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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Yesterday evening the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States hosted our annual congressional Humane Awards, where we honored a bipartisan group of legislators who led the way for animals during the last year.

Barbara Boxer
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was honored with the
2012 Humane Legislator of the Year Award.

Nearly 50 members of Congress plus staff members from dozens of other offices 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 Sebastian from the office of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Cali from the office of Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., Bunker from the office of Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Maya from the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

The top awards went to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who were honored as the 2012 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. Boxer was recognized for her leadership in fighting harmful legislation on toxic lead in ammunition and on polar bear trophy imports, as well as securing needed funding to strengthen U.S. Department of Agriculture enforcement of key animal welfare laws, and advancing bills to protect primates and other wildlife species:

  • Leading a successful effort to challenge legislation that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from taking action to address the devastating effects of lead ammunition on wildlife and people – even tying the hands of agency scientists to evaluate the associated risks – when many forms of non-toxic ammunition are readily available and cost nearly the same.
  • Helping to block an unneeded bailout for polar bear trophy hunters that would have encouraged the continued reckless killing of imperiled species in other countries, as hunters figured they could store the trophies in warehouses and simply wait for their allies in Congress to get them a waiver on the imports in contravention of laws such as the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
  • Working to get a bipartisan group of 35 Senators to join in seeking funding for USDA to improve its oversight of puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, 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.
  • Introducing legislation to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the pet trade (the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1324), guiding it to unanimous approval in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs.
  • Playing a pivotal role in winning approval in committee for the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (S. 810) to help chimpanzees who languish in barren but expensive laboratory cages and should be retired to less costly and far more humane sanctuary space. 
  • Ensuring committee approval of a host of other wildlife conservation measures, and fending off a variety of anti-wildlife legislation.

Sen. Brown was honored for his leadership in 2012 on legislation to strengthen the federal animal fighting law, to prevent importation of polar bear trophies and live beluga whales, to establish tougher penalties for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, to provide more humane housing for egg-laying hens, and to end horse slaughter for human consumption:

  • Prime sponsorship of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, S. 1947, to close a loophole in the federal animal fighting law and make it a crime to attend or take a child to a dogfight or cockfight. Spectators finance organized animal fights and make them profitable with their admission fees and gambling wagers, and they provide cover to animal fighters who blend into the crowd during law enforcement raids. 
  • Helping win approval – by a vote of 88-11 – for the animal fighting legislation as an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill, and being instrumental in getting S. 1947 passed by voice vote as a stand-alone bill.
  • Co-leading efforts to remove a polar bear trophy import provision from the Sportsmen's Act of 2012 (S. 3525), which would have allowed 41 wealthy trophy hunters to import their sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada, despite polar bears being listed as a threatened species. 
  • Following the illegal killing of grey seals on Cape Cod beaches, authoring the Marine Mammal Protection Amendment Act, S. 1402, to increase fines from $20,000 to $50,000 for knowingly killing or importing marine mammals.
  • Sending a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service opposing the importation of 18 wild-caught Beluga whales – who were to be transported across thousands of miles at great risk – so that they could be exhibited at aquarium facilities. 
  • Original cosponsorship of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, S. 3239, to phase-out barren battery cages in the egg industry and improve the treatment of hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens, as well as the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S.1176, to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
  • Cosponsoring the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, S. 707, to crack down on abusive large-scale puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means, by requiring them to be licensed and inspected under the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates other commercial breeders, and sending a letter to USDA urging the agency to expedite its proposed rule to regulate large-scale commercial dog breeders selling puppies over the Internet.

In addition to the top awards for Senators Boxer and Brown:

  • Humane Champion awards went to 28 legislators who took the lead on animal welfare legislation or a letter to an agency and also received a perfect score on the 2012 Humane Scorecard.
  • Legislative Leader awards went to 87 legislators for their leadership as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation or a letter to an agency.
  • Humane Advocate awards went to 29 legislators who received a perfect score on the 2012 Humane Scorecard.

In total, 146 legislators – one-third of the Senate and more than one-quarter of the House (representing 38 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia) – received awards for their work in 2012. 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 2012 Humane Awards.

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