Today’s approval of H.R. 4502, a package of appropriations bills funding key federal agencies, offers dramatic evidence of the success we’ve achieved through our laser-like focus on the federal budgeting process. The results include directives for improved law enforcement concerning horse soring and other animal cruelty, the expansion of sheltering options for survivors of domestic violence and their pets, and measures to prevent horse slaughter on U.S. soil, limit higher-speed slaughter lines, enhance animal welfare compliance in USDA laboratories, reduce animal testing, and advance egg farmers’ transition to cage-free operations.
Other provisions we championed include funding increases for the humane, long-term management of wild horses and burros and the protection of wildlife species on our federal lands, more resources for the worldwide struggle to end wildlife trafficking and live wildlife markets that increase the risk of zoonotic disease spillover, and a directive to promote design strategies for federal buildings to reduce bird mortality from collisions.
We fought hard in support of a measure to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from using any funds to issue permits for the import of sport-hunted elephant or lion trophies taken in Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe, countries where their populations are in severe decline. It passed after sympathetic legislators defeated a hostile amendment introduced on behalf of the trophy hunting industry.
The House also authorized $2 million for a FWS study of dangers besetting the West Indian manatee in Florida and potential remedies (championed by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.), and directed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use $5 million for equine assisted therapy within the VA's Adaptive Sports Program (advanced by Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky.)
On Wednesday night, as we reported, the House passed a separate appropriations bill, H.R. 4373, that adds tens of millions of dollars and key provisions focused on the combined threats to human health and animal welfare worldwide from wildlife trafficking and live wildlife markets that are associated with zoonotic disease transmission. During debate on that bill, which funds the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other agencies, the House approved a good amendment to combat the trafficking of endangered species (offered by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas).
As a central feature of our work, we recruit sponsors for specific bills to help animals, and we support legislators who want to introduce such bills on their own initiative. When they’re in play, we do our best to see those bills passed. But we’re also on the hunt for opportunities to advance needed reforms through the annual appropriations process, and the members of our team work with single-minded intensity to keep our priority concerns alive in the budget debates, just as they do their best to exclude the many bad measures proposed by other groups.
This time around, our strategy and execution have produced a bounty of good news. But we aren’t done yet. With this historic package approved, we’ll move right into gear to press the Senate to approve these life-saving measures. Together, they will bring immediate benefits to a host of animal species in the United States and abroad, and we’ll work equally hard to ensure their implementation by the federal agencies concerned.