Tuesday, 30 December 2014 00:00

Wildlife Protection Legislation Hits and Misses for 2014 Featured

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Born Free USA roundup of federal and state bills

Washington, D.C., December 30, 2014 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, works with federal, state, and local legislators to strengthen existing animal protection laws and establish new ones that tackle crucial wildlife issues including exotic animals kept as “pets,” the barbaric trapping industry, and the trade in wildlife parts. This year was significant in legislatures around the country, with animal bills seeing both big wins and frustrating defeats.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “We fight with unsurpassed determination to protect animals and preserve wildlife. We are grateful to those who support our efforts to reduce animal suffering, increase public safety, and help ensure compassionate conservation everywhere. All American citizens can help influence their state and federal leadership and impact the way we treat wildlife. Every voice can be heard, and we are asking people to step up for the sake of wildlife protection and the future of our planet.”

Born Free relies on its dedicated constituents to help persuade legislators to act for animals throughout the year, and encourages everyone to join its eAlert team for regular updates on ways to assist (www.bornfreeusa.org).

Born Free USA’s hit and miss list for 2014 bills:

Exotic animals and other primates:

From the slaughter of wild animals in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011 after a man released them from his property, to the Connecticut woman who was mutilated by her neighbor’s pet chimpanzee in 2009, to the nearly 100 other incidents detailed in the Born Free USA Exotic Animal Incidents Database throughout 2014, the stories of private ownership of exotic pets are gruesome and preventable. To protect wildlife and the public, Born Free USA worked on the following bills:

1) Federal Bill: Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 2856/S. 1463)

Purpose: To prohibit the interstate commerce in nonhuman primates for the exotic pet trade.

History: In 2003, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act was signed into law to prohibit interstate commerce in lions, tigers, and other big cats as pets. Because primates face similar inhumane treatment and pose similar threats to public health and safety, advocates seek to add them to the list of species prohibited in commercial trade.

Progress in 2014: Born Free USA, along with partners, worked to attract more attention to this bill. The list of cosponsors soared to more than 150, and members of Congress spoke out in passionate support of the bill at a press conference highlighting Charla Nash: a woman who was severely injured in an attack by her neighbor’s pet chimpanzee, and who lent her voice to highlight the importance of this measure.

Outcome: While the bill had strong bipartisan support and passed the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, it was ultimately overlooked due to other Congressional priorities. Born Free USA will capitalize on the favor it accrued to start strong in the next Congress.

2) Federal Bill: Humane Care for Primates Act (H.R. 3556)

Purpose: To change CDC regulations to allow sanctuaries to import primates into the country for the purpose of providing humane lifetime care.

History: Current CDC regulations allow the importation of primates for “bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes,” which excludes sanctuaries and prevents needy primates overseas from being rescued by U.S. organizations, such as the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.

Progress in 2014: After securing introduction of the bill in 2013 with Rep. Ellmers (R-NC) as a sponsor, Born Free USA worked to raise awareness and build support for the bill in Congress. With more than 40 cosponsors, this bill was well-received.

Outcome: While it did not pass, the awareness raised ensures that the bill is well-poised to be reintroduced in the House in 2015, and to find a Senate champion.

3) West Virginia Bill (S.B. 428/H.B. 4393)

Purpose: To prohibit private ownership of exotic species, with that list to be defined by the Department of Natural Resources.

History: West Virginia was one of only six states left lacking restriction or oversight for the private possession of exotic animals. This historic bill was initiated by Born Free USA in 2012, though it failed to pass that year.

2014 SUCCESS: This bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor.

Trapping:

Born Free USA is addressing this cruel, unregulated industry. Tens of thousands of targeted and non-targeted animals are caught in traps that leave them injured, maimed, or dead. To prevent further harm, Born Free USA worked on the following bills:

1) Federal Bill: Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act (H.R. 3513)

Purpose: To ban trapping in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The bill aims to restore the original intent of the National Wildlife Refuge System to create havens for wildlife that are safe and free from unnatural intrusion. The bill would also protect people and companion animals incidentally caught by brutal traps.

History: Born Free USA played a key role in drafting the bill when it was originally introduced in the 2009/2010 Congress.

Progress in 2014: Born Free USA lobbied to gain support for this bill in the House, and engaged our Members in a grassroots effort to emphasize the need for this ban.

Outcome: This bill failed to gain traction in the 2013-2014 Congress. However, Born Free USA will continue its efforts to educate members of Congress about trapping.

2) Illinois Bill (S.B. 3049)

Purpose: To add the gray wolf, American black bear, and cougar to the list of protected species under the Illinois Wildlife Act.

History: Under Illinois law, it is unlawful for any person at any time to take, possess, sell, offer for sale, propagate, or release into the wild any “protected species,” with exemptions for scientific, educational, or zoological institutions. The gray wolf, American black bear, and cougar populations are in need of these protections afforded to the other threatened species protected under the Illinois Wildlife Act.

