It's a historic day for horse protection in The United States! The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act by a vote of 333 to 96.
The bill seeks to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and end the torturous practice of soring Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle Horses.
Soring is an egregious form of animal abuse and has plagued the equine world for six decades. All for the sake of winning a blue ribbon, soring is the intentional infliction of pain to horses' front limbs by applying caustic chemicals such as mustard oil and kerosene, or inserting sharp objects into the horses' hooves to create an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick".
Once passed into federal law, the PAST Act would ban the use of painful large stacked shoes and ankle chains and would also eliminate the existing system of self-regulation by the industry and toughen penalties for violators of the Horse Protection Act.
The PAST Act has been blocked for years by a handful of well-placed lawmakers, but a new House rule triggering consideration of any measure that attracts 290 or more cosponsors brought the issue to the floor. The PAST garnered 307 cosponsors, and was led by U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, along with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY).
Click here to find out if your U.S. Representative voted YES on The PAST Act, H.R.693.
On July 24, 2019, the U.S. House held a debate on The PAST Act (H.R.693). Leading the charge was Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL).
This victory is a monumental step forward in getting The PAST Act signed into law. We now need the U.S. Senate to also pass its version, S.1007. Please raise your voice for the horses today!
The Humane Society of the United States released footage Thursday it says shows evidence of continued abuse to the Tennessee Walking Horse, further confirming the use of soring in the industry.
Soring is the practice of intentionally abusing a horse to accentuate its gait and often includes the use of caustic chemicals that eat away at the skin. Those who sore cause horses pain each time they step so they lift their front legs in an exaggeration of their natural gait in what is called the "big lick."
The video was taken by the United States Department of Agriculture in an inspection of the Maryville, Tenn., barn of top trainer Larry Wheelon in April 2013 and obtained with an open records request. The horses can be seen struggling to stand, walking stiffly and flinching away from the inspectors' touch. Photos from the same inspection show what appear to be scars around the horses' pasterns.
The video release comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville goes into its final days for 2016, and as what appeared to be a sored stallion was discovered at an auction in Cookeville on Tuesday. The Horse Protection Act prohibits sored horses from participating in auctions, shows, exhibitions or sales.
Wheelon, who was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals, had 15 felony charges and three misdemeanors dropped, according to the Humane Society, when Blount County Judge Tammy Harrington ruled his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated in the raid.
When he was arrested in 2013, Wheelon was an active member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainers Association, sitting on its ethics committee. He did not respond to a request to comment made through his lawyer.
The USDA has since proposed some amendments to the Horse Protection Act.
One of those changes would mean the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would train and license Designated Qualified Persons to inspect the horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions for compliance with the HPA, whereas now, they are initiated and maintained by horse industry organizations. Many argue the current setup poses a conflict of interest.
Another amendment would ban the use of all action devices, pads and foreign substances at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions, aligning the HPA regulations with existing equestrian standards set forth by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed amendments until Sept. 26, but some have asked the organization to extend that deadline by 60 more days. Doing so could push the decision off onto a new administration that may not prioritize an end to soring.
Mike Inman, CEO of Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, denied that the stacks and chains cause horses to experience pain. Stacks are elevated pads attached to the horses' front hooves like high heels, and the chains are wrapped around their ankles.
"There is no big lick gait," Inman said. "Animal welfare is number one for The Celebration."
He said each horse must pass as many as 13 inspections by those belonging to horse industry organizations and the USDA, which test for foreign chemicals, palpation, locomotion, CT scanning and digital radiography.
"We urge the USDA to move away from subjective inspection and toward objective inspection," he said, arguing that digital radiography is the only objective exam. "We don't want any sore horse in the ring."
But Keith Dane, senior adviser on equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said some can fool the machine by making a ball out of hoof clippings and acrylic to match the density of the surrounding tissue.
Inman said no one has ever been disqualified for placing a foreign object between the shoe and the hoof at The Celebration, a practice called pressure shoeing.
The horse must also be clear of visible scars.
"If (the soring) is done to the extent where it causes physical damage, they can't show them anymore," said Tawnee Preisner, founder of the Horse Plus Humane Society. "They're worthless to them after that."
Preisner said she found Skywalks Magical Dream, a 4-year-old registered Tennessee Walking Horse stallion on stacks with chains, dumped at an auction on Tuesday. She took him to an equine veterinarian, who documented the damage and scarring on the horse's skin. Dream's last owners are listed as Sammy and Gayle Cogle, the owners of last weekend's champion Extra Special Jose.
