Animal activists, tell us what you have done to create real change for animals where you live! We want to hear about your past successes and your current projects, too. We know your stories will inspire others to advocate for animals: remember, politics is not a spectator sport!
Lorianne LaMarca-Pagano—New York
The force behind a new state law setting tougher requirements for pet dealers
In August 2003, my husband Greg bought me a Brussels Griffon puppy from a local pet store for my birthday. I was thrilled to have this monkey-faced addition to our family. But that night, Charlemagne coughed the entire time. The next day, my veterinarian diagnosed him with kennel cough, ear mites, parasites and a corneal ulcer. After treating these ailments I thought he would be fine. Shockingly, a short time later, I noticed a change in Charlemagne. He was always very thirsty and urinating frequently. Again, I brought him to the vet where I found out he had a heart murmur, high blood pressure and kidney disease that would kill him.
Devastated, I vowed to find out where he came from. And I did. He was from a mass dog breeding facility called a puppy mill. Investigating puppy mills, I found out there are no breeding standards and that the industry is so large there is virtually no stopping it. In the meantime, I was also tending to Charlemagne's daily medical needs, which included injections under his skin to hydrate him in addition to three oral medications.
In December of 2006 he started to get worse, and by January he was slipping away. On January 5, 2007, I brought my limp, lifeless baby to my vet’s office. The vet assured me Charlemagne would not feel a thing. As they started the injection I clung tightly to Charlemagne. Sobbing, I promised him I would not let him die in vain.
And I didn't. With the help of New York State Senator Greg Ball, we crafted a bill (S.7268A) that would hold New York pet stores and breeders accountable for selling sick puppies. In addition, stores and breeders would have to improve their standards of care or risk losing their licenses. In June 2012, Charlemagne's Law passed the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law in July. A signed copy, a gift from the governor, hangs above the mantel in my home.
I took a bad situation and turned it into something positive in the name of a puppy who changed my life and made me a better person. I now work to educate the public on the dangers of buying animals.
Natalie Reeves—New York
Founded Big Apple Bunnies
In July 2007, I became a first-time mom to a little girl I named Mopsy McGillicuddy. Mopsy is a black, lop-eared, long-haired bunny with attitude whom I adopted from New York City's public animal shelter. Mopsy and the three other bunnies (Robin, Goldie and Queenie) I subsequently adopted are the loves of my life. Beyond that, though, they inspired me to found Big Apple Bunnies to advocate for rabbits who are less fortunate.
Many people view rabbits as good-luck charms, yet the rabbits themselves are probably the unluckiest of popular pets. Think about it: Rabbits are the only animals commonly sold in pet stores who are also eaten, hunted and worn. I don't believe in eating, hunting or wearing any animals, but most Americans distinguish between pets and other animals. Unfortunately, rabbits fall into both categories.
Since founding Big Apple Bunnies, I have given a presentation on behalf of the New York City Bar Association on laws pertaining to rabbits, and I have written an op-ed on the plight of rabbits that received approximately 350 comments and was circulated widely via social media. We got a large Manhattan restaurant to take rabbits off its menu and to pledge never to serve rabbit again. Big Apple Bunnies also features New York City-area bunnies looking for homes. And since no one wants to deal with tragic bunny stories all the time, we also share lots of cute bunny pictures.
You can help bunnies in so many ways. Never purchase a rabbit in a pet store or from a breeder—there are plenty of amazing rabbits up for adoption (you can find them on petfinder.com). Never wear fur and ask people who do how they'd feel if you wore their pet. If you go to a restaurant that has rabbit on the menu, ask the manager to take it off since Americans don’t eat pets. Please "like" Big Apple Bunnies on Facebook so you can help us let people know that rabbits matter.
Collected More Than 10,000 Signatures for an Animal Welfare Ballot Initiative
I get the warm-and-fuzzies just thinking about Ballot Initiative 1130 here in Washington State; not just because of the amazing turn it took but also because of all the wonderful people I met along the way.
Originally, Washingtonians for Humane Farms set out to make Washington the third state to ban battery cages and go cage-free (reducing the suffering of about 6.5 million hens). During the four months that the campaign ran, hundreds of thousands of people were asked to sign a petition to get the measure on the state ballot, exposing many of them to an issue they'd never thought much about. The ripple effect of the petition drive was immeasurable—so many people realized the injustice of the food system and wanted to talk about how they could help animals in their own lives, just because someone asked them to sign a quick petition! Every single signature felt like a tiny victory and even if we didn't get enough, or all the petitions had been lost, it still would’ve been worth every second.
