Animal Welfare in the Age of Trump

What we know about the Trump administration’s regard for animals so far is troubling.  In the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had many government websites scrubbed of information – a clear indication that transparency is not in the game plan.  Among them was the USDA website which for many years had posted inspection reports on roughly 8000 facilities (such as puppy mills, research labs, zoos and circuses) required to treat their animals humanely under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.  The searchable database allowed the public to see things like which research labs were letting monkeys die of thirst and lose body parts in fights due to negligence.  It also provided an opportunity to see which puppy mills passed USDA inspection – a low, very low, how can I say this? L O W bar – and which were repeat violators.  Several states have passed laws requiring pet stores to buy puppies only from breeders not cited for violations by the USDA.  With the inspection reports now gone, it is unclear how these pet stores, or anyone else, would find out the federal inspection history of any breeding facility.

Due to public outcry (thing I never tire of typing), the feds relented and put a “small fraction of the cache back online.”  But the most credible effort to date at holding the USDA accountable is coming from a private citizen by the name of Russ Kick.  He has set up a blog to repost the deleted documents, provide links to other sites doing the same, and ask for help from anyone who has saved any of the disappeared reports.  (Anyone wanting to support his one man effort can do so here.)

Then there is the Trump budget proposal.  While it is up to Congress to work out and decide upon the details, the proposal does give us insight into Trump’s vision for American families (and by family, I mean anyone who loves and shares their home with another being).  In a nutshell: bombs IN, poor people OUT.  Of the numerous proposed cuts within the budget, many will directly impact families if passed by Congress.  These include cuts to housing for low income people as well as:

And incidentally, the farmers who grow the food used in these anti-hunger programs will be negatively impacted as well.

It is estimated that approximately 65% of U.S. households have pets.  These include low income families.  If Americans who were previously relying on government assistance to help with things like baby formula, school lunches, and meals for homebound relatives are cut off from that assistance, pets will be impacted.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

Pets who provide enormous benefits to senior citizens and veterans, may end up being fed from the reduced food available to the owner (resulting in even less food for these already at-risk people), be surrendered to shelters or perhaps not even adopted in the first place.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

As the public learns about the proposed cuts to these essential family programs, they will rush to open their wallets and offer support.  Because that’s what we do.  At the same time, with so many valuable services being cut from the federal budget, competition for donation dollars will increase.  And compassion fatigue will set in.  Indeed, an insurance company recently debuted a television ad depicting a man feeling overwhelmed by so many worthy causes and issues in his community – the first of which is represented by a shelter dog.  Rescue groups can expect to work harder for every donated dollar and volunteer hour as compassionate people spread their resources far and wide.

What you can do:

  1.  Check to see if your Congressman signed this letter to Trump asking that the USDA documents be restored to the website.  If he/she did, call his/her office to say thank you and ask that the issue not be dropped.  If he/she did not sign, call and request that he/she support this effort.  Senator Cory Booker (D – NJ) has set up a petition.  (Note:  petitions are ok but phone calls are the thing.  Start making calls.  Plan to keep making them.  Every voice is needed – even quiet ones.)
  2. Call your elected representatives and tell them to reject the cruel Trump vision for American families outlined in his budget proposal. Demand that they stand up and fight for our shared values and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

What’s So Great about David Vitter?

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) spends less than 1/2 of 1% of their money on animal shelters (which is where most Americans think the money goes).  The remaining 99 and 1/2% goes to a variety of other places, including political campaigns.  The largest recipient of HSUS cash in the current election cycle is Senator David Vitter (R – LA).

Currently, Sen. Vitter is perhaps best known for refusing to debate his opponent while facing a serious ethics complaint from a non-partisan watchdog group (pdf here).  The complaint involves Sen. Vitter’s alleged office expense account being used to inappropriately funnel cash to a legislative aide who oversaw women’s issues for the Senator, and was arrested for attacking his former girlfriend with a knife.  The current complaint may re-open the investigation into the Senator’s years of use of the DC Madam’s prostitution services.

Apparently considering himself an authority on the sanctity of marriage, Sen. Vitter supports amending the Constitution to prevent same sex couples from marrying, even comparing marriage equality to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  He has embraced and then attempted to wriggle out of various wacky conspiracy theories from President Obama being a secret Kenyan to health care reform legislation being a secret ploy to institute government death panels.  When BP recklessly filled the Gulf of Mexico with oil this summer, Sen. Vitter sought to cap BP’s financial liability and thus limit the amount of compensation his constituents could receive in damages from the oil monster.

For me, it’s hard to figure out where the appeal of David Vitter lies.  But apparently for HSUS, the fact that he’s co-sponsoring the PUPS bill is enough to open the cash floodgates.  Maybe the PUPS bill is good, maybe it’s not.  I can’t say I’ve looked into it enough yet although I am generally in favor of enforcing existing animal welfare laws (which we continue to fail to do) before we pile on new additions.  Regardless of the merits of the PUPS bill though, I just have to ask – is David Vitter really that great of a politician that HSUS should push so much money at him?  Especially considering the facts that Sen. Vitter has consistently outraised his opponent by a wide margin and leads in the polls by double digits?  In other words, David Vitter doesn’t need any money or support from HSUS.  So why are they spending more money to support his campaign than anyone else’s?