01/10/10 — Seminar sets sights on issues that affect animals

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Seminar sets sights on issues that affect animals

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 10, 2010 1:50 AM

The time is ripe for change in the state for laws and rules to improve the lives of animals, said Kim Albourm, N.C. state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

One way to secure those changes is for the community to make its voice heard in the General Assembly, she said. To help pave the way, the Humane Society of the United States is hosting a free "Lobbying for Animals" seminar Tuesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Wayne County Public Library Auditorium, 1001 E. Ash St.

The seminar is one of several being held across the state.

Information will be provided on some of the bills and issues being considered involving animals, particularly the puppy mill bill introduced last year in the General Assembly by Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene.

The puppy mill bill passed 23-22 in the Senate, but the session ended before the measure could be acted on by House. It is expected to be taken up during the legislative short session that starts in May.

Ms. Albourm said "misinformation" has been put out that the bill will hurt hunters and profession breeders -- both of whom are exempt from the bill. Information will be provided on federal legislation, too, she said.

"We are talking about systemic changes, really what we need to do in North Carolina to improve laws and regulations for animals," she said. "We want to get together as a community and let people know how powerful their voice is as an individual. We find that a lot of people are intimidated about speaking to their legislators and don't know how powerful they (individuals) are."

A Puppy Mill Awareness Day will be held May 8 in Raleigh. It will be a day to celebrate dogs and show public support for SB 460 (the puppy mill bill), she said. A Web site, www.awarenessday.org, is up for rescue groups to register for a table at the event.

A "Lobby Day" will be May 19 at the General Assembly building in Raleigh.

"We want people to understand the power behind their voice," Ms. Albourm said. "I don't think people realize how significant a call or e-mail from home to a representative can be."

Also, people sometimes might think someone else is taking charge and the Society wants people to realize that is not always the case and that they should be active, she said.

The time is right in the state for changes, she said. People are seeing successful efforts in surrounding states like Virginia that has passed puppy mill legislation, she said.

"We have come far in North Carolina," she said. "We have some really wonderful animal advocates in the state."

"I really just want people to come and be educated and show our support," said Barrett Parker, president of the Wayne County chapter of the Humane Society. "What I hope to do is to fill the library auditorium up with people who are animal-minded and to let our (state) representatives know how we feel about animal issues.

"It (seminar) was an opportunity that we could not pass up. We know there are issues in Wayne County that affect animals. It is a very educational way to teach regular citizens who may not be politically minded."

Ms. Albourm urges residents to e-mail the House Finance Committee and tell its members that SB 460 is "a common sense piece of legislation that must pass. With no regulations, North Carolina is becoming a 'puppy mill state.' We need to halt this underground industry in its tracks to protect the dogs and the consumers that are buying them.

Also of interest is the fox and coyote penning bill. Most North Carolinians do not know that fox and coyote penning is even legal, Ms. Albourm said.

"We need to build public support to ban this horrible practice," she said. "In North Carolina, foxes and coyotes are sold in a black market trade to be released in fenced enclosures. In these pens, participants use the wildlife as 'live bait' for packs of dogs in competitions.

"In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens involving both federal and state authorities uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. In Alabama, 18 individuals were arrested for activities related to penning and the live market, including one individual from North Carolina. Authorities brought charges against fox pen operators and trappers in half a dozen other states."

Hundreds of dogs may be released into the pen at a time and judged for how they pursue the wildlife, she said.

"Exposure to this repeated, prolonged and unavoidable pursuit results in chronic physiological stress, and death of the penned animals," Ms. Albourm said in the e-mail. "Dogs tearing apart the animals leads to the constant demand for re-stocking of enclosures with fresh wildlife.

"For example, just one penning operation in South Carolina stocked 404 coyotes in 2006 and 402 coyotes in 2007. The dogs also may be subjected to cruelty in the form of injuries sustained during fights with wildlife."