1. What was your first experience with animals that had an impact on you?
I’ve been infatuated with animals for as long as I can remember – a trait I’m confident I got from my mother. Our household had all kinds of pets growing up. We could never resist welcoming another furry member to our family. From my earliest memories I had dreams of working with animals: first I wanted to be a zookeeper, then a veterinarian, and now here I am, a federal lobbyist for animal welfare issues.
2. When, how, and why did you first get involved with the animal welfare/rights movement?
There are two distinct memories that stick out in my mind as my earliest inklings that I was meant to be a part of the animal welfare movement. As part of my health class my freshman year of high school, we watched a video on food production, a segment of which showed footage of gestation crates and a mother sow desperately trying to reach her piglets through bars that separated them. I can remember the images like it was yesterday and the realization as to what those animals suffered shook me to my core. I gave up eating pork that very day. The second event was when I decided to write a high school research paper on animal testing – specifically for commercial/cosmetic purposes. I knew nothing about the issue going in and was horrified by what I learned. I specifically remember learning about the Draize eye testing done on rabbits, a procedure where product is applied to the eyes of restrained rabbits who are unable to flush the solution from their eyes, and they are then observed for days or weeks to note any damage that occurs to their eyes. The pain these testing animals experience can be immense and can go unrelieved for agonizingly long periods of time. Again, my world perspective was shaken, and I gained a whole new awareness as to vast suffering of helpless animals that I never before knew existed.
3. What are your favorite types of animal advocacy activities? Why? (i.e. lobbying, letter-writing, petitions, volunteering, protests, etc.)
Being a law school graduate, and thus a bit of an academic nerd for statutory work, I love lobbying on bills and performing research for the sake of building support for animal welfare legislation. I also love working hands-on at the ground level with at-risk animals. Though I learned of the animal welfare movement early on, it was my time spent at Dreamcatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary caring for wild mustangs and horses saved from abuse/neglect cases that brought me back to the movement. I think being engaged with the animals we strive to protect helps remind people in the movement who they’re doing this for and why.
4. What animal issues are you most passionate about?
That’s a difficult question. Being a lobbyist means I have to be well-versed in a variety of issues and must be able to advocate passionately and articulately on each one. I think my answer would be that I am most passionate about whichever animal issue I have the greatest ability to assist with at the time action is needed.
5. What current animal-related issue or campaign has caught your attention, and why?
Through law school and my subsequent career path, I’ve gained an expertise in horse-welfare initiatives, thus I spend a lot of time working on issues such as horse slaughter and humane horse transportation. My time spent at the wild horse sanctuary has alerted me to the plight of our country’s wild mustangs in the West and the serious need for reformations in the way they are managed. There has been a lot of movement in recent years on other issues of huge importance as well, such as animal fighting, puppy mills, and farm animal welfare, and I’m also excited to help advance initiatives involving those issues.
6. How do you address animal issues within your career?
I am a federal legislative manager for the ASPCA, which involves preparing information to educate the public and congressional offices about important animal welfare bills we support or want to introduce and then communicating that information to our members and meeting with congressional offices on these issues. The type of work I do is in pursuit of large-scale change that will improve animal protections nationwide. I’m thrilled to be doing this kind of animal welfare advocacy every day.
7. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a more active animal advocate?
The most important thing I can say is just start somewhere! You don’t have to have it all figured out at the start. If there’s an issue that you want to learn more about, research it or see if you can do a school project on it. If you are interested in how shelters work – volunteer at one! Getting started by following your curiosity will open doors to other opportunities down the road.
8. What book, quote, photo, video, story, etc. have you found most inspiring/has inspired you?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have to say that the book that has stuck with me the most over the years is “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. The message transmitted through its pages is clear, powerful, and memorable. The choices we make as humans have far-reaching impacts on our planet and the animals that inhabit it. The welfare of wild animals, farm animals, and companion animals alike is inevitably affected by our human actions. I often recall, particularly on exhausting days, one of the book’s most powerful lines: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” It’s a message that I first encountered as a very young child, and it’s a motto that I truly believe helped shape the choices I made growing up and led me to the position I’m in today. And I couldn’t be happier about that.