DearColleague.us

Letter

Earl Blumenauer

From the office of:

Earl Blumenauer

 

From: The Honorable Earl Blumenauer
Sent By:
kevin.stockert@mail.house.gov

Date: 3/31/2017

DEADLINE TODAY
Current Signers: 
Chris Smith, Blumenauer, Adams,  Bass, Beatty, Beyer, Bonamici, Bordallo, Boyle, Brady, Brown, Brownley, Buchanan, Bustos, Butterfield, Capuano, Carbajal, Cárdenas, Castor, Castro, Chu, Cicilline, Clarke,
Cleaver, Cohen, Coleman, Comstock, Connolly, Conyers, Costello, Courtney, Costa, Crist, Crowley, Cummings, Curbelo, Susan Davis, Danny K Davis, DeFazio, Delaney, DelBene, DeSaulnier, Deutch, Doggett, Donovan, Doyle, Ellison, Engel, Eshoo, Espaillat, Esty,
Fitpatrick, Foster, Frankel, Gallego, Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Green, Grijalva, Guitérrez, Hanabusa, Heck, Higgins, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Jayapal, Jones, Katko, Keating, Khanna, Kihuen, King, Krishnamoorthi, Lacy Clay, Lance, Langevin, Lawrence, Lee, Levin, Lewis,
Lieu, Lipinski, LoBiondo, Loebsack, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Lujan Grisham, Lujan, Lynch, MacArther, Maloney, Maloney, Marino, Matsui, McEachin, McGovern, McNerney, McSally, Meeks, Moore, Moulton, Murphy, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Norcross, Norton, O’Halleran,
O’Rourke, Pallone, Pannetta, Pascrell, Payne, Peters, Pocan, Polis, Price, Quigley, Raskin, Rice, Rosen, Roybal-Allard, Ruiz, Ruppersberger, Sánchez, Sarbanes, Schakowsky, Schiff, Schneider, Schrader, Schultz, Scott, Shea-Porter, Sires, Slaughter, Adam Smith,
Soto, Speier, Suozzi, Swalwell, Takano, Tenney, Titus, Tonko, Torres, Tsongas, Turner, Vargas, Vela, Velazquez, Veasey, Walz, Welch, Yarmuth, 
Dear Colleague:
Recognizing the interest in reducing federal spending, we believe careful decision making can yield savings while providing proper funding levels for specific accounts that are vitally needed to implement
key animal welfare laws.
Congress has charged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act — laws that require basic protections
for millions of animals at more than 16,000 sites across the country, including commercial breeding facilities commonly known as puppy mills, medical laboratories, zoos, and slaughterhouses. However, these laws are only as effective as the USDA’s enforcement
of them.
As these issues impact not only animal welfare but also food safety, bioterrorism, higher education, and other related concerns, Congress has responded in recent years by providing adequate resources
to address the serious budget shortfalls for enforcement of these laws. We hope you will join us in signing the attached letter to House Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Robert Aderholt and Ranking Member Sanford Bishop requesting that they continue this
worthwhile effort. We should ensure that the Department of Agriculture has the resources it needs to enforce these laws as the public expects. Last year, 169 Representatives and 38 Senators signed onto a similar letter to the appropriators or included these
items among their individual requests.
To sign onto the attached letter, please visit this online form and fill in the required information, by COB March 31st.
If you have any questions, please contact Marisa Kovacs with Representative Chris Smith at Marisa.Kovacs@mail.house.gov / 5-3765 or Kevin Stockert with
Representative Earl Blumenauer at Kevin.Stockert@mail.house.gov / 5-4811 by COB March 31st.
