By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
While 2020 was no ordinary year, each and every one of us associated with the Humane Society family of organizations did our best to make it an extraordinary one for animals. Here in the U.S., our colleagues at the Humane Society Legislative Fund finished strong by landing a host of animal protection measures they championed in the Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations package. In addition, a number of priority bills on animal protection issues gained momentum and political support.
HSLF did not achieve these results by themselves—they rely on an active membership to vigorously promote animal-centered goals. They also got a lot of help from legislators who came through for animals by leading, co-sponsoring and promoting countless measures designed to protect animals, including those tracked on HSLF’s 2020 Humane Scorecard.
HSLF’s 2020 scorecard rated legislators on key votes; co-sponsorship of bills concerning cosmetics testing, captive exotics, horseracing, shark fin sales, horse soring, puppy mills, disaster planning, horse slaughter and live wildlife markets; signing letters seeking priority funding and provisions in the Agriculture Appropriations bill; and demonstrating leadership on the stewardship of humane measures. HSLF is recognizing 236 legislators for their tireless work for animals in 2020 (covering 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands). This includes 47 senators and congressional representatives who took the lead on animal welfare legislation or a letter to an agency and received a perfect score on the Humane Scorecard, 103 senators and representatives who sponsored pro-animal legislation or an agency letter and 85 others who received a perfect score on the scorecard.
At the top of this list of 2020 honorees is Representative Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., HSLF’s Humane Legislator of the Year, who was an indefatigable champion of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which became law in December 2020. Because his district includes Saratoga Springs, a hub of thoroughbred horse racing, he brought strong credibility to the task of pushing these urgently needed reforms.
In addition, Rep. Tonko co-led the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would phase out animal-based cosmetics testing for cosmetics products and eventually prohibit the sale in the U.S. of cosmetics tested on animals in other nations. For his unswerving commitment on the horseracing bill, and for his consistent leadership on equine protection measures—like the Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act, to prevent the slaughter of American horses, and the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, to protect Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds from soring—he was also honored as HSUS's 2020 Humane Horseman of the Year. These are well-deserved honors for Rep. Tonko, a longtime member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.
Thankfully, animal protection continues to enjoy reliable nonpartisan support. The animals have good friends in both major parties and with Independents, friends who extend their energies and the expertise and time of their staff members to make a difference for our fellow creatures in legislative halls. Every day, we are grateful to know that so many supporters stand with the Humane Society family of organizations to bring about the kind of world we are seeking to create, one in which animals receive more thoughtful consideration in our public policy and much greater protection under our laws.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.