Julián Castro, who previously served as the San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary, is announcing an ambitious animal welfare plan Monday as part of his presidential campaign. The plan, which the campaign provided exclusively to HuffPost, calls for ending the euthanasia of domestic dogs and cats in shelters and seeks to improve federal housing policy for those with pets. It also says Castro would sign into law legislation that would make animal cruelty a federal crime, establish federal minimums for space for farm animals, prohibit the testing of cosmetic products on animals, and ban the unlicensed ownership of large cats like lions and tigers.
Castro’s plan, called “PAW: Protecting Animals and Wildlife,” is the only comprehensive and detailed animal welfare plan released by any of the presidential candidates. Support for animal welfare policies has increased steadily over the last two decades as more states and municipalities have passed laws to protect pets and farm animals.
Castro’s plan offers several strategies and proposals that would work toward ending euthanasia in shelters. The number of dogs and cats that are euthanized in animal shelters across America changes depending on whom you ask, from just over 700,000 to 3 million annually. But that figure has decreased over the last three decades as spaying and neutering have increased dramatically.
Castro’s plan calls for $40 million in federal funding for a “Local Animal Communities Grant Program,” which would help defray the costs of vaccinating, spaying and neutering animals. The money would also go toward programs that promote animal adoption.
The plan also says that new affordable housing units will be pet-friendly. As part of his campaign, Castro has laid out a housing plan that would create 3 million new affordable housing units over 10 years. Castro also says he will work with homeless shelters that receive federal support to “ensure pets belonging to homeless individuals seeking refuge are not prohibited entry.”
If elected, Castro says he would support and sign into law the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act, which would make animal cruelty a federal crime (with exceptions for hunting). That means that people who display cruelty toward animals on federal property or across state lines would face felony charges from federal authorities. All 50 states currently have laws against animal cruelty and consider the crime to be a felony, but the only federal statutes that deal with animal cruelty ban animal fighting and the filming of acts of animal cruelty. The PACT Act was introduced in Congress in early 2019 but has failed to move.
Castro also wants to ban cosmetics testing on animals. More than 30 countries and three U.S. states have banned animal testing of cosmetics. The Humane Cosmetics Act, which was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year, would ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals in the United States. Castro’s campaign says he would sign that act into law if it passed.
Castro also supports an effort in Congress to ban the private, unlicensed ownership of big cats like lions and tigers. The exact number of big cats with private owners is hard to estimate, but experts say there are at least thousands. The current patchwork of state laws banning and regulating big cat ownership has caused confusion and allows for the exploitation of loopholes. The “Big Cat Public Safety Act” was reintroduced in Congress this year and would ban at the federal level the private ownership of big cats.
Castro also says he will support federal mandatory space minimums for animals used in agriculture. Some states regulate the required space minimums for pigs, egg-laying hens and other livestock. In California, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 12 in November 2018, which requires farmers to provide a specific amount of space to livestock and bans California businesses from selling eggs and other meats that were raised on farms that don’t meet those requirements.
Castro is close to reaching the threshold for the next round of presidential debates in the Democratic primary. His campaign says he has reached the required donor threshold of 130,000 unique donors and needs one more qualifying poll showing him at 2% among the large field of candidates in order to reach the debate stage.
Read the entire plan below.