A Capital Change for Animals

August 31, 2012

by Heather Rally

Heather Rally and HSVMA staff at 2012 California Humane Lobby Day
Heather Rally (right) joined HSVMA staff at the California Humane Lobby Day in June 2012.

This past June, more than one hundred animal advocates from the state of California gathered in Sacramento for Humane Lobby Day. This event, organized by The Humane Society of the United States and co-sponsored by the ASPCA, brought together concerned citizens from all districts of California to lobby in support of several animal protection bills that were currently under consideration by the California State Assembly and Senate. As a veterinary student from Western University of Health Sciences and a life-long resident of California, I was eager for an opportunity to assist in whatever capacity possible to have these bills passed for the protection of animals in my state.

Upon arrival in Sacramento, we were briefed on the bills of interest and told that we were scheduled to meet later that afternoon with the offices of our district legislators, both Assembly and Senate members. At first I was a bit intimidated at the thought of meetings with high-profile politicians as I had no real concept of what capacity I could possibly have to influence the political process. As the morning progressed, however, those fears were replaced with confidence. Representatives from The HSUS and ASPCA took us on a step-by-step overview of the lobbying process and provided resources to give us a solid understanding of our role therein. This included an introduction to our individual district representatives, as well as their political opinions and voting history. I was excited to learn that my very own district senator, Fran Pavley, was the author of one of the bills that was introduced to protect pets in rental agreements. This bill, SB 1229, which is cosponsored by HSVMA and The Paw Project, seeks to make it illegal for homeowners to require tenants to declaw or debark their pets as a condition of occupancy. Armed with this knowledge and the necessary tools, I approached the meeting with confidence and excitement. After being well-received by the offices of Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Mike Feuer, I was filled with a sense of appreciation and pride for my local government that had been previously unrecognized.

I am proud to be a resident in a state that has continually raised the bar on animal welfare issues in this country, but I have come to realize that it is not the state alone that makes this place special, it is the people. We often feel hesitant to get involved in local or national government issues because of a lack of expertise in a particular area or unfamiliarity with the political process. What I learned in Sacramento is that the process is not intimidating when you realize that you have a network of support and, most importantly, that your voice really does matter. In the eyes of your local representatives, your voice holds value not because of expertise, but by virtue of the fact that you are willing to use it.

I am always searching to find the best outlet through which to make my voice heard and to subsequently effect change in the world. At Humane Lobby Day, I learned not only that lobbying at my State Capitol can make a tangible difference for animals, but I was able to witness and begin to understand how that process actually works. I feel as if I have been instilled with the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to turn my passion for animal welfare into a political force. We all possess the means and desire to provide a voice for animals who cannot speak for themselves, but the vehicle is only as good as the road map. Humane Lobby Day left me with yet another powerful tool that will help me to serve animals for the rest of my career.

Heather Rally
Heather Rally

Heather Rally is a third year veterinary student at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. She was born and raised in Southern California by a family that recognized and fostered her inherent love for animals from an early age. After attending high school in Santa Monica where her fascination for science and the outdoors flourished, Heather continued on to pursue a BS in Biological Sciences at the University of California Santa Barbara. During her undergraduate studies, she found her passion for veterinary medicine while working as a technician at a small animal practice. Recognizing an opportunity to fuse a career path in veterinary medicine with her love of the ocean, she transitioned out of the clinic to pursue internships in the California marine mammal stranding network. Since her acceptance into veterinary school, Heather has had the pleasure of working with seals, sea lions and dolphins on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Through this work, she developed a strong interest in animal welfare and environmental conservation, with an emphasis on the health of the ocean and its inhabitants. She has pursued activism and advocacy in these areas to promote public awareness through non-profit work, independent journalism, and film.