Bill would authorize local control of wild horses and burros

wild horsesU.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) along with Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) have introduced what they call the “Wild Horse Oversight Act”, H.R. 5058. The bill would amend the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1331 et seq. (WFRHBA) to require the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service to turn over to a state or federally recognized Native American tribe on demand the responsibility for managing and protecting wild horses and burros on federal public land that is within the state or tribe borders. The state or tribe is required to abide by the WFRHBA.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign has strongly denounced the proposed bill. And it is no wonder. Federal oversight has meant the cruel roundup and placement in holding facilities of thousands of America’s iconic wild horses and burros. Fewer and fewer are left on the range. But in some states or tribes, local oversight will mean slaughter for thousands of wild horses and burros. Currently, BLM has a stated policy against slaughter of wild horses and burros. But the states and tribes would be free under the WFRHBA to sell for slaughter wild horses and burros deemed to be excess if they are more than 10 years old or have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least 3 times. In fact, the WFRHBA requires the sale of such wild horses and burros to the highest bidder “without limitation”. 16 U.S.C. Section 1333(e).

In some states and tribes, this proposed law would give special interests such as cattle ranchers, the oil and gas industry, mining and other developers unprecedented access to management of wild horses and burros on federal public lands. This bill would only expedite their goal of removing these animals from federal public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service, as the case may be, would remain responsible for maintaining an inventory of wild horses and burros on public lands. But under this bill it would apparently be up to the state or tribe to determine whether there are “excess” wild horses and burros that are required to be removed to achieve appropriate management levels. Under the WFRHBA the excess wild horses and burros are to be removed to “restore a thriving ecological balance” and protect the range from damage from overpopulation. 16 U.S.C. Section 1333(b). In other words, the state or tribe would have virtually unfettered discretion to round up and remove wild horses and burros. Virtually all of them could end up in a foreign slaughterhouse.


The bill, H.R. 5058, has been referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. If your U.S. representative is on the Committee, be sure to write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 5058 and stop any plan for the senseless slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros. Even if your representative is not on the committee, write or call and urge him or her to contact committee members and urge them to vote no to this legislation.

New USDA/APHIS Rules for Breeders Now in Effect

Puppy50_4x6Update September 18, 2013: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has now adopted as a final rule some regulation of breeders that sell directly to the public through ads. For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below. A copy of the new rules can be found here.

Original report: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’ Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is now accepting comments through August 15, 2012, a thirty day extention, on proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act. Specifically, the USDA/APHIS proposes to increase from 3 to 4 the number of breeding animals a person could maintain without being subject to regulation under the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA/APHIS also proposes to narrow its interpretation of “retail pet stores” which are exempt from regulation under the AWA. USDA/APHIS has interpreted the AWA to include as “retail pet stores” and exclude from regulation those breeders that sell animals directly to the public. These breeders sell the animals over the internet or through newspaper ads. In a lawsuit to challenge the USDA’s interpretation, the D.C. Circuit sided with the USDA. See Doris Day Animal League v. Veneman, 315 F.3d 297 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Under the proposed change in the regulations, the AWA would now apply to breeders that don’t maintain a physical place, a residence or other place, where buyers can come in to observe the animals for sale prior to purchase. This change would apply to breeders that may sell animals sight unseen through internet, newspaper or other ads so that the purchaser has no opportunity to observe the health of the animal prior to the sale.

But it would be fairly easy for most breeders to circumvent this by setting up a place where buyers can observe the animals prior to sale. Many do that already. In effect, the regulations of AWA would still not apply to most breeders that sell animals directly to the public. Currently, the regulations only apply to breeders that sell animals through brokers or dealers.

Only about 1500 dog breeders would be affected by this change along with a few breeders of other animals. 1500 or so more breeders that are subject to federal regulation is good. But it’s not enough.

Go here for information about a scathing audit by the Office of Inspector General of APHIS lax and ineffective regulation of dog breeding facilities and the agency’s plan to remedy its failures; and for information about the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, the PUPS Act, pending federal legislation that would mandate APHIS regulate all dog breeders that sell directly to the public whether through the internet, newspaper ads or otherwise, and not only those that sell through brokers or dealers or that maintain show rooms where buyers can observe dogs for sale.

House Passes King Amendment

NewChickens109HiUpdate July 16, 2013:On July 11, 2013 by a vote of 216-208, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the King amendment as part of H.R. 2642, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, now the Farm bill. Section 11312 contains the King amendment. The bill now goes to the Senate. For more on what this amendment means, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

Original report: An amendment by U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to the House Agriculture Committee version of the FARRM bill would threaten the ability of state and local governments to regulate animal welfare within their borders. Congressman King’s amendment provides “one state cannot deny the trade of an agricultural product from another state based on that product’s means of production.”