2014 SUCCESS: Born Free USA lobbied in support of this bill through grassroots outreach and by submitting testimony to the legislature. The legislature recognized the importance of these wildlife protections, passed the bill, and the governor signed it into law.

3) Virginia Bill (S.B. 42)

Purpose: To prohibit the construction of new fox penning enclosures, although current fox pens may continue to operate until 2054.

History: There has been an ongoing battle to ban fox penning, a cruel “sport” in which organizers force dozens of dogs to compete in a fenced-in area to chase—and sometimes rip apart—foxes and coyotes. The wild animals are caught in leghold traps that cause anguish through broken bones or other wounds, and are transported in cages to the pen. With dogs tearing apart the captive animals, there is a constant demand for fresh wildlife for the fox pens.

2014 SUCCESS: Born Free USA worked closely with a coalition of groups to usher this bill through the legislature, where it ultimately passed and was then signed by the governor. While it is not an outright ban, it is a positive step in a state in which the practice is so entrenched.

Wildlife trade:

Illegal wildlife trade is ranked among the top five global crimes in terms of profitability. The trade in bear gallbladders, sport-hunted wildlife trophies, and other animals—including threatened and endangered species—could drive some populations or species to the brink of extinction. In particular, Born Free USA’s two groundbreaking reports, Ivory’s Curse and Out of Africa, revealed the insidious links between terrorist networks and the ivory trade. To address this crisis, Born Free USA worked on the following bills:

1) Federal Bill: Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act (H.R. 5454)

Purpose: To require certain nations to work with the U.S. on anti-poaching efforts, or face sanctions if they fail to cooperate.

History: As Born Free USA’s Ivory’s Curse report revealed, African nations must play a significant role in cracking down on corruption within governments and poaching within their boundaries. This bill is designed to incentivize African nations to make the poaching crisis a priority.

Progress in 2014: Born Free USA assisted sponsor Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) with crafting the language of the bill. It contributed to the ongoing discussion in Congress about how to best tackle the poaching crisis, and demonstrated that the U.S. is serious about finding a solution.

Outcome: This bill did not make any progress in 2014, but Born Free USA will continue to promote it, as well as other Congressional efforts to end the ivory trade, in 2015.

2) Federal Bill: Rare Cats and Canids Act (H.R. 5836)

Purpose: To provide a source of funding for projects to enhance conservation of international felids and canids.

History: This bill was previously introduced in 2007 and 2009, and it passed the House of Representatives both times. Wild cats and dogs desperately need these conservation efforts. Of the 37 wild felid species worldwide, all but three are currently recognized as species in need of protection. Of the 36 wild canid species worldwide, 20 are recognized as being in need of protection.

Progress in 2014: Born Free USA worked with sponsor Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) to update the language, find original cosponsors, and recruit the support of other groups before it was introduced.

Outcome: This bill was introduced too late in the session to make progress, but will be reintroduced in 2015.

3) Massachusetts Bill: Shark Fin Ban (H.B. 4088)

Purpose: To prohibit the possession and sale of shark fins, with exemptions for certain species and purposes.

History: Shark finning is a cruel practice in which people cut the fins off of live sharks and return their bodies to the water, where the sharks inevitably die. Similar laws exist in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

2014 SUCCESS: Born Free USA worked closely with a coalition to usher this bill through the legislature, where it ultimately passed and was signed by the governor. While it is not an outright ban, it is a positive step in a state with a large fishing industry. 

4) New York Bill: Restrict the Sale of Ivory and Rhino Horn (A. 10143/S. 7890)

Purpose: To prohibit the sale, purchase, trade, barter, and distribution of ivory and rhino horn articles, but with certain exemptions.

History: New York had a much weaker law regulating the sale of ivory, but it was not sufficient to ensure that no illegal ivory was sold in the state. As the elephant and rhino poaching crisis grows, New York was one of the first states to recognize the need to crack down on the trafficking of these products.

2014 SUCCESS: Born Free USA worked with partners to provide grassroots support of the bill. The legislature recognized the urgency of this matter and passed the bill, allowing the governor to sign it into law.

5) New Jersey Bill: Ban the Sale of Ivory and Rhino Horn (S. 2012/A. 3128)

Purpose: To prohibit the sale, purchase, or barter of ivory or rhino horn.

History: This bill passed the first year it was introduced, establishing New Jersey as the state with the strongest prohibition on ivory and rhino horn.

2014 SUCCESS: Born Free USA worked closely with partners to secure this bill’s passage, including testifying before a committee, engaging with media, and providing grassroots support. The bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor.

To find out more about these bills, and how to take action, visit http://bornfreeusa.org/b4b_lawmakers.php.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation”—the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. www.bornfreeusa.org; twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

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