News from Capitol Hill - Fall 2007
Dog Fighting Charges Present an Opportunity for Action
Following the announcement of dog fighting charges against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in July, the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act was introduced in the US Congress as S. 1880 and H.R. 3219. The bill seeks to further empower federal prosecutors to pursue individuals—including spectators—engaged in all aspects of dog fighting. It would increase maximum penalties to include up to five years in federal prison. While public awareness of this barbaric act is at an all-time high, Congress must take prompt action.
Despite most Americans' horror at the situation, some people have stepped up in Vick's defense. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) spoke out against the argument that the abused dogs were "private property"—and thus Vick's behavior was acceptable. The private property or "private rights" claim is a common but dangerous mindset espoused by some elected officials to "justify" cruelty to animals in the form of barbaric activities such as animal fighting and horse slaughter for human consumption.
A three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled unanimously in September to uphold a decision by the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, reaffirming the constitutionality of an Illinois law preventing the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
Following passage of the law in May, the state's sole horse slaughterhouse, Cavel International, filed suit in federal court to challenge the mandate's constitutionality. On July 5, the US District Court ruled the law constitutional—and thus, enforceable. Cavel appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and horses continued to be slaughtered while the case was considered.
Cavel has two options remaining to challenge the ruling, and we hope it will do neither. It can request an en banc review, whereby all Seventh Circuit judges would reconsider the decision rendered by the three-judge panel, or it can appeal directly to the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, export for slaughter remains legal, and the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act must be adopted to curtail the trade.
Two bills to improve the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) have been combined and inserted in the 2007 Farm Bill. Passed in the US House of Representatives in July, the amendment to halt the notorious trade in animals by Class B dealers. It will close a loophole in the AWA that currently permits profiteers to sell illegally acquired dogs and cats for experimentation. Additionally, the measure stops the use of live animals as part of sales pitches by purveyors of medical devices. Finally, the measure reinstates the requirement that the US Department of Agriculture submit an annual report to Congress on Animal Welfare Act enforcement activities, and it increases fines to research facilities violating the Act to as much as $10,000 per violation when appropriate.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Please ask your Senators and Representative to cosponsor S. 1880 and H.R. 3219, the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act. Write to:
The Honorable (name)
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable (name)
Washington, DC 20510
To find your Senators and Representative and learn more about animal welfare legislation, please visit www.compassionindex.org.