By Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) - 05/14/13 11:34 PM EDT
Americans love animals. More than half of all American families own pets, and we overwhelmingly believe in protecting animals from cruelty and suffering. Yet too many of the businesses that provide Americans with their beloved companions perpetuate inhumane practices against dogs and cats, and I’m certain that even those who enjoy meat and animal products would be horrified by the conditions to which many livestock animals are subjected. When it comes to protecting animals under the law, we still have a ways to go.
Puppy mills represent one of the most glaring examples of animal cruelty in the commercial pet industry. Many puppy mills are run by breeders who sell online, and are not required by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to obtain a license or undergo inspections. These facilities promote animal abuse, often on a large scale, by keeping dogs in substandard conditions to minimize costs.
I’ve heard from many constituents and animal advocacy groups about the horrific abuses that go on in puppy mills, and that’s why I am a proud cosponsor of the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act. Reintroduced to the House this February, the PUPS Act closes loopholes that allow online dog breeders to skirt USDA licensing and inspection requirements. Passing this bill would be an important step toward exposing and cleaning up the dark underbelly of the commercial pet industry.
Domestic animals aren’t the only ones that need more protections. This month, I plan to reintroduce the Transparency for Lethal Control (TLC) Act, which would require the USDA to release data on animals killed by Wildlife Services. Sometimes, a wild animal becomes a serious threat to humans or the ecosystem, and killing it is the only option. However, Wildlife Services currently undertakes thousands of these killings with next to no oversight or accountability. In San Diego, this includes bobcats, foxes, mountain lions, and other iconic Californian creatures. In order to ensure that the USDA is using its resources efficiently and appropriately, Congress and the public must have access to information about where, why, how and which animals are being killed.
Even those who are not moved by a love of animals should care about animal cruelty. A wealth of scientific evidence suggests that violence against animals is tied to violence against humans. Studies have shown that those who abuse animals as children often go on to act violently toward other people, and perpetrators of domestic abuse are also likely to abuse family pets. Additionally, organized animal abuse, such as dog fighting , is frequently tied to other criminal activity, including illegal gambling and drug and weapons possession. Given the links between violence toward animals and other aggressive and destructive behaviors, in addition to the suffering of the animals themselves, animal cruelty cannot be tolerated.
Animal welfare has always been an issue close to my heart. I believe that, as a society, we have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable members. I know that my constituents care about this subject, as well. Throughout my years in Congress, animal welfare has consistently been one of the top issues on which my constituents have written to me.
During this session, Congress will have the opportunity to consider several bills to enhance protections for animal welfare. I hope that my colleagues will keep in mind not only their constituents, but also all of the cherished pets and majestic wildlife in their districts, as they consider this legislation. Let’s stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and work to ensure humane treatment for all creatures.
Davis serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.