Blog by Elissa Katz, President, Humane PA PAC
I am still riding the high from Lobby Day and – based on the emails, Facebook and other social media comments – so are many of you! When animal advocates from all corners of the state converged on Harrisburg on April 20th, we sent a strong message to our legislators and their staffs: we demonstrated that anti-cruelty issues are such a priority that we cared enough to meet with them on their own turf.
Over 100 Pennsylvanians attended Humane Lobby Day 2015 and exercised their skills as citizen lobbyists on behalf of animals. At the outset of the day, the HSUS planners of Lobby Day provided us with all of the training and materials we needed to advocate effectively for anti-cruelty legislation. While there are numerous animal related bills pending this legislative session, we concentrated on SB 715 to ban live pigeon shoots, SB 263 to prohibit the private ownership of dangerous wild animals, SB 373 and HB 481 to limit the continuous tethering of dogs, and HB 164 to ban the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia. At the conclusion of our training, we were set loose to meet with our respective legislators and their staffs.
The success stories were many! For me – I had the pleasure of seeing my wonderful state representative, Madeleine Dean, who can be counted on for her responsiveness and support of humane legislation; I also, along with 3 other Pennsylvania voters, met with my new state senator – and had the opportunity to educate him about the importance of anti-cruelty legislation to his constituents. You can bet I will be following up with him in writing, now that he has a face to connect to my communications!
One of the highlights of the day was when the high school students of A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical High School from Philadelphia met with state representative Pam DiLissio and reported that during their meeting, Representative DeLissio signed on as a cosponsor to a pending humane bill! Kudos to these students, whose heartfelt, knowledgeable advocacy made a difference for animals!
Of course not every participant met with such success. Unfortunately, there remain staunch opponents to anti-cruelty measures in our legislature as well as fence sitters. But, these meetings, although they may have been frustrating and disappointing, were particularly important: Lobby Day presented an opportunity to educate those who are not yet legislative friends of animals as well as to force them to see how important these issues are to the people they serve, and a reminder that their voters are watching them! Seeds of compassion were planted – and who knows what the future will bring!
Lobby Day culminated with a rousing speech by a legislative humane leader, Senator Daylin Leech, and the Humane Legislator of the Year award presentation to Senator Pat Browne, the prime-sponsor of SB 715 and a champion of the ban to end live pigeon shoots. Both of these legislators are effective and relentless advocates for the humane treatment of animals and the animals – and those who care about them – are so very fortunate to have them in Harrisburg! The speeches from both of them are inspiring and worth checking out!
At the conclusion of Lobby Day, participants moved onto the Pawlitics lunch/happy hour hosted by Humane PA PAC at Café Fresco, where Lobby Day stories were shared – and State Representatives Farry and Maher, both stalwart supporters of humane legislation, made appearances. I have special friendships born of and renewed on Lobby Day and the Pawlitics event, fellow advocates from other parts of the state who I look forward to seeing and catching up with. And, given the volume of talking and laughing during Pawlitics, others obviously feel the same way!
If it sounds like the day was enormous fun and a huge success – it was! For those of you who were there, thank you all for making the trip and raising your voices for animals. And for those of you who missed Lobby Day 2015, be assured that there will be a repeat performance next year – and I look forward to seeing you there!
Elissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA PAC and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, Gaudioso & Newlin, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), assisting with cat care and adoption applications at an adoption site. She is also a board member of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.