Sincerely,
Christopher Smith
Member of Congress
Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress
The following 169 Representatives signed onto a similar letter or sent their own parallel requests last year:
Alma S. Adams, Ph.D.; Pete Aguilar; Karen Bass; Joyce Beatty; Ami Bera, M.D.; Donald S. Beyer Jr.; Earl Blumenauer; Suzanne Bonamici; Madeleine Z. Bordallo; Brendan Boyle; Robert A. Brady; Julia
Brownley; Vern Buchanan; Cheri Bustos; Lois Capps; Tony Cárdenas; Andre Carson; Matt Cartwright; Kathy Castor; Joaquin Castro; Judy Chu; David N. Cicilline; Katherine Clark; Yvette Clarke; William Lacy Clay; Steve Cohen; Gerald E. Connolly; John Conyers, Jr.;
Jim Costa; Ryan Costello; Joe Courtney; Joseph Crowley; Elijah E. Cummings; Carlos Curbelo; Danny K. Davis; Susan A. Davis; Peter DeFazio; Diana DeGette; John K. Delaney; Rosa DeLauro; Suzan DelBene; Mark DeSaulnier; Theodore E. Deutch; Robert J. Dold; Daniel
M. Donovan, Jr.; Mike Doyle; Tammy Duckworth; Donna F. Edwards; Keith Ellison; Eliot L. Engel; Anna Eshoo; Elizabeth H. Esty; Chaka Fattah; Mike Fitzpatrick; Bill Foster; Lois Frankel; Tulsi Gabbard; Ruben Gallego; Chris Gibson; Alan Grayson; Gene Green; Al
Green; Raúl M. Grijalva; Luis V. Gutiérrez; Richard Hanna; Alcee L. Hastings; Denny Heck; Brian Higgins; Jim Himes; Michael M. Honda; Jared Huffman; Steve Israel; Sheila Jackson Lee; Hakeem Jeffries; Eddie Bernice Johnson; Henry C. “Hank” Johnson; Walter B.
Jones; John Katko; William R. Keating; Derek Kilmer; Peter King; Ann McLane Kuster; Leonard Lance; James R. Langevin; John B. Larson; Brenda L. Lawrence; Barbara Lee; Sander M. Levin; John Lewis; Ted W. Lieu; Daniel Lipinski; Frank LoBiondo; Dave Loebsack;
Zoe Lofgren; Alan Lowenthal; Nita Lowey; Ben Ray Lujan; Michelle Lujan Grisham; Stephen F. Lynch; Tom MacArthur; Carolyn B. Maloney; Sean Patrick Maloney; Tom Marino; Doris Matsui; Betty McCollum; Jim McDermott; James P. McGovern; Jerry McNerney; Martha McSally;
Gregory W. Meeks; Grace Meng; Gwen S. Moore; Seth Moulton; Patrick E. Murphy; Jerrold Nadler; Grace F. Napolitano; Richard E. Neal; Richard M. Nolan; Donald Norcross; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Beto O’Rourke; Frank Pallone, Jr.; Bill Pascrell, Jr.; Donald M. Payne,
Jr.; Ed Perlmutter; Scott Peters; Chellie Pingree; Mark Pocan; Jared Polis; David Price; Mike Quigley; Charles B. Rangel; Kathleen M. Rice; Lucille Roybal-Allard; Raul Ruiz; C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger; Linda T. Sánchez; Loretta Sanchez; John Sarbanes; Jan Schakowsky;
Adam B. Schiff; Kurt Schrader; Robert C. “Bobby” Scott; José E. Serrano; Brad Sherman; Kyrsten Sinema; Albio Sires; Louise M. Slaughter; Adam Smith; Chris Smith; Jackie Speier; Elise Stefanik; Eric Swalwell; Mark Takai; Mark Takano; Dina Titus; Paul D. Tonko;
Niki Tsongas; Chris Van Hollen; Juan Vargas; Marc Veasey; Filemon Vela; Nydia Velazquez; Tim Walz; Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Bonnie Watson Coleman; Peter Welch; Frederica Wilson; John Yarmuth.
