Saturday, January 26, 2008

Where's Dave? Director of HSUS NRRO

Dave spent yesterday working for the animals! He describes in his own words how the day went. All I can say is "Thank God for Dave". He shows that one committed person can make a real difference in the lives of many animals. Here is his account of Friday.

Where's Dave???

"Please join me on this one day virtual trip. It is the last Friday in January of 08 (Where did the month GO???) And a frosty 04:00 start of this trip which will include a drive from the homestead to the high school to drop off a daughter for her long bus trip to the MT State Debate tournament. But by 4:45 a.m. we are at the office and hoping to whittle down our email in-box and work on some project planning.

But we are rudely welcomed to the animal world... when the second of 200 emails received overnight announces the introduction of bill SB 170 in South Dakota as a foundation bill to loan a Million Dollars at low interest to anyone wanting to build a horse slaughter plant in South Dakota. And its first Senate Ag Committee meeting is already scheduled for next Tuesday. Yikes.... you immediately realize that this is not a good thing. You know you already have the largest equine feedlot in Montana that ships horses to slaughter in Canada to supply gourmet plates in France and Belgium. And you have all the resultant negatives of the long trucking, low height double deck trailers and mixing of foals, yearlings, adults, draft horses and studs in the same shipping trucks, pens, and final killing stalls. Everything else in your inbox becomes less important and you need to send off that first early morning email notifying your state and national team-mates that you have a priority situation that needs to be addressed.

Since most of the team will not have woken up or arrived at their respective offices on the east coast yet your scribble down a short quick to-do and needs analysis list:

SD Horse Slaughter: Jan2508

Who is driving this? Where would this plant be built?
Who could be get to go to the hearing in Pierre SD? on short notice
What are our other legislative commitments in SD?
Do I need to drop everything and drive over to Pierre?
What potential partners would we have in opposing this?
What potential opposition would we expect?

And what other top priority projects do i have to get done today despite this Emergency situation?

Well, its about 05:30 already...but still too early to catch many folks in DC (where's it 07:30 a.m.) or in South Dakota which is our same time zone. So we ( you & I) look to the obvious...what can we get answered on this list before waking anyone else up.

The decision is lets evaluate SD needs and this bill to see where we stand. We cover eight western states and that six of them have active sessions and a seventh (ND) has a ballot initiative. We had only tried since last July to promote one proactive bill for SD -- a felony animal cruelty bill. But that bill did not garner enough local commitment to get off the ground. So we have no professional lobbyist or even an animal specific legislative team...just our email lists of agencies and individual activists and to many of the agencies horse slaughter would not make their top priority list. So we will have to build a new coalition in 24-28 hours so that we can get some input into Tuesday's hearing.

Next I downloaded 48 pages of the 670 registered lobbyists in South Dakota with the almost impossible task of calling and finding one that would both have the ability to take on a client and one that would share our perspective and make the stopping of a unnecessary and inherently inhumane horse slaughter plant a priority. Whew !!! 670 names of people I don't know with only their name, address and city and the Client they represent. No phone numbers ( that would be to easy eh?)... So I grab two highlighters -- Green for lobbyists that might be sympathetic to our cause and Red for those who would oppose our cause. The colored pages were not looking good... over 60 Red highlighted agency whom would probably directly support the slaughter plant for jobs or ag expansion... and only SEVEN who might oppose based on environment, public health and safety or humane standards.

And that SEVEN was stretching it because it included some non-profit domestic violence groups. But my goal was to find phone numbers for all seven and make cold calls to each to see if I could find a potential
lobbyist. Now this may sound easy... but the master sheet does not give the title of the lobbyist ( attorney etc), only their name and the group they represent. So first we have to google the seven agencies and then leave early morning voicemail's or e-mails at those offices hoping they will make it a priority to get back to you. I was able to find two of them via the Internet Yellow Pages by matching their names and addresses.

After planting our seeds we get back to communicating with our internal network, I have called my two Billings teammates ( Sylvia and Suzi) and assigned them tasks for the minute they can get in... We have had several e-mail exchanges with our state legislative specialist from HQ ( Tami) and our National VP for Legislative Issue (Nancy) and by now the whole legislative HQ think tank is involved and asking questions and offering solutions and resources.

The agreement is in... for this issue in an ag committee in a ag state... we will need a lobbyist to follow this. And we also need to track the other two "bad" bills we have to react to: One wants to change the status of Mountain Lions from predator/furbearer to that ranchers can shoot them on sight!!! The second was to lower the age that kids can hunt by themselves to an age lower than they can even complete a hunters education program. Two bad bills and now this Slaughter Plant Bill. Remembering that we now have close to 30 proactive(good) and reactive(bad) bills in our six active states... we know our team of four cannot do it all ...and will be counting on super support from Tami, Nancy and the rest of the national team....But WE need to find a lobbyist this morning or our other events might fall like a string of dominos!

By now Suz and Syl have arrived and are busy with their respective to research background on the other major SD animal disasters ( a huge chicken city project in the 90's and a major pork farm project in 2004) to see if there are partners or lobbyists we might recruit; and the other to identify all potential partners that might side with us.

