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The HSUS Gives Obama Administration “C-” for Animal Welfare in 2011

The Humane Society of the United States provided a subpar grade of “C-minus” for the Obama administration for its performance on animal welfare issues in 2011, with efforts to remove federal protections for wolves and to nullify state laws to crack down on cruelty to farm animals being the highest profile adverse actions of the administration’s third year. The administration had previously received a score of B-minus for 2009, and B for 2010.

“The Obama administration had no signature achievements on animal welfare issues in 2011, but it did have some startling demerits,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “There are tens of millions of Americans who care about these issues, and the performance must improve.”

The Obama administration did take some favorable actions in 2011, including issuing a final rule to ban transport of horses in inhumane double-decker trailers en route to slaughter plants; recommending funding increases for strengthened enforcement of federal animal welfare laws; and blocking imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

But the most high-profile actions were hostile toward animal welfare, including the administration turning over authority to kill wolves to the states, and seeking to overturn a California state law stopping the inhumane treatment of downer cattle and pigs too sick or injured to walk.  The administration, even in this difficult budget climate and with the agribusiness industry making record profits, gave out tens of millions in subsidies to factory farming interests.

Additionally, it has continued to spend more than $10 million a year on indiscriminate and inhumane lethal predator control programs, using toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, and aerial gunning to kill wildlife as a subsidy for private livestock ranchers in the West. It has rounded up more than 10,000 wild horses and burros, in spite of this program heading toward financial ruin and more humane and fiscally responsible solutions such as fertility control being readily available. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence and hundreds of millions of dollars spent to control invasive species, the administration stalled in adopting a final rule to ban the trade in nine species of large constricting snakes which pose significant risk to public safety and natural resources.  It authorized the killing of California sea lions in the Northwest.

The administration has pledged to close a loophole in federal regulations that allows large-scale commercial puppy mills to sell dogs over the Internet without any federal oversight. The HSUS is hopeful that the administration will approve that measure and others in the coming year. 

Media Contact: Heather Sullivan: 301.548.7778; hsullivan@humanesociety.org