1. What was your first experience with animals that had an impact on you?
I’ve always loved animals, particularly cats; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be around cats, rescue them, take care of them, watch goofy videos of them, and just be awed by their awesomeness.
2. When, how, and why did you first get involved with the animal welfare/rights movement?
In the late 1980s, a friend handed me a pamphlet about fur production. It went into excruciating detail about anal electrocution of foxes on fur farms and how animals suffer in body-gripping traps before they are stomped or bludgeoned to death. Back then I was your basic meat-and-dairy consuming Midwesterner, but by the time I finished reading that pamphlet I vowed to become vegetarian and to devote the rest of my life to animal protection. I went vegan soon after that.
3. What are your favorite types of animal advocacy activities? Why? (i.e. lobbying, letter-writing, petitions, volunteering, protests, etc.)
I love traveling the state, getting citizens more involved in the legislative process and in government and regulatory agencies at the local, county, and state level. It’s so great to see people becoming more empowered to make real change. For example, we’re seeing Michigan citizens forming animal control advisory boards for their county commissioners, to help improve their animal control shelter practices.
I’ve had the opportunity in 2011 to visit many cities in Michigan with The HSUS’ president, Wayne Pacelle, as part of the tour he’s doing nationally surrounding the publication of his first book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. Wayne will be back in Michigan on January 19, appearing at Kazoo Books II in Kalamazoo at noon, and at Calvin College in Grand Rapids at 7:30 pm. I encourage anyone in Western Michigan to join us at one of these events.
4. What animal issues are you most passionate about?
To me, trapping and fur farming are the most egregious offenses we commit against the animal kingdom. There is no justification for causing that much suffering and agony for the sake of vanity. I’m astounded that we still allow it to continue. I am also appalled by factory farming practices, and I’m glad that we’ve passed legislation in Michigan to phase out the worst confinement methods like veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages.
5. What current animal-related issue or campaign has caught your attention, and why?
We’re working on legislation to end pound seizure in our state. Two Michigan animal control shelters still provide pets to Class B dealers, who supply animals to research laboratories. As a result the animals can end up in horrible experiments like a recent case at Wayne State. Michiganders want their shelters to be safe havens for homeless pets. If you have to make the painful decision to relinquish a pet you can‘t afford, or if a lost pet is picked up by animal control, the last thing you want is for them to end up subjected to painful experiments.
6. How do you address animal issues within your career?
I’m fortunate to hold the position of Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States and to have so many opportunities to help animals. I wish there was more time in the day since there are so many needs to address. I encourage anyone who is interested in bringing their skills and experience to work for animals to contact me to get more involved, at email@example.com. You can also visit our Volunteer Center at www.humanesociety.org/volunteer.
7. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a more active animal advocate?
Learn the laws! Find out everything you possibly can about state and federal laws and regulations regarding animal cruelty, animal fighting, wildlife, lab animals, and farm animals. And if you don’t like them, change them. The HSUS holds a Humane Lobby Day every year, and I’d love to see more people joining me in Lansing on April 17, 2012 to talk with our lawmakers. We provide materials and tips to make it easy and fun to get involved.
8. What book, quote, photo, video, story, etc. have you found most inspiring/has inspired you?
This is probably a cliché, but Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation—I think it should be required reading. And I’ve always loved a quote from Brigid Brophy that goes, “Whenever people say ‘We mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add ‘We must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.” That sums up so well the challenges we face— the people and companies who profit from animal cruelty are trying to stop the tidal wave of animal protection reform. I find inspiration in that quote to work with citizens from across the state to make sure that animals are treated humanely.