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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are Your Lawmakers Making the Grade?

One of the core objectives we have at the HSLF is to make it simple and efficient for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation across a range of issues. With the end of the first term of the 114th Congress approaching, HSLF has posted a preview version of the 2015 Humane Scorecard, so you can see how your U.S. senators and U.S. representatives have performed so far in this Congress on animal protection issues. If they’ve done well, please thank them; if they have room for improvement, please let them know you’re paying attention, and that there is still time for them to do better before the final scorecard is wrapped up at the end of the year.

Capitol
iStock Photo

In this preliminary report, we hold lawmakers accountable on key votes to weaken the Endangered Species Act and erode protections for imperiled species, putting our nation’s wildlife at risk, and to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s modest rule to crack down on the commercial ivory trade that is wreaking havoc on elephant populations. We also evaluate their support for adequate funding to enforce federal animal welfare laws, and their co-sponsorship of priority bills to protect animals including pets, horses, and animals in laboratories. We provide extra credit for legislators who took the lead on one or more animal protection issues.

Already in the last few weeks since we notified offices about which bills would count on the scorecard, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in the co-sponsor counts for each of these key bills, and we need to keep the momentum going with your help. A bill to protect victims of domestic violence and their pets has 160 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate; a bill to prevent animal cruelty and torture on federal property and in interstate commerce has 174 co-sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate; the bill to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 217 co-sponsors in the House and 49 in the Senate; the horse slaughter bill has 173 co-sponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate; and the bill to phase out cosmetic testing on live animals has 125 co-sponsors in the House.

Building the number of co-sponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, warranting floor consideration, and to help push the legislation over the finish line. This is especially important as we enter the second half of a two-year session.

Please check the scorecard charts and call your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Thank each of them for their support of the bills that they’re already co-sponsoring and urge them to join on any of the animal protection bills being counted on the 2015 Humane Scorecard that they’re not yet co-sponsoring. This preview will be updated online periodically throughout the fall, and legislators will have until the end of the first term of the 114th Congress to receive credit on the final version of our Humane Scorecard that will be printed in January.

You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to each of your legislators. Here are the animal protection bills that will count on the scorecard and we hope will gather additional co-sponsors before year’s end:

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The HSUS

Pets and Domestic Violence —S. 1559 and H.R. 1258, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Katherine Clarke, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., this bill will make it harder for abusers to prey on their battered partners and their pets by allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases; and authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets (currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets) or help arrange for pet shelter. This legislation will help an estimated one-third of domestic violence victims escape from an abusive partner—these are victims who delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety. Violence toward humans is closely related to animal cruelty; up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed their family pet.

Animal Cruelty —S. 1831 and H.R. 2293, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. Introduced by Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., this bill will strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 (which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, or impaling of live animals) to prohibit those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals. This legislation would complement the states’ anti-cruelty laws in the same way that the federal animal fighting statute complements state animal fighting laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

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Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Horse Soring —S. 1121 and H.R. 3268, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., David Jolly, R-Fla., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., this bill will amend existing federal law to better crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses with caustic chemicals, heavy chains, sharp objects, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. This legislation would amend the Horse Protection Act to end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make illegal the actual soring of a horse.

Horse Slaughter —S. 1214 and H.R. 1942, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., this bill would protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given numerous drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Kill buyers round up horses from random sources, and these companion animals or working animals are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths.

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Alamy

Animal Testing for Cosmetics—H.R. 2858, the Humane Cosmetics Act. Introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., this bill would phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. While most manufacturers no longer test finished products on animals, some animal tests are still conducted on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice for assessing ingredients. Animals have substances forced down their throats, dripped in their eyes, or smeared onto their skin, usually without pain relief. These tests are not predictive of the human experience so their results are unreliable for consumer safety. There are many alternative methods to ensure that products are safe for human use. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have banned cosmetics testing on animals and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. H.R. 2858 will help the U.S. remain competitive in the global market and create a key incentive for cosmetics to be tested here with cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry than animal testing.

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