We, at Humane PA have had the pleasure of watching Melissa Cohen grow from a shy teenage animal lover into a seasoned citizen lobbyist, a young voter hungry to know the issues and work hard to get better laws for animals. Melissa is currently a student at Bucks County Community College and is aiming to be a journalist. We sure hope she does because the animals will have a terrific friend in the media! Melissa has agreed to be a guest blogger for a humane PA and we are very pleased to present her first blog, sharing her experiences at lobby day 2016.
Guest blog by Melissa Cohen
The first time I attended Humane Lobby Day in Harrisburg, the spring of 2012, I was a nervous wreck. I was very shy and anxious – and barely spoke a word when I met with my State Senator and Representative, depending on the adults to do my bidding on behalf of animals. A senior in high school, I had started a club focusing on the protection of animals and at the time, I believed this was the only way I would be able to make a difference for animals. I was wrong – there was, and is, so much more I can do. As a student, and now a young voter, I am a future leader.
Since my first Lobby Day in 2012, I have learned that it is important to make phone calls, write letters and speak to your legislators on Pennsylvania Humane Lobby Day because our legislators want to hear from us. The younger generations can have an enormous impact on their legislators by getting involved.
Four years later and here I am, writing about my experiences with Lobby Day and how these experiences have helped me become a better advocate for animals in our state.
This year on April 4, 2016, I was again given the chance to go to Harrisburg and speak to my legislators about the issue I am most passionate about: the humane treatment of animals. I believe that this year was the most successful as I was finally feeling more comfortable explaining pending animal-related bills to my legislators and why it was important to me that these bills pass. Fortunately, this legislative session has a record breaking number of animal related bills, such as anti-tethering, ending live pigeon shoots and pets in hot cars. We had a lot to talk about.
As a relatively new registered voter, it is great to be given opportunities to speak to legislators so you will know which legislators are in support of animal legislation (and will get my vote) and those who are not (and who won’t get my vote!). It is a very powerful feeling to know that you are a strong voice for animals, in every action that you do in everyday life, whether you are voting, speaking to a legislator about animal legislation or explaining a certain issue regarding animals to a certain friend or family member who may not have known about it.
Personally, I can tell of many incidents where I was explaining to a friend or family member what live pigeon shooting was, something animal advocates have been fighting to end in Pennsylvania for over 26 years. Once you explain issues such as these to a friend or family member, it immediately causes them to go out and take action to help.
I was also given the chance to be on the Lobby Day Planning Team this year which was inspiring. From a scared observer, in 4 short years I am now a participant in the process.
It is always an amazing opportunity to attend PA Humane Lobby Day because you meet so many people who feel the same way that you do about animals. This year also marked the third year that I attended Humane Lobby Day with my mother’s student council of A. Phillip Randolph Career and Technical High School. I had the opportunity to listen to these students speak to one of their legislators and they were mesmerizing and an inspiration. These students remained professional while they spoke, asked their legislators questions and reminded legislators that animal issues are important to our future.
As Kristen Tullo, the PA State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, mentioned to me a few weeks ago when she visited these students at their school, they are our future leaders and they understand why it is important for animals to be included in their everyday lives.
Although I am no longer a teenager, I am still learning how to advocate effectively for animals. Lobby Day is a great learning experience for young people and new voters and I hope more of my peers attend in the future. It is a terrific introduction to our political process and how we can make change by speaking up. And, it is also very empowering to share the day with so many other people who care about animals. I declare Lobby Day 2016 a huge success and look forward to next year!