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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Sen. Vitter
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who received
a Legislative Leader Award, and his dog, Cali
photo: Bill Petros Photography

Yesterday evening HSLF and HSUS hosted our annual congressional Humane Awards, where we honored a bipartisan group of legislators who led the way for animals during the last year. More than fifty members of Congress plus their staff attended the event in the U.S. Capitol, and we celebrated the federal lawmakers who are leading the way to make the world a better place for animals. We even hosted a few congressional dogs who joined the celebration, including Koda from the office of Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., Sebastian from the office of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Cali from the office of Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Crimefighter from the office of Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C.

The top awards went to U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., who were honored as the 2011 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced reform in the policy-making arena.

Sen. Vitter was recognized as 2011 Humane Senator of the Year for his leadership on securing needed funding to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as on bills to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means (the PUPS Act, S. 707) and to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in nonhuman primates for the pet trade (the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1324).

Sen. Vitter
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was awarded 2011 Humane
Senator of the Year. photo: Bill Petros Photography

Sen. Vitter helped get a bipartisan group of 34 senators to join in seeking funding for USDA to improve its oversight of puppy mills, laboratories, circuses and other regulated facilities; rein in the illegal “soring” of show horses (where trainers inflict severe pain on the animals’ legs and hooves to make it hurt them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes); strengthen enforcement of the humane slaughter law; prevent illegal animal fighting; ease a shortage of veterinarians in rural areas and USDA positions through student loan repayment; and help address the needs of animals in disasters. Sen. Vitter also has been a champion over the years on legislation to require accurate labeling of fur apparel regardless of dollar value, to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting, to ban the creation and distribution of obscene animal torture (“crush”) videos, and to strengthen the law against shark finning (cutting the fins off and throwing the rest of the living animals back in the water).

Rep. Farr
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., was awarded 2011 Humane Representative
of the Year. photo: Bill Petros Photography

Rep. Farr was recognized as 2011 Humane Representative of the Year for his leadership, as the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, securing significant increases in funding to strengthen USDA enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as on bills to improve treatment of egg-laying hens and promote stability for egg farmers (the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, H.R. 3798) and to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means (the PUPS Act, H.R. 835). Rep. Farr played a pivotal role in approving a USDA request to reprogram $4 million of FY 2011 funding so that the agency could address serious shortfalls in its oversight of puppy mills, identified by USDA’s own Inspector General, as well as obtaining a $5 million increase in USDA’s FY 2012 funding to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, which covers puppy mills, laboratories, circuses and other regulated facilities. Rep. Farr’s long history on this effort—he led the initial push for increased AWA funding back in 1999 and offered key guidance in the ensuing years—has been very successful. In the 1990s, AWA funding was stagnant at about $9 million per year; for FY 2012, Congress provided $27 million. In addition, Rep. Farr provided critical help last year winning enactment of a 40 percent increase in funding for the Horse Protection Act, the law that prohibits soring of show horses (the first time in decades that HPA enforcement, also strongly criticized by USDA’s Inspector General, received more than $500,000). Rep. Farr also earned a perfect score on the 2011 Humane Scorecard, and has championed animal protection dating from his service in the California Legislature.

In addition to the top awards for Sen. Vitter and Rep. Farr:

  • Humane Champion awards went to 28 legislators who took the lead on animal welfare legislation and also received a perfect score on the 2011 Humane Scorecard.
  • Legislative Leader awards went to 64 legislators for their leadership as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation.
  • Humane Advocate awards went to 33 legislators who received a perfect score on the 2011 Humane Scorecard.


In total, 127 legislators—nearly one-third of the Senate and one-quarter of the House (representing 38 states, three U. S. territories, and the District of Columbia)—received awards for their work in 2011. I was especially pleased to see so many of them promote their humane awards on Twitter. We’re grateful to all of these members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership on animal protection legislation, and we congratulate them as recipients of the 2011 Humane Awards.

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