It doesn't matter if you've never been to Topeka as a citizen lobbyist. What matters is that you care about the welfare of animals in Kansas. That's what Humane Lobby Day, Tuesday, Feb. 11 at the Docking State Office Building, 915 SW Harrison St., wants to convey to your representatives in Topeka.
This is a day all across the country where citizens will be meeting with their state legislators to express their support of legislation related to animal welfare, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They are experts at lobbying at the highest levels, but they recognize the power of you, an individual to make an impact.
Most of us have never been inside the state Capitol to talk with our legislators, though many of us have made calls and sent letters on pertinent legislation. When a constituent takes the time to make a personal appearance and express their views, it tells legislators that this is an important issue to constituents.
"We will be speaking to the group about legislation regarding the Kansas Pet Animal Act," said Midge Grinstead, state coordinator for the HSUS. "This Act regulates shelters, rescues, pet stores, breeders, research facilities and others. The animal welfare guidelines haven't been changed since they were first established in 1989 and they were very minimal at the time."
Kansas has been ranked in the top ten for puppy mill states and 33rd in rankings as a humane state based on laws protecting animals wild and domestic, and legislation regarding dog fighting, cruelty and abuse.
This year's Lobby Day agenda starts at 8:30 a.m. with registration. Participants will be welcomed by Grinstead and Rep. Tom Sloan followed by information on how to be a good citizen lobbyist and the Kansas Pet Animal Act, along with information on legislation related to the Act. Participants will also hear from Courtney Thomas, the Board President of the Pet Animal Coalition of Kansas. Just before lunch, the Humane Law Enforcement Award to Atchison, Ks. Sheriff Jack Laurie and Under Sheriff Joe Butner.
After lunch, citizen lobbyists will disperse to meet with their Representatives and Senators. For those whose legislators are not available, meetings will be set with legislators who are identified as key to helping legislation pass. To meet with your specific legislators, be sure to RSVP to Grinstead at firstname.lastname@example.org so that an appointment can be made.
Some of the changes to be advocated for include:
- banning carbon monoxide gas chambers in the state;
- expand the Kansas Pet Animal Advisory Board (KPAAB), which is appointed by the Governor, to include a rescue network representative and a second shelter representative;
- a list of changes to the Kansas Pet Animal Act that strengthens regulations for care, inspections, and stronger penalties with follow up for those whose licenses are suspended or revoked.
The proposed changes also include that any breeder who has had their USDA license revoked in any state not be licensed in Kansas (the law currently only denies licensing if the violation occurred in Kansas).
Humane Lobby Day is an opportunity to speak for the animals, to make legislators aware that their constituents care about how our state regulates breeding operations, and to raise your voice in Topeka on behalf of companion animals in our state. Invite a friend or two to travel with you to Topeka and join in this event provides an opportunity for advocates across our state to come together and show our legislators that we care.