Democrats Bring Good News for the Environment

The 110th Congress did well by the animal kingdom.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

While the Bush administration has been busy destroying the environment, Congress, on the other hand, has passed some wonderful legislation protecting animals this year and last. The Humane Society has a report summarizing bills passed during the 110th session of Congress, which just concluded.

The Farm Bill included 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 AWA. Fortunately, the final package did not include several bad provisions that The HSUS opposed, intended to (1) pre-empt state and local laws on animal welfare and food safety, (2) promote domestic sales of small turtles for the first time since the Food and Drug Administration banned such sales in 1975 to protect against Salmonella transmission, and (3) create a new $12 million subsidy for the veal industry. 

There was also forward movement last year on legislation to boost penalties for staged animal fights:

[Congress passed the] Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act in April 2007 to authorize felony-level penalties of up to 3 years jail time for interstate or foreign transport of animals for fighting purposes and to outlaw the movement of cockfighting weapons across state or national borders ... [After the Michael Vick case became public] Congress agreed to further strengthen federal law via the Farm Bill by making it a crime to knowingly possess or train animals for fighting, boosting the maximum penalty for animal fighting offenses to 5 years jail time, and making any animal fighting affecting interstate or foreign commerce a federal crime.

Looking ahead to 2009, many in the animal rights and animal welfare communities are hopeful that with a stronger Democratic Congress and a Democrat in the White House, animals and endangered species alike will benefit from even greater protections. Although there are some very pro-animal Republicans, such as Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, whom I have praised mightily in the past, Democrats as a whole are still more animal-friendly.