Sammy Cogle said they were no longer in possession of the horse as of last January. "I'm sorry but the lawyers told me not to say anymore."
Preisner said it's the third time she's found sored horses at an auction in Tennessee.
Dane estimates there are up to 15,000 horses put on stacks and sored at any given time. He urged the USDA to pass the reforms to stop the remaining abusers.
"The culture is evolving," he said, comparing the competition of sored horses to dogfighting or cockfighting. "People are turning away more and more."
Source: The Tennessean
Those interested in submitting a comment to the USDA can do so at: http://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2011-0009.
The theme of World Horse Welfare's conference this year was: What is the Value of Horses? A spirited debate took place on whether welfare would improve if horse slaughter were banned and what is essential for good horsemanship.
At last year's conference, Princess Anne* asked if horsemeat was a welfare solution, with her comments being widely discussed in the media afterwards.
In a new format for 2014, four equine enthusiasts were asked to argue for or against the statement:
‘Horse welfare would be improved if horse slaughter were banned’
Taking to the stage to air their opinions were international dressage rider Richard Davison, Professor Natalie Waren from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones and Peter Webbon, former chief executive of the Animal Health Trust.
The key message from those who agreed with ending the slaughter of horses for meat was an emotional one – claiming we owe our equines a “debt of gratitude”.
Immoral and abhorrent
“Euthanasia is very different to slaughtering horses in an abattoir,” said Liz Jones. “It isn’t doing horses justice – we owe them a great deal of gratitude and that isn’t about getting them into the food chain. It’s a moral question – and to me it’s completely immoral and abhorrent.”
However, Peter Webbon stated the fate of the carcass – whether it was cremated, rendered or entered the food chain – is “totally irrelevant to animal welfare”.
“But anything that encourages people to have horses slaughtered without undue delay or long journeys to the slaughter house would improve welfare,” he said.
Professor Natalie Waren agreed once the animal is dead there is “neutral welfare”, but said there is no evidence that industrial slaughter is good for animal welfare.
“It’s about the quality of the animal’s last few moments,” she argued. “We do not want to objectify the horses we enjoy and that have a place in our hearts, which gives them special value.”
Richard questioned the wording of the statement, declaring the debate should be about how slaughter or euthanasia can be conducted in a more humane way.
“If you remain, like me, open minded about this you can not support this motion, as it is worded,” he said. “Abandoning slaughter won’t improve horses’ welfare. Before we consider a ban we need to look at improving methods and the conditions they are subjected to during slaughter.”
It was also argued those horses currently neglected and abandoned, would have a market value.
“Owners of these horses would be prepared to take them for slaughter, so they are no longer suffering,” said Peter. “But we need to change conditions of slaughter.”
However, Natalie raised concerns that slaughtering horses for meat would encourage the breeding of low-value horses.
“Indiscriminate breeding of poor value horses leads to neglect and abandoning, we don’t want to end up encouraging that and rewarding it by allowing slaughter as an easy option,” she said.
"If we open doors to say slaughter is the answer we are doing a disservice to a wonderful animal. In my eyes they have more value than commercially produced pig. Horses are special to us, let's keep it that way.”
Source: Horse and Country
*Princess Anne is the current president of World Horse Welfare, which was founded in 1927 as a campaigning organization to prevent the export of live British horses for slaughter. Despite all their welfare advocacy, the organization does not campaign against horse slaughter and the eating of horsemeat.
USDA Reports Inspectors Issued Nearly Twice as Many Horse Soring Violations at this Year’s Walking Horse Show
Federal and local inspectors issued nearly twice as many soring violations at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration as in the 2013 show, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week.
A group of largely USDA monitors found 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act during the 11-day competition in Shelbyville. Those figures come after years when fewer violations — including last year’s low of 110 — were identified at the championship event.
The jump in violations comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse industry continues to writhe over accusations of widespread soring, which happens when a horse’s legs are hurt intentionally to exaggerate the high gait for which the breed is known. While industry reformers call for a federal law they say would eliminate the major causes of abuse, others say more objective testing would weed out the industry’s worst trainers and owners.
