My First Day in the Capitol
Hi, my name is Nikki Benoit and while I have been involved in the Obama campaign (as an individual and not on behalf of any organization) I had never gone to our state’s capitol to be a voice for the animals in person. The Humane Society of the United States sponsored a Lobby Day in Tallahassee, FL to help others like me understand how the process works and what I could do to make a difference for the animals. This is my summary of the experience:
I had a fantastic experience and received an inspiring response at our states’ capitol yesterday!
Despite a horrific tornado-producing storm that drenched the entire southeast over the past 2 days (with the exception of those who need it most – us), HSUS’s Lobby Day turned out at least 40 humane voters, eager to swarm their law-makers office(s), pushing the following 2 bills:
Click on bills to read more and send an email to your lawmaker if you live in FL.
SB 448 / HB 273 Prohibit Sexual Activities Involving Animals
SB 2002 / HB 1249 Crack Down on Puppy Mills
SB 992 / HB 189 Breed-specific bans (dogs)
Our good friends Laura Bevan and Heather Carpenter of HSUS organized and presented a VERY thorough workshop, arming us with the language and strategy we needed to hit the halls.
I traveled with Diane Koon (of FVA’s Board) and others from FVA, meeting up with Justine Mayala, Carole Baskin and numerous other animal superstars from across the state. As it turns out, Diane and I have the same Senator [Charlie Justice], so we had the same meeting time with him, and to our pleasant surprise, also included two more local heroes Mark and Wendy Taylor!
Senator Justice welcomed all 4 of us into his office, we politely and respectfully expressed our concerns and interests, which were VERY well received!
We then split up to visit our Representatives, of which mine is Bill Heller. One word….WOW!
HSUS couldn’t confirm an appointment time with him for me, but I figured I’d try my luck, speaking with his aid if nothing else. Not only was he there, but I overheard him on the phone discussing ALL THREE BILLS I planned to address!
Completing his phone call, not only did he welcome me right in, but we spent AT LEAST 30 minutes discussing the importance of animal protection and common sense policies, our companion animals back home, and our optimism that change for the greater good is possible! [He was the president of our local SPCA years ago – WHOA!]
Realistically, this perfect scenario won’t happen with most legislators, but WOW what a great first impression – reemphasizing to him (an employee of us voters) that his constituents DO care about sound animal policies and protections, plus cruelty’s connection to wide-ranging violent crimes as a whole (oh yes, I smell more conversations with Representative Heller in the near future).
The days events command hand-written thank yous to all involved, as any interaction with our lawmakers should.
Friends, speaking with and remaining connected to our policy makers is PARAMOUNT for ending animal cruelty. No, it’s not the most exciting and rewarding experience of your life. Yes, it can be draining and time consuming. BUT, remember, WE ELECT THESE PEOPLE! Our problems in life can be attributed – in part – to the lack of outcry and involvement by US! If we walk away in frustration that our beliefs and views aren’t matched by their actions, THEN THEY NEVER WILL!
We can’t leave it up to big business/exploiters/abusers. WE MUST SPEAK! WE MUST BE INVOLVED!
Again, I was VERY VERY fortunate to have such a fantastic experience, and a few other attendees did as well. Some did not get as much time with their lawmakers as they would have liked, as it is still session up there. Our policy makers are working around the clock, having bills tossed around and complicated by lobby pressure/language change, etc. They’re tired and over it, too.
PLEASE PLEASE introduce yourself to your local law makers and their staff. How can they represent you if they don’t even know you?
You don’t have to travel to the capitol to meet your representatve. They all have local offices and you can find the office locations and phone numbers at CatLaws.com. Call and ask for an appointment when your legislator is in town. They really do want to hear from you and the animals are depending on it.
Onward and upward my friends!
Florida Voices for Animals
PO Box 17523
Tampa, Fl 33682
Florida Voices for Animals (FVA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that promotes animal rights and freedom, educating the masses on how to make compassionate choices for those without voices.
Cruelty: 10 billion land animals raised for food every year in egregious conditions
Learn more: www.meat.org
Environment: animal agriculture contributes more to climate change than transportation
Learn more: www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
World hunger: 70% of all US grains feed livestock
Learn more: www.worldwatch.org/node/1626
Health: dairy = osteoporosis, meat = cancers and cardiovascular diseases
Learn more: www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/index.html
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