Here's an update on dog related issues in the November 2010 elections courtesy of Dog's Life Magazine and Michael Markarian. Markarian is chief operating officer of The Humane Society of the United States, and president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. He writes the blog “Animals & Politics” at www.michaelmarkarian.org.
It was a big election night for animals; major victories were declared against the puppy mill industry and agribusiness lobby in Missouri, and against the NRA and trophy hunting lobby in Arizona. Many of the leading animal advocates in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, were re-elected to continue their work in 2011. The votes are still being tallied in some races, but here is a rundown of where we stand so far on the major contests that affect animals.
State Ballot Measures
In order to crack down on puppy mill abuses in the nation’s top puppy mill state, the top priority for animal advocates across the country was to approve Missouri’s Proposition B. I watched the election returns with a group of animal welfare supporters at the Humane Society of Missouri animal shelter in St. Louis, and it was a nail-biter. At the end of the night, Prop B was approved by a margin of 60,000 votes, establishing common-sense standards for the care of dogs.
The margin would have likely been much larger if the Missouri Farm Bureau, Lucas Oil and Cattle Company, Missouri Veterinary Medical Association and others had not thrown in their lot with the puppy millers. These groups helped run a late-breaking, scorched-earth campaign to confuse voters into believing that Prop B was about more than dogs. Fortunately, Missouri citizens saw through the rhetoric, and saw Prop B for what it was — a much-needed policy to turn around the state’s reputation as the puppy mill capital of America. And if we can beat the puppy millers and their allies on their home turf where they are the strongest and the most entrenched, it should send a message to other state and federal lawmakers across the country that dogs deserve to be treated like family pets, not like a cash crop.
In Arizona, another priority was the defeat of Proposition 109, a measure referred to the ballot by the state legislature at the request of the NRA. Prop 109 would have taken power away from Arizona voters, and would have handed it over to politicians and special interest groups, essentially blocking future citizen ballot initiatives on wildlife issues.
It would have also weakened the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, replacing scientific wildlife management with partisan politics. It could have even overturned the 1994 ballot initiative restricting steel-jawed leghold traps and poisons on public lands. We fought back with our coalition partners, and urged Arizona voters to reject this power grab.
They said no to the NRA, and shot down Prop 109 by a preliminary margin of 56 to 44 percent. It was the second time in a decade that Arizona voters refused to give up their voting rights and shot down this nonsense from the NRA. Another win for animals and voting rights occurred in Oklahoma. Citizens decided to streamline the ballot initiative process and allow a consistent standard for petitioning to qualify ballot initiatives, including on animal protection subjects, by passing State Question 750 with a vote of 50.4 to 49.6 percent.
At time of print, 238 House and Senate candidates endorsed by Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) have been declared the winners, while 46 have lost and 14 races have yet to be decided. You can visit our Voter Guide online at www.hslf.org for updates on the outcomes as they are reported. HSLF focused much of its efforts on TV ads supporting leading animal protection candidates in five competitive congressional races, and we have won five out of five.
HSLF ran ads in New Orleans supporting Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a leader of efforts to crack down on puppy mill abuses and ban the trade in primates as pets; he was re-elected 57 to 38 percent. We also ran ads in Cleveland supporting Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, a sponsor of legislation to strengthen the laws against animal fighting, who was re-elected 55 to 45 percent. And we supported Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee has passed a number of wildlife protection bills through the House, with ads in the Bluefield and Charleston areas. He was victorious by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.
In other priority House races, HSLF ran ads in Palm Springs supporting Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., a sponsor of legislation to require fur labeling so consumers aren’t deceived, and she was declared the winner 52 to 41 percent. We ran a paid TV campaign in suburban Detroit to support Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., a leader in the effort to ban obscene animal crush videos, and he has narrowly won by about 4,600 votes, a margin of 49 to 48 percent.
We once again made an impact in Michigan’s 9th district, where HSLF made its largest investment in 2008 and helped to defeat then-Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who had one of the worst records on animal cruelty in the entire country. We continued this track record in 2010, and demonstrated that when we invest resources to help shape the outcomes of candidate races, we are successful in our efforts to tip the balance in close contests.Thank you to all of you who volunteered, wrote letters, donated and cast your votes to help achieve these outcomes for animal protection ballot measures and for candidates who are fighting for animal welfare. It’s because of your work that the animal protection movement can continue to make progress for animals in the political arena. Please check www.hslf.org for more updates on the midterm elections.