The report said those apparent signs of soring disqualified 166 competitors during the event — 15.4 percent of all of the horses inspected. [Click Here to read full USDA report]
The vast majority of the violations and disqualifications developed from horses that had signs of a banned substance on them or through the industry’s scar rule, which prohibits horses with past signs of soring from being shown.
The figures proved that federal officials were willing to enforce Horse Protection Act regulations at a higher rate than others designated to inspect, said Keith Dane, vice president for equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.
More than 50 percent of the 389 horses inspected at the Celebration by USDA officials showed signs of soring, the federal report said.
“All these years the industry has said they’ve solved the problem, yet soring is still rampant,” Dane said.
Celebration CEO Mike Inman questioned the difference shown from this year’s figures, saying that federal officials enforced the scar rule differently than in years past. He said that using fewer subjective ways to monitor a horse would bring more consistent inspection results.
“We’ve had the same horses and the same inspectors for years,” Inman said. “The only thing that’s changed is the interpretation.”
Officials with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said no inspection procedures were altered during the Celebration, department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.
Instead, she said, inspectors were using more advanced technology to identify sored horses and penalize their trainers. This year, thermal imaging was used to better recognize abnormal temperatures that can show signs of abuse.
“Soring practices are always evolving and require APHIS to incorporate state of the art technology to capture soring techniques that may not be visible to the naked eye,” Espinosa said in an email.
She did not respond to additional questions about whether the technology used was tied to this year’s rise in violations.
Call for legislation
Because of the technology present, Dane slammed the calls for more objective testing by Celebration officials.
“They ask for science, and when they don’t like the results, they object,” Dane said. He cited the number of violations in repeating his call for Congress to approve the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would ban the chains and special pads tied to the most competitive levels of the industry.
Inman supported alternative legislation that he said would strengthen current laws and provide more objective ways to evaluate a horse and eliminate the field’s worst abusers.
“The PAST Act seeks to eliminate soring by eliminating the breed,” Inman said.
Only one of the USDA violations was issued against a flatshod horse, a performance category that doesn’t use padded shoes or other devices. Because multiple violations could be issued to a horse, the number of violations could differ from the number of disqualifications, the report said.
Source: The Tennessean by Brian Wilson Reach Brian Wilson at 615-726-5970 and on Twitter @brianwilson17
HELP PROTECT HORSES FROM THE CRUELTY OF SORING!
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406 / H.R. 1518) will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. Please contact your U.S. representative and ask them to cosponsor the PAST Act!
The owners of a corral in Scott County where more than 50 wild horses were reported to have died last week have denied that any wrongdoing on their part could have led to the incident. Since then the number of reported horse deaths has risen to 75.
After investigations at the facility, located East of U.S. Highway 83 on Road 70 in Scott County, findings by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) indicate the main reason the mostly older horses died was the stress they suffered after being moved from their original pasture to the corral. Their feeding and crowding issues also were considered as factors.
Some of the horses at the corral, managed by Beef Belt LLC, were found down and were euthanized because it was determined they could not get back up, according to Paul McGuire, BLM’s public affairs specialist.
“It is also true that the horses could have been affected by the food mix, as well as the quantity of the feeds,” McGuire said.
The Bureau of Land Management reported last week that it had started investigating a case in which 57 wild horses died at a corral in Scott County, Kansas.
Reports indicated the horses were transferred from a range managed by the BLM because an open-pasture contractor had reported he would not be taking on all the 47,300 horses that he had previously been managing. The Bureau then sought another place where the 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) could go, as they had to leave by June 1, 2014.
The manager of the corral, Steven Landgraf, one of the owners of Lakin Feed Yard, which specializes in corrals just like the one in Scott County, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the staff at the corral.
“We did our best to take care of them. It is not like we did not do our job,” Landgraf said. “As animals get older, they die. The animals that have died have all been between 19 and 20 years old. It is a fact of life; how do you say this without being cruel?”
Landgraf explained further that the organization has cows and buffaloes that die there frequently.
“It is normal to have 4 percent or 5 percent of deaths with cattle, so this does not really count as out of the ordinary,” he said. “There were 1,490 of them that came in, and, if these few died, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Five more horses died between Saturday and Monday. Four of them were euthanized, according to the BLM.
“I have a cow herd. When the cattle get to be this old, we sell them so they can be turned into hamburger. That’s not the way with horses; we can only take care of them. If they are old, they naturally succumb to nature,” Landgraf said.
