Wednesday, December 23, 2020

It is your support and engagement that makes it possible for the Humane Society Legislative Fund to carry the banner for animals in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures; secure passage of animal protection statutes at every level; mobilize a healthy grassroots movement to press for good laws, regulations, and enforcement; and do what’s needed to elect humane-minded candidates. That’s why, on behalf of my colleagues, and with the deepest gratitude, I want to assure you that this year—as always—we were at the center of every pro-animal fight there was. 

This included approval of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a historic measure tackling the challenges of doping and racetrack safety that have jeopardized the health and lives of racehorses and jockeys for many years. We made its passage the centerpiece of our federal lobbying in 2020, and we’re confident that it will spare thousands of horses from unnecessary injury and death on the tracks.

We were hard at work through year’s end because the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was one of the many components of our 2020 agenda included in the completed Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations package. There were other important successes, too, as we made the case for millions of dollars to support implementation and enforcement of federal animal protection laws. The package includes more than $14 million for non-lethal management of wild horses and burros featuring PZP, the humane, reversible fertility control vaccine we have long championed; $2.5 million to fund shelter and transitional housing services for domestic violence survivors and their pets; nearly $2.1 million to curtail the soring of Tennessee walking horses; $1.5 million for PTSD-related animal-assisted therapy for veterans; and $500,000 for more effective enforcement of laws against dogfighting and cockfighting. 

In addition, we achieved our funding goals for international wildlife and biodiversity conservation initiatives to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking and protect imperiled species, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. We also secured provisions to prevent transmission of diseases from live wildlife markets and to permanently authorize U.S. Postal Service sales of vanishing species stamps to fund conservation efforts.

We made particularly strong gains with  respect to an agency of paramount concern for our work, as the omnibus package directed the United States Department of Agriculture to take steps to require regulated facilities to maintain emergency response plans for animals, properly document Animal Welfare Act noncompliance, reinstate the 2017 Horse Protection Act rule, ensure full searchability for AWA and HPA records purged from its website, vigorously enforce licensing requirements for dog dealers selling over the Internet, conduct research on the future of plant-based proteins, increase monitoring of antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture, and review the impacts of its slaughter plant line-speed waiver policies. 

In other positive developments, the package directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide Congress with an explanation of its current policies for allowing imports of sport-hunted trophies of species like lions and elephants into the United States. On laboratory animal issues, it directed three agencies to develop a plan to reduce or eliminate the use of dogs, cats and non-human primates in research (Department of Veterans Affairs), to embrace non-animal testing methods for new drugs (FDA); and to uphold the bar on licensing “Class B random source” dealers of dogs and cats and inspect its own laboratories housing animals for compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (USDA).

Taking account of successful legislation in the 116th Congress as a whole, we helped to secure passage (and an expected signature by the President) of the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, to phase out large-mesh driftnets that kill dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles. In 2019, in the first session of the Congress, we helped to achieve the passage into law of the Protecting Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act and the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act.

We made progress in the House this year with respect to at least a few pro-animal measures that did not make it into the appropriations package. The most significant example was the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380, to prohibit public contact with big cats as well as ban the possession of these animals as pets. The House also approved provisions to make highways safer for wildlife to cross and create safer conditions to transport horses as part of the Moving Forward Act. Finally, the House passed the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, creating a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pair individuals with post-deployment mental health conditions with dogs to train as service animals. We helped build bipartisan support for each of these measures, just as we did in the case of two that passed the House in 2019, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act and the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act.

Working together with the administration, we secured important gains via positive federal agency actions, too. The USDA finalized a rule to require all dealers and exhibitors, including puppy breeders and roadside zoos, to apply for a new license every three years and pass a scheduled pre-license inspection, and the agency upgraded a few care standards for dogs. The Department of Transportation issued a final rule prohibiting airlines from banning breeds of service dogs and prohibiting exotic species from being used as service animals. The Department of Justice awarded $2.2 million in grants to organizations to increase shelter beds and transitional housing options for domestic violence victims and their companion animals. And the Department of State instituted a policy to restrict visas for wildlife traffickers, putting them into the company of money launderers, arms runners and drug traffickers. 

Our 2019-2020 election commitments showed us to be the boldest and most influential animal-focused 501(c)(4) organization in the country. In the November 2020 election cycle, we made unprecedented investments in electing pro-animal candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. We played a role in nearly two dozen congressional races and produced more than 300,000 pieces of mail, 125,000 text messages and a slew of digital advertisements, many featuring commentary by HSLF supporters. We made contributions of nearly half a million dollars to candidates of both parties who stood up for animals. 

Finally, we were the only animal protection political entity to take a position in the presidential race, endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris based on their individual records and the poor performance of the incumbent administration in critical areas of concern. The other 501(c)(4) organizations in the humane sector took a pass, but we gave it to you straight. We have a substantial number of Republican supporters and we work closely with Republican officials who have been among our most staunch and faithful allies. But we felt the moral and political obligation to speak the truth about how bad things have gotten for animals at the federal level during the last four years. Now, we’re fully engaged in discussions with the incoming administration to establish and shape its animal protection priorities, and we’re doing the same thing with the leadership of both parties in the U.S. Congress.

That’s where you come in. You support us because you know that HSLF has always delivered the political outcomes you want for animals at risk of suffering and cruelty. And we count on you to engage your government, your elected officials and your family members, friends and fellow citizens. When we speak for animals, advocate for animals, and win for animals, we do it because of you, and we do it for you. But most of all, we do it for them. And in 2021, we’ll do it again.