Earlier this year, the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Humane Society Legislative Fund released a "Change Agenda for Animals," which provides a framework for federal action on animal issues. The document lists 100 points detailing meaningful and achievable changes for animals and also calls on the Obama administration to create two new positions related to animal protection. Interestingly, several of those points request the administration to conduct research to collect data to help identify issues and inform policy decisions.
The Change Agenda for Animals (PDF File, 90kb) is a comprehensive document that provides a far-reaching set of benchmark policy changes to mitigate animal cruelty. It is particularly important because it can help animal advocates hold the Obama administration accountable to promises made during the Presidential primary and the period leading up to the election.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund issues a standard questionnaire to all presidential candidates during the primaries, including both Republican and Democratic Candidates. The survey and the Obama team’s responses can be found on the HSLF website (PDF File, 58kb). Obama responded with an unequivocal “yes” to all but one of the questions posed in the survey. He replied “not sure” to supporting the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act, which would "require that the federal government only purchase food from producers who meet certain humane standards."
Many of the points in the Change Agenda for Animals correspond specifically to Obama’s response to the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s questionnaire, which has become a powerful tool for working with the new administration. I encourage animal advocates to read the document in full, but I wanted to highlight three points that relate to research and data collection. For obvious reasons, these items are of particular interest to me and to the Humane Research Council, even though they may not be the most important changes suggested in the document.
#45: Animal Cruelty Reporting (for the Justice Department) – collect data on animal cruelty crimes as a separate category in federal databases that collect crime statistics, to allow law enforcement to analyze trends and connections with other violence (Obama response to HSLF survey highlighted his recognition of and interest in the link between animal cruelty and human violence).
#54: Surveys (for the Commerce Department) – include pets on census questionnaire in order to determine how many/what types of animals are kept as pets; such survey data would be useful to assess impacts on human health and well-being, develop more effective approaches to community animal control, and ensure appropriate disaster preparation.
#86: Surveys (for the Centers for Disease Control) – include pets in CDC surveys in order to determine how many/what types of animals are kept as pets; such survey data could be useful to assess impacts on human health and well-being, develop more effective approaches to community animal control, and ensure appropriate disaster preparation.
These points are somewhat related to an article I wrote for State of the Animals 2007 called “Animal Advocacy in the Age of Information.” In that article, I suggested a sort of research agenda for animal advocates including a detailed assessment of the information that the animal protection movement should compile and track to inform and improve our efforts. The article also provides examples of some of the best information and resources currently available on a broad array of animal issues.
Please share your thoughts... what information do animal advocates need to create the most change for animals in the shortest possible timeframe? What data do you need to be more effective in your day-to-day work on behalf of animals? Please weigh in using the “add new comment” link below (you must be logged in to comment). I would appreciate getting your ideas and suggestions, which could help HRC develop a set of research priorities to recommend to animal organizations and foundations.