Humane Society trains advocates to lobby lawmakers

(AP) - The Humane Society rallied a small group of animal-rights advocates on Thursday to teach them to take their passion for protection straight to the doors of state legislators.

The gathering of six members of various animal-rights groups formed as part of Humane Lobby Day, an effort to train supporters to pitch their causes to state representatives. The assembly also was an opportunity to support a measure that would impose fines for abusing dogs and another that would restrict trapping in high-density areas.

Becky Goodman, executive director of the animal adoption group Pet Network, is a veteran lobbyist of sorts, having appealed to legislators in the past. Goodman said she came to the Capitol to get a sense of the priorities of newly elected lawmakers and to support a measure that would prevent communities from banning breeds, such as pit pulls, based on reputation.

"I've met good pit bulls and bad pit bulls," Goodman said, adding, "there is no breed that is innately dangerous."

Trish Swain, Director of TrailSafe, said the anti-trapping bill is of particular concern because it would limit traps, like the one that caught a cat in a Reno park last year. The issue, Swain said, is that leg-hold traps, body-crushing traps and snare traps that strangle animals to death are permitted in areas that are meant for families.

The goal of the bill, Swain said, isn't to eliminate the traps, just to keep them from being used near children and pets.

Lawmakers also are expected to address horse tripping this session. Beverlee McGrath, who represents groups including Best Friends and the ASPCA, said tripping is often seen in rodeos, and is a problem because horses can break their back and their legs.

McGrath also said she hopes the Legislature will move to regulate and inspect Nevada puppy mills.

The Humane Society holds Humane Lobby Day events throughout the country. Michael Haley, the society's director of state affairs, said Nevada's group holds them every two years, in tandem with legislative sessions. He said other chapters hold such events throughout the year to keep lobbying skills polished and concerned groups active.

Before sending the advocates into the legislative halls, Arnold Baer, the society's director of state affairs, stressed that although the national organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C., local input is critical because legislators "listen a lot harder" when a voter urges action as opposed to national representatives who can be dismissed as "animal wackos."


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