April 5, 2017
Dear Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member Bishop:
As you meet to consider Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations, we are writing to thank you for your outstanding past support for enforcement of key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) animal welfare
laws and to urge you to sustain this effort in FY 2018. Your leadership is making a difference in helping to protect the welfare of millions of animals across the country. As you know, better enforcement also benefits people by decreasing: 1) sale of unhealthy
pets by commercial breeders, commonly referred to as “puppy mills;” 2) laboratory conditions that may impair the scientific integrity of animal based research; 3) risks of disease transmission from, and dangerous encounters with, wild animals in public exhibition;
4) injuries and deaths of pets on commercial airline flights due to mishandling and exposure to adverse environmental conditions; 5) food safety risks to consumers from sick animals who can transmit illness; 6) injuries to slaughterhouse workers from suffering
animals; and 7) orchestrated dogfights and cockfights that often involve illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and human violence, and can contribute to the spread of costly illnesses such as bird flu. In order to continue the important work made possible by
the Committee’s prior support, we request the following for FY 2018:
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) / Animal Welfare Act (AWA) Enforcement
We request that you support funding of $28,696,000 for AWA enforcement under APHIS. We commend the Committee for responding in recent years to the urgent need to properly fund the Animal
Care division (Animal Care) to improve its inspections of approximately 10,731 sites, including commercial breeding facilities, laboratories, zoos, circuses, and airlines, to ensure compliance with AWA standards. In May 2010, USDA’s Office of Inspector General
(OIG) released a report criticizing the agency’s history of lax oversight of dog breeders – finding that inhumane treatment and horrible conditions often failed to be properly documented and yielded little to no enforcement actions. In December 2014, the OIG
released an audit that urged the agency to levy higher penalties against research facilities that violate the AWA, noting that the low penalties being given are just seen as a cost of doing business. While there have been some improvements, unfortunately,
many of these problems persist. Most importantly, USDA still does not provide any oversight of some large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell puppies directly to the public via the Internet and other means, despite receiving tips identifying these scofflaw
operations. The agency finalized its “retail pet store rule” in 2013, requiring these breeding operations that sell animals sight unseen to the public to be licensed and inspected under the AWA, but there has been little follow-through and, predictably, animals
and consumers continue to suffer terribly as a result. USDA is also responsible for implementing a 2008 law and corresponding 2014 regulations to end imports from foreign puppy mills, where puppies are mass produced under inhumane conditions and forced to
endure harsh long-distance transport. Animal Care currently maintains 114 inspectors (with 7 vacancies) who perform and oversee animal welfare compliance inspections, compared to 64 inspectors at the end of the 1990s. Animal Care is also in charge of cadres
of species specialists (4 with 1 vacancy) who support inspectors with complex regulatory compliance issues and compliance specialists (7) who support the pre-licensing process and other aspects of compliance assurance. An appropriation at the requested level
would allow the agency to better address the concerns identified by the OIG, especially the need for enforcement of online puppy sales, and provide adequate oversight of the many licensed/registered facilities.
APHIS / Horse Protection Act (HPA) Enforcement
We request that you support funding of $705,000 for strengthened enforcement of the HPA. Congress enacted the HPA in 1970 to make illegal the abusive practice of “soring,” in which
unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on Tennessee Walking Horses’ hooves and legs to create an artificially exaggerated, high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Some examples of soring include applying caustic chemicals,
using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs and heavy, stacked horseshoes that force the horse’s legs into  unnatural angles, jamming hard objects
into the sensitive areas of the feet, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue or numbing agents in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. An October 2010 OIG report
documents significant problems with the industry self-monitoring system on which the APHIS inspection program currently relies, and calls for funding to enable the agency to more adequately oversee the law. Several horse show industry groups, animal protection
groups, the AVMA and the key organization of equine veterinarians have also called for funding to enable USDA to do a better job enforcing this law. With the current level of funding, Animal Care has been able to attend less than 30% of the approximately 300
Tennessee Walking Horse shows held annually. Now that the program is finally beginning to address the need for additional inspectors, training, security, and advanced detection equipment, sustained support from the Committee is essential to ensure that this
program doesn’t lose ground. We also urge you to refrain from including any bill or report language that could in any way restrict or deter USDA from vigorous enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, including interfering with USDA’s continued use of current
inspection techniques that are widely recognized as objective and legitimate by veterinarians, or granting individuals associated with HPA violations a larger voice in determining inspection protocols. We further urge you to call on USDA to publish the final
rule that received more than 100,000 public comments in support, including letters signed by 182 Representatives and 42 Senators, as it was displayed in advance public notice in the Federal Register on January 19, 2017 (https://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/federal_register/hpa-rule.pdf),
to strengthen the HPA regulations that have undermined enforcement of this law for decades.
