Posts tagged lobby day

Politics for Animals: Getting involved with politics for animals

lobby-day-2016-5by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

Dec 2016

While many elections quickly fade from our thoughts, our recent election will be with us for decades to come.  Thought leaders around the country, from economists to human rights advocates, warned how electing a president who embodied extreme racism, sexism in its worst form, and a leader displaying pathological narcissism would be a massive step backwards for our country’s progress to pursue a just and humane world.   Likewise, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), a political action committee working for the advancement of animal protection, called the president-elect and his future administration “the greatest threat ever to federal policy-making and implementation of animal protection laws.”

While the presidential results were startling for both humans and animals, this election also came with a reminder that being involved in political action is one of the best ways to help animals.  For example, in this same election, Massachusetts voters approved a new law banning the extreme confinement of farm animals and the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free in the state, per HSLF. This momentous win helps millions of animals in one fell swoop by improving the conditions of millions of egg laying hens, pigs, and veal calves by preventing them from being crammed into cages or crates for their entire lives. And this ballot measure got 78% of the vote in Massachusetts!

Likewise, voters in Oklahoma rejected Question 777 by a 60% margin, which proposed a state constitution amendment to disallow any restrictions on agricultural practices, including efforts to end “puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting” according to HSLF. Thankfully voters spoke up to protect animals.

Finally, in Oregon, voters followed the lead of Washington voters in 2015, by passing Measure 100 which ends trafficking of wildlife, thereby adding a measure of protection for wild animals living under the threat of trophy hunting around the world.

These election results demonstrate the importance and the sweeping scope of participating in our political system.  After-all, despite the warnings, over 90 million registered voters in the United States didn’t vote in the last election, and hence played no part in preventing the outcome of the presidential race.

But it is never too late to get involved. Our voices are needed today to play an on-going role in our political system right here in Washington State to address cruelty issues such as illegal hunting of wildlife, chained dogs, and elephants in traveling circuses. This is our time to get involved and to keep up the momentum of progress for the protection of animals.

In support of that goal, the Humane Society of the United States will be hosting Humane Lobby Day on Wednesday, January 25th in Olympia.  This is our opportunity to collectively make our voices heard for animal protection issues.  At Humane Lobby Day, participants from all over Washington State gather in Olympia to advocate for new laws to protect animals.  Participants first learn about bills being proposed that effect animals, and then meet with their legislators to educate them on the importance of passing such bills or opposing bad bills.

Seattle resident, Sandy Smith, has attended Humane Lobby Day for the last six years and says that it is one of the most effective ways to help animals.

“We may think that we are just one person speaking up,” says Smith, “but ask any legislator, and he or she will tell you that a constituent who comes to Olympia to encourage the passage of a law makes a strong statement for the cause.”

Smith explains that every constituent is technically a lobbyist, and we are actually more influential than a lobbyist hired by an organization. Citizens elect the legislators to represent us, and therefore our voices matter.

“It’s important that people understand that if we don’t talk to our legislators about animal issues, those legislators will only hear from lobbyists who may work against the protection of animals,” explains Smith.

Knowing the power of citizen lobbying, Smith also co-founded a political action committee called the Humane Voters of Washington (HVW) to help citizens speak up for animals.  Smith frequently updates the HVW Facebook Page (facebook.com/humanevoterswa) with action alerts and information on events, including upcoming Humane Lobby Day.  You can start speaking up for animals by ‘liking’ the HVW page, and checking back regularly.

As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently said, “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear…”

This call to action includes our responsibility to speak up for the rights of all people and all animals, and to work toward a more just and humane society.  This is the time to ensure progress is made, not receded, because failure to move forward in a political world where so much is at stake is simply not an option.

For information on Humane Lobby Day, stay tuned to the HSUS Washington page at www.facebook.com/HSUSWashington.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Senators speak up for animals

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Precious the cat

Senator Kohl-Welles

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne & Magnolia News

February 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

With our Washington legislative session underway in Olympia, several Seattle-based senators, as well as animal advocates, are working hard to improve laws that protect animals.

