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February 07, 2013

Getting Engaged – Passing Laws for Animals

Social reform isn’t self-executing – it takes work. On the legislative front – just one small part of The HSUS’ strategic matrix – we’ve seen major progress in the last two decades. States have enacted felony-level penalties for dogfighting, cockfighting, and other forms of malicious cruelty; the first laws to ban extreme confinement of animals on factory farms; measures to ban wildlife abuses like the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, bear baiting and hounding, captive hunts, shark finning, and other wildlife abuses; humane standards for commercial dog breeding on puppy mills; and spay-and-neuter financing programs. In the last eight years, The HSUS and its affiliates have helped to pass or upgrade 696 animal protection laws – that’s nearly 100 per year. That marks, collectively, an enormous fortification of the legal framework for animals in our society.

AZHLD
Sherrie Buzby
Advocates assemble at the state capital for the 2013
Arizona Humane Lobby Day

This work must continue because there are so many forms of abuse and so many problems to correct. This year we expect to see a wide range of reforms considered, and, we hope, adopted. To help that process along, our HSUS state directors organize Humane Lobby Days at state capitols in about 40 states. This year, advocates have rallied in multiple states, with HSUS members in Arizona and Montana pushing for stronger laws against animal fighting, and in Virginia they called for a ban on dogs attacking foxes and coyotes in enclosed pens. It’s amazing that laws don’t already exist or are insufficient, but that’s precisely why The HSUS, and its sister organization, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, are so vital to our cause and, more fundamentally, to the workings of a civil society.

So far this year five states are considering anti-whistleblower legislation, in an attempt to prevent exposing abuses and criminal behavior. Last year, lawmakers in Iowa, Missouri, and Utah passed similar laws to thwart undercover investigations of unacceptable and illegal conduct. As we make gains in exposing cruelty or arresting animal abusers, we see more backlash, and expect at least a dozen states to consider similar bills this year.

It’s also important to know how your state measures up on animal protection. Last month I blogged on The HSUS’ State Humane Rankings, which provides a snapshot of how the states stack up on animal protection policies, and it also provides a roadmap for advocates on what needs to be done in the years ahead.

The HSUS cannot do this work without you. We need every citizen to be engaged and to make the right choices. In this case, that means getting involved politically and advocating for good policies to help animals and to fight efforts to turn back the clock or to block exposure and examination of the problems we have in society. Don’t be a bystander. Get involved. Animals don’t have a voice - they need you. Go to our state pages and learn more about what’s happening in your state, and please get involved with our campaigns and initiatives.

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