A “Golden” Opportunity for Animal Advocacy

June 19, 2014
by Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA, HSVMA Veterinary Advisor

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A few of the HSVMA participants at this year's Humane Lobby Day in California pose with the bear statue just outside Governor Jerry Brown's office.
Pam Runquist/HSVMA

On Wednesday, June 11, more than 100 animal advocates from across California gathered at the Capitol in Sacramento for Humane Lobby Day 2014. The annual event, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, offers an opportunity for citizens to communicate their support—or their concerns—about pending animal-related bills to their state legislators. Organizations partnering with The HSUS to support this year’s event included HSVMA, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, ASPCA, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Raptors are the Solution, WildCare, the Fund for Animals the SPCAs of Sacramento, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz, and Yolo and the Marin Humane Society.

Among the citizen lobbyists was an HSVMA team that included several veterinary professionals who advocated in our dual roles as constituents and experts on animal health and welfare issues. Joining me on the HSVMA team were Dr. Paula Kislak, President of the HSVMA Board of Directors; Pam Runquist, HSVMA Director of Advocacy/Policy; Erin Luebkeman, HSVMA Student Outreach Coordinator; Dr. Chumkee Aziz, UC Davis Veterinary School Shelter Medicine Resident, and three UC Davis veterinary students: Virginia Butler (Class of 2016), Danielle Duran (2015), and Hai Nguyen (2014); and Elisa Martin, an RVT in private practice. Learn what the participants had to say about the experience»

This year our Lobby Day advocacy was focused on supporting one bill and opposing two others.

  • Animal advocates supported Assembly Bill 2657, a bill that would prevent the use of second-generation anti-coagulant rodenticides (SGARs) in environmentally sensitive areas of California. Not only do these rodenticides cause inhumane death of target rodents by intractable bleeding, but also non-target animals, including family pets, and wildlife species such as raptors and mammals—some of whom are rare and endangered—can suffer secondary toxicity and death. This bill has passed the California Assembly and is pending in the Senate Environmental Quality committee.
  • We voiced opposition to Assembly Bill 2075, a bill that would continue waiver of a law passed in 1970 prohibiting importation of threatened alligators or crocodiles for commercial uses. A waiver of this law was granted in 2006. AB 2075 would grant another five-year extension. California’s consumers deserve to be able to avoid unwittingly purchasing products made from these endangered animals. This bill passed the California Assembly as well as the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. It is pending on the Senate Floor.
  • We also opposed Assembly Bill 2268, legislation that would have eased restrictions on sport hunting of wild pigs in California. Although feral pigs are known to damage agricultural lands and wildlife habitat, the bill did not take a rational, cohesive, and humane approach to managing the population. Two days after Humane Lobby Day, the bill’s author, Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, pulled it. It is likely that the opposition to the bill voiced during Humane Lobby Day was instrumental in this turnaround.

The sixth-annual Humane Lobby Day began with a welcome and overview of the day, followed by a panel of experts addressing “Rodenticides: Menace to Rodents, Pets and Wildlife.” This panel provided attendees with additional background information for their support of Assembly Bill 2657.

Attendees then visited the Humane California Fair on the Capitol lawn, where they talked with representatives of various Humane Lobby Day partner organizations, including HSVMA. The afternoon was devoted to meetings by all participants at the offices of their own two Assembly and Senate district members. Our HSVMA team also visited approximately 25 additional Senate and Assembly offices, with a focus placed on lobbying legislators who have historically been less supportive of animal protection legislation. Some of us stayed after the event to talk about our lobbying experiences during a Humane Happy Hour.

California ranks first in animal protection legislation, and we are fortunate to have such an important opportunity to advocate on behalf of the animals in our state every year. We extend a heartfelt “thank you!” to all our veterinary lobby team members, and to those Californians who were unable to attend Humane Lobby Day this year—please join us in 2015!

If you are interested in participating in a Humane Lobby Day in your state as part of an HSVMA veterinary team, please contact us at advocacy@hsvma.org and we will keep you posted about future lobby days.

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Thank you to the HSVMA team at California's Humane Lobby Day 2014!
Pam Runquist/HSVMA

Feedback from Our HSVMA 2014 Humane Lobby Day Team

Chumkee Aziz, DVM | Shelter Medicine Resident, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

I particularly wanted to participate in Humane Lobby Day 2014, because I wanted to expose our veterinary students to what the role of a veterinarian can be when it comes to animal welfare. We have a professional voice we can contribute to the movement that has the potential to help animals of all kinds, which is what we vow to do when we become veterinarians. Thank you for inviting us to this event. It was inspiring to see people from varying backgrounds come together for a cause that is so fundamental, to ensure that all animals are protected from unneeded suffering.


Virginia Butler, JD | UC Davis Veterinary Student and Legislative Liaison, Class of 2016

As veterinary students and professionals, it is important to look further than our hands when it comes to the health and welfare of animals and to use our voices as well. Participating in Humane Lobby Day made me realize that you don’t have to be a professional lobbyist to be on the front lines of legislative change – you just have to be passionate and willing to voice your opinion to your representatives. And as professionals with expertise in animal health and welfare, our voices can be very persuasive.


Paula Kislak, DVM | President, HSVMA Board of Directors

Every year, working in concert with our HSVMA lobbying team, I am reminded of how powerfully our individual voices are amplified when advocating together. Each team member echoes our positions on the issues in their own unique manner—and this deepens and reinforces our messages to the decision-makers at the Capitol. Lobbying against a bad bill can be just as important as lobbying in support of a good one. On animal-related bills, legislators and staff really do listen and greatly appreciate our professional perspectives.


Elisa Martin, RVT | San Francisco SPCA and Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin

I appreciate that HSUS and HSVMA made it possible for me to speak on behalf of animals who cannot speak for themselves. I had a great time during Humane Lobby Day and I would encourage everyone to participate. I will plan on lobbying again next year.