Expectations were high during President Barack Obama’s election campaign, and for good reason. Obama and VP Joe Biden both had great records on animal protection issues heading into the election, and won the endorsement of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Also before the election, Obama participated in Jana Kohl's book against puppy mills, "A Rare Breed of Love," and promised to adopt a rescue dog. One pre-election disappointment was Obama's statement that a hunter should head the Department of the Interior. Despite pleas from animal advocates, Obama appointed a hunter, Senator Ken Salazar, as Secretary of the Interior. However, Obama also appointed Tom Vilsack, recommended by the Humane Society Legisative Fund, as Secretary of Agriculture.
Fast-forward to the present, and Obama's actions since taking office have been a mixed bag:
- January, 2009: Obama Suspends Delisting of Grey Wolves
On his first day in office, Obama put a freeze on a number of federal regulations adopted by the Bush administration in its final days, including the delisting of grey wolves under the Endangered Species Act. This gave the wolves a temporary reprieve, and gave animal advocates hope.
- March, 2009: Grey Wolves in Northern Rockies Delisted
Just weeks after giving hope to animal advocates, the Obama administration delisted wolves under the Endangered Species Act. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a hunter and rancher himself, cleared the way for individual states to begin killing wolves in order to protect animal agribusiness interests.
- March, 2009: Slaughter of Downed Cows Banned in the US
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack banned the slaughter of "downer" cows - cows who are too sick, weak or injured to stand on their own. The decision was applauded by animal advocates across the country.
- April, 2009: Obama Breaks Promise to Rescue a Dog
This was the most disappointing move, probably because it was so unexpected. By getting a dog from a breeder, Obama broke his promise to animal advocates and reinforced the misconception that people cannot get their dog of choice from a shelter or rescue group. The Obama's decision will lead to puppy mills churning out Portuguese water dogs, and one breeder of PWDs described the sudden demand for the breed as "general mayhem."
- April, 2009: Scientific Requirements of Endangered Species Act Restored
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a revocation of the Bush administration's weakening of the Endangered Species Act. With this move, the Obama administration brought back the ESA's longstanding scientific requirements and fulfilled Obama's promise to reverse the Bush administration's change.
- May, 2009: Polar Bears Won't be Protected from Global Warming Ken Salazar, Obama's Secretary of the Interior, failed to overturn a Bush-era rule that weakens the Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes the survival of polar bears.
- June, 2009: Michelle Obama is Fur-Free More of a personal stance than a political one, but like the decision to accept a dog from a breeder, the first couple's actions are highly influential.
- June, 2009: Obama to Nominate Sam D. Hamilton, a Hunter, as Head of USFWS Obama announces his intention to place an avid hunter in charge of our nation's National Wildlife Refuges.
- June, 2009: Obama Swats, Kills Fly Obama swats and kills a fly on camera, during an interview with CNBC.
- July, 2009: Animal Protection Views Hold Up Nomination of Cass Sunstein Although the nomination has been stalled, Obama deserves credit for appointing an animal advocate in his administration.
- November, 2009: Critical Habitat for Polar Bears Proposed The Obama administration proposes the designation of over 200,000 square miles of Alaskan land, water and ice as critical polar bear habitat. While the designation would be a good first step, the proposal still allows oil and gas drilling and does nothing to address climate change.
- November, 2009: BLM Removes Thousands of Wild Horses to Make Room for Millions of Cattle The Obama administration continues a long-standing policy of removing wild horses while allowing cattle to graze on public lands.
- November, 2009: Obama Pardons Turkey Obama continues a 20-year tradition of "pardoning" a turkey for Thanksgiving, but adds his own comments.
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