Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Today, I’m pleased to share our Humane Scorecard for the second session of the 117th Congress, a strong reflection of the success of our animal protection agenda in 2022. The scorecard tracks key co-sponsorships, votes and other animal-friendly actions by federal lawmakers. It’s more than just an accountability tool, however. It creates greater awareness and incentives for further commitment, and we’re heartened that so many legislators work hard to achieve a high score. Please look at the ratings for your senators and congressional representative, and share the scorecard with friends, family and other advocates.

2022 proved to be a good year for priority issues highlighted in the scorecard. Several measures we scored became law via direct passage or through another strategy we employ, incorporation into broader packages.

The biggest news concerns the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a 278-134 vote in July and was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent and signed into law by President Biden in December. Its enactment brings down the curtain on a bizarre subculture of cruelty, the captive exotics industry that for years has peddled cub-petting and photo ops with dangerous and badly treated big cats. It also ends private possession of big cats as pets, in the interests of animal welfare and community safety. We targeted these repellent practices for elimination more than a decade ago and steadily built the momentum and political support needed to get the legislation passed. This is a signature achievement in 21st century animal protection, and it says so much about how far we’ve come.

A modified version of another measure we scored—the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act—became law in December as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Over the last five years, we pursued a strategy that produced outstanding co-sponsorship numbers, 254 in the House and 47 in the Senate (it helped that this legislation passed both chambers earlier in the 117th Congress as part of other legislative packages). The solid bipartisan support the measure garnered flowed from a clear understanding of what this reckless and cruel practice does to sharks and to ocean health. You could hardly find a more disturbing practice than cutting off sharks’ fins, discarding the mutilated animals back in the ocean to die and keeping the fins for soup. The law removes the U.S. from the international shark fin trade—as an end market and a transit point—helping to stem shark finning in countries where it is legal or where anti-finning policies aren’t adequately enforced.

We also celebrated enactment of other legislation folded into the NDAA—portions of the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act, which builds on previous legislation that has helped facilitate key arrests of wildlife traffickers. The END Wildlife Trafficking reauthorization encourages enhanced interagency reliance on advanced technology to fight illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching, identify countries for special focus, target traffickers’ use of digital currency and payment platforms, and expand federal initiatives to disrupt and counter illegal trade networks. This bill was first offered as a House amendment to another package in early 2022, and we scored that roll call vote.

An additional measure we didn’t score but helped to pass, the Planning for Animal Wellness Act, became law as well. It directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a working group to determine best practices and federal guidance for animals in disasters and emergencies.

We achieved many wins for animals in the fiscal year 2023 budget package signed into law in December, including several requested via House and Senate sign-on letters that we scored, such as funding to address the cruel soring of show horses and to assist individuals fleeing domestic violence with their cherished pets.

Throughout the 117th Congress, and especially in 2022, we devoted significant efforts to get bills on horse soring, horse slaughter, puppy mills and animal testing for cosmetics across the finish line, but despite their broad popularity, they didn’t go through. They’ll certainly be priorities for our 2023 federal agenda.

We look forward to new opportunities in the 118th Congress to continue to push for efforts that help animals. Your support and engagement are the keys to our success. Together, we can build on our victories and make even greater progress in 2023.