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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Where do the Democratic presidential candidates stand on animal protection issues?

By Brad Pyle

With the Democratic election field for 2020 in play, we thought it timely to examine the animal protection records of candidates for president. This two-part series will highlight the pro-animal commitments of the candidates. Following the order of the Democratic Party’s second presidential debate, here’s what we know:   

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Joe Biden

Joe Biden was a strong supporter of animal protection legislation during his many years in the U.S. Senate, and consistently received high marks on the Humane Scorecard.

As Vice President, Biden worked to include language in the federal budget to prohibit the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses, effectively ending the practice in the United States.

In his last session in Congress, Sen. Biden cosponsored measures to stop horse slaughterupgrade the penalties for animal fighting, and ban the possession of fighting dogs and attendance at a dogfight.

Biden has also led the fight on important animal protection issues. He was the co-author with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the 108th Congress on legislation to ban the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen. He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully secured passage of the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Biden’s presidential platform points to ecosystem impacts and accelerating species and biodiversity loss as part of a rationale for a comprehensive climate change policy.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has a steady record of supporting animal protection, achieving a score of “100” every year since being elected to the U.S. Senate. In the current congress, Harris is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and to crack down on horse soring abuses.

As California’s Attorney General, Harris successfully defended that state’s law on the sale of inhumane and unsafe battery cage eggs. Harris and her team also defended California’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, which is contributing to the widespread decimation in shark species worldwide.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker has championed animal protection legislation in the U.S. Senate since first being elected in 2013.

In the current session, Booker is sponsoring legislation to end the domestic shark fin trade and cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In 2016, Booker successfully fought for reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act to give the Environmental Protection Agency an unmistakable mandate from Congress that it must continue to embrace 21st century science and wean itself off outdated animal testing protocols.

In previous sessions, Booker co-filed an amendment to the Farm Bill which would have corrected abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs. An identical amendment was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51. He also introduced legislation to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply equally to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories.

Julián Castro

Julián Castro has released a comprehensive animal welfare plan as part of his presidential platform. This plan includes a pathway to increase spaying and neutering, including grant programs to support veterinary care for vaccinations and spaying and neutering services in underserved communities. His platform also includes support of the PACT Act, the Humane Cosmetics Act, and the WOOF Act.

Castro has also proposed creating a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund to protect, maintain, and strengthen wildlife populations. Castro’s proposal is the most comprehensive animal welfare plan released by any 2020 candidate to date.

Andrew Yang

As he has never held elected office, it is challenging to evaluate Andrew Yang’s position on animal protection. Yang has posted the broadest policy platform of any candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, with mixed results for animal protection advocates. The most troubling policy proposal frames the Endangered Species Act as overly restrictive.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard has been a consistent supporter of animal protection legislation since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.

In the current session, she is cosponsoring legislation to end the domestic shark fin trade, create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty, and crack down on puppy mills. This year she voted for the PAST Act, which would end horse soring abuses.

Previously, Gabbard has voted to crack down on animal fighting in the U.S. territories, and against stripping ESA protections from gray wolves in the Lower 48 states.

Kristen Gillibrand

Kristen Gillibrand has developed a strong animal protection record in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, Gillibrand is the lead Democratic sponsor of the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would create the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, to implement rules regarding the use of permitted and prohibited substances and develop anti-doping education, research, testing, and adjudication programs. She is also cosponsoring legislation to end horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, Gillibrand has introduced legislation to strengthen oversight of antibiotic use in animals and led efforts to include an amendment in the Farm Bill to prohibit domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. She also cosponsored legislation which would require furs to be labeled and prohibit the knowing slaughter of a horse for human consumption.

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee has an impressive animal protection record from his time as a member of the U.S. House, and now as Governor of Washington.

As Governor, Inslee signed into law the strongest protections for egg-laying hens ever passed in any state legislature and  tethering restrictions which made it illegal for a person to leave a dog tethered for a reckless period of time without providing him or her with adequate access to food, water, and shelter.

While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Inslee introduced legislation to fund conservation programs that protect rare dog and cat species outside North America and Europe, such as jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, and African wild dogs. He also offered an amendment to an appropriations bill to bar federal funding that permits the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

Inslee’s presidential platform includes creating cross-border conservation programs to protect threatened species. Washington currently ranks 4th on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane State ranking.

Michael Bennet

In the current session of Congress, Michael Bennett is cosponsoring legislation to create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty and crack down on horse soring abuses.

In previous sessions, he has cosponsored legislation to end the shark fin trade, prohibit the interstate trade in primates for the exotic pet trade, and crack down on puppy mills.

Bill de Blasio

As Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio has signed multiple pieces of animal protection legislation into law.

Leading up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, de Blasio penned a letter to the Governor of Tokyo, to support efforts to end the ivory trade in Japan. As Mayor, he signed legislation to ban the use of elephants, tigers, lions, bears, zebras, ostriches, and other wild animals in circuses, created sweeping reforms to the pet store industry, and established an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad within the NYPD.

Closing Remarks

Animal protection advocates are fortunate to have so many sympathetic candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

You'll hear more from the Humane Society Legislative Fund about the presidential race as we get closer to Election Day 2020. Keep checking the blog for updates and more information.

Brad Pyle is political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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