Thursday, June 18, 2020

In this challenging time, we want to shine a spotlight on a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way together during the last year in making the world a better place for animals. Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society of the United States are pleased to present Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representatives Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., with our 2019 Humane Legislators of the Year Award for their successful leadership in establishing a national anti-cruelty law, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have achieved path-breaking reforms for animals through federal legislation. 

The PACT Act (S. 479/H.R. 724) garnered a total of 49 cosponsors in the Senate and 302 in the House and passed each chamber unanimously before being signed into law in November 2019 as P.L. 116-72. It strengthens 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 prohibits extreme animal cruelty if it occurs on federal property or affects interstate commerce regardless of whether a video is produced. Under the new law, prosecutors can bring federal felony charges when these acts occur, for example, at a federal prison or national park or when animals are moved across state lines, or the internet is used as part of a criminal enterprise involving animal exploitation such as bestiality. The PACT Act is designed to complement, and not compete with, the felony anti-cruelty statutes in all 50 states.

History—and media reports—are replete with examples of criminals who start out by hurting animals and move on to hurting humans. The sooner we can bring those who commit unspeakable acts of violence against innocent animals to justice, the safer our world will be for everyone. 

In addition to championing the PACT Act, Sen. Toomey is part of the leadership team for the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, to end cruel “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds so they will perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait that wins prizes. In the last Congress, he also co-led a successful amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill to prohibit the domestic slaughter and trade of dogs and cats for human consumption.

In his earlier career as Connecticut’s Attorney General, Sen. Blumenthal teamed up with HSUS to form a group of attorneys general working to combat animal cruelty and animal fighting. In the Senate, he has been a leader on many animal protection measures beyond the PACT Act, including the Big Cat Public Safety Act, Captive Primate Safety Act, Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, and provisions to ensure improved treatment of military working dogs and to accelerate the Defense Department’s transition away from use of live animals for trauma training to more humane and effective high-tech simulators. Sen. Blumenthal has spoken out against rules to weaken the Endangered Species Act, called on airlines to halt shipments of animal trophies, and urged the Senate to preserve prohibitions on extreme hunting methods on National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska. 

Rep. Deutch has been a consistent ally for animals over his six terms in Congress, earning a 100+ on the Humane Scorecard. In addition to his leadership of the PACT Act, Rep. Deutch joined efforts to ban the trade in dangerous large constrictor snakes.

As co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Rep. Buchanan is a powerful voice for animals across a wide range of concerns besides the PACT Act. He co-leads efforts to end horse slaughter—the Safeguard American Food Exports Act and annual appropriations letters to bar USDA from spending tax dollars to inspect horse slaughter plants. He is also a leader on bills such as the Humane Cosmetics Act, Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, and Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Act. He introduced the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act that was enacted as part of the FY20 omnibus appropriations package, to strengthen the U.S. Department of State’s work combatting international wildlife trafficking, including by known terrorist organizations. He co-led legislation enacted in 2018 to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including territories that practice cockfighting openly, and to prohibit the dog and cat meat trade in the U.S. and encourage other nations to end the trade in their countries. He led amendments to prevent importation of elephant and lion trophies from key African countries and to restore funding for Endangered Species Act listings. He has co-led many letters, such as to protest the sale and transport of nearly 1,800 wild horses to slaughter and the downgrading of protections for manatees, and to call on USDA to strengthen enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and restore inspection reports and other records purged from the agency’s website in 2017. Rep. Buchanan received the 2015 Humane Legislator of the Year Award, too, for his work on several fronts that year.

Along with honoring Sens. Toomey and Blumenthal and Reps. Deutch and Buchanan for their work on the PACT Act, HSLF and HSUS are recognizing a broader, bipartisan group of outstanding lawmakers based on their leadership on animal protection issues and their ratings on the 2019 Humane Scorecard. In total, 217 legislators—47 Senators and 170 Representatives and Delegates (representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands)—are being honored for their work in 2019. Though we missed being able to host our annual Congressional Humane Awards reception as planned in March due to the pandemic, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 Humane Awards. The animal protection community is grateful to all of these Members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership.