Protecting Our Pets
By Congressman Brad Sherman
In my 18 years in Congress I have worked hard to be a champion for animals. Like many of my constituents, I support strong measures to protect animals and ensure that they are not subjected to undue pain or suffering. My work has consistently earned me a 100 percent rating from the Humane Society which has awarded me the “Humane Champion” or the “Humane Advocate” award for eight consecutive years.
I have also received a 100 percent rating from every other group that rates voting records and is dedicated to animal protection. I continue to work with these groups and others to pass meaningful legislation to protect animals from cruelty. I agree with the sentiment of Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Perhaps the largest perpetrators of unnecessary animal cruelty, particularly regarding our domesticated animals, are the many puppy mills around the nation. It is estimated that 2 to 4 million puppy mill puppies are sold each year in the United States. Facilities that breed dogs for commercial resale are required to be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), but a loophole in the law allows thousands of puppy mills to sell directly to the public and go unchecked from any federal oversight. Due to improper care and over-crowded conditions, their puppies are often ill, leaving unsuspecting consumers with sick, sometimes dying puppies, expensive vet bills, and very unhappy children. Meanwhile, the breeding dogs at these facilities often spend their entire lives in constant confinement and deprivation.
I have cosponsored the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act to close this loophole in the AWA that allows thousands of large, commercial breeders to sell puppies over the Internet and escape licensing and regulation. Any commercial breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year would be required to be licensed and inspected. The PUPS Act would also require that dogs used for breeding be allowed to exercise outside their primary enclosures every day.
I am also focused on halting foreign puppy mill imports. Too many puppies arrive in the U.S. with not only transmittable diseases, but sick or dead due to being bred under inhumane conditions and having traveled long distances in cramped containers that may be exposed to extreme temperatures. Many of these countries have no laws whatsoever to protect dogs. Along with my colleagues, I sent a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack urging him to implement the puppy import provision in existing law that’s restricts foreign puppy mills from coming into the U.S. for commercial sale. The law would not prevent people from importing their own pets or dogs they have adopted.
Another source of cruelty against pets is the disgusting “sport” of dog fighting, which is now an unfortunate part of the consciousness of mainstream America. I was an early supporter of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which established felony-level penalties for organizing animal fighting events and for transporting animals that are meant to be used in animal fights. It not only addressed dog fighting, but it also strengthens penalties associated with cockfighting – another atrocious form of animal fighting. I was pleased when the legislation passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the President.
The most effective way to prevent dog fighting is to not just target the organizers, but the participants as well. I am a cosponsor of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act which makes it unlawful to knowingly attend or bring a minor to an animal fighting venue. Spectators are more than mere observers at animal fights. They are participants and accomplices who enable the crime, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling wagers, and helping conceal organizers and handlers who try to blend into the crowd when a raid occurs. I am pleased that this legislation was enacted into law as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these important legislative initiatives to protect animals. As always, I believe that in order to do my job, I need to hear your views on both local issues and those affecting our entire nation. I continue to believe that there are more good ideas in the Los Angeles than in Washington, which is why I appreciate hearing from you. Do not hesitate to contact my San Fernando Valley office to share yours, (818) 501-9200 or email me at Brad.Sherman@mail.house.gov