In late January, Alaqua Animal Refuge hosted a group of advocates from the Florida Panhandle to attend the 2020 Humane Lobby Day in Tallahassee. The biggest day of the year for animals and animal advocates, the day-long event was devoted to give voice to animals all kinds. Sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States each year, Humane Lobby Day happens nationwide and gives advocates the opportunity to speak directly to state legislators about passing laws that protect animals. The event was also co-hosted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an organization dedicated to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.
Approximately 80 animal advocates from across the state of Florida gathered at the Capitol to lobby legislators that are considering key animal protection bills, and expressed their voices to make a difference in changing the laws surrounding animal welfare.
Over 20 of those advocates were from the Florida Panhandle and joined Alaqua on the 2-hour chartered bus ride from Freeport (FL) to the Capitol. Organized by Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood, the group included staff, volunteers, and members of other animal organizations nearby. Hood has been involved with the Humane Society of the United States for many years, including Humane Lobby Day, and also serves as a volunteer district leader in the state.
“It’s so important to let legislators know that their constituents care about animal issues and it’s a great opportunity for our staff, volunteers, and supporters to learn about the important work being done on behalf of those who do not have a voice,” said Hood.
Hood was asked personally to speak to the Senate Agriculture Committee about a bill that would ban the declawing of cats. Addressing the committee members, Hood shared that many people still do this to their cats, but it is an outdated procedure that we now know should be eliminated. Further, she indicated that declawing cats is an amputation that removes the last bone in the foot, and causes severe physical and emotional stress on the animal that can have long-term effects on the cat’s health. The Committee did approve the measure from Senator Lauren Book with a 4-1 vote Tuesday afternoon.
The Committee approved the bill with a 4-1 vote, which provides that a non-veterinarian who unlawfully declaws a cat is subject to a civil penalty up to $1,000 for each violation. A licensed veterinarian who performs declawing is also subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Veterinary Medicine, and fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. The bill is now scheduled to be heard by the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee and the Rules Committee before going to a full Senate vote.
Additional legislation discussed included bills that would end the shark fin trade in Florida; the illegal taking, selling, and possession of the Florida Black Bear; the Florida pet store “preemption law”; emergency sheltering of persons with pets; and the injury of police canines and equines.
Alaqua Animal Refuge, with Hood at the helm, has been an active animal advocate since its founding in 2007. Over the years Alaqua has pushed the boundaries of animal rescue, welfare, cruelty prevention, and advocacy. Today, they are a recognized leader on these issues in our local community, the state of Florida, and around the U.S.
Lobbying on behalf of animals and being their voice is just one aspect of what Alaqua does, and it is an important overlay of the ongoing daily work that Alaqua does by rescuing and rehabilitating; providing protection, shelter, and care to animals in need; operating a full-service adoption center; and providing numerous education outreach and community programs so that others can learn how to drive change for the betterment of animals everywhere.
Aimee Shaffer, a fellow advocate that attended Humane Lobby Day (and an avid Alaqua supporter), said “it was so empowering to be a voice for the voiceless today. I’m looking forward to being of service in the future and at the 2021 Lobby Day.”