Animal lives are at stake in the midterm elections. New legislation in California and Florida takes into account nearly 20 million animals. While these two states are quickly becoming battlegrounds for animal lovers, hundreds of representatives across the country are standing up to protect animals.
Here’s everything animal lovers need to know before heading to the polls.
The big two: Prop 12 in California and Amendment 13 in Florida
Proposition 12 in California would establish new cage-free housing requirements for baby veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens. The ballot initiative looks similar to California’s first “cage-free” initiative from 2008, Proposition 2, that requires space for farm animals to move around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The major difference here is that Proposition 12 specifies the number of square feet needed for each animal. As you can imagine, “room to spread out” was open to interpretation, especially when the animal has wings.
The image of egg-laying hens crammed into tight cages dominates this conversation, and interestingly some animal organizations including PETA are firing back, claiming that it legalizes the use of cages for several more years. In opposition are also, more predictably, the National Pork Producers Council and the Association of California Egg Farmers.
However, the reality is that without regulation like this the industry will not take the necessary steps towards a more humane treatment of farm animals. The majority of animal advocacy groups such as Humane Society of the United States, The Humane League, and Mercy For Animals support Prop 12 and are joined by an impressive number of supporters ranging from consumer advocates and veterinarians to faith leaders. Voting to pass Prop 12 would make a major positive impact for animals.
Amendment 13 in Florida would phase out commercial greyhound racing by 2020. But before Floridians could vote, the amendment was heard by the state’s Supreme Court. The ballot reads, “ENDS DOG RACING. — Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.” But legal authorities were concerned that this amendment implied a precedent for the state’s treatment of animals.
Many pointed out the phrasing of the amendment implies that animal welfare is a fundamental value of the people of Florida. They argued that the specific words “fundamental value” should appear on the ballot. Others held that the phrasing has no legal effect, and so it is political rhetoric and therefore cannot appear on the ballot. Florida’s Supreme Court ruled for the proposed text 6-1 and Amendment 13 will be on the ballot, precedent-setting or not.
Animal protectors in action
This past year, Congress passed laws protecting wild horses, wolves, and chimpanzees. Most recently, the Senate unanimously approved the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which extends protections against extreme acts of animals cruelty across state lines and U.S. borders. In the House, the Foreign Affairs Committee condemned the dog and cat meat trade around the world. Here’s what they’re up to now.
Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act
|The bill: Forty-four states still have no law against killing dogs and cats for human consumption. As it stands, your local meat counter can’t sell it, but you can still eat it. The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) would amend the Animal Welfare Act and prohibit the transportation, delivery, possession, and slaughter of cats and dogs for human consumption.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fl.), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fl.), Rep. Dave Brat (R-Vir.), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Cal.), Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)|
|Status: 246 cosponsors in 2017; passed/agreed to in the House|
Pet and Women Safety Act
|The bill: Many people delay leaving a violent home because of their pet. The Pet and Women Safety Act (H.R. 909) would expand federal domestic violence protections to include pets, allowing more grant money to go to shelters that would accommodate their pets.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen Dean Heller (R-Nev.)|
|Status: 246 cosponsors; referred to Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry|
Safeguard American Food Exports Act
|The bill: American horses are often purchased by buyers who misrepresent their intentions and killed for the overseas horse meat market. The Safeguard American Food Exports Act (H.R. 113) would prohibit the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)|
|Status: 204 cosponsors; referred to Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions|
Humane Cosmetics Act
|The bill: Cosmetic testing on animals still happens in the U.S. The Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 2790) would phase out animal-based testing for cosmetic products and eventually prohibit the sale any cosmetics (foreign or domestic) tested on animals.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Rep. Donald Beyer (D-Vir.), Rep. Edward Royce (R-Cal.), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Cal.), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Cal.), Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fl.), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Rep. Thomas MacArthur (R-N.J.), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fl.), Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-Fl.)|
|Status: 157 cosponsors; referred to the Subcommittee on Health|
Welfare of Our Friends Act
|The bill: When breeders are caught caring for animals in horrifying conditions, their individual license is revoked. But too often, a family member will apply for a license and reopen the same facility authorities just tried to shut down. The Welfare of Our Friends Act (H.R. 4691) would safeguard against this.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.)|
|Status: 33 cosponsors; referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture|
Puppy Protection Act
|The bill: The Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 4693) aims to take the USDA’s welfare standards for dogs raised in commercial breeding facilities a step further. The bill includes access to nutritious food and drinkable water, adequate exercise, critical socialization, and veterinary care.|
|Bill sponsors and original cosponsors: Rep. Brian Fitzgerald (R-Penn.) and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.)|
|Status: 26 cosponsors; referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture|
Not sure if your current representative is fighting for animals? Check and see if they are one of the 157 members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus here. You can also go through this comprehensive scorecard put out by the Humane Society Legislative Fund and grade your representative based on their support of pro-animal welfare legislation before you head to the polls.