Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Accountability is critical to our work. Just as we are accountable to our supporters and the animals we seek to defend, we work to hold elected officials accountable for their track records and their commitment to animal protection legislation.

Today we have published our annual Humane Scorecard to track key votes, co-sponsorships and other actions by federal lawmakers in support of animal protection. We hope you find it a valuable tool, and we’re heartened that many legislators work hard to achieve a high score.

Take a close look at how your own senators and representative rated, and please share this scorecard with family, friends and other advocates.

Here are some highlights of our federal animal protection efforts in 2021:

The COVID relief package enacted in March, the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2), addresses disease spread and animal suffering in the wildlife trade. It provides $300 million for U.S. Department of Agriculture monitoring of animals susceptible to COVID-19; $105 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work, including efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and increase disease surveillance; and $10 billion for U.S. Agency for International Development COVID-related activities, including monitoring zoonotic diseases.

With more than a million animals dying on America’s roads every day, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58) enacted in November allocates $350 million for grants to reduce wildlife/vehicle collisions, restore habitat connectivity, and facilitate animal migration by constructing wildlife bridges and underpasses across busy interstates.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act (P.L. 117-37) establishes a pilot program to expand access to service dogs and dog training as therapy for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bills the House and Senate passed to fund federal agencies for fiscal year 2022 include big increases compared to FY 2021 and key directives. As we go to press, HSLF is pushing to retain the best of each chamber’s legislation in the final deal.

  • Equines: To curb the “soring” of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds, the House provides $3.04 million (a $1.04 million increase) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, while the Senate provides $2.34 million (a $340,000 increase). The House and Senate bills renew the “defund” provision that prevents horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. Both bills call for substantial increases—$46.3 million more in the House and $35.8 million more in the Senate—for the Bureau of Land Management to implement a nonlethal, long-term plan for its Wild Horse and Burro Program, with $11 million for humane, reversible fertility control vaccines. They also renew prohibitions on sending wild horses and burros to slaughter, and the House report calls for stronger contractual language and other reforms to prevent abuses in the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program.
  • Pets and domestic violence: The House provides $3 million (a $500,000 increase) for the Protecting Animals with Shelter (PAWS) grant program to expand shelter options for domestic violence survivors with pets, a program the Senate bill unfortunately omits.
  • Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement: In the committee reports accompanying their bills, both the House and Senate voice concerns about the steep decline in AWA enforcement and direct the USDA to make key inspection-related reforms to improve compliance at puppy mills, zoos, laboratories and other facilities, as well as to prioritize enforcement of the 2013 rule requiring licenses for dog dealers who sell online. The House report also calls on the USDA to collaborate more with the Department of Justice to ensure access to evidence needed to launch investigations.
  • Farm animals: The House report encourages the USDA to provide financial assistance to producers shifting to cage-free egg laying facilities and provides $5 million to support alternative protein research, including plant-based and cultivated meat alternatives. The House bill rescinds waivers granted during the pandemic that allow higher-speed slaughter lines and jeopardize animal welfare, worker safety and food safety. Both the Senate and House boost a student loan repayment program that encourages veterinarians to practice in underserved areas (the Senate increases it by $1.5 million; the House by $1 million).
  • Animals in research and testing: The House and Senate bills bar the use of USDA funds to license “Class B” animal dealers (notorious for acquiring dogs and cats by shady means to sell for research); the House bill makes this prohibition permanent. The House bill also permanently requires AWA inspections of USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratories. Both House and Senate reports strongly encourage the National Institutes of Health to resume transferring government owned and supported chimpanzees to the Chimp Haven national sanctuary. While the Senate report provides $20 million to the NIH for non-human primate research infrastructure, the House (in a position we favor) explicitly rejects funding to expand such infrastructure. The House bill has a $42.4 million increase, while the Senate bill has a $22.7 million increase, for an NIH program that helps transition science to non-animal test methods.
  • Wildlife: The House bill prohibits imports of elephant and lion trophies from three key African nations. Both the House and Senate include increased resources and directives to combat global wildlife trafficking and live wildlife markets. The House bill provides $2 million to protect imperiled Florida manatees, and both bills provide $5 million (a $1 million boost) for stranded marine mammal rescue efforts. Both chambers of Congress provide major increases to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales ($19 million in the Senate and $16.9 million in the House, up from $5 million in FY 2021). The House report directs the General Services Administration to use bird-friendly building designs and materials in federal agency buildings. Both bills sustain a U.S. Postal Service stamp program that funds wildlife conservation.

In addition to pursuing pro-animal legislation, our congressional allies helped spur significant federal regulatory actions:

The USDA finalized a rule requiring AWA-regulated facilities, including puppy mills and roadside zoos, to have disaster plans for the animals in their care. The USDA announced its intention to reconsider the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule, which would establish better living conditions for farm animals, and to propose stronger Horse Protection Act regulations to end horse soring. The FWS issued a final rule to revoke the Trump administration’s weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which had exempted industries from being prosecuted or penalized if their actions resulted in migratory bird deaths.

We’ll do all that we can to bring many vital reforms for animals over the finish line in the second session of the 117th Congress. None of this would be possible without your support. We hope you will stay engaged and help us make even greater progress in 2022!