In the aftermath of the terrible events of January 6, we should not underestimate the great damage done to our nation and the urgent need for healing that lies ahead. One of the most important pathways to social and political revival will be an even stronger commitment to a healthy and democratic process and governance. We can no longer take for granted the institutions that have made us proud to be Americans. We must make still greater personal and professional investments to strengthen them.
As partners and supporters of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, you are already doing your part. Our commitment to democratic institutions and governance is something we demonstrate every day. We register to vote, we regularly contact our lawmakers and participate in elections, and we do so not only to help animals but because we know that these actions will help to ensure the vitality and health of our political system. Exercising these basic responsibilities of citizenship is the best defense of American democracy.
You may rightly feel proud and positive about your commitment to our work because your investments helped to put us at the center of the political campaign for animals in 2020. With you at our side, we were able 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 to take the steps needed to elect humane-minded candidates. On behalf of my colleagues, and with the deepest gratitude, I want to acknowledge your tremendous commitment.
As you know, the federal elections of 2020 have shifted the balance of power in Washington. Democrats have taken control of the White House and U.S. Senate, by a razor-thin margin—and maintained control of the U.S. House albeit by a smaller majority. This ensures a shake-up in executive branch appointments and rulemaking, voting blocs, committee chairpersons, and countless other dimensions of government.
With the best interests of animals in mind, we thought a bit of shakeup was necessary, and that’s why HSLF took a position in the presidential race, the only animal protection political entity to do so. We endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris based on their individual records and the poor performance of the incumbent administration in critical areas of animal welfare concern. The other 501(c)(4) organizations in the humane sector took a pass, utterly failing to meet the historical moment, a moment of reckoning with the most damaging four years in the history of animal welfare public policy at the federal level. This wasn’t a time to be silent and we weren’t. HSLF is never a bystander when the fate of animal welfare is on the line.
Following the runoff elections in Georgia, the Democratic and Republican Caucuses will evenly split the U.S. Senate—with Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris breaking ties—and this could have important consequences for the prospects of humane legislation. With respect to the new class of senators, animal advocates have much to be optimistic about. We’re especially proud of our support for Sen. John Hickenlooper’s election in Colorado—his tenure as governor there brought significant gains for animals—and the re-election of Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who has been an animal welfare champion since first being elected to the U.S. House in 2008.
Democrats retained control of the U.S. House, though not by much. We took pride in the fact that some of the most prominent pro-animal members of Congress secured re-election, and we backed them. First and foremost, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, quickly secured victory. They and other members of the caucus have reinforced our primacy as a nonpartisan force for good when it comes to the protection of animals. We are excited about their continuing leadership.
HSLF devoted substantial resources to support the election and re-election of allies on both sides of the aisle. Our efforts in the U.S. House included supporting candidates like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who led efforts in the 116th Congress to crack down on puppy mills and was the lead sponsor of the Puppy Protection Act, the Welfare of our Friends Act, and the Big Cat Public Safety Act. HSLF also supported Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), facing a challenge from a onetime spokesperson for the fur industry who would have become an obstacle to progress in the U.S. House.
In June, Steve King’s (R-Iowa) cruel tenure in the U.S. Congress finally came to an end as Iowa Republican voters chose Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra to represent their party in the General Election—ensuring that Steve King did return to Washington D.C. as a congressman. HSLF devoted our resources to defeating King, producing an ad opposing his candidacy.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, we made real our commitments as the most influential animal-focused 501(c)(4) organization in Washington, DC. In the November 2020 election cycle, we made contributions of nearly half a million dollars towards electing pro-animal candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. We played a larger 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.
It’s 2021 now, and the 117th Congress has begun. We’re fully engaged in discussions with the incoming administration about HSLF’s animal protection priorities, and we’re also working with the leadership of both parties in the U.S. Congress to set the stage for a promising legislative session. We look forward to sharing those priorities with you in the weeks and months ahead. HSLF is counting on your continued motivation to make this world a better one for animals, and we’ll be there with you and for you.