According to McGuire, it is part of the contractual arrangement that if there are deaths on these private holdings, they must be reported immediately.
“I always report to customers because I am accountable every day,” Landfgraf said. “I don’t treat these animals any different from my father’s animals, which are on this land.”
BLM officials say they responded immediately when reports of the horse deaths were made. The ensuing investigation informed their decision to leave the animals at the corral, but adjustments were made in their care.
“There were basically three principle causes: one is that these animals are older; anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Because of that, they didn’t endure the stress of the move quite well. When they arrived here, the environment was very different because they had to learn how to feed from the bunks. Some of the less dominant horses succumbed to the stress,” McGuire said.
Though the bureau insists stress was the main cause of the deaths, they introduced significant changes in the feeding regime at the corral, pointing to this as another notable probable cause.
“We have asked the operator to increase the quantity of feeds from 18-20 pounds a day to 26 to 28 per day. We also asked them to increase the energy density of the feeds. The mixture of grass and alfalfa is now balanced in favor of alfalfa,” McGuire said.
BLM has never had to move such a large number of animals, McGuire said.
“This case is unique because these animals were taken off of a pasture where they’d been living. BLM has never moved such a large number of older horses to a feedlot from a pasture situation. This is kind of a first for the agency,” he said.
The animals were moved to the corral in the course of one week. BLM’s representative says the move included 200 animals per day. “We had to move the horses immediately. It was an unavoidable situation that we had to respond to,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, the last horse arrived at the corral June 22. The contractor received a monthly report at the end of June. At that time, the report indicated only about three deaths, which did not alarm BLM. The next report came at the end of July, and BLM noticed a spike in the number of deaths. That was on Aug. 5.
“It seems the measures we have taken so far have achieved what we intended: to get the horses stabilized. The deaths have tapered off, and the horses have a very healthy appearance and seem to be doing quite well,” McGuire said.
BLM also advised the contractor to spread the horses out to more lots so that they are not crowded in one as they were initially, according to McGuire.
Joseph Stratton, who works with the Washington office of BLM and is charged with technical matters of these operations, put the matter in context: “Sometimes, no matter what you feed these animals, when they are stressed, their bodies will not accept the feed. They retreat metabolically instead. Sometimes the bacteria in the horse’s stomach cannot process the new feed, which is different from the pasture. They could eat and still be thin.”
According to Stratton, the horses feed three times a day starting at 6:30 a.m., with this first feeding lasting an hour to an hour and a half, since there are 28 pens. At 10 or 11 a.m., they come back for another feed. In the afternoon, about 2 to 3 p.m., they come back for another.
“Before everybody goes home, they go back and pick up what the horses have dropped and throw it right back into the bunk, so there is no waste,” Stratton said.
Source: The Garden City Telegram by Steven Tendo email@example.com
Click Here for BLM's August 15, 2014 Press Release on the Death of the Horses
A plea deal is in the works for Horse Slaughter hauler, Dorian Ayache, that could include no prison time
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A plea deal is in the works for a slaughter-horse hauler that could include no prison time and a fine of less than $25,000. Dorian Ayache is the owner of Three Angels Farm in Lebanon, a trucking company whose rickety trailers wrecked on the interstate twice in 2012, endangering drivers and causing several injured horses to be euthanized.
Ayache was facing 26 years in prison for violating a U.S. Department of Transportation order to shut down after inspectors found numerous safety violations.
Tuesday, Ayache entered a guilty plea in federal court. If it's accepted, all the charges against him will be dropped except one: failing to maintain a current driver's log. The maximum fine he faces is $25,000. Ayache would serve six months in prison at most, but he could end up serving no time at all.
"I think it's a pretty trivial sentence," said Leighann Lassiter, the Tennessee director of the United States Humane Society.
"This violation, number one, resulted in endangering thousands of people on the road, but also contributed to the suffering of thousands of animals who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in his care," Lassiter added.
Ayache was transporting horses to the Mexican border, where they were to be slaughtered for human food that is sent overseas.
The federal government criminally charged Ayache with continuing to operate an unsafe trucking operation after being ordered to shut down. The Department of Transportation found Three Angels Farm's equipment in disrepair and its drivers' logbooks inaccurate.
Scott York was driving the Three Angels trailer that broke in half on I-440 in 2012. He told Channel 4 that Ayache ordered drivers to stay on the road for longer than the law allows.
