Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The Indiana Humane Scorecard is available for the first time this year, offering a new resource for Indiana voters whose compassion for animals influences which political candidates they support. Holding legislators accountable on animal-welfare issues is critical as we strive to make our voices louder than those who hurt animals for sport or profit.

By uniting behind candidates who understand what is at stake, we can better fight animal cruelty in all forms.

The items scored in this scorecard include two pieces of legislation that passed both chambers and were signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb. These bills unfortunately benefit trophy hunters and the puppy mill industry at the cost of animal suffering.

The first bill scored, SB 241, is a direct attack on Indiana’s wildlife. SB 241, signed into law this year, requires the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to create a bobcat hunting and trapping season. The bobcat is Indiana’s only remaining native cat and was listed as endangered for more than 50 years. No hunting season was in place due to the animal’s protection status. Now, despite only recently being removed from the endangered species list, bobcats will be vulnerable once again to government sanctioned hunting. Although this harmful bill passed, HSLF is grateful for the strong fight put up by lawmakers who voted against this dangerous legislation that threatens the health of bobcat populations in the state.

The backers of the second bill scored, HB 1412, purport to raise standards of canine care. In reality, HB 1412 is designed to benefit the puppy mill industry. Now signed into law, the bill will overturn all local ordinances that prohibit the sale of puppy-mill sourced dogs in pet stores. In Indiana, 21 municipalities have passed humane pet store ordinances to combat the sale of puppies coming from cruel breeding operations, but once HB 1412 takes effect, all will be voided. Simply put, HB 1412 is a rebuke both to local authority and to the fight against harmful breeders. Indiana animal shelters and rescues and local law enforcement officers will now be burdened with assisting with local pet store inspections. Legislators who refused to support this legislation earned positive marks from HSLF.

HSLF acknowledges the limitations of judging legislators based on a few votes and co-sponsorships on animal-welfare legislation, 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, as well as constituent service and responsiveness not included in this scorecard.

Scorecards are an important tool for moving the animal-protection agenda forward in Indiana, but it only works if it is put into action by members like you. Your continued advocacy serves as the backbone of the animal protection movement. While we faced setbacks this year, we can hold legislators accountable this election season and support elected officials who advocated for animal welfare.

We cannot give up in the face of cruelty – instead, we must band together and build pro-animal majorities in the Indiana General Assembly. Let’s keep working toward a more humane Indiana by voting for candidates who represent and fight for our values in 2024!