Every year, thousands of bills concerning animal issues are considered by the federal government, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These bills cover a wide variety of issues, including animals in research and education, animal neglect and cruelty, animal control, farming and agriculture, disease prevention, and even hunting and trapping. Some bills would prohibit the use of animals in a harmful way and others would perpetuate or even expand existing practices—especially through hunting, trapping and farming—to legitimize that harm.
How can we make a difference? What can an individual do to promote good or oppose bad legislation? There are a few things that we all can do, and NAVS, through our online Advocacy Center and its Take Action Thursday e-newsletter, makes it easy for advocates to:
- pay attention to what our governments are doing at the local, state and federal levels;
- speak out, loud and clear, to let our elected officials know what we think about the legislation; and
- share this information with your own friends and family members to enlist their support in any campaign.
State Legislative Efforts
Several years ago, NAVS took a more aggressive approach to the introduction of state legislation to benefit animals in research and education. As part of this endeavor, we began to solicit targeted legislative bodies, asking state legislators to consider introducing specific legislation in their state. This proactive approach has proven to be very successful and NAVS is expanding its efforts for the coming year.
Last year, NAVS asked legislators to consider greater protection for dogs and cats used by publicly-funded research facilities by requiring them to give these companion animals a chance at living out their lives in a loving home instead of being euthanized after the testing, research or teaching exercise was complete. Legislators in 11 states agreed that this was a great idea and introduced legislation.
Furthermore, Illinois joined Minnesota, California, Connecticut, Nevada and New York in passing a law to require healthy dogs and cats to be offered for adoption—through a shelter or rescue organization, or through a university’s own adoption process—giving these animals a chance at finding their forever home. Notably, the Illinois law also mandates more detailed accounting by the research institutions about how the animals are used. Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey are still considering this legislation. Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas failed to act this year. It took three years for Illinois to pass this law and NAVS will be encouraging the reintroduction of bills in the 2018 sessions.
NAVS has also been actively working to encourage the passage of statewide laws or policies guaranteeing students the right to use an alternative to dissecting an animal specimen in the classroom. Three states, Hawaii, Maryland and North Dakota, considered bills this year. In Maryland, the Senate Committee on Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs approved the bill. The full Senate, however, was swayed by objections from the County School Boards, which opposed legislating this matter, even though they refused to institute countywide policies on the issue. Hawaii legislators introduced three separate bills without success, at least in 2017. The legislation was also defeated in the North Dakota House.
There have been many other legislative efforts that NAVS has promoted through our online Advocacy Center, including 12 bills to establish registries for animal abusers. Tennessee and Michigan already have laws in place, along with many local and county authorities. Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York still have bills pending this year.
Federal Legislative Efforts
This legislative session, there is also an abundance of federal bills related to the use of animals in science. Passage of any these bills would represent a huge leap forward for animals across the country:
- The Humane Cosmetics Act, HR 2790, would end the safety testing of cosmetics on animals and phase out the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. The number of sponsors is growing, but more are needed to move this forward.
- The Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, HR 1243/S 498, would end the use of live animals for both combat trauma injuries and chemical and biological casualty training exercises by the U.S. military.
- The Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2017, HR 1141, would prohibit research facilities from obtaining animals from Class B (random source) animal dealers.
- The Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act, HR 1368/S 503, would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to restore its searchable database of public information on licensees under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act, after removing it earlier this year. Even though the USDA has restored some of the records to their website, the records are no longer easily searchable and a vast number of records are still missing.
- The Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act, HR 816, would require federal agencies to provide a more detailed accounting of the animals they are using and the advances they have made in developing, validating, accepting and utilizing alternative test methods to replace animal use.
- The Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act, HR 3197, would prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) from conducting medical research that causes significant pain or distress to dogs.
Actions on all of these bills—and more—are available through the NAVS Advocacy Center. It just takes a click of your mouse to send a letter to your state or federal legislators to speak out on behalf of animals. Working together we’ll continue to make significant strides in advancing greater protections for animals.