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Sen. Harry Reid Offers Package of Animal Welfare Measures on Senate Floor

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn blocks the measure and thwarts will of bipartisan group of lawmakers

WASHINGTON —  The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund expressed appreciation for the leadership provided by  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in pushing for passage of a series of bipartisan animal welfare measures last night and this morning on the Senate floor. Last night, legislation to ban the sale of animal crush videos passed unanimously, but this morning all of the other animal protection measures were blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Reid gave an impassioned speech to the Senate Wednesday evening in support of a number of pending bills to protect a host of creatures: sharks, stranded marine mammals, cranes, great cats, rare wild canines, and sea otters. He also expressed support for the passage of the bill to ban the sale of animal crush videos and provided an opportunity for lawmakers to consider that bill on an expedited basis.

“These wildlife conservation and animal welfare bills have already passed the House of Representatives, and for a good reason,” Reid said in his remarks to the Senate. “They also have bipartisan support. Most importantly, all of these measures are supported by the American people. These aren’t Democratic or Republican issues; they are issues of good moral conscience.”

Sen. Coburn objected to all of the bills except the crush video legislation, even though many of the bills have Republican cosponsors. Coburn has a history of blocking the most reasonable and mainstream animal protection measures, and he blocked measures that 99 other Senators were likely to have supported.

“We are grateful for the determined efforts by Senator Harry Reid to try to pass a package of broadly supported animal welfare and conservation bills,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “These bills would have been on their way to the President except for the obstructionist tactics of Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. His efforts will result in the continued slaughter of sharks for their fins and continued threats to sea otters and other marine mammals, cranes, rare species of wild dogs and big cats, and other creatures. All of these bills had strong Republican support, but Senator Coburn thinks he knows better than 99 other Senators and he essentially vetoed the legislation. How many creatures will continue to suffer because of the actions of a single lawmaker?”

The bills blocked by Sen. Coburn are the following:

  • The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (S. 850), introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., would provide increased protection for vulnerable shark species from the inhumane practice of “finning.”
  • The Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Act, by Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., would strengthen programs that provide emergency aid to seals, whales, and other marine creatures that get struck by boats or tangled in fishing lines.
  • The Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act, S. 1748, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would promote the recovery of this threatened marine mammal that plays a key role in the entire ecosystem, and authorize funding for scientific research to support this purpose.
  • The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, S. 529, by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., would help fund conservation programs to protect rare dog and cat species outside North America.
  • The Crane Conservation Act, by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, would help endangered crane populations in the United States and worldwide. Eleven of 15 crane species are at risk of extinction.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues and to support humane candidates for office. On the Web at hslf.org.

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