The King amendment was approved as part of the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013, H.R. 1947, on May 15, 2013 by a vote of 36-10.

King’s amendment would target, for example, the 2010 California law that prohibits sale of eggs in the state that are from hens kept in conditions inconsistent with Cal Health & Saf Code Sec. 25990. That law, known as California’s anti-confinement law for farm animals, requires that “for all or the majority of any day”, egg laying hens must be able to lay down, stand up and fully extend their limbs or wings without touching the sides of an enclosure or other hens, and also turn around freely. See further Cal Health & Saf Code Section 25991.

Under Congressman King’s amendment this California law could not be applied to foreign egg producers that want to sell eggs in the state. Other jurisdictions could sell eggs from hens cruelly crammed into battery cages and likely undercut the prices of local egg producers that must meet state humane standards.

Mr. King’s amendment would wreak havoc with efforts of local citizens to stop animal cruelty and threaten protections not only for egg laying hens and other farm animals, but also laws that prohibit or regulate puppy and cat mills and other animal breeders, ban horse slaughter and protect wildlife. The King amendment would threaten state and local standards for food safety, environmental protection and worker safety. Rep. King would force every state and locale to open its markets to those producers with the worst standards. Don’t let Congressman King undermine state’s rights and turn the clock back centuries on standards for animal welfare, the environment, and food and worker safety.


Find your U.S. Senators here. Contact them (letters or calls are best) and urge your senators to offer or support an amendment to repeal the King amendment and to vote NO to H.R. 2642, the 2013 FARRM bill unless the King amendment is removed.

Both House and Senate Committees Approve Defunding of Horse Inspections

wild horse 3Update June 20, 2013:The Senate Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote today the Landrieu amendment which would defund in the FY 2014 appropriations bill the required ante-mortem inspections of horses sent to slaughter for human consumption. The House Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment last week. President Obama has recommended defunding in the administration’s proposed budget for FY 2014.

Without funding of these required inspections, horses cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. Both the full House of Representatives and Senate must approved the measure. For more on defunding, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update June 18, 2013: This Thursday, June 20, 2013 the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY 2014. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has proposed an amendment similar to the Moran amendment approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee to defund horse inspections. For more on the Moran amendment to defund horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below.

Update June 13, 2013: The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved today by voice vote an amendment to the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill that defunds ante-mortem inspections for horses sent for slaughter for human consumption. If approved by the full House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president, it would mean horses and other equines could not be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and had been recommended by the Obama Administration in its proposed budget. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for approval. For more on this and how you can help pass defunding of horse inspections, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.

Original report: While a bill to ban horse slaughter for human consumption is pending in Congress, the Obama administration has agreed to support defunding of ante-mortem inspections required for equines slaughtered for human food. This means no funds could be used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for inspectors to conduct these inspections. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 603, without the inspections, equines cannot be slaughtered in the U.S. for human consumption.

The USDA has proposed the defunding of equine inspections in its FY 2014 budget:
p. 197, Sec. 725:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to—(1) inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603); (2) inspect horses under section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104127); or (3) implement or enforce section 352.19 of title 9, Code of Federal Regulations.

Find your one U.S. representative. Find your 2 U.S. senators here. Call your U.S. rep and senators now and urge them to support the Agriculture Committee bill with defunding of horse inspections and stop horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S.

Defunding ante-mortem inspections for equines in a FY 2006 appropriations act led to the shuttering of horse slaughter plants in the U.S. that could not as a result operate legally. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Appropriations Act, 2006, Pub. L. 109-97, § 794, 119 Stat. 2120, 2164 which became law on November 10, 2005, contained a provision that de-funded ante-mortem inspections of equines. The de-funding of the ante-mortem inspections continued until 2011.

In that year the House of Representatives voted to continue de-funding, but the Senate version of the agriculture appropriations bill did not contain any language de-funding the ante-mortem inspections. In the Conference Committee formed to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the appropriations bills, Conference Committee Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) voted to reject de-funding of inspections for horses for slaughter for human consumption. Only Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) voted to support continued de-funding of the inspections. The Conference Report, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. Law No. 112-55, H.R. 2112, became law on November 18, 2011.

Since then it has been legal to operate horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. where it is not prohibited by state law. A USDA permit or approval is required, however. To date, only one facility appears set to obtain such approval. That facility owned by Valley Meat Co. is located in southern New Mexico. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the facility will be approved to begin slaughtering horses unless Congress acts to defund the required ante-mortem inspections.


Call President Obama at and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at 202-720-3631, and urge them to take the lead in assuring the appropriations law for FY 2014 defunds ante-mortem inspections for equines.