Archive for the ‘United States Department of Agriculture’ Tag

Lawsuit Challenges Government’s Large-scale Wildlife Killing in Idaho   9 comments

From:  The Wildlife News

Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year Violates Environmental Laws

wolf

BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s failure to fully analyze and disclose the impact of its “Wildlife Services” program in Idaho, which kills thousands of wolves, coyotes, foxes, cougars, birds and other wild animals each year at taxpayer expense. The multimillion-dollar federal program, whose work primarily benefits the agriculture industry, relies on an array of lethal methods including aerial and ground shooting, poison, trapping and explosives.

Following a notice of intent to sue sent by the conservation groups in September 2014, the agency agreed to prepare a new environmental analysis for its wildlife-killing activities in Idaho — an incremental step that falls short of the more comprehensive analysis required by law. Today’s lawsuit seeks long-term changes in the agency’s operations to adopt nonlethal methods, as well as the development of an environmental impact statement to analyze the impacts of killing wildlife across the state year after year.

“Wildlife Services spends millions of dollars each year to indiscriminately shoot, poison and trap coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, foxes, badgers and many other wildlife species — yet it refuses to comply with our nation’s basic environmental laws,” said Laird J. Lucas, director of litigation at Advocates for the West. “This lawsuit will shine a bright line on this rogue agency and force it to reveal publicly exactly what wildlife killing programs it is engaged in and the adverse impacts of those activities.”

“A transparent and public analysis of Wildlife Services’ activities is long overdue,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project, adding that “Wildlife Services’ wanton killing of Idaho’s wildlife is morally wrong, environmentally counterproductive, and procedurally illegal.”

The agency has never comprehensively examined how its actions affect grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout, all protected under the Endangered Species Act. The agency sets traps and snares across the state that accidentally capture and kill federally protected wildlife, as well as domestic pets. Bull trout are killed when the agency detonates explosives to remove beaver dams.

“Without a comprehensive analysis of Wildlife Service’s wildlife-killing activities across the state, it’s impossible to know whether it’s leading to widespread damage to other species like grizzly bears,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The public deserves more, and so does Idaho’s wildlife.”

“Shrouded in secrecy, Wildlife Services operates as though it is above the law, further endangering already imperiled species and wasting our taxpayer dollars,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “A full accounting and scientific analysis of Wildlife Services’ cruel practices is long overdue.”

The state of knowledge about the impacts of wildlife killing has changed significantly over the years. “Current science doesn’t support the arbitrary killing of animals as a ‘management’ tool,” added Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “For example, killing wolves and coyotes indiscriminately can exacerbate livestock conflicts and is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“The long reach of this killing program kills key predators like wolves even in remote wildlands like the backcountry of the Clearwater Basin,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “It is past time the agency is held accountable to we the people.”

In 2013 Wildlife Services killed more than 3,000 mammals in Idaho using methods such as aerial gunning, neck snares, foothold traps, and toxic devices known as M-44s that spray sodium cyanide into the victim’s mouth, causing tremendous suffering and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.

Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity,Friends of the Clearwater and Project Coyote are represented by attorneys Laurie Rule and Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West, and Kristin Ruether of Western Watersheds Project.

A copy of today’s filing can be read online here.

 

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USDA Announces Landmark Rule to Crack Down on Online Puppy Mills   42 comments

USDA Announces Landmark Rule to Crack Down on Online Puppy Mills.

September 10, 2013

USDA Announces Landmark Rule to Crack Down on Online Puppy Mills

Tens of thousands of dogs suffering in substandard, filthy, and overcrowded cages for years on end will finally get the protection they deserve as a result of a rule the U.S. Department of Agriculture will formally adopt today. This change, a long-held aspiration for The HSUS, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Doris Day Animal League, is decades in the making and will extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills that do business online.

Of the dozens of puppy mills that The HSUS has assisted in closing down over the past five years, the vast majority were selling puppies online and escaping any federal oversight because a loophole in federal Animal Welfare Act regulations exempts Internet sellers. Because large-scale dog breeders who sell animals to pet stores are regulated, but breeders who sell directly to the public are not, there has been a massive migration of breeders to the latter sales strategy within the last decade or so. If they could sell dogs and escape any federal oversight, why not get in on that act and continue to cut corners on animal care?

Ricky Bobby
Meredith Lee/The HSUS
Ricky Bobby was among 58 dogs The HSUS rescued
from a North Carolina puppy mill in February 2013.
The operator was selling puppies over the Internet.

The HSUS, HSLF, and DDAL pointed out that it was fundamentally unfair that people involved in the same underlying business enterprise (breeding dogs to sell for profit) would face entirely different regulatory standards. It was a circumstance ripe for fraud and misrepresentation. Internet sellers of puppies often displayed images of puppies frolicking in open fields. In reality, the dogs were languishing, crammed inside feces-encrusted cages, receiving no protection from the elements and no veterinary care whatever. And until the legal standard was modified, the federal government couldn’t take action because none of these mills required federal licensing and inspection.

Due to pressure from The HSUS and DDAL, the USDA’s inspector general looked into enforcement of the rules governing dog breeding, finding appalling abuses of the dogs, deficient exercise of authority by USDA where it had authority, and identification of this glaring gap in the law that allowed Internet sellers to evade any federal oversight whatever. It was that OIG report, combined with our advocacy efforts in Congress and with the Obama administration that finally compelled federal action.

We thank the Obama administration and the USDA for bringing new standards of care to thousands of puppies, but also to kittens, rabbits and other warm-blooded animals who are often raised in inhumane facilities and sold as pets over the Internet, by mail or by phone, sight-unseen.

The HSUS and HSLF called on supporters to act in 2011, and 32,000 people signed a petition urging the Obama administration to crack down on unregulated puppy mills. When the USDA proposed an actual change in its regulations in 2012, HSUS members and other animal advocates generated 350,000 public signatures and comments in support.

There has been strong bipartisan support in Congress for closing the “Internet loophole” in the Animal Welfare Act regulations. Federal legislation, S. 395 and H.R. 847 – known as the PUPS Act, or “Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act” – sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., galvanized members of Congress in support of efforts to finalize and implement the rule.

Puppy mills aren’t going away overnight, and it’s still important for any potential puppy buyer to meet the breeder in person at his or her facility to see how and where a puppy was born and raised. But this rule has the potential to allow federal inspectors to peer behind the closed doors of puppy mills and improve the lives of tens of thousands of animals. That is a change worth celebrating, and we thank our supporters, the USDA, and our allies in Congress for supporting this significant step.

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