Robert Dole, at best, had a good record on animal issues for a Trumpist––but he was no Hubert Humphrey, nor even a Richard Nixon
Robert Joseph Dole, 98, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Senator from Kansas 1969-1996, and a Kansas member of the U.S. House of Representatives 1960-1968, died on December 5, 2021.
Lauded by Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson, and American SPCA president Matt Bershadker for his contributions to animal welfare legislation, Dole in truth did not do much that Pacelle, Amundson, and Bershadker credited him with doing.
Overall, Dale had a mixed and mostly middle-of-the-road record on animal issues, rarely veering far from Kansas mainstream public opinion.
Wayne Pacelle said…
Asserted Pacelle, “Arguably, no U.S. Senator did more to create practical gains for animal welfare in American history than Bob Dole. He was the father of the Animal Welfare Act and addressed laboratory animal abuses; he worked to pass standards to minimize pain and distress for animals in slaughterhouses; and he fought against greyhound racing, animal fighting, and a range of other abuses.”
Pacelle attributed to Dole a record which would have more accurately described the career of Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat, who served as U.S. Senator from Minnesota 1949-1964, before becoming U.S. Vice President under Lyndon Johnson, after which he returned to the U.S. Senate 1971-1978.
Sara Amundson said…
Amundson somewhat more specifically recalled that, “Dole sponsored and supported many animal protection measures over the years,” but claimed but “His signature achievements were the passage of the Humane Slaughter Act amendments of 1978 and the Animal Welfare Act amendments of 1985,” neither of which was mentioned either in mainstream media obituaries of Dole, nor in the Wikipedia entry on Dole.
Recalled Amundson, “The 1978 legislation amended the original Humane Slaughter Act,” pushed through to passage by Hubert Humphrey in 1958 in his third attempt, “to require the proper treatment and humane handling of all livestock slaughtered in USDA-inspected slaughter plants.
“For its first twenty years, the law had applied only to animals slaughtered for sale to the federal government,” Amundson said, “and it was a remarkable moment when Dole, representing his home state of Kansas, with its substantial beef industry sector,” told Senate colleagues, “This is legislation whose time has come.”
A remarkable rewrite of history
In reality, the Democrats held substantial majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate at the time, and it was again Hubert Humphrey, then the Senate Majority Whip, who won passage of the 1978 Humane Slaughter Act amendments.
Dole’s role was very nearly irrelevant.
The 1978 amendments restored the Humane Slaughter Act to the form Humphrey had originally drafted. Humphrey accepted the weakened form of the Humane Slaughter Act that was eventually passed in 1958 largely to get around Republican opposition.
That the version of the Humane Slaughter Act that was finally passed in 1958 applied only to slaughterhouses selling meat to the federal government was partially offset by the reality that the federal government was at the time the biggest single meat buyer in the U.S., chiefly to supply military mess halls and school lunch programs.
Few major slaughterhouses did not sell meat to the federal government.
Robert Dole borrowed Hubert Humphrey’s theme
“In the 1980s,” continued Amundson, “Dole emerged as the champion of a comprehensive [Animal Welfare Act] reform package mandating higher standards at research facilities, procedures to address and minimize animal pain, oversight committees at research institutions, an information center at the National Agricultural Library to facilitate literature searches for alternatives to animal use, and special attention to the psychological well-being of animals and exercise for dogs.”
In support of that bill, Amundson mentioned, “Dole was again characteristically succinct: ‘Laboratory animals deserve humane treatment.’”
That theme, however, had been the mantra of the legislators who pushed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 to passage.
Democrats in 1966 held supermajorities in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and Hubert Humphrey, as Vice President, was also presiding officer in the Senate. Republicans, including Dole, who was then still in the House of Representatives, had little part in bringing the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 into effect.
It was amended into the Animal Welfare Act of today in 1970, taking effect in 1971.
Robert Dole called off the AKC dogs––by promising the Animal Welfare Act would not affect their members
Wrote Bershadker, “Born in Russell, Kansas, Senator Dole’s childhood memory of a dog tied up outside during the hot Kansas summer and his inability to protect that animal made a lasting impression that inspired his compassion for all animals.”
But if that was the case, Dole waited until he was 47 years old, in 1970, in his tenth year in Congress, to lend his political clout to animal legislation in any meaningful way.
News coverage of the expansion of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act into the Animal Welfare Act credits Dole chiefly with persuading then-American Kennel Club president Claude Williams to call off a telegram campaign that asked then-U.S. President Richard Nixon to veto the Animal Welfare Act of 1970, after it had already cleared Congress.
Said Dole in a speech from the U.S. Senate floor, according to an Associated Press account distributed on December 23, 1970, “This provision [a clause held over from the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act] has exempted hobby dog breeders from federal legislation in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.”
Of note is that Nixon, from the beginning of his political career until it abruptly ended in 1974, had a far stronger record on behalf of animals than could be credited to Dole until after his 1975 marriage to Elizabeth Dole.
Elizabeth Dole, 13 years younger than Robert Dole, had been a staff assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, & Welfare for the last two years of the Lyndon Johnson administration.
From 1969 to 1973, Elizabeth Dole was deputy assistant for consumer affairs in the Nixon administration. Nixon then appointed her to a seven-year term on the Federal Trade Commission.
Elizabeth Dole later was director of the White House Office of Public Liaison under then U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 1981-1983, who made her the United States Secretary of Transportation, 1983-1987.
