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The animal vote: A look at the Republicans

Among the Republicans still in the race, John McCain, as you might expect for a guy with 22 pets, emerges as the leader of the pack when it comes to animal welfare issues.

As a senator, he has earned scores as high as 75 percent on the Humane Society Legislative Fund's "Humane Scorecard."

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McCain voted for and helped sponsor legislation to stop horse slaughter. He has co-sponsored bills to stop the interstate shipment of birds for cockfighting and the poaching of bears, and he voted to eliminate a multi-million dollar subsidy for the mink industry.

He opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to many wildlife species.Mitt Romney, on the other hand, enjoys little support among animal rights types – partly because of his record, partly because of reports that he strapped the family Irish setter's carrier on the roof of the car – with the dog in it – on a 1983 vacation. At one point during the 12-hour drive, he stopped to hose down the dog, then pushed on.

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) says he also received criticism when, as chief executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he allowed a calf-roping exhibition.

HSLF, which lobbies for animal welfare legislation and works to elect humane-minded candidates to public office, said that when he was governor of Massachusetts many of Romney's appointments to a state wildlife board were deemed animal-unfriendly.

Romney did leave office on a high note, HSLF points out – signing a bill to strengthen the Massachusetts animal fighting law and prevent a convicted animal abuser from getting the animal back.

Mike Huckabee's animal welfare record as Arkansas governor was dismal according to the HSLF.

During Huckabee's administration, he failed to support an effort by lawmakers to pass legislation upgrading the state's anti-cruelty law from a misdemeanor to a felony offense. Arkansas is now one of only seven states that consider deliberate, malicious acts of cruelty to animals a misdemeanor offense. As Michael Markarian, president of the HSLF, puts it, setting fire to a painting of a dog is a more serious crime in Arkansas than burning the dog himself.

In 1998, according to published reports, Huckabee's 17-year-old son, David, was fired from his job as a counselor at a Boy Scout camp after he and another teen allegedly killed a stray dog by hanging it and slitting its throat. The teens were never charged, and according to Newsweek, allegations were raised that the governor tried to stop the state police from investigating.

In his blog, Animals and Politics, Markarian also says Huckabee, a lifelong hunter, is viewed by some as overly influenced by hunting lobbies.

"During a speech to the NRA in September, Huckabee sounded almost giddy when he talked about shooting a bullet that was guided by angels to pierce an antelope," Markarian wrote. Huckabee's remark – "I'm pretty sure there will be duck hunting in heaven, and I can't wait," later showed up on The Daily Show.

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