Today, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., tried to pass the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, S. 1831, on the Senate floor. He was pitch-perfect in making the case for the enactment of a federal anti-cruelty statute to punish people who do the worst things to animals on federal property or in relation to interstate commerce. The HSUS strongly backs the measure, as do many law enforcement entities, including the National Sheriffs Association. Unfortunately, the bill fell victim to pre-November partisan politics, but we’ve built great bipartisan support in the chamber for final action on the bill later. No lawmaker objected to the substance of the measure that is led by Sen. Toomey and by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
I was reminded of the importance of political leadership for animals two other times in the last 24 hours. Last night, at the Robert J. Dole Institute for Politics at the University of Kansas, ASPCA senior vice president Nancy Perry and I spoke about “Animal Welfare in America” and about the legacy of former Sen. Dole who was arguably the most productive senator on animal welfare in American history – perhaps rivaled only by former Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. It is remarkable to think about these two legendary political leaders hailing from states with a major rural voting bloc — which, in some estimations, have an unlikely political geography for animal welfare leadership. Sen. Dole helped dramatically strengthen the Animal Welfare Act and he is the father of the modern version of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. He faced many hurdles in working to get those measures over the finish line, but he was indomitable in pressing the case. He remains active with The HSUS today as our Special Advisor, with former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
This morning, in Kansas City, I saw local lawmakers come together to announce the building of a major new animal shelter, to be part of a larger complex in Swope Park. There was such energy in the room as Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced the initiative, with two key city council members helping lead the way. Public policy work for animals requires local, state, and federal lawmakers to embrace our sensibilities and to lead.
The path to progress on public policy is not always smooth and steady. While PACT was blocked today, the END Wildlife Trafficking bill was cleared to be sent to President Obama just yesterday. Yes, there are often hiccups, but we are making incredible progress and steadily building a body of law – with major ballot measures coming up for votes in Massachusetts, Montana, Oklahoma, and Oregon in November.
I am thankful to the lawmakers and citizen advocates who have helped drive forward important, bright-line anti-cruelty standards in society. History will remember them well.