Gotham Gazette

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Building Political Power for Animals in New York

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(image via ESHV)

In one of the most politically divisive times this country has ever seen, there is still one unifying, bipartisan issue that now – more than ever – needs your support: protecting animals from abuse and neglect.

Over 90% of Americans believe that animals deserve protection from abuse and exploitation. Yet today, in contrast to overwhelming public sentiment, basic protections for animals are under attack in this radically altered political landscape. Recent reports are chilling: Congress obliterated restrictions protecting wildlife from cruel and unethical hunting practices in national parks (including shooting wolves from planes and killing hibernating animals in their dens) and the USDA has stripped public access to Animal Welfare Act inspection reports which document cruelty in puppy mills, labs, and circuses.

It is time to push for meaningful change for animals starting with our own communities.

This week’s launch of Empire State Humane Voters (ESHV) is a long-awaited beacon for New York’s animal advocates. As a grassroots advocacy organization, we aim to build political power for animals in New York State — from Buffalo to Long Island. Our mission is to support city and state candidates who will champion protections for animals, lobby for stronger laws to stop animal cruelty, and hold elected officials accountable to humane voters.

What makes ESHV stand out from the pack? Unlike most nonprofits, our 501(c)(4)* status allows us to engage with candidates for elected office. While other animal groups are legally barred from even talking about elections, ESHV can ask candidates tough questions about humane issues and is uniquely positioned to endorse candidates that prioritize animal protection — and vigorously oppose those who don't by mobilizing animal activists and New York’s 3 million pet guardians into a humane voting bloc. ESHV is empowered with the political savvy and animal law expertise to effectuate change for animals in New York.

The battle to achieve legal protections for animals must be fought on the state and local legislative fronts. Unlike a charity with very limited lobbying capabilities, ESHV is empowered to focus on lobbying and political activities in Albany, New York City, and locally throughout the state. From strengthening New York State animal cruelty laws, ending some of the cruelest factory farming practices, protecting pets from being trapped outside in extreme weather, to ending the use of wild animals in circuses, we will ensure that the voices of all animals are heard.

State and local elected officials understand that animal protection is an important issue to constituents and that ESHV is mobilizing public concern for animals through the political process.

“Effective advocacy requires not only educational outreach, but also political organizing,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “The animal protection movement has done great work educating the public on the plight of animals. Now ESHV is charged with converting that positive public sentiment into law.”

We have a busy year ahead. With seven open City Council seats and active District Attorney races, now is the time to elect candidates that prioritize animal protection. Recruiting, training and building an active volunteer presence in every local district is a top priority. We will focus on teaching animal lovers about grassroots organizing and how to work on electoral campaigns, embedding them into the political fabric of their communities.

“Local government has the power to create a more humane environment for our animals,” said City Council Member Mark Levine, “and we need advocates engaged in the political process to make that a reality.”

Thursday, May 11 marks the official launch of Empire State Humane Voters at the Upper West Side studio of world renowned artist Peter Max. This sold out event brings together a constituency of dedicated animal protection advocates that is more than ready to channel its passion and enthusiasm into an effective political movement.

Join our pack of political animals.

Allie Feldman Taylor is the Founder and Executive Director of ESHV. On Twitter @nyvoteshumane. She has three rescued cats: Willa, Waffles, and Feline Dion.
*Status pending May 2017

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