A Few Positive Notes at the Close of the 113th Congress

Thanks to a flurry of activity at the end, the 113th Congress escaped the ignominy of being the least productive Congress in modern history. (It was the second-least productive, right behind the 112th.) Nonetheless, we made important gains on behalf of animals through provisions in the trillion-dollar spending bill passed right before Congress adjourned.

Three provisions benefit horses. Congress once again approved language to block the USDA from spending taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter plants, thus effectively preventing these facilities from operating, as well as to continue a ban on killing healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros. The third provision encourages the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to consider new and more humane methods of wild horse population management, as set forth in the 2013 National Academy of Sciences study.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) proposed a competitive grants program for nonprofit organizations that train and place service dogs, often rescued from local shelters, with military members and veterans who have certain physical and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress. The proposal received $1 million for a pilot program.

The spending bill did contain provisions AWI opposed. It eliminated the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or any other laws, to regulate hazardous substances (including lead, a dangerous neurotoxin) released by ammunition and sport-fishing waste.

Undermining scientific practices established by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the bill also blocks the use of federal funds to determine whether the Gunnison sage-grouse or greater sage-grouse—two species of bird native to the western United States—qualify for listing under the ESA. (However, the bill does allocate $15 million to the BLM for sage-grouse conservation.)

A major animal welfare bill, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, fell victim to obstructionists despite unprecedented support in both chambers.