Every day after school I made a beeline for Whole Foods. The devotion paid off and we collected over 360,000 signatures, enough to scare the pants off of the United Egg Producers (UEP). That's when the UEP offered an agreement to phase out battery cages across the nation, as well as require the labeling of eggs as "caged" and "cage-free" and ban forced molting by means of starvation. It's hard to fathom the impact this will have on the 280 million hens languishing in U.S. egg factories. There were cheers, tears and Mighty-O donuts when we received news of the agreement, but the battle isn't over yet—it's time to get our lobbying faces on!
Getting to work with such a great team and reaching beyond our goal is one thing, but I can't neglect to mention the sheer joy of working hard and for the greater good. There are so many ways to help make the world a better place for animals, from passing laws to sharing a vegan dinner with loved ones. Nothing is more rewarding than doing the right thing, so never give up.
As chair of the Provincetown Animal Welfare Committee and president and co-founder of the Provincetown Dog Park Association, Inc., I can confidently state that Provincetown, Massachusetts, is a leader in animal welfare!
In November 2010, Provincetown voters overwhelming approved two significant articles to promote animal welfare at our Town Meeting: Unlawful Tethering of Dogs and Animals Left Unattended in Motor Vehicles. Provincetown has the distinction of being the first Massachusetts community to have a law addressing inhumane confinement of animals in motor vehicles and is the only third community in the state to have a law on its books restricting tethering of dogs.
In 2009, we successfully lobbied our Board of Health to approve a variance to the federal code that prohibits dogs in patio areas of restaurants and to reinstate our off-leash beach and trail rights, which had been suspended for three years due to a rabies incident. We also successfully passed an article titled Safe Transportation of Animals.
Provincetown’s new dog park, Pilgrim Bark Park, was voted second best in the country by Dog Fancy Magazine. Provincetown was also voted “DogTown USA” by said magazine because of all we do for the love of dogs.
Attended Iowa Humane Lobby Day 2011
Laci’s horse, Daquiri, inspires her to help animals.
Iowa, the state of agriculture. Iowa, the state where dog racing is still legal. Iowa, the state where, someday, maybe, there will be peace between human and animal. And with that goal, I went to Iowa Humane Lobby Day in Des Moines on February 15. This was my first time lobbying for animal welfare, and I was excited. It was as if I was waiting in line to ride a rollercoaster for the first time.
My day at the State Capitol began as I found my way upstairs to the local and national animal welfare organizations that were hosting the event. And in this, I made great connections. With the help of so many experienced lobbyists, I met my local representatives and tried my best to make a good impression. We talked to legislators about a mourning dove bill and a Greyhound racing bill. It can be intimidating when you're 13 and lobbying with experienced adults, but I'm determined to make a difference.
I found it easy to talk to the other people there, who knew exactly what I was talking about as far as my opinions on animal welfare and animal rights. The most magical experience, however, was meeting Ann Church from the ASPCA. I have always been a supporter of the ASPCA and found that they were one organization I could trust. Their compelling commercials made me want to do more, and it is the organization where my hero, Annemarie Lucas, worked.
I became interested in animal welfare at a very young age, and now I'm excited to use my knowledge to do even more! I plan to use what I learned at Lobby Day as I set up a new blog and website for animal rescuers, potential adopters and activists to come together and discuss animal rights/welfare and get out information about local shelters, as well as their adoptable companions.
Lobby Day is definitely something I would recommend to EVERYONE! You make a lot of great connections, get informed and inform others, and have the opportunity to make amazing new friends—but most importantly, you get the chance to be involved and active. If you don't do anything, you can't complain! This was a great opportunity and I'm so glad I went.
Got Her Village to Pass an Anti-Chaining Law
Perla with her dog, Shaka.
After seeing how many dogs were chained in the Village of New Richmond, Ohio, and surrounding areas, in the summer of 2007 I met with the Safety Committee of our Village Board to discuss passing a no-chaining ordinance. I researched all existing non-chaining laws in other communities, along with statistics on successes, dog bites, etc. I called each and every community that passed and/or considered passing an anti-chaining ordinance and got firsthand feedback on what worked and what didn't.
Armed with information, facts and statistics, I educated the Village Board and worked tirelessly until Village Ordinance 2007-53, a total ban on the chaining of a dog or cat to a stationary object, was unanimously passed. Upon its passing, the police chief, a dog-chainer himself, fought and challenged the ordinance as being unconstitutional. I was able to refute all his arguments and the ordinance stood as originally passed.
In order to ensure the success of this ordinance, I took to patrolling the streets in order to find and report chained dogs. I also committed to take in any animals displaced by the new ordinance. I am happy to report that we are the only community in Ohio with a total ban on chaining. I am planning on taking this to Clermont County next.
Additionally, in 2009 I formed Angel's Rest Animal Sanctuary, a home for unwanted and unadoptable animals. Once I secure our IRS non-profit status, I plan to work on fundraising so we can obtain a building, start growing and help more animals in need.
