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WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund commend Congress for overriding President Bush's veto of the Farm Bill. By a vote of 316 to 108, the House voted to override the veto last night, and the Senate followed suit today, with a vote of 82 to 13. The final bill — which is now considered law, except for the trade title due to a technical glitch — includes important measures to stop the import of puppies for commercial sale from foreign puppy mills and strengthen the federal law against animal fighting, as well as to increase penalties for those who violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
"Congress has addressed some critical animal welfare issues in its Farm Bill, including the cruelty of animals pitted against each other to fight for the amusement and gambling of spectators, and the cruelty of importing puppies who are mass-produced in other countries under inhumane conditions and then crammed tightly into cargo containers for shipment to the U.S., where they often arrive seriously ill or dead," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Those are important breakthroughs for animal protection and some of the most sweeping reforms we are likely to see pass in the current session of Congress."
"While the Farm Bill deals with enormous agricultural policy issues, it's important that it also deals with the humane treatment of animals," said Michael Markarian, president of the HSLF. "Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and other anti-cruelty laws, the Farm Bill is a unique opportunity to improve our nation's animal protection policies and toughen the penalties for those who engage in cruelty and abuse."
Puppy Imports – The Farm Bill includes provisions — championed by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) with key support by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), and Terry Everett (R-Ala.) — to curb the import of puppies for commercial sale from foreign puppy mills. A growing number of breeders in Eastern European countries, Mexico, China, and other foreign countries see the U.S. as a potential market, even though there is a strong domestic dog and cat breeding industry here and there are millions of pets available from U.S. breeders and animal shelters. The provisions require that any dog imported into the U.S. for commercial sale be at least 6-months old, to ensure that young, unweaned and unvaccinated puppies are not forced to suffer from harsh, long-distance transport. They also ensure that any dog entering the U.S. be deemed healthy prior to entry. Exceptions are provided so as not to interfere with shelter and rescue work, veterinary treatment, or research purposes. Thanks to Sen. Durbin's extraordinary and unflagging leadership, similar language was first incorporated into the Senate Farm Bill in December.
Animal Fighting – The Farm Bill contains provisions — sought by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Reps. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) — to strengthen federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly possess or train animals for fighting, enhancing the penalty for animal fighting offenses from a potential three-year prison sentence to a maximum five-year prison sentence, and making any animal fighting affecting interstate or foreign commerce a federal crime. The Senate Farm Bill contained many similar provisions in a dogfighting amendment successfully offered by Sen. Kerry, and the conference report language is even stronger, as it also applies to cockfighting.
AWA Penalties – The Farm Bill includes a provision — included in the House Farm Bill at the request of Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) — authorizing an increase in potential fines for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, as recommended in a 2005 audit by USDA's Inspector General. The audit found that the law's maximum penalty – which has not been upgraded for more than 20 years — is considered by violators as a cost of doing business rather than a deterrent. The Farm Bill allows maximum penalties of $10,000, to establish a more effective deterrent against abuses.
The HSUS and HSLF expressed their appreciation to leaders on the Farm Bill – Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) – for their strong support of the animal welfare provisions, and also expressed gratitude to Judiciary Committee leaders Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for their tremendous assistance in improving the federal law on animal fighting.
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