I attended the annual "Humane Lobbying Day" last month in Raleigh, where 75+ animal supporters gathered to be briefed on pending legislation and speak about animal issues with their representatives. Our contingent went into the gallery of the State Senate to be recognized and show lawmakers how many voters turned out on behalf of animal issues. I was very unprepared to see lawmakers wearing both lime green and pink seersucker suits.
The state of animal law in NC is not good. Here is my rough understanding: Two years ago, with Democrats in the majority, the State Senate passed puppy mill legislation by one vote (only one Republican voted for it), but it died in committee in the General Assembly because a Democrat thought it was too divisive to bring to a vote. Amazingly, the pork lobby vigorously fought this legislation simply because they dislike the Humane Society (a supporter of the bill) and believe puppy mills are just a stepping stone to pig regulation. North Carolina remains one of the few states that has no laws regulating dog breeding. Susie's law, a bill increasing the penalties for animal abuse, was signed into law in 2010 however.
After a majority of Republicans was elected to the state legislature in the 2010 election (the first time in 100 years!), things looked very bleak. Our lobbying group could only push for a strong study of puppy mill, since there was no chance of a bill getting through. There was also no other animal legislation that was even being considered, so we were left with the much less satisfying task of telling our lawmakers generally about important issues like canned hunts that should be legislated in the future. My representative, Verla Insko from Chapel Hill, was out of her office when I stopped by so I left some literature on the issues, but I highly doubt a lawmaker from Chapel Hill is anything but supportive on animal issues. The more critical lawmakers to reach are from the more conservative and rural ares of NC, or centrists on the fence on this issue.
The upside is the first Animal PAC was recently created (NC Voters for Animal Welfare- write them a big check!), and that there a lot of passionate people and organizations working tirelessly on this issue. I also think there is a lot of untapped resources within the SALDFs (and other student animal groups) to start being very vocal on these issues and make the case to lawmakers (especially Republicans), that animal issues are not partisan, and many voters care about these issues immensely.
And an unexpected update came as I was writing this post. One of the worst puppy mills in the state was raided in Brunswick County, where officials found 126 dogs and 25 cats in two trailers that had no electricity. The conditions of the animals were devastating. A Republican state lawmaker from Brunswick County, Jason Saine, spoke out against puppy mills and promised to introduce a bill regulating dog breeders this January. SALDF will be intently watching to see where lawmakers stand on this issue.
There is a lot going on at the federal level, and plenty going on outside of the political world. I attended a great fundraiser along with the SALDF Vice President, Stephanie Mellini, for Humane Carolina which does a lot in the triangle for animals, and we sat next to the attorney that runs SALDF's favorite law firm dedicated to animals (the Gerber Animal Law Center). SALDF is also gearing up for our fall events which includes guest speakers, an interactive event in the quad, and our second annual animal law symposium. I wrote this post in part to show incoming students that SALDF remains active year-round. Drop us a line if you have any questions or ideas, or come to the interest meeting on September 17 at noon!
Posted by Zachary S. Ferguson (Zach) on Thu. August 16, 2012 8:40 PM
Events: General Meeting