APHIS / Online Access to HPA and AWA Records
We request that you direct APHIS to immediately restore comprehensive online, searchable access to all inspection reports, annual reports, and other documents regarding enforcement of the HPA
and the AWA. 
We strongly disagree with APHIS’ abrupt removal from its website of thousands of pages of these essential records and its searchable database, developed at taxpayer expense to allow analysis and comparison of data by the agency and the
public. We should be increasing government transparency, not diminishing it and shielding those cited for violations of these key animal welfare laws. The taxpaying public that finances USDA inspections has a right to know when regulated entities are cited
for subjecting animals in their care to abuse or otherwise failing to meet basic welfare standards. Public access to this information can guide consumer decision-making and plays an important role in deterring regulated entities from violating the law. It
underpins state and local laws meant to protect animals and consumers, such as the laws in seven states prohibiting sale of dogs from breeding operations with a history of serious AWA violations. It is also in the interest of responsible industry stakeholders.
As noted by Speaking of Research, a pro-animal research organization opposing the USDA purge, “[w]hen information is hidden, particularly where it was once available…the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources
to combatting the public perception that they are not transparent.” Posting these records is akin to police departments posting arrest reports, food safety agencies posting code violations, and professional licensing boards posting alleged violations of professional
misconduct. In addition, existing APHIS processes already guarantee a right to review and challenge inspection reports before they are posted online, but not to keep verified citations under wraps. As such, we request inclusion of the following bill language:
Provided further, That the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shall promptly restore all earlier records removed and resume posting on the USDA website, in an online searchable database that allows analysis and comparison of data, all inspection
reports, annual reports, and other documents, in their entirety, related to enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.”
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) / Animal Welfare for Farm Animals Used in Agricultural Research
A 2015 investigation by the New York Times revealed shocking instances of animal mistreatment and neglect associated with experiments conducted on farm animals at the ARS U.S. Meat Animal Research Center
(USMARC), and repeated disregard for objections raised by the Center’s own veterinary staff. The Committee responded by making five percent of the ARS budget for FY 2016 contingent on ARS updating its animal care policies and requiring that all ARS facilities
at which animal research is conducted have a fully functioning Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to ensure compliance with animal welfare standards and principles of scientific integrity. The Committee also provided $400,000 to APHIS in FY
2016 to conduct inspections consistent with the AWA at each ARS facility that uses animals in research. In the Committee’s FY 2017 bill, that funding was boosted to $500,000. We appreciate that the Committee took these concerns seriously and commend the Committee
for its ongoing oversight. We request inclusion again of the following language drawn from the Committee report for FY 2017: “The Committee provides $500,000 to support continuing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between APHIS and ARS. The MOU is necessary
for ARS to utilize the skills and expertise of APHIS’ animal care staff and to help ARS address some of their past failures to maintain high standards of care for animals used in ARS funded research. At a minimum, the MOU should ensure that ARS is adhering
to its own standards and guidelines for research practices as required by the Humane Animal Care and Use policy, a policy that is closely aligned with the Animal Welfare Act; ensure that every ARS location engaging in research and testing on vertebrate animals
has a fully functioning Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in place; and, ensure that each IACUC produces a semi-annual report with a description of and the reasons for any major deviations from the requirements outlined in ARS policy.”
