The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 28, 2013

IHS students learn to lobby for animal rights

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

SOPHIA — The West Virginia State Director for the Humane Society of the United States visited Independence High School Tuesday evening to discuss how to successfully lobby for animal rights.

Summer Wyatt stressed to everyone at the meeting — don’t be intimidated by government officials.

“We vote them in and we can vote them out.”

She said legislators who are seeking re-election are more likely to vote based on the preferences of the majority of the voters.  

“It’s not enough just to vote. Have a say so. Talk to your representatives.”

She posed the question, “Why work on legislation for animals?

“When we pass laws about animal rights, we’re legitimizing animal protection. There are many rules we would not follow if they were not tangible in written laws. Even if your law doesn’t get passed, it can still raise awareness.”

Although Wyatt was specifically referencing animal welfare legislation, she said these pointers can be applicable to any issue someone is passionate about.

“It’s important for you to be knowledgeable about what’s going on. Make your voice heard.”

She urged everyone to know what bills are going to be presented and to contact their local legislators and share their thoughts and opinions.

“Don’t be intimidated by the process.”

She mentioned several bills that will be presented soon, including a “puppy mill bill” that will enforce regulations beyond supplying a breeding dog with food, water and shelter. In addition to those basic necessities, the breeders must make sure the dogs get exercise, veterinary care and sign up with their county and register as a business.

“It would provide a higher standard of care.”

She also discussed a spay/neuter bill that would create a fund to decrease pet overpopulation.

Some victories over the past years include the passing of a bill requiring all pets adopted from shelters to be spayed or neutered, the banning of gas chambers for euthanization at shelters, the addition of a bittering agent in antifreeze to deter small children and animals from the harmful chemical, and cross-reporting domestic violence and animal cruelty when animals or children are present in the same home.

For more information about legislators, visit www.legis.state.wv.us, which Wyatt said is a very user-friendly site.

She also recommended checking out www.fohowv.org, the website for the Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia.

For further information, contact Summer Wyatt at swyatt@humanesociety.org.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com