Recently, Sen. Joe Fain of the 47th Legislative District (covering south King County) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 5501, which is intended to strengthen current laws to protect animals and to ensure that animal suffering can be addressed by law enforcement and our courts. The bill must pass the Washington state Senate and House and be signed by the governor before it can take effect. This requires the support of additional legislators and the support of their constituents like us.

 

Bipartisan support

Year-round, animal welfare agencies remind us not to leave our pets in cars because of the risk of death from overheating. SB 5501 would make it a crime “to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack of necessary water.”

This statute also allows law enforcement or an animal control officer to free a distressed animal from a confined space. Currently, individual municipal laws in Washington dictate whether authorities can act if an animal is in danger. If enacted, SB 5501 would allow authorities statewide to enter a car (or a confined space) to rescue an animal without liability for necessary damage done to the car or structure.

Fain explains that California already has a similar law to allow authorities to rescue animals from vehicles, but Washington state does not. He adds that SB 5501 “clarifies the rights of first-responders,” who may need to act immediately to protect an animal’s life.

SB 5501 also broadens our laws against animal fighting in Washington, which currently states that staging fights between dogs or male chickens is a felony. This bill broadens the type of animals that could possibly be involved in fighting.

“The intent of this change to the law is to criminalize organized fights between any animals, not just between male chickens (cockfighting) and between dogs,” explained Rick Hall of the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation, an advocacy group helping to pass SB 5501.

“Fights between dogs and wildlife have been staged in some areas of the country, such as so-called hog-dog fights,” Hall added. “This is a loophole in the law that needs to be addressed.”

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who represents the 36th District of Ballard, Fremont, Magnolia and Queen Anne, explained that she co-sponsored SB 5501 because she believes it is important to strengthen the laws against animal fights and to ensure that our law specifically prohibits bringing a minor to a fight; SB 5501 changes the law to make it a separate offense to bring a minor to an animal fight.

When animal cruelty does occur, it is important that courts can convict offenders, and SB 5501 aims to more clearly define the types of cruelty that are subject to prosecution. Currently, a person can be convicted of felony animal cruelty if he or she injures or kills an animal causing undue suffering.

However, a sad case of a dog killing in 2013, in which a man strapped explosives to his dog and detonated them, killing the dog instantly, created concerns about the law’s application to this case. The concern was that it may be difficult to prosecute because it was difficult to show that the dog suffered when it died so quickly. SB 5501 helps to better define this type of cruelty by including the statement that the perpetrator exhibited an “extreme indifference to life” — a statement taken from homicide laws.

Senator Chase and her dogs, daughter (Carin Chase), and her grandson (Chase Simerka)

Senator Chase and her family

Sen. Maralyn Chase, who represents the 32nd District of North Seattle (Broadview and Bitter Lake), has also co-sponsored SB 5501. She has a long history of working to protect animals, including her own rescue dogs, Ranger and Lucky.

She explained that she frequently works across the aisle on many of the bills she sponsors but adds that animal-related bills are often supported by both parties.

“People love animals,” Chase said. “We get a huge response when we have an animal-related bill.”

Sen. David Frockt of the 46th District (Lake City, Meadowbrook and Wedgwood) has also co-sponsored SB 5501.

 

Voice your support

It is empowering to see how our local senators are speaking up for animals. Before the legislative session ends in late April, we should let our senators and state representatives know that we support animal protection as well. You can email your state legislators or visit them in person by signing up for Humane Lobby Day on Feb. 24, a one-day event sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, and join other advocates to lobby for animal-related bills.

Finally, for those of us with legislators who share our ethos to actively protect animals, it is also important to contact them and thank them for their service.

To attend Humane Lobby Day, visit action.humanesociety.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (livinghumane.com). To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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