include pets and authorizes grant money for shelters to build kennels to accommodate pets.
The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act: Under existing federal law, “It is a felony crime to sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture, to buy, sell, deliver, possess, train or transport an animal for fighting purposes.” The PACE Act clarifies that this law applies equally to the five U.S. territories — American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where these blood sports persist unchallenged.
Most important of all is what is NOT in the farm bill: the simply horrible King Amendment (named after its sponsor, Iowa representative Steve King). Had it been included, states would have been denied the ability to pass and enforce laws regarding “agricultural products”— which refers not only to farm animals, but also to dogs in puppy mills, something that is under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As a result, many important animal welfare laws could have been repealed, including bans on the sale of dogs and cats from inhumane breeding mills. Not only would existing laws be at risk, but states could have been prohibited from passing new laws to protect animals. The reach of the King Amendment potentially would have nullified hundreds of state and local measures regarding food safety, animal welfare, environmental protection, labor standards, promotion of local agriculture, and more.
In the past six years, Best Friends has led the campaign to ban the sale of mill-bred animals in pet stores. Today, more than 300 cities, numerous counties and two states (California and Maryland) have enacted laws to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs (and often cats and rabbits) unless they come from shelters or rescue groups. We are continuing to work with local and state governments to keep this momentum going.
Best Friends worked closely with our friends at HSUS to stop the King Amendment. Our advocacy subscribers sent nearly 18,000 emails to their representatives in opposition to this amendment, and their representatives listened! Click here to join our action network and have your voice heard.