April 14, 2016

New York Animal Advocates, Lawmakers Gather in Albany for Voices for Animals Day

New York Animal Advocates, Lawmakers Gather in Albany for Voices for Animals Day

State Assembly Member David G. McDonough, one of several legislators addressing nearly 60 animal advocates visiting the state capital for the ASPCA’s “New York Voices for Animals Day,” asked them: “Who gives you more love, your spouse or your children?”

He then answered his own question: “Your pet.”

Assembly Member McDonough should know. He has had five dogs and three cats over the years—all members of his family, he said. 

“Animal advocates are the most passionate group in this state,” Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal told the group. “I get more mail from them than from any other group. It’s a testament to your tenacity.”  

New York Animal Advocates, Lawmakers Gather in Albany for Voices for Animals Day

Rosenthal, who just one day earlier attended the ASPCA’s 150th anniversary celebration in New York City, walked lobbyists through legislation she authored (A.6770-B) which provides tax credits to citizens who adopt from an animal shelter.

Tamara B., an ASPCA volunteer visiting Albany for her third time, put the tax credit bill first on her list of priorities to discuss with senators and assembly members. “It’s good to have an incentive to adopt,” said Tamara, also a participant in the ASPCA’s anniversary adoption events the day before.

The ASPCA’s Bill Ketzer, Senior Director of Government Relations for the northeast region, explained the day’s other priority bills and coached participants on how to engage legislators and staff. “Establishing a connection with your legislative office and your elected official is a wonderful, rewarding experience,” he said.

Dr. Jessica S., a veterinarian at Capital District Veterinary Referral Hospital, a 24-hour emergency and critical care animal hospital in Albany, hoped for such an experience when she took a day off from work for her first-ever visit to the capitol. “I’m here to give animals a voice and want the legislature to pass laws that improve the welfare of animals,” she said. Jessica also shared her veterinary experiences with her legislators.

Deborah B. of Long Island, another lobby day first-timer, drove to Albany the previous day with her dog and stayed in a pet-friendly hotel. “I wanted to see how this process works and try and make a difference,” she said.

New York Animal Advocates, Lawmakers Gather in Albany for Voices for Animals Day

Roughly half of the attendees were first-time citizen lobbyists, and they appreciated the time that some legislators took to share their stories.

Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski talked to advocates about his legislation to prohibit dog breed-discriminatory housing policies (A.2065) and provide adequate shelter for dogs left outdoors (A.2059). “Breed discrimination perpetuates the stigma,” said Zebrowski, who fostered and adopted a pit bull from a local shelter. “Every living thing deserves common decency.”

“People shouldn’t have to choose between having a roof over their heads and having a pet,” added Brad Shear, Executive Director of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, one of the event’s hosts. “Policies like this negatively impact local shelters.”

Shear told the group that legislators “are just like us. They have cats that don’t use litter boxes and dogs with behavior problems.”

Libby Post, Executive Director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, explained, “Legislators are our public servants. We elect them, and it’s important they hear your voices. They need to know how you feel about animal legislation.”

New York Animal Advocates, Lawmakers Gather in Albany for Voices for Animals Day
Scout, a 3-year-old pug available for adoption at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society

“What you do is a key part of the process,” added Assembly Member Zebrowski. “You’re collaborating to give a voice to those who don’t have a voice.”