Elizabeth Dole had pro-animal role behind the scenes
Elizabeth Dole resigned from that position in 1988 to help Robert Dole in his second attempt to win the Republican presidential nomination.
In this capacity, Elizabeth Dole reportedly influenced her husband to include a proposal to improve federal protection of laboratory primates in his platform, but the 1988 Robert Dole presidential campaign failed early. That proposal was not part of the 1996 Robert Dole presidential campaign platform.
Reagan’s presidential successor, George W. Bush, made Elizabeth Dole his Secretary of Labor 1989-1990. She then headed the American Red Cross from 1991 to 1999, during which time she was credited with helping to strengthen the animal rescue group role within Federal Emergency Management Authority disaster relief task forces.
Elizabeth Dole ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, and served one term, 2003-2009, as U.S. Senator from North Carolina.
As U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Dole succeeded Jesse Helms (1921-2008), a fellow Republican and longtime Robert Dole political ally, who from 1973 to his 2003 retirement had one of the worst records on animal issues of anyone in federal politics.
Helms, in particular, in early 2002 introduced an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, which permanently excludes rats, mice, and birds used in laboratories from Animal Welfare Act protection.
This exclusion––which neither Robert Dole nor Elizabeth Dole did anything to rectify––had been USDA practice ever since the 1970 passage of the Animal Welfare Act, but previous to the Helms amendment existed only in enforcement regulations.
The U.S. Court of Appeals had held in September 1998 that the exclusion of rats, mice, and birds violated Congressional intent in passing the Animal Welfare Act, but the Helms amendment relieved the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service of any obligation to honor the Court of Appeals verdict.
1985 amendments took eight years to implement
Bershadker recalled that Robert Dole “introduced the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act. Signed into law as part of the 1985 Farm Bill,” Bershadker explained, “the legislation mandated that all research facilities establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee responsible for reviewing proposed research protocols to mitigate animal suffering.”
Bershadker overlooked, however, that the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act omitted a specific mandate for enforcement.
Requiring the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to implement the law therefore took eight years of litigation by animal advocates, during which time millions of animals used in laboratories continued to suffer despite the Robert Dole bill.
During this time, Congress, including Robert Dole, did nothing substantial to motivate the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to stop the foot-dragging.
ASPCA twice honored Robert Dole
“After retiring from politics in 1996,” Bershadker continued, “Senator Dole remained active in the cause of animal welfare, advocating for pet adoption, a ban on horse slaughter, repealing dog breed bans [not actually a pro-animal perspective, in view that pit bulls kill upward of 30,000 other animals per year] and protections for the pets of domestic violence survivors.”
Dole also credited Robert Dole with helping to “persuade Congress to make compliance with the Animal Welfare Act a requirement” for funding allocated to the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska,” a USDA facility.
U.S. law already required the Meat Animal Research Center to comply with the Animal Welfare Act, but the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service had been––and apparently still is––reluctant to enforce the law against another USDA agency.
Bershadker acknowledged that “The ASPCA awarded Senator Dole with official distinctions twice—the ASPCA Award for Humane Excellence in 1984 and the ASPCA Presidential Service Award in 2016.”
But Robert Dole might also be remembered for his defense of atrazine, an alleged endocrine-disrupting herbicide used on two-thirds of the cornfields in the U.S. and 90% of the sugar cane plantations.
Popular with farmers since 1958, atrazine may be the most-used farm chemical worldwide. Residues can persist in soil for more than a year, and in groundwater for longer, but by comparison to paraquat, a leading rival herbicide, atrazine breaks down relatively quickly, and is safer for applicators and field workers who may have accidental exposure.
Unfortunately, according to research by University of California at Berkeley biologist Tyrone B. Hayes, largely accepted by environmental advocacy organizations worldwide, even low levels of atrazine may chemically castrate and feminize male frogs, fish, and some other wildlife.
Trans-gender frogs & fish okay with GOP?
The European Union in 2003 refused to re-register atrazine, designating it for phase-out, but it won re-registration in the U.S. after the maker, the U.S. affiliate of the Swiss-based firm Syngenta Crop Protection, hired Robert Dole to lobby U.S. President George W. Bush.
Syngenta Crop Protection paid $260,000 to the law firm Alston & Bird for Dole’s services in 2003-2004, the Natural Resources Defense Council learned through Freedom of Information Act requests..
An Environmental Protection Agency scientific advisory panel concluded in 2010 that “atrazine does not adversely affect amphibian gonadal development based on a review of laboratory and field studies”.
A similar finding from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority followed in 2010.
In September 2020, however, the Environmental Protection Agency re-registered atrazine for use in the U.S. contingent upon reinforced precautions against both human and ambient environmental exposure.
Dole & Trump
Robert Dole might be further remembered by animal advocates for endorsing Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign while all other then-living Republican presidential nominees, including George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, pointedly did not.
Robert Dole again endorsed Trump in 2020, even though Sonny Perdue, the Trump-appointed Secretary of Agriculture, had all but dismantled enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, and other Trump appointees had largely dismantled enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.
Why, then, did Pacelle, Amundson, and Bershadker so effusively praise Robert Dole?
Perhaps to curry favor with Republican high donors. And perhaps because they knew few Animal Wellness Action, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and ASPCA donors would actually bother to look up the Robert Dole record.