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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Are your lawmakers making the grade?

We do our best to make it simple for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation. That’s the purpose of the Humane Society Legislative Fund 2019 Humane Scorecard, a snapshot of each federal legislator’s record on animal issues for the first session of the 116th Congress. The scorecard scores a cross section of key matters of concern to the HSLF.

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This Congress has seen exciting progress, with both the House and Senate passing the PACT and RAWR Acts already, the House passing the PAST Act, and committees approving wildlife measures dealing with sharks, right whales, big cats, trophy imports, and multinational species conservation funding. Numerous pro-animal provisions await final resolution once the House and Senate reach agreement on FY 2020 Appropriations bills. 

As in previous years, animal protection issues continue to garner impressive bipartisan backing. The more members of Congress who publicly support a bill through cosponsorship—particularly when it’s solidly bipartisan—the more apparent it is to congressional leaders in both parties that the bill warrants consideration. Every bill we’re scoring for 2019 has strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

The PACT animal cruelty bill passed the House with 302 cosponsors and passed the Senate with 41 cosponsors. The PAST Act on horse soring was approved by the House with 308 House cosponsors and has 50 Senate cosponsors. The shark fin sales bill passed both the House and Senate committees and has 288 House and 32 Senate cosponsors. The Horseracing Integrity Act has 198 House and 6 Senate cosponsors. The RAWR Act has 28 Senate and 4 House cosponsors and passed both chambers by voice vote. The big cats bill has 215 House cosponsors, the SAFE horse slaughter bill has 209 House cosponsors, the WOOF puppy mill bill has 178 House cosponsors, and the PREPARED bill on disaster planning has 171 cosponsors in the House.

There is still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills, but they must act before Congress adjourns to get credit on this year’s scorecard. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to thank them for supporting any of the bills listed below that they have already cosponsored and urge them to join the rest. You can use our Find Your Federal Legislators tool, or call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask your friends and family to do the same.

Here are summaries of the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2019 Humane Scorecard: 

Puppy Mills – H.R. 1002, the Welfare Of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, introduced by Reps. Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Crist, D-Fla., G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., and McGovern, D-Mass. This bill will address serious deficiencies in USDA oversight by prohibiting the agency from renewing licenses of commercial dog breeders who have severe and multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. It’s time to end the lack of effective oversight that has perpetuated cruelty by violators found with dead and dying animals kept in filthy and unsafe conditions or denied basic veterinary care, food, water, and protection from extreme weather. WOOF will codify licensing reforms that the USDA itself has proposed as part of a pending rule on strengthening dog dealer standards

Disaster Preparedness – H.R. 1042, the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act, introduced by Reps. Titus, D-Nev., and P. King, R-N.Y. This bill will require facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research laboratories, etc.) to submit annual contingency plans for the animals in their care during emergency situations such as natural disasters, power outages, and animal escapes. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, it is particularly vital that these facilities have thought through in advance how to handle tasks such as evacuation, shelter-in-place, provision of backup food and water, sanitation, ventilation, and veterinary care. Disaster plans are already required under the accreditation process for research facilities, zoos and aquariums and for facilities doing NIH-funded research; this bill will ensure that puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other outliers also have plans in place.

Animal Cruelty – S. 479 and H.R. 724, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Sens. Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Deutch, D-Fla., and Buchanan, R-Fla. This bill will strengthen the 2010 federal animal "crush video" law, which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous cruelty. The PACT Act will prohibit extreme animal cruelty when it occurs on federal property or affects interstate commerce regardless of whether a video is produced. This bill is designed to complement, and not compete with, the felony anti-cruelty statutes in all 50 states. The PACT Act is endorsed by over 100 law enforcement agencies across the country. It passed the House unanimously in October, and the Senate by unanimous consent last week.

Horse Soring – S. 1007, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sens. Crapo, R-Idaho, and Warner, D-Va. This bill will crack down on the cruel practice of "soring" of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantages at horse shows. This bill will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban devices integral to soring, strengthen penalties, and hold abusers accountable – all for negligible cost as determined by the Congressional Budget Office. The PAST Act is endorsed by hundreds of stakeholder groups and individuals and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most prevalent). The PAST Act (H.R. 693, introduced by Reps. Schrader, D-Ore., Yoho, R-Fla., and Cohen, D-TN) was approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 333-96 in the House in July, and the identical legislation passed the Senate Commerce Committee in 2014.

Horse racing – S. 1820 and H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act, introduced by Sens. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and McSally, R-Ariz., and Reps. Tonko, D-N.Y., and Barr, R-Ky. This bill will address the widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs in racehorses, a key contributing factor to frequent fatalities on American racetracks. It will protect horses, jockeys, and the integrity of the sport by granting independent control over rule-making, testing, and enforcement oversight regarding drugs and medications to a new Authority created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It will specifically ban race-day medication, create a uniform medication policy for all 38 racing jurisdictions, and substantially increase out-of-competition testing for racehorses, and it is endorsed by a wide set of stakeholders in the horse racing industry and animal welfare community.

Horse Slaughter – H.R. 961, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Reps. Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Buchanan, R-Fla. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the reopening of horse slaughter plants within the U.S. and export of American horses to slaughter for human consumption. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel due to the unique biology of horses, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Also, American horses are routinely given hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested.

Shark Fin Sales – S. 877 and H.R 737, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Booker, D-N.J., and Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Sablan, D-N. Marianas, and McCaul, R-Texas. This bill will prohibit the import, export, trade, distribution, and possession for commercial purposes of shark fins and products containing shark fins, building on federal laws enacted in 2000 and 2010  that banned shark finning and the transport on U.S.-flagged vessels of fins not "naturally attached" to the carcass. It is crucial to eliminate the shark fin trade here because the U.S. is an end market and transit point for shark fins obtained in countries where finning and shark fishing are inadequately regulated or enforced, or on the high seas where no nation’s laws apply. This legislation received Senate committee approval in April and House committee approval in September.

Big Cats – H.R. 1380, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, introduced by Reps. Quigley, D-Ill., and Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. This bill will reduce the number of captive tigers, lions, cougars, and other big cats living in substandard conditions and protect public safety by banning exhibitor public contact activities and by prohibiting possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. With public contact activities such as tiger cub petting, after just a few months, when the cubs are too large to be handled, they end up discarded at substandard roadside or traveling zoos or in private menageries where they can threaten public safety, while new litters are bred to supply the never-ending demand. Since 1990, more than 380 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have occurred in 46 states and D.C.; 5 children and 19 adults have been killed, and hundreds of others have lost limbs or suffered other often-traumatic injuries. This bill closes loopholes in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (P.L. 108-191) and will not impact professionally run zoos and sanctuaries or their conservation programs. H.R. 1380 received House committee approval in September.

Wildlife Trafficking – S. 1590, the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, introduced by Sens. Merkley, D-Ore., and Collins, R-Maine. This bill will authorize the U.S. Department of State to continue using its successful Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program to target wildlife traffickers globally and combat sophisticated international crime networks, including known terrorist organizations. Wildlife trafficking is one of the most lucrative illicit trades in the world, bringing in over $10 billion a year in illegal profits and threatening endangered species worldwide. The RAWR Act (H.R. 97, introduced by Reps. Buchanan, R-Fla., and Titus, D-Nev.) passed the House in July and the Senate in October.

Please take a few minutes today to help us save animals by voicing your support for these critical bills. Whether your legislators have scores of zero, 100+, or somewhere in between, they need to know that you care about their positions on animal protection policy and are paying attention to their performance on animal issues. Your efforts to engage them meaningfully on these subjects will produce ever greater returns for animal protection in the future.

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