The following is from a grassroots Virginia animal welfare advocate who’d prefer that her name not be used (can’t blame her given the nastiness and vitriol on the intertubes). I edited it down to the key points she made in her emails to the gubernatorial candidates and in her email to me asking if I’d be interested in posting something about this topic here. I’m a strong animal welfare advocate myself, so I was happy to. I’ve also thrown in a few comments of my own, in green after each point by the grassroots advocate, and added some bolding for emphasis.
- “I [am] particularly concerned with the policies regarding animal/wildlife rights/welfare, and, as there never seems to be any discussion of this among campaigns, I have composed letters to all candidates in the election. This included not only the candidates for governor but all candidates who will be listed on the VA election ballot (so far just the primary – so Governor and Lt. Governor, but I will be adding district candidates, etc. on the November ballot as well).” I couldn’t agree more that animal welfare is an issue that gets wayyyy too little attention and that all candidates should be asked to address in a serious way.
- “I had hoped to find a way to share my letter and all of the responses I receive (if any) with as many Virginia voters as possible who care about animal rights and welfare, and had contacted [the Humane Society Legislative Fund – HSLF] for any advice, as, unfortunately, my social circle in Virginia when it comes to these policies is woefully lacking.” I’m happy to share this with Blue Virginia readers; if you care about animal welfare, please share this post widely and also ask the candidates what their positions are on this topic.
- “I do want to clarify that I am not affiliated with any group or organisation- I am simply a resident of VA who believes that it is imperative that we elect officials that will fight for the rights and protections of all animals, as well as our environment.” And thanks so much to the animal welfare advocate for doing so; we need a lot more good people stepping up like she’s done here!
- “I have attached my original letter to this email as well as the responses from the only campaign that responded so far- that of Tom Perriello….they are currently working on an animal welfare plan, the details of which they will send to me when available.” Good; I’m very interested in seeing this as well, and would certainly hope that all the other gov. and LG campaigns would do the same. By the way, let me just take this opportunity to thank Virginia AG Mark Herring for his great work on behalf of animal welfare, such as creating the nation’s first Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit, for which the Norfolk SPCA presented him an award.
- “I sent the letters to the Democratic candidates in early May, mainly to test this out as I had not done this before, and to Republican candidates within the last couple of days. I can also share their responses if I receive any. I have not heard anything from Mr. Northam’s campaign yet despite following up a few times.” I don’t know what the explanation for the Northam campaign’s failure to respond is, but that is not cool at all. As for the Republican campaigns, sadly I expect them to be horrible when it comes to animals – or the environment…or so many other things. Ugh.
- “I do want to mention that the Democratic candidates have had a significantly longer time to respond to the letters. I had never done this before so I figured I’d see if they even read them in the first place 🙂 I realize that the length of the letter could have contributed. While I do not want to embarrass anyone or put any campaign on the spot (at least negatively), I do think that this is an issue that needs to be addressed by all candidates.” Yep, it really does.
- “…as of now my vote will be for Tom Perriello. I am glad to see that his campaign was paying attention to voters’ questions enough to get back to me, and I do look forward to their plan on animal welfare. This is not the only reason, however…While no candidate can be perfect (or perfectly address each voter’s needs and desires), Tom Perriello, in particular his stance on the environment and sustainability, seem to be ones that would benefit Virginia the most. I, of course, look at each important issue, but given our current state of the planet, it is imperative that we act now to fiercely combat pollution and climate change now. Waiting even a little or regressing would mean that we may be too late and problems would be irreversible. I believe that Tom Perriello would be a proactive candidate on this and other issues.” Again, I agree 100% with her; couldn’t have said it better myself.
Finally, here’s the letter sent on May 2, 2017 by the animal welfare advocate to the Perriello and Northam campaigns (bolding added by me for emphasis). Note that the animal welfare advocate received a response from the Perriello campaign on May 6 and also on May 27. Again, she says she hasn’t heard a word back from the Northam campaign…
I am a current resident of Virginia, and would first like to thank you for your willingness to take on such an important role in the governing of our state. As this must be an incredibly busy time for you, I greatly appreciate your willingness to read this inquiry and respond.
I will be voting in the upcoming elections- both in the primary via absentee ballot and in the final Election Day in November. As such, I am currently looking into the policies of all of the running candidates. I have found enough information about many of your policy views to draw my conclusions, but there are two issues in particular that are not addressed on your website.
As I am part of a larger community of voters with similar concerns, I hope to post the responses I receive from candidates in a public venue as a tool for others to make their decisions regarding their votes.
The perpetuation of animal abuse in both our country and the state of Virginia has long been an epidemic. This applies to not only the government-sanctioned abuse of animals in factory farming and animal testing, but in particular the torture of animals in circuses for the sake of ‘entertainment’, as well as the neglect and abuse perpetrated by individual people, often upon their own pets.
