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Women Lawmakers are Top Dogs on Animal Welfare

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Politico's Erika Lovley reported yesterday on a new study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Chicago, indicating that women in Congress tend to be more effective than male lawmakers. The study examined the performance of House members over two decades, and found that on average, women introduce more bills and attract more cosponsors for their legislation. Researchers say that women may fight harder once they get to Congress, because they've often been underdogs in their elections and have had to overcome obstacles and biases in order to get there.

You might also say that female legislators are more likely to stand up for the underdogs. It's no surprise that there's a gender gap on animal protection, with women more likely to have sympathy for animals and to be involved in the cause of animal advocacy. In all of our statewide ballot measures, no matter what the subject matter--factory farming, dog racing, cockfighting, inhumane hunting or trapping practices--we have had strong support from every demographic group. But women voters of all political affiliations have always outperformed men and have provided a strong and unwavering base of support for animal welfare reforms at the ballot box.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen with her dog and HSLF President Michael Markarian
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is one
of many women advocating for animals.

Lovley's article prompted me to take a look through the most recent edition of our Humane Scorecard, and compare how women and men in Congress performed on animal protection issues. Over the course of the 110th Congress, female House members scored an average of 68 percent on animal protection, while their male counterparts scored 54 percent. The gender gap was wider in the Senate, where women averaged 68 percent and men just 46 percent when it came to animal welfare.

Female lawmakers were also nearly twice as likely as men to have perfect scores on animal protection legislation, and much less likely to be at the bottom of the ranking. Eighteen of the 66 women serving in the House (27 percent) scored 100 percent on animal issues, while only 48 of the 353 men (14 percent) did the same. In the Senate, five of the 16 women (31 percent) earned a perfect score, compared to 14 of the 84 men (17 percent). Five men in the Senate (6 percent) and 13 in the House (4 percent) scored a zero on animal protection, while not a single woman in either chamber had that sorry distinction.

This strong showing by women in Congress on animal protection issues comes from both sides of the aisle, with both Democratic and Republican women helping to boost the average scores of their respective parties. And there is a solid group of female legislators who are introducing animal protection bills and showing active leadership to fight for these measures, like Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Betty Sutton (D-Ohio).

The changing demographics in our society are sure to keep accelerating the pace of progress on animal protection. More women are becoming veterinarians, for example, and steering the profession away from its traditional agribusiness alignment and toward a leadership role on animal welfare that better represents the view of mainstream Americans. As we see more women elected to public office, too, we can expect to see more public policies that reflect our social values and protect animals from cruelty and abuse.