Guest blog by Jessica Johnson, Grassroots Advocacy Manager for the ASPCA’s Government Relations team.
One of the highlights of my work at the ASPCA is supervising our incredible Government Relations interns. I am so grateful for the many mentors and hands-on experiences I was lucky to have over the years, and I love being able to pay that forward to future animal welfare professionals.
If you are a student with an interest in pursuing a career working in animal welfare, policy, law, or other similar field, we have a great opportunity you should know about. Apply for an ASPCA Government Relations internship in our Washington, D.C. office where you can work side-by- side with our Government Relations staff! There is no better window to our world than interning with us, and you can make a real difference while learning about public policy as it affects animals.
Our interns were incredibly instrumental in our work last summer. They reached out to members of our ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to mobilize them on key initiatives, responded to constituent requests for information, and helped me organize citizen lobby days. They tracked the thousands of state and federal laws and administrative regulations pertaining to animals, and they drafted letters, memorandums, and fact sheets to support our lobbying efforts. Throughout the summer, they served as our eyes and ears at many hearings and briefings on the Hill, and accompanied us at meetings with legislators. They sat in on our internal staff and strategy meetings, getting a real insider’s view of our work.
We appreciate interns’ contributions more than words can say, but I also want to share what some of our former interns have said:
“I feel extremely fortunate for the learning experience that the ASPCA internship provided because I think that few interns are exposed to such a wide variety of work. This internship has taught me what nonprofit government relations work really is, and it has confirmed my desire to work in this field after graduation.” - Rachel Easter, first-year law student at Stanford Law School
“Working with the ASPCA Government Relations team has made for an awesome internship. I enjoyed working alongside the fun and supportive staff, and I feel that I was able to work on a diverse group of topics and have become much more familiar with animal welfare issues than I was before.” - Joshua Loveall, second-year law student at Georgetown Law School
“My summer internship at the ASPCA was the perfect transition between school and working, and provided me with so many valuable experiences and skills with which to start my job search. I learned a ton about policy in a short amount of time, and everyone was welcoming, gracious and so much fun. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the government relations team!” - Melissa Rothstein, graduate student, Master of Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University
The findings of a dairy farm investigation were released last week, and they aren’t pretty. Video footage reveals workers beating, kicking, jumping on and shocking cows at Bettencourt Dairies, a major Idaho dairy. In one appalling scene, a cow, apparently unable to stand, is dragged by her neck with a chain attached to a tractor. Five Bettencourt employees have been fired and three face charges of animal cruelty.
As hard as the video is to watch, these acts of cruelty are sadly not unusual. With every new investigation released, we learn that cruelty is rampant on factory farms all around the country. Some of the cruelty comes in the form of obvious violations like in this recent investigation, while some is inherent in the standard practices of factory farming. Unsurprisingly, cruelty and cleanliness are often linked, and raise food and worker safety issues: This video showed extremely unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Farm investigations are one of the few tools animal advocates have to bring criminals to justice, and to pressure the food industry to adopt higher standards of animal welfare and food safety. Aware of the power of these videos, Big Ag lobbies to criminalize investigative workers and keep consumers in the dark. “Ag-gag” bills, introduced over the last few years in states around the country, attempt to make it a crime to document animal abuse on factory farms. Last year we fought hard to defeat these bills in many states. But this year will likely bring a fresh onslaught. Ag-gag bills will continue passing until every one of us stands up to the industry’s effort to block reforms for both consumer and animal welfare.
It’s hard to believe that we’re just about a month away from Election Day! With so much attention on the race for the White House, it’s easy to overlook that fact that there are a lot of other elections happening that day, too.
On November 6, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs, and so are 33 out of 100 Senate seats. And when you go to vote, many of you will also be choosing city council members, mayors, state-level representatives and governors. We can’t tell you who to vote for, but we encourage you to use online resources to research your candidates’ positions and voting records on the issues that matter to you.
It’s not too late to register to vote, but please don’t delay—there are several states with voter registration deadlines as soon as Saturday, October 6. In many states, you can register online in just minutes through sites like registertovote.org.
There are a lot of weighty issues facing our country, and you can help make a difference this election. Please register to vote!
Guest blog post from Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
Californians, your hard work has paid off! Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s bill to ban hounding (S.B. 1221) into law. The new law bans the practice of releasing radio-collared dogs loose in the woods to chase and tree bears and bobcats, all so trophy “hunters” can shoot the terrified animals down from point-blank range. California now joins the more than 30 states that do not permit this blatant and needless form of animal cruelty.
We started work early on this legislation, partnering with the many groups and shelters that attended our 2012 California Humane Lobby Day. Hundreds of advocates flooded the Capitol, where we held a rally for the hound dogs and wildlife—and of course, hound hunters showed up to oppose us and the ban. They were determined to preserve this unsporting pastime despite ample evidence of the grotesque abuses inherent to hounding.
Even under such pressure, humane voices won the day. Every time we asked for your help, you responded in full force. Your work has changed your state forever and made it a safer haven for thousands of animals. If you live in California, please take a moment to thank Governor Brown.
In addition to the hounding ban, Governor Brown signed two other great bills for companion animals: Declawing/devocalization (S.B. 1229): Landlords are now expressly prohibited from discouraging potential tenants from applying for housing if their pets are not declawed or devocalized. Cost of care in animal abuse cases (S.B. 1500): This measure clarifies existing law so that anyone accused of animal abuse must provide for the cost of care for animals seized from them. This helps shelters tremendously, and also helps ensure that animals will not end up back in the hands of their abusers.
As a California native, I was thrilled to join our California advocates in-person and work on this legislation! But I’m excited to announce that we now have Sacramento-based Kevin O’Neill, our new Western Region State Legislative Director, aboard to guide us as we take on new challenges in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Welcome, Kevin—may this be just the beginning of great things from your states!
Congratulations, New Jersey—you’ve just become the latest state to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption!
Just shy of his final deadline, Governor Chris Christie signed into law A.2023/S.1976, which is an amazing piece of legislation: Not only does it prevent a horse slaughter plant from opening in the Garden State, it also prohibits the use of state roads to transport live horses intended for slaughter elsewhere!
New Jersey’s highways are a major East Coast artery up to Canada (and Canadian slaughterhouses). Now that horse slaughterers can’t use them, their lives just became more difficult—and we have to admit, we’re pretty happy about that.
Until we succeed in passing a federal law banning both U.S. horse slaughter and the transport of slaughter-bound horses across our borders, it is vital that individual states continue to stand against this horrific practice by passing their own bans. So thank you, New Jersey animal advocates, for fighting until the end to make sure this bill became law! Please take a moment to thank Governor Christie for approving the bill.