As a mother of a young child, and a person who is fully aware of the irrefutable link between animal abuse and violent crime (including child abuse), I find it shocking that nothing seems to be done to adequately protect all species of animals from abuse, torture, and mutilation in both the industrial and private aspects of life. In addition, to say that the punishment for abuse and neglect of animals is woefully inadequate would be an understatement of monumental proportions.
Investigations are constantly discovering sickening abuses in the animal agriculture and fur industries. Abuse in the circus and entertainment industry has long been revealed, from the initial beatings, deprivation of food, whipping of baby animals to break their spirits, to the continued torture and neglect throughout their lives. Despite all this, no legislation has been seriously attempted to ban this once and for all.
Finally, the laws (and punishment) regarding other types of abuse, such as dogfighting, chaining animals for their entire lives, leaving them to die outside in extreme weather, and outright torture, do not offer basic life-sustaining protections. Every day as I take my son to school, I see a dog chained outside of a house along the road. This dog is out constantly, in the freezing winter and the extreme heat of the summer, with temperatures often exceeding 100oF. Animal control in the area have told me that many people have phoned to report this particular case, and though they were finally able to force the owners to provide a doghouse (with no temperature control), this was the extent of what they could do under current law.
In another case in January 2017 a dog in Accomack County, VA was not so lucky after being left to die in freezing temperatures. Her neck was bound by a chain that prevented her from reaching her un-insulated dog house, and she died an agonizing death alone. This is only one example of abuse due to insufficient laws, but there are hundreds if not thousands in Virginia alone. Additionally, there is no legal recourse to punish the abusers and protect the animals. As such, these people are left to visit this abuse upon other animals and, eventually, people.
There is also a multitude of situations in which abusers have been found to be neglecting and abusing animals and arrested, only to have it turn out that they have long histories of abuse. Despite this, the perpetrators are able to get their hands on more victims. Just last month, in March 2017, 21 dead dogs (and one other found still alive) were found in the home of a man who had been issued 32 summonses in 2014 for animal cruelty, and authorities had removed more than a dozen pit bulls from the home.
In most of the situations the abusers face little more than a slap on the wrist and are soon able to obtain more animals to abuse.
There is currently an attempt in Virginia to pass a law that requires animals to be kept inside in extreme temperatures, but there is widespread fear that this effort would meet the same fate as bill HB1802, which would have prohibited the tethering of dogs for hours, days, or months, without supervision, but was rejected in the 2017 session by a subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee. These are also attempts to push laws that better protect animals in entertainment, though I am unsure of how much hope this has of succeeding without more effort from the government. Los Angeles has just recently banned the use of animals in the circus.
I am including just a few URL links to additional information, as well as the cases and petitions mentioned, below.
It is unthinkable that an advanced society would allow such abuses to continue unchecked. Therefore, as a voter, I would like to request information about what you would do as an elected official about this epidemic of abuse in the state of Virginia, given the abilities and influence of the office for which you are running.
The second issue on which I would appreciate your policy information is with regard to wildlife and environmental protections….I would like to request particular information regarding dangers to wildlife (from pollution, pesticides, loss of habitat, etc.), cruel trapping, trophy hunting, and other problems. An additional problem is the fact that abuse, torture, and neglect of all animals (not only those considered pets) is not adequately punished.
I am exceedingly concerned by the recent actions taken by both the federal and state governments to cut regulations that ensure the health of all creatures on this planet. The bill allowing inhumane killing of wildlife in Alaska, Connecticut, and now Virginia (specifically the bear population) includes the killing of hibernating bears and entire families of animals, complete with their cubs. This policy is an embarrassment to our great nation.
It is imperative that we fiercely protect what is left of our wildlife and environment from the destructive forces of pollution, carbon emissions, habitat loss, and other threats to our planet. This is an issue that should be, arguably, the top priority for policy. I would greatly appreciate your proposed plans to facilitate these protections for the state of Virginia.
Thank you again for your time and attention during this busy time.
Article regarding petition for law against keeping dogs outside in harsh weather: http://wric.com/2017/04/14/petition-pushing-for-state-law-against-keeping-dogs-outside-in-harsh-weather/
Circus (video half-way down): http://www.lcanimal.org/index.php/campaigns/animals-in-entertainment/circuses
Countries & cities that have banned animals in circus: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2017/03/29/many-countries-ban-circuses-with-wild-animals-these-lawmakers-want-the-u-s-to-follow-suit/?utm_term=.bbec7fedbd0f
March 2017- 21 dead dogs found in home of man with animal abuse history: http://fox59.com/2017/03/09/21-dead-dogs-found-at-virginia-home-man-charged-with-abuse/
Puppy Mills: http://bestfriends.org/resources/puppy-mills