Infrastructure Bill that Helps Animals
Photo: An example of a wildlife corridor over a highway in Canada
Photo Credit: Daveynin on Flickr
In July 2020, the U.S. House passed the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), an infrastructure bill that contains provisions that helps move the bar forward for both people and animals.
One provision would be to create a national wildlife corridors system. Wildlife corridors are spaces that allow for safe passage for wildlife to move and migrate, connecting habitats with bridges or tunnels. This reduces the dangers of wildlife passing through highways, roads, and real estate developments. The dangers are not just to wildlife: Each year in the United States, there are more than 200 human fatalities associated with the estimated 725,000 to 1.5 million vehicle collisions with large animals, with an economic cost of over a billion dollars in property damage.
Another provision incorporates the Horse Transportation Safety Act (H.R. 1400), and would make it illegal to transport horses across state lines in double-decker trailers. H.R. 1400 had been endorsed by all the major animal protection groups and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Double-decker trailers are designed for transporting shorter animals, and are an especially cruel method of transportation for horses, who cannot stand fully upright and therefore are at risk of falling during transport. The AVMA recommends clearance of 7 or 8 feet for horses, and in most double-decker trailers, clearance is just 5.5 feet. Horses often throw their heads to maintain balance, and injure easily in these vehicles. When accidents occur, they are often catastrophic. These double-decker trailers are primarily used by the horse slaughter industry to get horses to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in recognition of the risk of injury to horses and these trailers’ proneness to tipping, banned use of double-deckers for horses bound for slaughter. However, since no horse slaughterhouses are currently operating in the U.S. (due to repeated successful efforts by animal advocates to defund horse slaughter inspectors), the USDA has no oversight.
Another amendment added to the Moving Forward Act is the Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would promote bird-friendly practices in the construction of federal buildings.
Around a billion birds are killed each year in the United States when they fly into buildings. “Bird-friendly” design includes things like less glass, screens or shutters, designs or patterns on glass, opaque glass, two-dimensional patterns, or using shades or shutters during certain times of day when certain bird species are more active. Extra attention should be given to buildings with green roofs, which can exacerbate collisions. Glass with high reflectivity can pose danger by reflecting things like vegetation, which can attract birds.
All five Connecticut U.S. Representatives – John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Jahana Hayes – are co-sponsors of the Moving Forward Act, which passed the House 233 to 188. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Photo: All five Connecticut U.S. Representatives -- John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Jahana Hayes -- are co-sponsors of H.R. 2, an infrastructure bill that helps wildlife and horses. H.R. 2 passed the House 233 to 188, almost exclusively along party lines.
The Moving Forward Act illustrates how measures that help animals can also help people, in terms of public safety and in terms of satisfying the public’s desire for peaceful coexistence. In crafting public policy that acknowledges this interconnectedness, we truly are moving forward.
Annie Hornish is Connecticut State Director for The Humane Society of the United States and a supporting member of Sierra Club.
Note: Click here for Sierra Club press release on the transportation, affordable housing and renewable energy components of HR 2.