So I am now jumping back and forth between emails and phone... multi-tasking other incoming calls and emergency emails simultaneously... I am watching for emails or phone call from Team-mate Holly Tarry, our Colorado State Director because she is meeting with our amazing leader Wayne Pacelle in Denver with the Governor, his chief advisor, his legislative lead, and the CO commissioner of Agriculture in the final of five major meetings we have had concerning confinement of Hogs, veal calves and Chickens. The result of this meeting will dictate whether we have to run a huge and expensive Public Initiative Process to require farm animals to be able to stand up, turn around and stretch their limbs in their cages!!! I have been to Denver four times in negotiation meetings... and this final meeting will seal the deal.

So I finally actually reach a lobbyist for a non-profit... She was nice..but this is her first session and knows no one on the hill and only represents her non-profit as the executive she is not a full time lobbyist and cannot take on clients. Another left a phone message on my cell ( so we are now working 3 phone lines a fax line and two emails accounts) that they are full for the session and were unaware of anyone who could take on a new client.

Things were not looking good and I started to spend some thinking time about canceling my Monday and Tuesday meetings with Ag , Wildlife and other groups in Helena, MT. This would not be easy for me as I was promoting as part of my appointed position on a state wildlife species classification committee to restrict the importation of any size turtle for pets , and a new novelty "pet store" species the spotted genet.

So I went back to the list and looked again... and it was fate... there was a lobbyist... a long shot ... that I had found the number for but not made contact... He was neither an environmental lobbyist or an animal interest lobbyist. He was the lobbyist for Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Why even highlight his name...I truly am not sure... but since I spent several weeks at the LAMAR-Dixon horse facility during hurrican Katrina ...I had heard many great stories about how the Lamar family loved horses... and h_ll - i was running out of options. So i called the number got a voicemail and simply stated my contact information and that I was fishing and cold calling because I saw he represented Lamar Outdoor Advertising and that I knew the Lamar family loved horses and i could use his help in finding a lobbyist.

Within a hour this lobbyist (Dick) and I played phone tag and then I finally reached him and asked if he knew of anybody available to take on a last minute client. He asked me WHY we wanted to oppose this bill and I was momentarily afraid that this effort was about to hit a brick wall. I told him of our national stand against horse slaughter for human consumption and of my many visits to our MT feedlot and of the inherent cruelty there. I think I spoke without breathing because i thought he was about to tell me he could not help because he would support the building of the plant. But YIPEE... he said "well i certainly agree with you on all that!!"

So, i jumped in... "can you think of anyone that can help us" ...and to my relief he said "YES, i think i and my associate can take this on and we can plan on attending the hearing once we get a letter of authorizing us to represent you". Wow.. a home run, an experienced attorney and registered lobbyist with an associate that can take on a client a few days before a major senate hearing.

I hung up the phone, and immediately emailed the HQ team of the good news. I pushed back my chair and felt thirsty thinking I had never run across the street for a juice or bagel for breakfast...and then it hit me.. IT was now 12:45 a full eight hours since i had sat down at my office computer and read that email. Eight hours straight ...and we had found a lobbyist, built some potential partners, and dealt with breaking issues in Colorado ( prairie dog rescue) , Idaho (felony dog fighting) , Alaska (felony cruelty) , and Utah ( 2/13 Lobby Day, A humanitarian award and Felony Cruelty Bill).

It was a fast eight hours... so i scooted across the street to the cafe in the bank and scarfed a bowl of soup and a bottle of juice and came back to the office... I was gone all of 22 minutes and had received 66 NEW emails... 3 emails a minute ... this was going to be a loooooong day.

So we settle back down ... and start pecking away... we let the Montana people know we are now again coming ( we had put them on standby that we might get diverted to SD), and we start building on our mornings work. One email was about a South Dakota environmental coalitions meeting tomorrow (today) so I quickly sent an action alert to them to ask them to discuss and oppose this horse slaughter plant for environmental, water pollution and waste management issues. This morning I have a half dozen emails of support from some of those groups who will join us in opposition.

In the meantime Suzi and Syl did some amazing work in pulling together history and potential support of horse, animal, tribal and other groups who also would be concerned.

So the next time I push my chair back it is now 4:45 p.m. exactly 12 hours after I sat down. For this Blog I went back and counted... on my two email accounts i had sent out 186 emails,( received more than 300) also 40 pages of faxes and tied up two phone lines all day long. We worked on cases in six states on about 13 different bills and authorized a ton of work for a lobbyist and several dozen volunteer citizen lobbyist. We also set up and authorized a prairie dog relocation project in CO with the National Prairie Dog Coalition for Feb 4-6 and touched on a dozen other issues.

Wow,... what a day. A day for us both to remember and cherish ( The CO meetings went very well and the pork and veal people stepped up to the plate and did the right things for the animals and their industry - the egg people, well are "chicken" to do the right thing and they will be dealt with on another day-- (Please buy and ask for CAGE FREE or Free Range EGGS) But for this Friday... the last Friday of this chilly month - we are going home with a warm feeling. A feeling that yes indeed we did do a BUNCH of things today that made life better for animals. So added to my to-do list is to affix a seat belt to my office chair... because I suspect we will have many more wild rides like today's as our six sessions progress until the end of April.

Thanks for your artistic role in helping us help them. And I would be remiss if I did not thank Sandra Merwin for a special holiday gift... a beautiful painting of our beloved and recently departed Lucy Dog. It is a cherished memory proudly displayed." Dave


Here's a little up date on the foxes.

Here's a pair of swift foxes ( more red colored than most) that are now living freely in SD as endangered species. (For new readers last month
I participated in the humane capture of 39 swift foxes in Kansas (where they are trapped and hound hunted) to a native nation reintroduction project in SD where they have the full protection of endangered species status!!!

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