"He taught me how to fudge a log book," York told Channel 4 in 2012. During that time, York said, the horses were not given water, food or rest. And if the horses went down, he said, they were given electric shocks. "He makes you cattle-prod them up," York told Channel 4.
After the government shut down Three Angels Farm, Ayache hauled horses under a different company's name, Terri's Farm. Its owner, Theresa Vincent, is being offered the same plea deal of zero to six months in prison and a fine of less than $25,000.
The sentences aren't set in stone. The plea agreements have to be approved by a federal judge. Sentencing is set for Nov. 21.
Source: WSMV by Nancy Amons
WSMV slideshow of Ayache's trailer that was hauling horses that crashed on I-40 im 2012
It’s official. The controversial horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico will not be opening. “I think it’s just time to stop and see what will happen now,” said Valley Meat Owner Rick De Los Santos.
For almost four years, De Los Santos has been trying to slaughter horses for food. He’s faced court battles from animal rights groups and the Attorney General along with federal push back. Earlier this year the President signed a bill to stop funding horse slaughterhouse inspections until 2016.
Friday, De Le Santos told KRQE News 13 the fight is over. “It really is at this point at the end of that business in Roswell by them,” said Valley Meat Attorney A. Blair Dunn. On Thursday, Dunn submitted a letter to the New Mexico Environmental Department withdrawing the plant’s application for a ground water discharge permit.
The permit, which would allow the plant to discharge animal waste, is a must for the plant to operate. Blair claims the department strung them along for seven months, never saying no the permit, but never saying yes either.
“They’ve been telling us well we need a 30-day extension, we need 45 days, we need 60, we cant make a decision right now,” said De Los Santos.
The letter states the inability of the Secretary to make a decision has contributed to the destruction of Valley Meat’s lawful business. Valley Meet also claims the Attorney General’s office played a big role in the slaughterhouse closure and Dunn says there’s a good chance they’ll sue the state because of it.
Animal activists say they’re happy the horse slaughter fight is ending. “It’s great news for New Mexico,” said Laura Bonar with Animal Protection of New Mexico. “Horse slaughter is cruel, horse slaughter is dangerous and horse slaughter is not supported by Americans.”
Source: KRQE, by Emily Younger
Click here to read Valley Meat's Notice of Withdrawal of Application to the New Mexico Environmental Department.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is about to embark on the next step in its devastating plan to wipe out nearly half of Wyoming's remaining wild horse population. The agency is seeking public comments on the proposed roundup of 164 wild horses from the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area (HMA). The action begins the BLM's plan to eradicate wild horses from ("zero out") this important Wyoming HMA.
Just over two years ago, the BLM captured and removed 1,000 wild horses from Divide Basin. Now the agency is again planning to use our tax dollars for another helicopter roundup that will terrorize and traumatize these animals.
The action is completely unjustified because the HMA is well within the allowable management level (AML) of 415-600 horses set by the BLM itself!
The sole purpose of this roundup is to appease local ranchers who want all wild horses removed from the checkerboard portion of the HMA, an area that comprises nearly half of the HMA.
Let's start 2014 -- Year of the Horse -- right by getting in thousands of public comments urging the BLM to consider alternatives to the proposed action and laying out the specific environmental and social impacts that must be analyzed before this action can begin to go forward. Click Here to Take Action!
Public Comment Deadline: January 10, 2014
Source: The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) whose mission is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC's mission and grassroots efforts are supported by a broad-based coalition of more than 50 public interest groups, environmentalists, humane organizations and historical societies representing over 10 million supporters. A campaign, as opposed to a stand alone organization, the AWHPC operates under the 501c3 structure of Return to Freedom, which is its parent organization.
Horse-drawn carriages could soon be a thing of the past in New York City's Central Park after Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced plans to outlaw the popular tourist attraction once in office.
"We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, saying that the practice is inhumane.
"No tourist comes to New York City just to ride on a horse carriage," Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group, told CNN.
"Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting," NYCLASS states on its website. "They constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic ... confined to the shafts of their carriage and their tiny stable stalls, with no access to green pastures."
Steven Malone, a horse-carriage driver since 1987, said that allegations of horse abuse are "ridiculous."
"These horses lead exceedingly great lives here," Malone told CNN. Malone said that horses would be sent to paddocks, where they would have less interaction and exercise and would be far less happy. Malone also disputed claims that horses are overworked, saying that all horses get at least five weeks of vacation time, and some get up to six months.
