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Nation’s Largest Animal Protection Group Honors Humane Federal Legislators of 2011

Sen. David Vitter and Congressman Sam Farr Take Top Awards; 125 other Members of Congress Recognized

WASHINGTON (March 7, 2012) -- The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, and its affiliate, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, have announced the recipients of the congressional Humane Awards for 2011.

Top honors as 2011 Humane Legislators of the Year will go to:

  • Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for his leadership on securing needed funding to strengthen USDA enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as on bills to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means (the PUPS Act, S. 707) and to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in nonhuman primates for the pet trade (the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1324). Sen. Vitter helped get a bipartisan group of 34 Sens. to join in seeking funding for USDA to improve its oversight of puppy mills, laboratories, zoos, circuses and other regulated facilities; rein in the illegal “soring” of show horses (where trainers inflict severe pain on the animals’ legs and hooves to make it hurt them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes); strengthen enforcement of the humane slaughter law; prevent illegal animal fighting; ease a shortage of veterinarians in rural areas and USDA positions through student loan repayment; and help address the needs of animals in disasters. Sen. Vitter also has been a champion over the years on legislation to require accurate labeling of fur apparel regardless of dollar value, to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting, to ban the creation and distribution of obscene animal torture (“crush”) videos, and to strengthen the law against shark finning (cutting the fins off and throwing the rest of the living animals back in the water).
  • Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif., for his leadership, as the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, securing significant increases in funding to strengthen USDA enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as on bills to improve treatment of egg-laying hens and promote stability for egg farmers (the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, H.R. 3798) and to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means (the PUPS Act, H.R. 835). Rep. Farr played a pivotal role in approving a USDA request to reprogram $4 million of FY 2011 funding so that the agency could address serious shortfalls in its oversight of puppy mills, identified by USDA’s own Inspector General, as well as obtaining a $5 million increase in USDA’s FY 2012 funding to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, which covers puppy mills, laboratories, zoos, circuses and other regulated facilities. Rep. Farr’s long history on this effort – he led the initial push for increased AWA funding back in 1999 and offered key guidance in the ensuing years – has been very successful. In the 1990s, AWA funding was stagnant at about $9 million per year; for FY 2012, Congress provided $27 million. In addition, Rep. Farr provided critical help last year winning enactment of a 40 percent increase in funding for the Horse Protection Act, the law that prohibits soring of show horses (the first time in decades that HPA enforcement, also strongly criticized by USDA’s Inspector General, received more than $500,000). Rep. Farr also earned a perfect score on the 2011 Humane Scorecard, and has championed animal protection dating from his service in the California Legislature.

“We commend Senator Vitter and Congressman Farr for their extraordinary leadership in advancing key animal protection laws and assuring that they are properly enforced,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “They are determined advocates, and they both recognize that our society has a responsibility to care for other creatures and to show them mercy.”

Every year, the Humane Society Legislative Fund compiles a federal Humane Scorecard to provide a snapshot of animal protection issues considered by the U.S. Congress and give animal advocates a tool to assess the performance of their Senators and Representatives. The scorecard tracks key votes as well as co-sponsorship of important pro-animal bills and support for adequate funding needed to enforce key animal welfare laws.

For 2011, in addition to the top awards for Sen. Vitter and Rep. Farr:

  • Humane Champion awards will go to 28 legislators who took the lead on animal welfare legislation and also received a perfect score on the 2011 Humane Scorecard.
  • Legislative Leader awards will go to 64 legislators for their leadership as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation.
  • Humane Advocate awards will go to 33 legislators who received a perfect score on the 2011  Humane Scorecard.

In total, 127 legislators – nearly one-third of the Senate and one-quarter of the House (representing 38 states, three U. S. territories, and the District of Columbia) – will receive awards for their work in 2011. See the complete list of 2011 awardees.

“It is heartening to see again how animal protection issues bring Members of Congress together across party lines,” said HSLF President Michael Markarian. “We thank these leaders for their outstanding work to ensure that our federal laws reflect the core humane values and attitudes of American society.”

Previous recipients of the Humane Legislator of the Year Award include Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and James Moran, D-Va., in 2010, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., in 2009, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., in 2008, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., in 2007, Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., in 2006, and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., in 2005..

Media contacts: Heather Sullivan, (301) 548-7778, hsullivan@hslf.org

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation. Join The HSUS on Facebook. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.