Lobbying for Passage of a Texas Puppy Mill Bill
If you had told me just a few months ago that I would be spending my days at the Texas Legislature visiting House and Senate members, I would have said you were crazy. But that is exactly what I have been doing.
You see, I recently adopted a puppy mill dog who had spent his entire six years in a filthy cage. Toby was used for breeding, and when he became too sick to use anymore, his owner dumped him at a kill shelter. Getting to know Toby was heartbreaking, but his story is common and exists in an estimated 800-1,000 puppy mills across our state. When I learned about these large commercial breeding facilities and the hidden horrors the public never sees when they pick up a cute pet store puppy, I was determined to act.
I found out that there is a mainstream animal welfare organization in my state, the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN.org), which has worked for years to try to get the Texas Legislature to pass a bill requiring large commercial breeding facilities to treat their animals more humanely. It is hard to believe that the bill failed in 2009, but it did.
The 2009 bill would have required animals to be housed in sanitary conditions and provided with wholesome food, clean water and routine veterinary care. It also required that they be let out of their cages at least once a day. It would have applied only to commercial breeding facilities with 11 or more breeding females. Right now puppy mills, for the most part, house dogs and cats in cages made for chickens. The flooring is wire, and the cages are stacked. As the animals never leave the environment, you can imagine the filth and disease that result from the urine and feces falling from one cage onto the animals below.
Our legislators need to know that ending animal suffering is important to us—and that we are watching them. The Texas State Legislature meets only during odd-numbered years, and only with our vigilance will this bill be reintroduced in 2011 and become law. I am speaking to every state representative and senator that I can in order to educate them about the conditions in puppy mills. They have the power to end the massive suffering—but it appears that they won't act unless we hold their feet to the fire.
If you live in Texas, here is what you can do to help:
- Sign up for Action Alerts on THLN.org.
- Contact your state representative/senator and ask them to support and cosponsor the Puppy Mill Bill when the legislative session starts in 2011.
- Use social networking to spread the word—start by joining my Facebook cause group, Support the Texas Puppy Mill Bill in 2011.
If you do nothing else, please learn how to avoid buying a puppy mill dog. The puppy may be cute, but his mother and father are suffering beyond imagination.
Christopher Walter—New Jersey
Had His Town Declare April Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
Chris with his dog, Tessa.
My wife and I are big animal lovers—we especially love dogs, and have a four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. One of the things that stands out to me is how animals have no voice, leaving it up us to stand up for them. I went to the ASPCA's website in early 2010 to get details on donating and joining, which is when I came across information about April being Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Month.
Through my job as assistant director of the Haddon Heights Public Library, I sometimes post the minutes of Borough Council meetings. Every now and then, I would see that the Council's meeting agenda included time for discussing or issuing proclamations supporting certain causes. After seeing what April means to the ASPCA, I figured "Why can't Haddon Heights get onboard with this?" So I got in touch with the Mayor and the Borough Clerk, who both agreed that it was a great idea.
At the Haddon Heights Council meeting on April 6, Mayor Scott Alexander issued a proclamation that Haddon Heights officially recognizes April as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. The ceremony was attended by all six members of the Council and a representative from the ASPCA, who came to accept a copy of the proclamation and take it back to the organization's New York City headquarters.
The ASPCA's Jill Buckley and Erika at the rally on the capitol steps.
Lobbied for Pro-Animal Bills at CA Humane Lobby Day
Whether a little bee or a majestic blue whale, I have always had a fascination and love for all animals. I realize not everyone feels the way that I do, and that is why we need to ensure that our animals are protected through legislative means.
With that in mind, I attended Humane Lobby Day in Sacramento, California, on April 8, 2010. The event was hosted in partnership by the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The day was filled with great information and inspiring stories—and all amidst the excellent company of fellow activists.
The morning began with some prep time with our hosts Jill Buckley (ASPCA), Jennifer Fearing and Nancy Perry (HSUS). They gave a "legislative 101" review and briefed us on current bills. During this time, we had visits from several legislators.
Following the morning session, we had a rally on the capitol steps that created a fever of determination to protect our state's bears. We heard convincing stories, words of common sense and heartfelt pleas to protect California's bears, who are currently targeted for senseless abuse and cruelty.
In the afternoon we were all scheduled to meet with our respective legislators. Although my state legislators, Senator Abel Maldonado and Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee, had already parted the capitol for the day, I did get to meet with their staffs and discuss with them the current animal-related bills pending in California. (I would like to note that both Senator Maldonado and Assemblymember Blakeslee have a 100% humane voting scorecard.)
Overall, California Humane Lobby Day was a valuable use of my time. It has helped me understand how to help all animals on a much larger scale. I can continue to help individual animals in my community, but the real difference I can make is to be involved on a state and national level. For example, I can keep in touch with my legislators, write letters to the editor and encourage those in my community to do the same. I am now ready to work!
Thank you ASPCA and HSUS for a great day!
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