De Blasio and NYCLASS favor replacing the horse carriages with electric antique cars driven by the same carriage drivers, which would be more humane and still be appealing to tourists, de Blasio said.
"You can't create tradition. You can't create kids coming with smiles on their faces to pet the horses," Malone said. "You're not getting that with an electric car... Kids can't pet fenders."
De Blasio, who takes office January 1, has hired legal counsel who will deal with the legislative approach, he confirmed at the news conference.
Malone and his fellow horse-carriage drivers plan to fight back in court. The proposed law would have to be approved by the City Council before any horses are removed from New York City streets.
"We want to provide the same service that we've been providing since the park opened in 1858," Malone said.
Source: CNN by Allie Malloy
Congressman Ed Whitfield defends interaction between his official actions and his wife’s lobbying.
Ethics experts said that the Whitfields could be violating House rules through their joint lobbying for legislation, although these experts cautioned that it isn’t a cut-and-dried case.
“If it were Boeing and they were doing this, it would be a really big deal,” said Melanie Sloan, head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. While Sloan applauded the Whitfields for disclosing their activities — something that has been one of the major problems in other ethics cases — she said the joint lobbying of members and staffers is troubling.
“I can’t see a flat-out ethics violation, but I can certainly see it creates an appearance problem, and it would seem like the better course would be for them not to be lobbying together; that seems inappropriate to me,” Sloan said.
Veteran ethics lawyer Stanley Brand said the activity does raise questions because lawmakers aren’t supposed to gain personal benefit from their official duties.
“It’s not that easy to get from those general standards to a violation,” Brand said. “There have been cases before where spouses have been registered lobbyists and their husbands or wives are on committees where those companies have interest and that’s never been enough to get you to a violation.”
Whitfield is hardly alone when it comes to lawmakers with relatives who lobby. Dozens of congressional relatives are registered lobbyists, and oftentimes, lawmakers with family ties on issues weigh in on legislative proposals. Congress cracked down on ethics reforms in 2007, banning spouses from lobbying a member’s personal office staff and the lawmaker. Other lawmakers whose relatives have lobbied include: the wife of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as a lobbyist at Kraft Foods and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), whose father — former Rep. Bud Shuster — served as a contract lobbyist.
Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle defended Harriman-Whitfield’s involvement pushing the horse legislation.
“I think sometimes when folks look at issues like this, they nitpick on it as a conflict of interest and I just want to say, No. 1, there is a real difference in working for a coal company or an oil company or any big business, pharmaceutical company and working for a nonprofit organization where there is no financial incentive to gain as an institution,” Pacelle said. “The track record of both Connie and Ed is deep involvement in animal welfare far preceding Connie’s involvement in the Humane Society. She came to the Humane Society because she was already very, very involved on these issues personally.”
Further, Pacelle said that he meets with Whitfield to discuss legislative issues, not Harriman-Whitfield. Pacelle said he didn’t see anything wrong with Whitfield and his wife personally lobbying his colleagues together on the issue of animal cruelty.
“It’d be a shame if our society didn’t allow spouses to advocate for ending poverty in the world, or advancing other core values of our society. I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do, just be mute on these issues with his colleagues,” Pacelle said.
Harriman-Whitfield has a history of advocating against animal cruelty long before joining the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2007. As assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior under President George H.W. Bush, Harriman-Whitfield is credited with playing a major role in instituting the U.S. and worldwide ban on the elephant ivory trade.
Harriman-Whitfield now serves as senior policy adviser for the Humane Society Legislative Fund and has been engaged in federal lobbying since early 2011. During this two-year period, the HSLF spent $90,000 on in-house lobbying activities, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. An outside lobbying firm billed the organization an additional $60,000 so far this year, according to another report.
Whitfield’s annual financial disclosure report does not include his wife’s compensation from the Humane Society.
For his part, Whitfield said his standing with the Humane Society hasn’t always been good, although he provided POLITICO with a long list of legislation he has offered dealing with animal welfare during his time in Congress.
“Sometimes I’ve had a good record with them and sometimes I have not had a good record with them, but I’ve been involved in a multitude of issues, so from my perspective there absolutely is no violation of ethics laws and if someone thinks there is they can file a complaint,” Whitfield said, noting that he has a 62 percent rating in the group’s 2013 midterm score card.
Source: Politico by John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer