One of the most effective ways to help shape laws is through in-person lobbying of legislators—and New Yorkers always step up! Nearly 100 animal advocates from across the Empire State gathered at the state capitol last Wednesday to make their voices heard at the ASPCA’s third annual New York Voices for Animals Day.
The day provided opportunities for animal advocates to speak directly with their legislators and staff in support of passing stronger animal welfare legislation, including measures that would provide relief to animal control agencies and taxpayers during animal cruelty cases, improve protections for animals during natural disaster responses and fighting investigations, and enhance trap, neuter and release (TNR) programs for the state’s free-roaming cats.
“While phone calls and emails are effective ways to communicate with lawmakers, face-to-face meetings make the most powerful impact, by far,” said Bill Ketzer, the ASPCA’s Senior State Legislative Director for the Northeast region. “An in-person meeting is the perfect way to show lawmakers that the constituents they represent are serious about animal protection.”
Before setting off to meet with legislators, advocates heard from several New York State lawmakers on the importance of animal welfare legislation. Senator Jeff Klein spoke passionately about the need for full-service shelters in the Bronx and Queens; Senator Kathy Marchione discussed the need to support life-saving and cost-saving TNR programs. Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal highlighted legislation offering a tax credit to adopters, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick called for assistance from out-of-state veterinarians during disasters and large-scale cruelty cases.
Event attendees ranged from first-time citizen lobbyists to experienced advocates—but all of them were dedicated, and some were even willing to forgo sleep to be a part of the important day!
Filmmaker Joe Whelski of Manhattan had been up late working on a client video but awoke at 4:30 A.M. in order to catch the ASPCA-chartered bus to Albany, which departed just an hour and a half later.
“I was just [in Albany] in March and got a nice reception from lawmakers,” said Joe. While we may not immediately know all of the results from lobbying, “It’s worth it even if a bill doesn’t pass, just to show the extent of support for animal causes.”
Adding to the excitement, two priority bills successfully passed through committee during the day’s events, bringing New York closer to having more resources for spay/neuter programs and better protecting animals in cruelty cases and during disasters—and proving that it’s when we come together as a unified voice for animals that real progress on legislation can be made.
The ASPCA fights to make sure the strongest laws are in place to protect animals across the country, but we can’t do it without dedicated advocates. “We work hard to pass animal-friendly legislation, but it’s the grassroots advocacy by constituents that can provide the tipping point,” said Michelle Villagomez, the ASPCA’s New York City Legislative Director.
We want to thank all of our New York advocates and our supporters nationwide for standing beside us as we continue to fight for animals here and across the country.
Don’t miss your state’s next lobby day! Sign up to receive ASPCA Advocacy Alerts to stay up-to-date on fun and informational events near you.
Welcome to The Paw Print! In this recurring feature, we highlight the latest news affecting animals and animal-lovers around the country. Here are some of the top stories right now:
Obese Abandoned Cat Begins Weight Loss Journey: Sprinkles, a 33 lb. cat, was found abandoned inside a foreclosed home in New Jersey. Sprinkles weighed three times more than an average cat when she was rescued and transported to a local cat rescue group. The staff there is using a veterinarian-advised plan to help Sprinkles reach a healthy weight. [The Huffington Post]
Highly Contagious Flu Affects 1,100+ Dogs in the Midwest: A strain of canine influenza has sickened more than 1,100 dogs and has caused a handful of fatalities in the Midwest this spring. The flu, which is not contagious to humans but is highly contagious to dogs, is transmitted by nose-to-nose contact. Veterinarians are urging pet parents to seek veterinary treatment if your dog shows signs of a respiratory illness. [WLWT5]
Study Shows High-Pitched Sounds Can Cause Seizures in Cats: According to new research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, common high-pitched sounds such as crinkling tin foil or the tapping on glass can cause seizures in older cats. This phenomenon has previously been referred to as “Tom and Jerry syndrome,” and fortunately, it can be treated with medication. [D News]
Shelter Pup Helps Autistic Boy Learn to Show Affection: Joey Granados, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at age 7, showed an extreme dislike for physical affection for the first 14 years of his life. That changed when Joey adopted a pit bull named Roxy a few months ago. Through his bond with Roxy, who Joey describes as his “best friend,” he has become more affectionate, and recently hugged and kissed his mother for the first time. [Today]
Yesterday, in honor of National Animal Advocacy Day, Congress put out the welcome mat for Bam Bam, a special dog whom the ASPCA rescued as a puppy from a dog fighting yard in Alabama. The Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) had invited Bam Bam to the Capitol as an ambassador for dogs rescued from animal fighting operations. U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Co-Chairs of the CAPC, were on hand to welcome the ASPCA and congressional staff.
Bam Bam joined a panel of experts to educate congressional staff about the fiscal and welfare challenges of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases. The ASPCA regularly works side-by-side with federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to rescue animals from animal fighting rings, as well as expend vast resources caring for these animals afterward.
Federal criminal cases take many months or even years to progress. While they slowly advance, rescued animals must be housed, fed, and provided with veterinary and behavioral care. They often can’t be re-homed until the cases conclude, which means a dog may spend over a year waiting for his or her fate to be determined by a court.
Once the ASPCA and law enforcement authorities come to the rescue, these animals should be able to start new, happy lives; but federal seizure laws weren’t written with animals in mind. Animals can’t be warehoused like cars, drugs or commonplace evidence—and while living in limbo in this way, seized animals often deteriorate psychologically and behaviorally. Meanwhile, animal-protection agencies rack up astronomical costs to safely shelter these animals on behalf of federal law enforcement.
Fortunately, on National Animal Advocacy Day, we’re grateful for the great animal allies we have in Congress and in the Department of Justice (DOJ) working to solve this problem through legislation and regulatory changes. Reform is needed to have the alleged abusers, rather than taxpayers or groups like the ASPCA, pay for the costs of caring for their seized animals or relinquish custody of the animals, allowing them to be re-homed much faster.
We’re also indebted to our amazing citizen advocates, who sent more than 13,000 emails to the Department of Justice over the past month thanking them for prosecuting animal fighters and urging them to get even tougher this year.