Matt’s Blog: Remembering Bob Dole and His Legacy of Compassion for Animals
By ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
The ASPCA mourns the death of former Senator Bob Dole, a dedicated and extremely effective champion for vulnerable people and animals throughout his 46-year career in public service. In addition to his long list of accomplishments on behalf of fellow veterans and people with disabilities, Sen. Dole leaves a legacy of major contributions to humane laws and policies that continue to protect countless vulnerable animals across America.
Born in Russell, Kansas, Sen. 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. Throughout more than four decades of distinguished service—including three tenures as Senate Majority Leader—Sen. Dole used his leadership post to put that compassion into action, contributing to and fighting for a host of landmark animal protection laws.
In 1978, Sen. Dole introduced amendments to the Humane Slaughter Act that, for the first time, extended enforcement criteria to all commercial meatpackers to comply with the law. Those amendments laid the groundwork for our current federal inspections system that requires federal animal welfare oversight at meatpacking facilities annually, impacting the lives of billions of animals every year.
Sen. Dole later introduced the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act. Signed into law as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, 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. To this day, these committees provide oversight of animal research protocols that had been kept out of the public’s sight.
After retiring from politics in 1996, Sen. Dole remained active in the cause of animal welfare, advocating for pet adoption, a ban on horse slaughter, repealing dog breed bans and protections for the pets of domestic violence survivors.
When an insider blew the whistle on the brutal treatment of farm animals at the USDA’s U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, Sen. Dole reached out to former Senate colleagues, urging them to join him in publicly condemning the horrific cruelty. His advocacy helped persuade Congress to make compliance with the Animal Welfare Act a requirement for the Center’s funding.
In recognition of these and many other enormous contributions to animal welfare, the ASPCA awarded Sen. Dole with official distinctions twice—the ASPCA Award for Humane Excellence in 1984 and the ASPCA Presidential Service Award in 2016.
We are also grateful for Sen. Dole’s friendship and passionate support of the ASPCA. Both Sen. Dole and his wife, former Senator Elizabeth Dole, served as official hosts of our “Paws for Love” and “Paws for Celebration” pet adoption events on Capitol Hill. Sen. Dole’s enthusiastic support and hands-on participation at these events—personally greeting every animal in the room and persistently asking attendees to adopt—helped many at-risk animals find safe and loving homes and raised crucial public awareness of the work of local animal shelters. Most recently, we partnered with Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas, to declare October 16, 2021 “Senator Bob Dole Appreciation Day.”
Across a lifetime of inspiring service to his country, Sen. Dole was as compassionate as he was committed, and we join the nation in both grieving his loss and celebrating his lasting accomplishments that made our country kinder, including enduring protections for animals in need. We send our deepest condolences to the Dole family.