How the 2018 Midterm Election Resulted in Animal Law Victories

Caitlin Ens

The U.S. 2018 midterm election did more than just change the majority party in the House of Representatives. Some local voters brought about significant changes in their state’s animal welfare laws. In California and Florida, two animal rights amendments were passed that, respectively, prohibit dog racing and establish minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. These laws create standards for other states to follow in future elections.

Florida passed Amendment 13 and became the 41st state to ban commercial dog racing. Amendment 13 states that by the end of 2020, commercial dog racing will be completely outlawed. In states that still allow dog racing, thousands of greyhounds are bred annually to

“create” a winning dog. Only a few are trained to race—the rest are either killed or sent to laboratories as test subjects. The dogs who make the cut are kept in isolated conditions and confined to small crates—a clear act of animal cruelty. Dog racing in Florida is not even profitable. The state of Florida spent more to regulate the sport than it received in revenue. In 2012 alone, Florida lost between $1 million and $3.3 million on greyhound racing. It was thus only a matter of time before dog racing was banned. One cannot go back in time and pass this law sooner. Thousands upon thousands of innocent animals were the ones who truly suffered—all in the name of human sport and entertainment.

All of that has now changed. Once the ban goes into effect, eight thousand greyhounds dogs will hopefully be given a loving home in the form of adoption. Those that are not adopted will likely be transferred to other states where dog racing is legal. Because the sport has become so unpopular and distasteful, there is hope that the other states will phase out of it as well. Jack Cory, a spokesman for the Florida Greyhound Association, said that the association would go to the legislature and courts if necessary to be compensated for lost revenue. Overall, Amendment 13 represents a powerful movement against the use of animals for sport and human entertainment. It is highly unlikely that a court would overturn this amendment because of the clear and overwhelming support for its ban.

California’s Proposition 12, or the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, may be “the strongest law of its kind in the world.” It takes effect in 2022 and requires farmers to provide a certain amount of space based on square feet for calves, breeding pigs, and hens. It also bans the sale of these animal products if the law’s requirements are not met. California is the leading state in the nation to protect animals beyond the scope of federal law. Proposition 2, the predecessor of Proposition 12, was enacted a decade ago and made it illegal to confine these animals in a way that prevented them from extending themselves freely within their enclosure. Proposition 12 expands on this law by prohibiting the confinement of animals “in a cruel manner.” The law not only covers farm animals in the state—it also applies to animal products produced in other states that are imported into California. It thus has national implications. Josh Balk, the vice-president of farm animals protection for the Humane Society of the United States, believes that “this is the greatest shot farm animals have ever had.” The animal agriculture industry strongly opposed the law. One animal rights group also opposed it because the group believes that the law did not go far enough in its protections. Proposition 12 is a step in the right direction and ensures that farm animals in California will be treated more humanely. The law may also nudge other states to follow suit since it bans animal products that are not produced in accordance with these standards.

These two recently passed state laws are major victories in the fight against animal cruelty. Local voters in both Florida and California had a strong message this year that goes beyond politics: They will not stand for the status quo when it comes to animal rights. These voters used their democratic power to make strides towards increased animal welfare. The 2018 midterm election has sparked hope for more state animal protections in the future.

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