APHIS / Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES)
We request that you support funding of $16,410,000 for APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services. We appreciate the Committee’s consistent support for this division, which handles
many important responsibilities, including the investigation of alleged violations of federal animal welfare laws and the initiation of appropriate enforcement actions. The volume of animal welfare cases is rising significantly, and an appropriation at the
requested level would enable the agency to keep pace with the additional enforcement workload.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) / Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) Enforcement
We request language to ensure strengthened HMSA enforcement. We appreciate the committee’s inclusion of language in the FY 2017 committee report regarding humane slaughter. USDA oversight
of humane handling rules for animals at slaughter facilities is vitally important not only for animal welfare but also for food safety. Effective day-to-day enforcement can prevent abuses like those previously documented in undercover investigations, and reduce
the chance of associated food safety risks and costly recalls of meat and egg products. We therefore urge inclusion of language directing FSIS to ensure that inspectors hired with funding previously specified for HMSA enforcement focus their attention on overseeing
compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust national training in humane handling and inspection techniques. In addition, past
OIG and Government Accountability Office audits have revealed inconsistent enforcement and documentation, and recommended that USDA develop more objective criteria and metrics for determining HMSA enforcement actions. We therefore also request that the agency
develop an annual program evaluation for its humane handling inspections program that includes document review, field staff surveys, and monitoring to assess the degree of consistency and objectivity of implementation of the HMSA by all levels of inspection
staff.
OIG / Animal Fighting Enforcement
We request that you support funding of $100,998,000 for the OIG to maintain staff, improve effectiveness, and allow investigations in various areas, including enforcement of animal fighting
laws. 
We appreciate the Committee’s inclusion of funding and language in recent years for USDA’s OIG to focus on animal fighting cases. Congress first prohibited most interstate and foreign commerce of animals for fighting in 1976, established felony
penalties in 2007, and strengthened the law as part of the 2002, 2008, and 2014 Farm Bills. We are pleased that USDA is taking seriously its responsibility to enforce this law, working with state and local agencies to complement their efforts and address these
barbaric practices, in which animals are drugged to heighten their aggression and forced to keep fighting even after they’ve suffered grievous injuries. Dogs bred and trained to fight endanger public safety, and some dogfighters steal pets to use as bait for
training their dogs. Cockfighting was linked to an outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease in 2002-2003 that cost taxpayers more than $200 million to contain. It’s also been linked to the death of a number of people in Asia reportedly exposed through cockfighting
activity to bird flu. Given the potential for further costly disease transmission, as well as the animal cruelty involved, we believe it is a sound investment for the federal government to increase its efforts to combat illegal animal fighting activity. We
also support the OIG’s auditing and investigative work to improve compliance with the AWA, HPA, HMSA and downed animal rules.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture / Veterinary Medical Services Act
We request that you support funding of $6,500,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (National Veterinary Medical Service Act, P.L. 108-161). We appreciate that Congress
is working to address the critical maldistribution of veterinarians practicing throughout the United States. Gaining access to suitable veterinary care is a core animal welfare and animal health concern. To ensure adequate oversight of humane handling and
food safety rules, to defend against bioterrorism, and to address a myriad of public health issues including those associated with parasites, rabies, chronic wasting disease, and pet overpopulation, USDA must incentivize veterinarians to fill vacancies in
designated veterinary shortage areas. Too often educational debt is a significant barrier to attracting veterinarians to practice in areas experiencing maldistribution problems. Veterinary school graduates in 2015 faced a crushing debt burden of $142,394 on
average, while the starting salary for these graduates was just $70,000 for a fulltime position. Nearly 1,200 veterinarians have applied for assistance under this program since 2010, yet at current funding levels, about 50 awards can be made each year. Also,
we support the Veterinary Services Grant Program authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA awarded the first twelve grants in September 2016 to help address gaps in veterinary shortage situations by preparing veterinarians for rural practice.
APHIS / Emergency Management Systems / Disaster Planning for Animals
We request that you support funding of $969,000 for Animal Care under APHIS’ Emergency Management Systems line item. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated that many people refuse
to evacuate if they are forced to leave their pets behind. The Animal Care division develops infrastructure to help prepare for and respond to animal issues in a disaster and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. These funds are used to support
state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals, and to enable the agency to participate, in partnership with FEMA, in the National Response Plan without jeopardizing other Animal Care programs.
Thank you for your consideration of these requests. We will be grateful for your leadership in ensuring that funds necessary to protect both animals and people will continue to be available.
Sincerely,
 ______________________________                                   ______________________________
Christopher Smith                                                                   Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress