Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The 2023 Virginia Humane Scorecard is now available online, and we encourage voters to use it as a tool when they approach the ballot box this year. Holding legislators accountable to humane interests is critical as we strive to make our voices louder than those of the trophy hunters, factory farmers, and puppy mill lobbyists.

By uniting behind candidates who know the stakes for the most vulnerable among us, we can work towards a cruelty-free world.

The items scored in the 2023 Virginia Humane Scorecard include:

Animal Testing Transparency: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 1271 or HB 2348, concerning animal testing facilities and their requirements for public notifications. These bills require all publicly funded Virginia animal testing facilities to make certain inspection reports publicly available, and to publish their annual reports online, in an effort to radically increase their transparency and assert compliance with lifesaving Animal Welfare Act standards. When consumers are fully informed, only then are they empowered to make cruelty-free choices, and help turn the tide towards more humane practices.

Pets in Housing: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 1384, concerning Virginia housing authorities and household companion animals. Housing agencies often ban or restrict dogs because of their breed, or, more commonly, what is perceived to be their breed – founded on myths and misinformation, breed-based policies force dogs away from their families and into shelters, a devastating scenario that also increases the burden on struggling shelter operations. This bill would have required each housing authority to permit tenants to own or maintain one or more common household pets, barring any prohibition based on breed or weight of the animal.

Animal Seizure: A ✓ indicates a vote against HB 2331, an act to add zoo animals to the exceptions in standards for seizure or impoundment of companion animals. If zoo animals were made exceptions to the current seizure and impoundment procedures, law enforcement officials would be required to notify the state veterinarian before seizing zoo animals from cruel conditions, a step that is only applied to agricultural animals. This added step would only impede the rescue of suffering animals in need of swift removal from inhumane conditions.

HSLF acknowledges the limitations of judging legislators based on a few votes and co-sponsorships on animal issues, however important those issues may be. In some cases, legislators must miss votes for unavoidable reasons, such as a death in the family, serious illness, birth of a child or emergency in their district. In assessing the record of your state-level representatives, and your strategy for engaging them in the future, do consider unrecorded matters such as committee participation and performance, House or Senate leadership posts, constituent service and responsiveness, and other animal protection bills not included in this scorecard.

Scorecards are an important tool for moving the animal protection agenda forward in Virginia, but it only works if it is put into action by members like you. Your continuous advocacy for our furry and feathered friends is the reason why the animal protection movement is alive. Let’s keep building on our victories by voting humanely in 2023.