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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Did Your Members of Congress Make the Grade?

We’ve started a new year and a new session of the 114th Congress (which runs from January 2015 to December 2016), and despite plenty of gridlock last year, there were several important victories for animal protection. We want you, as an animal advocate, to have a simple and efficient way to determine how your federal lawmakers sided on crucial animal protection legislation. To that end, today we’re publishing the final version of the 2015 Humane Scorecard, which covers the first session of the 114th Congress and shows you how your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative performed on animal protection issues. 


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.

In this report, we score lawmakers on key votes to weaken the Endangered Species Act and erode protections for imperiled wildlife, 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, and to enact the omnibus funding package containing many crucial advances for animals. 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.

We recognize the limitations of trying to judge legislators based on a few votes, co-sponsorships, and joint letters, and no instrument of this type is ever going to be perfect. We can’t count co-sponsorship of every worthy bill, so we try to give a balanced snapshot looking at a few priority bills across a spectrum of concerns, each with a critical mass of support and a reasonable chance of enactment.

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.

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 work we are doing.

Here are some of the highlights from the first session of the 114th Congress:

  • A bipartisan group of 39 Senators and 142 Representatives covering 37 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislative or regulatory efforts and/or scored a perfect 100—more than one-third of the Senate and more than one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 47, with Senate Democrats averaging 79, Senate Republicans averaging 20, and Senate Independents averaging 65.
  • The average House score was a 48, with House Democrats averaging 83, and House Republicans averaging 21.
  • Twenty-one Senators scored 100 or 100+.
  • Eighteen Senators scored zero.
  • One hundred and eight Representatives scored 100 or 100+.
  • Fifty-three Representatives scored zero.
  • The New England region led the pack with an average House score of 94 and an average Senate score of 90, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region with a House score of 70 and a Senate score of 77, and the West with a House score of 63 and a Senate score of 61.
  • The Rocky Mountains and the Southeast were at the bottom, with average House scores of 34 and 31 respectively, and each had an average Senate score of 23.
  • Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey had an average Senate score of 100.
  • In Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, both Senators scored 0.
  • Rhode Island had a House average of 100, and Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York had House averages above 80.
  • Wyoming had an average House score of zero, and Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, and West Virginia had average House scores in single digits.

For all the details, please check out (and hold onto) the Humane Scorecard and 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 do better in 2016.

It’s important to let your legislators 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 this final session of the 114th Congress, taking on horse soring and slaughter, poaching and wildlife trafficking, animal testing for cosmetics and chemicals, domestic violence against family pets, and other cruelties.

P.S.—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. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Sen. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Rep. Don Beyer (Va.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Rep. Susan Davis (Calif.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Rep. Sam Farr (Calif.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.), Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Rep. Grace Meng (N.Y.), Rep. David Price (N.C.), Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Rep. Dina Titus (Nev.), Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Rep. Niki Tsongas (Mass.)

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