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
Just like fad diets for humans, popular diets for your pets come and go. However, there’s one particular pet diet trend that gives us pause: ASPCA experts say raw food diets for pets that include raw meat, eggs and milk may be dangerous for your furry friends. We typically recommend that pet parents opt for well-balanced, high-quality commercial and cooked foods instead.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees. In studies published in AVMA’s journal, homemade and commercial raw food diets for dogs and cats were found to contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, just to name a few. Other tests showed that unprocessed food diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies or excess that can cause serious illnesses in pets. Also, pets chewing on raw bones can lead to obstruction or perforation of their gastrointestinal tracts, and fractured teeth.
If you don’t want to feed your dog or cat a commercial diet, consider a homemade diet that will diminish the risks of foodborne illnesses. These meals should be thoroughly cooked and need to be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist or by your veterinarian to make sure they’re nutritionally sound.
If you are passionate about feeding your pet raw foods, please consider the following tips.
Work with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet’s diet is nutritionally balanced.
Avoid feeding raw foods in homes with babies and toddlers (who put lots of things in their mouths), the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Practice regular hand washing before and after feeding pets.
Practice appropriate disposal methods when cleaning up pet feces.
“Pit Bull.” There is no other breed of dog—or arguably, any other animal at all—whose mere mention can elicit such strong opinions. Try a word-associate game with your friends: Ask them what they think of when you say “Pit Bull.” Chances are that by the numbers, their responses will be more negative than positive. And it’s no wonder: No other type of dog is as widely banned from housing, legislated against, or incorrectly vilified by the media.
How did we get here? Pit Bulls were once widely considered ideal family pets—affectionate, loyal and gentle with children. But in recent years, these dogs have suffered tremendously from a combination of overbreeding, bad publicity and irresponsible owners. In reality, the overwhelming majority of Pits and Pit mixes are sweet goofballs who have gotten a very bad rap.
Genevra Pittman visited the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City hoping to find a perfect companion for her cat Lulu. She succeeded, adopting a shy kitty named Wes. It didn’t take long for Wes to break out of his shell and join the family. Pittman shared the following story with us:
In early August 2012, we came back to the ASPCA to look for a companion for our 5-year-old cat Lulu. She was getting a little crazy while we were at work all day and needed a companion.
After meeting with all the cats that were known to get along with other kitties, we decided to take a chance and go for a very shy little guy, whom we named Wes. The staff told us that Wes, just under a year old, was rescued from a hoarding situation and might always be shy.
At first, Wes was so shy and scared that we lost track of him when he crawled into spots in our bedroom we didn't know existed. He would shake uncontrollably if he didn't have a shelter to hide in.
Slowly, Wes became more adventurous: He'd take a few steps out of his hiding spot, look around, and then retreat. Within a few days, Wes tried to escape the bedroom to explore the apartment. He rubbed against our legs and played with a catnip ball. He found quiet spots around the apartment to nap, and tried to steal Lulu's food.
Now, Wes never forgets to remind us when it's dinner time. Sometimes he'll nap while being cradled like a baby and scratched under the chin. He loves attention, cuddling, sleeping on our bed, waiting outside the bathroom door while we shower and kicking a tin foil ball madly around the living room. Sometimes he chases himself around the apartment and gets Lulu to play along. Our shoes are never where we left them when we get home because he uses them to hide behind when he's found something—usually a ball—to pounce on.
Wes seems to have found a home where he feels safe and happy, and we couldn't be happier to have him.
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.