01/17/10 — Seminar focuses on animal legislation

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Seminar focuses on animal legislation

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 17, 2010 1:50 AM

Close to 50 area residents were at the Wayne County Public Library auditorium Tuesday night to learn how they could add their voices to those calling for improved state and federal laws and regulations to protect animals.

The event's focus was on helping to make lobbying easier for animal advocates, said Kim Alboum, state director for the Humane Society of the United States. Ms. Alboum led the free "Lobbying for Animals" seminar, one in a series being held across the state, which also touched on state and federal legislation.

"I think (the turnout) was fantastic," Ms. Alboum said. "I knew there were a lot of really wonderful animal advocates in the Goldsboro area. I felt like the crowd was engaged. I am getting a wonderful response regardless of where I go. I think the (Goldsboro) meeting was reflective of all of the others."

She told the audience that some people find legislators "a little intimidating," but added that (people) have "so much power without leaving home."

Ms. Alboum said she wanted to dispel the myth that legislators are "above us and talk down to us if we do not know the answers. They are people like us."

She provided information on how to contact their legislators as well as the state Legislature Web site, www.ncga.state.nc.us, where people can look up legislators and read bills. She also explained the process of how a bill is introduced and becomes a law.

Of particular interest was state Senate Bill 460, the Puppy Mill Bill, introduced by Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, during the last legislative session.

She urged audience members to call their legislators and tell them that SB 460 "is really important."

The bill narrowly passed 23-22 in the Senate. However, the session ended before it could be acted on by the House.

The bill must clear the House Finance Committee to make it to the House floor for a vote during the short legislative session that starts in May.

Davis introduced the bill following a raid last February at a kennel near Mount Olive in which some 280 small-breed dogs were seized from the facility by Wayne County officials. The HSUS also was involved.

A Puppy Mill Awareness Day will be held May 8 in Raleigh to celebrate dogs and to show public support for SB 460. A Web site, www.awarenessday.org, has been set up for rescue groups to register for a table at the event. Also on May 19, a "Lobby Day" will be held at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

Ms. Alboum said misinformation has been put out that the Puppy Mill Bill will hurt hunters and professional breeders, both of whom are exempt.

She said she wants to return to Wayne County by April and hopes Davis will be able to attend. Davis could not attend Tuesday's session because of a prior commitment.

"I was thrilled with the turnout," said Barrett Parker, president of the Wayne County chapter of the Humane Society. "The library was full, and there was a lot of good information presented and questions asked. It was good to have a lot of people in the room who were concerned about animals."

Ms. Parker agreed that there is some confusion about the bill in regards to hunters and commercial breeders.

The regulations would ensure that kennels are inspected and that the animals are taken care of so people who buy them are getting healthy animals, she said. As such, the bill would not only protect the animals, it would protect the buyers, she added.

Ms. Parker noted that other businesses have regulations that they must follow.

Animal welfare people tend to concentrate so much on local rescues and projects that they tend to think others are working to contact legislators and that those people have more influence than just a regular person, which is not true, Ms. Parker said.

"It is important to let legislators know what is important to us," she said.

Ms. Parker said she thinks local animal supporters will attend the Puppy Mill Day.

Also of interest Tuesday was the Fox and Coyote Penning Bill.

In North Carolina, foxes and coyotes are sold in a black market trade to be released in fenced enclosures, she said. In these pens, participants use the wildlife as "live bait" for packs of dogs in competitions.

For more information, visit the HSUS Web site at www.humanesociety.org.