117th Animal Wellness Action Congressional Scorecard

See how your Representatives and Senators scored on major animal welfare legislation

The Animal Wellness Action Scorecard for the 117th Congress is a guide for citizens to better understand how U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators are performing on animal welfare policy issues in the legislative branch of the federal government. The scorecard, which affixes a low score of 0 and a high score of 100 to sitting Senators and Representatives, measures just two performance metrics: 1) cosponsoring key animal welfare bills, and 2) votes on animal welfare issues that manage to get to the floor of the House or Senate.

Legislative Update

Biden has signed into law The FDA Modernization Act 2.0, the Big Cat Public Safety Act and Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act.

As of the original publication of this scorecard in October 2022, there have been no major animal welfare bills that have passed both chambers of Congress and that are signed into law. As one of the leading animal welfare policy organizations, Animal Wellness Action is, however, very close to securing enactment on a series of priority legislative initiatives: the FDA Modernization Act (H.R. 2565, S. 2952, and S. 5002), the Reducing Animal Testing Act (S. 4288), Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263, S. 1210), and the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 2811, S. 1106).

The FDA Modernization Act 2.0, S. 5002, led by Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., and nine other Senators passed the U.S. Senate on September 29th in a unanimous vote (all Senators rightly get credit for allowing this measure to pass). That bill also includes the Reducing Animal Testing Act, S. 4288, introduced by Senator Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M. House leaders, soon after the election, can take up S. 5002 – which consists of the two animal-testing reduction bills –and send it along to the President for his signature. In fact, the House already passed the original House version of the FDA Modernization Act, H.R. 2565, as a rider to the Food and Drug Amendments Act of 2022, H.R. 7667, and that is a good indicator of the chamber’s receptivity to this reform.

These measures would eliminate federal animal testing mandates at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Public Health Service for new drugs and biosimilars. Animal testing for new drugs accounts for the majority of all animal testing and enactment of this legislation will usher in a new era of safety and efficacy testing in the United States and drive the use of alternative methods that would displace animal tests that result in the use, torment, and killing of millions of beagles, primates, and other animals in the years ahead.

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act – which would ban any the sale of shark fins — passed as an amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in the Senate and as an amendment to the U.S. COMPETES Act in the House. A conference committee is expected to complete work on these legislative packages in November and December, and it’s our fervent hope that the final measure approved by the Congress includes the ban on the sale of shark fins. Senators Booker and Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.V., lead the Senate bill, and Gregorio Sablan, D-CNMI, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, led the House bill.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act, as noted in the AWA Scorecard, passed the House by a vote of 274 – 137 in the House on July 27th. Reps. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Brian Fitzpatrick, shepherded that bill to passage, with a great assist from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. The Senate is now considering the measure and may indeed pass the measure in November or December.

The House did take up an amendment, led by Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Nancy Mace, R-S.C., to ban mink farming in the United States. That amendment passed the House with bipartisan support as part of the USA COMPETES Act.  The Senate did, however, favor a motion by Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, urging that body to reject the mink-farming ban.  Like the shark fin sales ban, the mink farming ban will be decided by a conference committee expected to convene after the election.

Animal Wellness Action also worked with Rep. Troy Carter, D-La., Bryan Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and John Katko, R-N.Y., on an amendment to the $1 trillion infrastructure bill to ban the live export of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughterThe House passed this amendment – the first time this provision has been approved by the House in 15 years.  The House-Senate conference committee, we are disappointed to report, did not include the horse protection measure in its final infrastructure bill.

It is our fervent hope that we can also pass the Bear Poaching Elimination Act and the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act before the year ends, but those bills have a longer path to travel than the aforementioned items that have already seen definite progress. The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act – to halt the barbaric practice of soring of Tennessee Walking horses – also can pass, but it would require amendments. One major animal welfare group is blocking progress on the bill by insisting on no amendments to the measure. Recognizing that the PAST Act as introduced is dead on arrival – because of opposition from some lawmakers in Kentucky and Tennessee – Animal Wellness Action worked with the Walking Horse industry and a wide array of lawmakers on a modified bill that could quickly pass the House and Senate. The compromise measure would make soring a crime for the first time, establish felony penalties for the offense, ban inhumane ankle chains, dramatically reduce the size of the stacked shoes that cause such a distorted gait, and ban tail braces.

We want to underscore that the AWA Scorecard is not a complete measure of performance and you should be cautious about drawing a conclusion about a lawmaker based solely on these measurements. There are dozens of other very important bills that have been introduced that have not yet attracted a critical mass of cosponsors. For example, the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act and the Pigs in Gestation Stalls Act are vital reforms but we are still working to alert lawmakers to the merits of these bills; their decision not to cosponsor these bills and other very sound legislation doesn’t mean lawmakers not signed on to these measures oppose the bills – they just haven’t made a judgment on it yet and these measures haven’t ripened yet.

This Scorecard also does not measure key funding actions or appropriations riders; the annual spending bill for 2022 hasn’t been completed, so it’s premature to measure performance on the set of issues bound up in the massive end-of-year spending bill. Finally, we note that lawmakers can exert influence on animal welfare in a range of other ways, including by writing letters to Cabinet officials, the White House, and other executive agency personnel. We’ve issued press releases and produced blogs that talk about some of the letters we’ve work on with lawmakers that are of urgent importance, but those letters and the signatories are not tracked on this Scorecard.

We welcome your questions should have any about the Scorecard and the performance of your lawmakers on matters not reflected in this tool.