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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Did Your Members of Congress Make the Grade?

There’s a new Congress in town, but it includes many veteran members who are back at work on the Hill, too. We want you to know how those members performed on important animal protection issues in the last session, so you can either encourage them to keep up the good work, or let them know you want them to do better for animals this time around. 

Cardinal_winter_blog_milani
Kathy Milani/for The HSUS

Animals need every voice they can get this year. And yours matters so much. That’s why today we’re publishing the final version of the 2014 Humane Scorecard, which covers the full two years of the 113th Congress.

Think of the Humane Scorecard as a handy tool to see where your federal legislators stand on our movement’s key policy issues.

It demonstrates the level of support animal protection ideas hold in various regions of the country and with the two major political parties. It also helps us evaluate where we’ve been effective, and where we need to focus our energies in the months and years ahead.

Most directly, this scorecard rates legislators based on their cosponsorships of bipartisan bills on soring of show horses, primates as pets, horse slaughter, the treatment of egg-laying hens, and animal fighting spectators; their votes on legislation such as the Farm Bill and the Sportsmen’s Act with provisions that affect animal welfare; their support for funding the enforcement of animal welfare laws; and their leadership on animal protection issues.

We recognize the limitations of trying to judge legislators based on a few votes, cosponsorships and joint letters, and no instrument of this type is ever going to be perfect. Legislators sometimes must miss votes for unavoidable reasons such as illness or a death in the family.

Advocates should also consider such unrecorded matters as performance on committees, positions of congressional leadership, and constituent service. But our movement must strive for some objective yardstick to evaluate performance on our issues.

This past year we gave special weight to several votes on the Farm Bill because it’s a major policy vehicle that only comes up every five or six years. We advocated against the bill when it included the dangerous and overreaching King amendment, which threatened to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on food safety, animal welfare and agriculture.

We advocated for final passage of the bill after the King amendment had been nixed, and because it retained the ban on attendance at animal fights. We note that lawmakers had many reasons for voting as they did on this large package, but we felt it was important to score these votes with reference to our priority issues.

We hope the Humane Scorecard will be useful to you all year. If you’re a member of HSLF (I hope you are!), please enjoy the complimentary printed copy you’ll receive in the mail as one of your membership benefits. And please help to spread the word about the important things we are doing.

Here are some of the highlights from the 113th Congress:

  • A bipartisan group of 37 Senators and 108 Representatives covering 40 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation and/or scored a perfect 100 percent—more than one-third of the Senate and nearly one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 45, with Senate Democrats averaging 64, Senate Republicans averaging 22, and Senate Independents averaging 69.
  • The average House score was a 47, with House Democrats averaging 79, and House Republicans averaging 21. 
  • Twelve Senators scored 100 or 100+. 
  • Four Senators scored zero.
  • Forty-eight Representatives scored 100 or 100+.
  • Seven Representatives scored zero.
  • The New England region led the pack with an average House score of 92 and an average Senate score of 80, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region with a House score of 68 and a Senate score of 61, and the West with a House score of 60 and a Senate score of 59.
  • The Rocky Mountains and the Southeast were at the bottom, each with an average House score of 31, and Senate scores of 26 and 30, respectively.
  • California, New Jersey, and Vermont had an average Senate score of 100.
  • In no state did both Senators score 0, though in Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, and Utah both senators received scores of 12 or below. 
  • New Hampshire and Rhode Island had a House average of 100, and Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont had House averages above 80.
  • No state had an average House score of zero, although North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming had average House scores in the single digits.

Special thanks goes to the following Senators and Representatives who took the pro-animal position on every scored item and earned extra credit for leading on one or more animal issues:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.)
  • Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.)

For all the details, please check out (and hold onto) the Humane Scorecard. Use it to talk to your lawmakers about their grades for last year. If they scored high, thank them for their support of animal protection. If they didn’t, let them know you’re watching and you hope they’ll try to do better in 2015.

And if your legislator wasn’t reelected, let the new folks in office know that you and other constituents care about treating animals humanely, that you want to see common-sense policies enacted to protect animals, and that you’ll be keeping them informed throughout the year so they can do well on the next Humane Scorecard right out of the gate. 

We need your help, and theirs, to advance a mainstream agenda for animal protection in the 114th Congress, taking on horse soring, poaching and wildlife trafficking, animal testing for cosmetics, the trade in dangerous exotic pets, and other cruelties.

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