PAC to back law­mak­ers, can­di­dates con­cerned about an­i­mals’ wel­fare

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - ROBERT BAUMGARDNER, AUSTIN

Can­di­dates will soon be fil­ing their pa­per­work to run for elected of­fice. They’ll also be­gin com­pil­ing en­dorse­ments to tout along the cam­paign trail — nods and ku­dos from lo­cal cham­bers of com­merce, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and news­pa­pers. For the first time, some will also be get­ting en­dorse­ments — and cam­paign checks — from dogs, cats, horses, pigs and other Texas an­i­mals.

More than 40 years ago, a small group of an­i­mal wel­fare ad­vo­cates from the Dal­las and Austin ar­eas banded to­gether to form a net­work to ad­vance an­i­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion. The founders were shel­ter work­ers and res­cue vol­un­teers who re­al­ized they must change the laws to cure the con­di­tions caus­ing a con­stant stream of an­i­mals in cri­sis.

Though the mis­sion hasn’t changed, the mech­a­nisms for achiev­ing our goal — to ad­vance hu­mane leg­is­la­tion through the Texas Leg­is­la­ture — are about to get a sig­nif­i­cant boost.

The THLN po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee (PAC) launched this month to sup­port law­mak­ers and can­di­dates whose records and cam­paign plat­forms demon­strate a com­mit­ment to hu­mane leg­is­la­tion for an­i­mals, and to de­feat those who don’t. Prior to 2017, none of the more than 1,900 po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees in Texas was ded­i­cated to an­i­mals and an­i­mal wel­fare. Now, an­i­mals will have the same tools as so many other special in­ter­est groups.

The PAC has its sights set on law­mak­ers who op­posed leg­is­la­tion that would have strength­ened Texas’ cur­rent — and very un­en­force­able — law in­hu­manely chain­ing an­i­mals.

Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Hous­ton, and Sen. Ed­die Lu­cio, D-Brownsville, car­ried the teth­er­ing bill, which was de­feated in the fi­nal min­utes of the last day that the Texas House could have acted on it dur­ing this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion. It set forth clear, com­mon-sense guide­lines about teth­er­ing an an­i­mal, pro­hibit­ing weights be­ing at­tached to teth­er­ing de­vices, re­quir­ing ad­e­quate shel­ter and wa­ter for dogs, along with col­lars and har­nesses de­signed not to in­jure to the dog (as in the all­too-com­mon cases of em­bed­ded col­lars). The bill had wide­spread sup­port from law­mak­ers on both sides of the aisle.

But on May 23, a hand­ful of law­mak­ers ran out the clock on the teth­er­ing bill for rea­sons that re­main un­clear. They all rep­re­sent ru­ral ar­eas, and one pos­si­bil­ity is that they heard di­rectly from con­stituents who op­pose chain­ing and teth­er­ing re­stric­tions. A pro-breeder group that worked to op­pose a “Puppy Mill Bill” four years ago may have pres­sured them. That bill would have cre­ated ba­sic guide­lines for the wel­fare of an­i­mals in the care of largescale com­mer­cial breed­ers in Texas.

An­i­mal wel­fare has tra­di­tion­ally been a non­par­ti­san is­sue, and THLN and other or­ga­ni­za­tions have had sig­nif­i­cant sup­port for our leg­isla­tive agenda from both lib­eral and con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers. But some­thing changed this ses­sion, per­haps driven by di­vi­sive­ness trick­ling down from the fed­eral level that some law­mak­ers glee­fully brought into the House cham­ber. The op­po­si­tion this ses­sion was more mean-spir­ited and un­in­formed than ad­vo­cates have seen in past years. Cer­tain law­mak­ers took great pride in stop­ping the teth­er­ing leg­is­la­tion from pass­ing. They were Repub­li­can and Demo­crat, ru­ral and ur­ban; many were in­flu­enced by pit bull breed­ers who largely be­lieve chain­ing a dog is key to de­vel­op­ing the kind of pro­to­type they hope to sell.

For many in the an­i­mal wel­fare com­mu­nity, this de­feat taught us some valu­able lessons: In a body of 181 peo­ple, it only took a few to kill a sound and rea­son­able piece of leg­is­la­tion. Some law­mak­ers who had ini­tially sup­ported the teth­er­ing bill be­fore the ses­sion be­gan were among those who con­spired to kill it. In this en­vi­ron­ment, we need to move be­yond ad­vo­cacy; we will now be able to com­bine our ro­bust grass­roots ac­tivism with a heftier pock­et­book.

As we look ahead to the 2019 Leg­is­la­ture, we are or­ga­niz­ing to sup­port the pro-an­i­mal law­mak­ers we hope to re-elect, and to fund the op­po­nents of those law­mak­ers whose seem de­ter­mined to force the con­tin­ued suf­fer­ing of chained-up dogs in Texas.

Two more years is too long to wait for dogs who live ev­ery day in heat and cold, lack­ing ad­e­quate wa­ter or shel­ter, and of­ten with the un­bear­able pain of em­bed­ded col­lars.

But while we wait, there is much work to be done.

Re: Nov. 9 ar­ti­cle, “Face­book needs your nude photos — to pro­tect you.”

Surely the Face­book re­quest for a nude photo is a joke or prank. All you need to iden­tify some­one is their face. The rest of the body doesn’t mat­ter. Any­one could at­tach a face to a nude photo us­ing Pho­to­shop.

Who cares if the nude part is ac­cu­rate or fake? If a nude body was posted with­out the head and it was stated as be­long­ing to me, I should have the right to ask Face­book to take it down whether it’s my real photo or not.

Gov. Greg Ab­bott’s at­tempt to com­fort griev­ing fam­i­lies in Suther­land Springs was laud­able and be­trayed pro­found ig­no­rance of his­tory.

Fol­low­ing his host’s lead, he ex­plic­itly re­fused to in­tro­duce any­thing “po­lit­i­cal” into dis­cus­sion of this lat­est mass mur­der. Then, he equated this tragedy to hor­rific events that “hap­pened with Hitler.” Does the gov­er­nor think that Hitler was stopped be­cause the United States and its al­lies re­fused to “get po­lit­i­cal” about the Third Re­ich?

It is past time that politi­cians in this coun­try got as “po­lit­i­cal” about gun-based mass mur­der as they are “po­lit­i­cal” about pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ists from en­ter­ing the U.S. They could be­gin by en­act­ing a statute supporting the en­tire Sec­ond Amend­ment. That is, a statute that re­quires every­one who buys an as­sault-type ri­fle to be­come part of a “well-reg­u­lated mili­tia” by at­tend­ing mili­tia train­ing un­der aus­pices of the Na­tional Guard.

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Voter booths re­main open as time clicks down to the last minute of of­fi­cial vot­ing at the Travis County of­fice in North Austin on May 24, 2016.

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