Sittin' Here on Capitol Hill...Posted by Lisa Franzetta, ALDF's Director of Communications on September 21st, 2009
One of my favorite arguments against the notion that animals have rights, in terms of its sheer ridiculousness, sounds something like this—“So what, you want to give dogs the right to vote??” Much as I’d enjoy the scene down at my local polling place if that scenario were to play out, most dogs I’ve met are much more interested in, say, sniffing each other’s butts and those peanut-butter filled rubber toys than in direct engagement in the political process. Animals—get ready for it—can’t vote! Their little paws just can’t reach the levers. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have interests that are very much affected by the laws of our land.
That’s why a big part of ALDF’s work is to act as voice for animals in the political process. We provide resources to help advocates contact their elected officials and suggest guidelines for strategically working with them to help animals. We draft model laws on all sorts of animal related issues, providing lawmakers who want to take up the cause of animal protection with strong foundations for proposing legislation. For instance, in the wake of Michael Vick’s infamous dogfighting conviction, the Virginia legislature passed, and the governor subsequently signed, an ALDF-drafted bill that gives law enforcement stronger tools to go after dogfighting operations.
Sounds simple enough—write a law, find a legislator to support it, and, bingo!—rabblerousing cats in your county are no longer allowed to purchase catnip on Sundays. The truth that you’ll hear from any animal advocate who has done the painstaking work of lobbying for animals in their state capital or in the federal government, though, is that passing good laws for animals can be a true exercise in patience. Bills die in session, are killed in committees—it’s carnage out there for would-be animal protection laws! It’s vitally important work—but those who take it on know they’ll be digging in their heels for a long battle. The other day, I was reading up on “Bark the Vote!” a South Dakota group who is pushing for a felony law in their state. (That’s right—along with a handful of other states, South Dakota has no felony cruelty law, meaning that no matter how violently a criminal there abuses or tortures an animal, he or she cannot be charged with a felony.) On their website, I came across this brilliant old Schoolhouse Rock video about how an admittedly very hangdog bill becomes a law:
For those of you who, like me, spent much of the 70s and 80s in a trancelike state in front of your television, you’ll probably remember every word. Little did I realize back then I was getting an early lesson in the tenacity required to see a bill through to its victory dance on the steps of the White House.