Tag Archives: feds

Feds could ground ultralight-led whooping crane migration

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided it will no longer support the use of ultralight aircraft to help young whooping cranes migrate from Wisconsin to Florida each fall.

Officials announced late last week that this season’s ultralight-guided flights to the birds’ wintering home will be the last.

Operation Migration is a nonprofit group that has led the mechanized migrations for 15 years. The Canadian-based group has opposed the end of ultralights, saying ultralight assistance has helped cranes survive.

Fish and Wildlife officials say one reason for the decision was a lack of success the birds have seen in producing chicks and raising them in the wild.

The public-private effort has spent more than $20 million to help the flock. 

Animal welfare groups urge USDA to improve standards of care for dogs at commercial breeding facilities

Animal welfare groups this week urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the standards of care for dogs kept in commercial breeding facilities.

The Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association filed a legal petition with the USDA, which regulates such facilities under the federal Animal Welfare Act, but current AWA regulations fall far short of ensuring the humane treatment of dogs. 

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS said in a news release, “It’s common sense that dogs should have water, space, exercise, and other basic care, and responsible dog breeders and pet industry groups should welcome these improved standards to restore consumer confidence and deal with the outliers who cut corners and treat puppies like products. The current standards are insufficient and outdated, and need to be fortified to crack down on abusive puppy mills.”

The requested changes would create more specific standards for veterinary care, housing, breeding practices, socialization and placement of retired breeding dogs.

“Dogs are not products that can be simply warehoused without appropriate regard for their welfare,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “The public overwhelmingly agrees that the current USDA standards for dogs kept in commercial breeding facilities do not amount to humane treatment for dogs. The USDA needs to recognize this, and step up to ensure these vulnerable animals have proper care to maintain their health and well-being.”

Among other things, the petition urges the USDA to adopt the following rules for licensed dog breeders:

Restrict the use of wire flooring in the dogs’ primary cage space. Wire flooring is routinely used in commercial breeding facilities, often in cages stacked on top of each other, and is highly detrimental to the dogs’ welfare;

Require breeders to provide dogs with access to an exercise space. Current regulations do not mandate even daily or weekly exercise, and many dogs are kept in their cages day in and day out, for years on end;

Require that dogs be physically examined by a veterinarian at least once per year, including a determination that breeding dogs are fit to endure pregnancy and nursing;

Restrict the frequency of breeding.  Currently there are no limits on how frequently dogs may be bred, and commercial breeders routinely breed female dogs at every heat, with no rest between litters, contrary to the recommendations of most breed clubs;

Require breeders to provide dogs with constant access to potable water;

Increase the minimum cage space requirements so that dogs have adequate space to move around freely and to stand on their hind legs without touching the top of the cage; and

Require breeders to make reasonable efforts to work with rescue groups to adopt out retired breeding dogs and “unsellable” puppies, rather than euthanizing or abandoning the dogs.

“This petition requests much needed enhancements to existing regulations concerning the treatment of dogs used and bred for commercial sale, including the physical conditions of the breeding facility and the health and welfare of the individual dogs,” stated Dr. Susan Krebsbach, veterinary advisor for HSVMA. “These new regulations would greatly improve the living space, physical health and psychological well-being of literally tens of thousands of dogs in the United States.”

The petition was prepared pro bono by the law firm Latham and Watkins LLP and by attorneys in the Animal Protection Litigation department at The HSUS and by the ASPCA.

Monarch butterflies may need endangered species protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Dec. 29 that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for monarch butterflies. The agency will conduct a one-year status review on monarchs, which have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

The announcement from the feds was in response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save North America’s monarchs, so I’m really happy that these amazing butterflies are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Our petition is a scientific and legal blueprint for creating the protection that the monarch so direly needs, and we are gratified that the agency has now taken this vital first step in a timely fashion,” added George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.  “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure monarchs are protected.”

The butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born.

The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food.

The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields. In the past 20 years it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds. 

The population has declined from a recorded high of about 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 90 percent over 20 years.

In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds.

Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to changing temperatures and increased risk of drought, heat waves and severe storms.

Monarch butterflies are known for their spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. Found throughout the United States during the summer months, in winter most monarchs from east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees. Most monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to trees along the California coast to overwinter.

The size of the overwintering population in Mexico is expected to be up this year due to favorable spring and summer weather, but even with the expected one-year population increase, the monarch population will only be a fraction of its historical size.

Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 14 times the size of the entire current population.

The Fish and Wildlife Service must next issue a “12-month finding” on the monarch petition that will propose protection under the Endangered Species Act, reject protection under the Act or add the butterfly to the candidate waiting list for protection.