October 31, 2007
|Dressed as his namesake, Yoda was |
ready to party on Capitol Hill.
Listen to the call (6.6 MB)
Animal advocates in 31 states and the District of Columbia gathered at the Humane Society Legislative Fund's Party Animals events Oct. 28 to show support for eradicating dogfighting and to lend crucial backing to other pro-animal legislative efforts.
All across America, many in attendance at local parties took the opportunity to also show their Halloween spirit, assuring that the most recent round of Party Animals can only be characterized as a spook-tacular success.
Guiding the festivities was HSLF President Michael Markarian, who opened the nationwide conference call by outlining HSLF's priorities, including efforts to eradicate dogfighting in the United States and to help get humane candidates elected to offices all across the country.
Putting an End to Dogfighting
One of the leaders in the fight against dogfighting is U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D-13th/Ohio). Sutton joined Markarian on the call from animal advocate Susan Sedenik's party in Euclid, Ohio, where HSLF Executive Director Sara Amundson was also in attendance. Spurred on by the indictment of NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his involvement in sponsoring a dogfighting ring in Virginia, Rep. Sutton introduced the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act (H.R. 3219) in the House this past July to ensure that anybody who knowingly sponsors, exhibits an animal in or attends a dogfighting venture can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
"The Michael Vick indictment dominated the headlines and, sadly, the evidence suggested that tens of thousands of Americans are involved in dog fights across the country," said Rep. Sutton on Sunday night's conference call.
Animal advocate and Akron, Ohio constituent Aurora Cooney asked Rep. Sutton about what people can do to further the cause of ending dogfighting in the United States.
Rep. Sutton implored animal advocates to contact their representatives in support of the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act, and also to contact their senators in support of U.S. Senator John Kerry's (D-Mass.) companion legislation, S. 1880.
"[Dogfighting] is a thirst for blood we have to extinguish once and for all," said Sutton.
|HSLF Executive Director Sara Amundson,|
party host Susan Sedenik and Rep. Betty
Sutton (L-R) in Euclid, Ohio.
Congresswoman Sutton told advocates about recent dogfighting busts in Ohio, like the March arrest of 27 people -- including three juveniles -- for running a dogfighting ring in Dayton.
Said Rep. Sutton, "[The Dog Fighting Prohibition Act] is a piece of legislation that is going to help federal prosecutors engage in successful prosecutions and breaking up of these rings for the sake of the animals, and for the sake of a humane society."
From Congress to Hollywood
Markarian then directed the call from Ohio out to California, where recent events have helped demonstrate how effective legislation can impact animals' lives.
Along with outlining HSLF's work on federal legislation like the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act and its work in state legislatures across the country on similar disaster evacuation plans, Markarian told advocates about what HSLF's parent organization -- The Humane Society of the United States -- has been doing to provide support to animal rescuers and citizens battling the recent wildfires in southern California.
"Our hearts and our thoughts are with all of the victims of the tragic wildfires in southern California," said Markarian.
Markarian then welcomed actress Emily Deschanel, who stars as Dr. Temperance Brennan on FOX's hit TV show "Bones," to the call and invited her to speak about being an animal advocate.
Deschanel spoke to advocates about the importance of educating people and building on the public awareness generated from events such as Hurricane Katrina, the California wildfires, and the Michael Vick indictment.
Speaking about dogfighting in particular, Deschanel said, "It's an important thing to look at the Michael Vick case as an opportunity, again, for something good to come out of something atrocious."
Deschanel described how inspired she was to know that there were so many like-minded compassionate people out there working to end dogfighting, but reminded everyone: "We have so much to do. We have a society that is accepting dogfighting in this way. We need these laws to be in place so that people can be punished for doing these horrible things to animals."
When it comes to being an animal advocate, Deschanel takes the responsibility very seriously.
"As an actor, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to be a voice for those who need it,” says Deschanel. "I’m always pushing for animal issues to be discussed on the show because we have a lot of young viewers. If we can get young people and educate and inspire them to do something about what's going on, that gives me a lot of hope… just like all these people tonight have given me a lot of hope."
|"Best animal costume" winner Kathleen |
Kimble made the trip from Pennsylvania
to attend the DC party.
Getting Out the Vote
Following Deschanel's appearance on the call, Markarian heard from animal advocate Mary Morgan, on the call from Lees Summit, Mo. Morgan inquired about what criteria HSLF uses to determine which candidates to endorse in an election.
Markarian outlined the process, which can include studying an incumbent's record on animal protection legislation and candidates' responses to a questionaire sent by HSLF, which outlines what HSLF's agenda is at the federal or state levels.
"We don't expect anybody to be perfect on our issues," said Markarian. "We compare the candidates to each other and we look at who we think would be the best candidates for animals.
"We are completely non-partisan," Markarian continued. "We don't look at party affiliation, we don't look at where people stand on other social issues... We believe that animal protection is a mainstream American value, that it's a bipartisan cause."
In 2006, in HSLF's first foray into political work, 86% of HSLF-endorsed candidates in the U.S. Senate and 91% of HSLF-endorsed candidates in the U.S. House were elected to the Congress. All in all, 24 of the 28 U.S. Senate candidates endorsed by HSLF were victorious, and 274 of the 301 HSLF-backed U.S. House candidates were elected to the 110th Congress.
As Rep. Sutton said when talking to animal advocates all across America, "People like me can't get to Congress, and can't get to do the work we need to do for the animals across this country, without the help of you."
Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 519 C Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.