In honor of National Animal Advocacy Day on April 30, we’re running a special series on the blog this week to honor those individuals who dedicate their energies to standing up for animals. Meet our first profiled citizen lobbyist, Susan Brady Barnes of Southbury, Connecticut.
Although she has loved animals all her life and has three rescued dogs of her own, until five months ago, Susan Brady Barnes had never heard the term “puppy mill.”
“On Facebook, I saw a photo of a woman holding a dog,” she remembers. “It looked like a lump of stuffing out of an old couch. I thought, ‘What am I looking at?’ Then I read the story, and it changed my life.”
Today, Susan volunteers for the ASPCA as a citizen lobbyist, supporting legislation like S.B. 445, known as the Puppy Mill Bill, which aims to restrict the sale of puppy mill dogs in Connecticut pet stores.
“There’s no excuse [for puppy mills],” says the feisty 55-year-old. “They’re appalling. I educate everyone I know.” At the top of her list are legislators and other elected officials. She once cornered a senator in a parking lot, who spoke to her for 20 minutes in freezing temperatures. “He knows me now!” she says.
Susan, a native of London who moved to the U.S. from Australia nearly nine years ago, says it’s her accent that people remember. After moving to Connecticut (she and her husband brought with them their five dogs and a cat), an unwitting Susan purchased two dogs from pet stores.
Archie, a Lhasa Apso, came from a shop in Milford. “He is a complete bag of nerves,” she says. “Now, all the stuff that’s wrong with him makes sense. My Chow Chow, Pumba, I bought from a pet store. That’s how naïve I was.”
Since then, she’s turned to adopting animals like Cooper, a skinny Shih Tzu rescued from a hoarder in Tennessee before ending up in a shelter. Last week, Susan drove to LaGuardia airport to pick up a six-year-old puppy mill survivor from South Dakota. She named her Matilda, meaning strength in battle.
“Matilda has no ears,” Susan says incredulously, as she describes the miniature Schnauzer. “They were frozen off because she was left outside in a cage for six years during the South Dakota winters.”
Susan admits there are days when she wonders if her efforts will pay off. “I think, ‘this will never happen in my lifetime.’ But then I tell myself, if there are enough of us doing it, we have to make a difference. It’s such a huge, corrupt industry. I can’t believe I didn’t always know about this horrendous business.”
To that end, Susan hopes to use Matilda to educate school children about the cruelty and neglect that puppy mill dogs suffer.
“There’s a few years left in the old girl yet,” says the mother of two grown sons who has embraced full-time advocacy work. “I have to do something with the rest of my life. And this is so close to my heart.”
Then she looks down at Matilda, with her missing ears, lying in her arms like a newborn and gazing into her eyes. “She knows I’m her mum,” Susan says, softly. “This is my reward.”
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The ASPCA applauds today’s Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in the case of Commonwealth v. Heather M. Duncan. The Court ruled that law enforcement can enter property without a warrant if they have a reasonable basis for believing that an animal’s life is in danger, mirroring the “emergency aid” exception for warrants that already applies to the protection of human life.
The case was a result of an event that occurred on January 8, 2011. After receiving a call from a neighbor, police entered the front yard of the defendant, Ms. Duncan, without a warrant and removed three dogs that had been left outside in severely inclement weather. Two of the dogs were deceased, and one was extremely emaciated with no food or water. When the defendant was later charged with three counts of animal cruelty, she challenged the police’s entry into her yard and any evidence gathered from the yard, arguing that law enforcement was required to get a warrant before entering the property.
The ASPCA filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief urging the Court to allow police to enter homes without a warrant when they believe an animal is injured or in imminent danger. “This important ruling appropriately empowers police to provide emergency aid to animals in peril and will encourage courts in states that have not yet decided this important issue to expand their animal protection laws,” explains Jennifer Chin, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Legal Advocacy department. “This is a major victory for animals in Massachusetts, and we’re pleased to be able to play a role in this.”
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We are happy to announce that the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406, by voice vote. This important step paves the way for an eventual floor vote in the Senate.
The PAST Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), will amend the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA) to better protect horses from abusive “soring”—the practice of purposely inflicting severe pain in horses’ legs and hooves to force them into an unnatural, high-stepping gait (walk). Specifically, the PAST Act will improve inspections at Tennessee Walking Horse shows, increase penalties for soring a horse, and ban the use of cruel “action devices,” the heavy chains and stacked shoes that exacerbate the pain for sored horses.
A recently introduced “alternative” bill purports to address the problem of horse soring, but instead would have the effect of forever institutionalizing it. The alternative bill would do nothing to improve horse welfare—it would merely maintain the status quo. The ASPCA supports the PAST Act as the only Congressional bill that will make the reforms needed to end horse soring.
Pictured: Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
Capitol Hill was once again the site of some serious human-animal bonding when the ASPCA hosted our annual “Paws for Love” gathering on April 4 along with the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. At least 20 Members of Congress and nearly 1,200 congressional staff members happily interrupted their hectic workdays to cuddle with adorable dogs and cats from local animal shelters and rescues. Attendees learned about the vital work that these compassionate people do for animals every day—both in the nation’s capital and throughout the country.
“The ASPCA and the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus have come together to show our bipartisan ‘love’ for shelter animals,” said Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “We are celebrating the life-saving work of community animal shelters and rescues nationwide and honoring the millions of lovable homeless dogs and cats currently waiting to be adopted.”
Sincere thanks to the wonderful animal rescue organizations that participated in the 2014 Paws for Love:
Animal Welfare League of Arlington Homeward Trails Last Chance Animal Rescue Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation Prince George’s County Animal Shelter Washington Animal Rescue League Washington Humane Society
We are very pleased to announce that the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528) Thursday, bringing this priority legislation an important step closer to final passage in the House.
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL)—the only two veterinarians in Congress—will ensure that veterinarians are able to transport and use medicines while practicing in the field. Interventions by our Field Investigative Response team in animal fighting raids, puppy mill investigations and disaster relief efforts are critical to the ASPCA’s work nationwide. Our mobile veterinarians must travel to many unpredictable locations, and their ability to provide often life-saving veterinary care for animal victims in crises is absolutely necessary.
This bill is critical to rural and large-animal veterinarians, as well as veterinarians who provide at-home hospice care for family pets. The capacity to care for animals, regardless of location, is vital to their work. We at the ASPCA have worked hard for its passage, bringing a very large coalition of animal welfare groups together to support its forward motion and spearheading conversations about its pathway in the troubled waters of a Congress not known for swift legislative activity.
The Senate version of the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act already passed, unanimously, in January. Let’s all work together now to get this bill over the finish line! Contact your Representative today and ask him or her to support and cosponsor H.R. 1528 if they have not done so already. We will push for a House floor vote. On behalf of the mobile and field veterinarians, and the animals they care for, thank you for your help!