Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Posted on February 26, 2003

Once upon a time, Texas attorney Robert “Skip” Trimble raced horses. Now he rescues them.

“I’m a former animal abuser,” Trimble says. “I used to own racehorses,
raise roping steers, hunt and eat meat. I’ve probably done it all. But
that’s changed.”

Changed so much, in fact, that today Trimble is a busy animal advocate — and the chairman of the ALDF Board of Directors.

Since packing up his hunting rifles and retiring his racehorses
to a private ranch in the early 1990s, Trimble has devoted himself to
animal causes and campaigns. He’s helped establish spay/neuter clinics
and programs in his home state, served on the boards of several animal
advocacy organizations, offered pro bono legal advice to even more
animal groups and been awarded the HSUS Legislative Achievement Award,
the PAWS Volunteer of the Year Award, the Operation Kindness Humane
Award and the PETA Activist Award.

Yet growing up near Dallas in the ’50s and ’60s, Trimble never gave the
treatment of animals much thought or encountered anyone who did.

“It just wasn’t on my radar screen, to tell you the truth,” he says. “I
liked animals, but that’s as far as it went. I was totally unaware of
the issues.”

Trimble’s eyes were opened in 1992 by a random dinner
conversation. One evening friends in Ruidoso, N.M., told him about a
new town ordinance that encouraged spaying and neutering by discounting
registration fees for companion animals that had undergone the

“I asked them if Dallas would have the same animal population
problem as Ruidoso, and they said, ‘Oh yeah. Ten times over,'” Trimble
recalls. “So I came back here and found a group that was trying to get
a similar ordinance passed and I joined them.”

Though spay/neuter programs remained Trimble’s focus in the
early days of his volunteer work, it didn’t take long for his new
comrades to educate him on other animal issues, as well.

“They started telling me about vivisection and circuses and
farming abuses and everything else,” Trimble says. “The more I learned,
the more I wanted to do something.”

In 1994, Trimble attended his first animal rights conference —
where he first encountered ALDF. An attorney with a law degree from
Southern Methodist University, Trimble was immediately drawn to the
idea of using the courts to help animals.

“The laws need to change if animals are going to be given the
respect they’re due on this earth, and there’s nobody better equipped
to change laws than lawyers,” he says.

Trimble became an ALDF volunteer almost immediately. After six
years as an active board member, he was elected board chair last year.
He also has kept busy with several other animal advocacy groups,
including the Texas Humane Legislation Network, which recently launched
an effort to shut down the last slaughterhouses in America that kill
horses for human consumption. Though the market for horsemeat is
primarily overseas, the plants are located in Texas, which prompted
Trimble to do a little research.

“I found that Texas has a state law that says you can’t sell, offer for
sale or exhibit for sale horsemeat for human consumption and that you
can’t transfer it to anyone who intends to do any of those things,” he
says. “I started making inquiries and I couldn’t find anybody who could
tell me why these plants weren’t being prosecuted. So I asked a member
of the state legislature to go get the state attorney general’s opinion
on this, and what we heard back was that the law applied to these
plants even though the consumption was taking place elsewhere.”

With that legal opinion from the attorney general in hand,
local district attorneys prepared to take action. Though the plants
have managed to delay prosecution by seeking a federal injunction,
Trimble hopes to see the slaughterhouses shut down in the months ahead.
If they are, it will be thanks largely to his efforts.

Obviously, for a former “animal abuser,” Trimble has come a long way.

“Making the changes in my life wasn’t hard, once I knew the truth,” he
says. “I’m confident that society can change, too. That’s why it’s so
satisfying and exciting to be involved with ALDF. We’re pushing that
change forward, into more laws and more lives. And that’s going to
result in a world with a lot less suffering in it.”

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