HSVMA Seeking Veterinary Professionals for Humane Lobby Day and Other Advocacy Opportunities
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 05:35 PM

January 18, 2012

By Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA
HSVMA Veterinary Consultant

As a small animal practitioner in northern California, my clinical work involves helping my animal patients on a one-on-one basis. Throughout the year, I also look for opportunities to express my support for animals on a broader level. An effective and efficient way to do this is to get involved in supporting state and federal animal welfare legislation since legislators view veterinary professionals as experts in animal health and welfare issues.

Opportunities to advocate include submitting legislative support or opposition letters from a veterinary perspective and testifying at hearings. There is also the opportunity to participate in Humane Lobby Day activities organized in most states annually by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). For example, I was part of an HSVMA veterinary team that participated in the Humane Lobby Day in California in April 2011, during which we successfully lobbied for the creation of a statewide veterinary medical exemption from rabies vaccination for sick and immune-compromised dogs. I view lobbying as an activity that involves educating legislators about an animal-related issue at hand, communicating my position from both a veterinary perspective and that of a citizen constituent, and advocating for a particular desirable legislative outcome on behalf of the animals who cannot speak for themselves. It is a challenge to try to clearly, concisely and persuasively communicate just how my professional and personal experiences shape and inform my stances on the legislation at hand. I’ve had the pleasure of lobbying alongside veterinarian colleagues, veterinary technicians, veterinary students, and even some of my clients and neighbors numerous times over the years while speaking to representatives on both sides of an issue. Here in California, we’ve often interacted with members of the state’s Animal Protection Caucus, a bi-partisan group of legislators patterned after a similar group on the federal level. At times our lobbying activity has even led to meetings in the Governor’s offices.

Humane Lobby Day

A typical schedule for a Humane Lobby Day event is a morning Lobbying 101 mini-course providing an overview of the lobbying process and the pending legislation, followed by afternoon breakout sessions during which teams of advocates visit three or four legislative offices, meeting district representatives and their staffers to lobby for our positions. The day may end with an optional networking event or Humane Happy Hour. I cannot over-emphasize the value of a veterinary professional presence at Humane Lobby Days. Legislators and their staffers are impressed by our attendance and appreciative of hearing first-hand our professional rationales for supporting, or opposing, legislation that concerns animals. Humane Lobby Days are an excellent way for welfare-focused veterinary professionals to make a significant difference in a concentrated period of time. For those veterinary professionals who are not able to participate in a Lobby Day activity, submitting letters in support of or in opposition to animal-related legislation also carries significant weight. And we often need veterinary professionals to present testimony at hearings on key legislative issues (note: We try to provide as much advance notice as possible for this latter opportunity, although legislative calendars can change).

How to Get Involved

Among many others, Humane Lobby Days are scheduled in Washington, Ohio and New York states in February, March and April, respectively. Please consider participating in a Humane Lobby Day in your state this year. We also plan to set up HSVMA veterinary lobbying teams for 2012 Humane Lobby Days in certain states; please email [email protected] if you are interested in joining a team. Please also let us know if you are willing to submit legislative letters or provide testimony at legislative hearings. For more general information about Humane Lobby Days and specific details about the Humane Lobby Days in your state, visit the Humane Lobby Days page on the HSUS website. For specific information about your state’s Humane Lobby Day, click on your state in the map provided. Then, to get more details about the event, click the "RSVP" button. You can also find more information about upcoming Humane Lobby Days on the HSUS Facebook events page.