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Animal Advocates Push for DC Legislation in Welfare Advocacy Training

July 20, 2021 by Ansley Puckett

WASHINGTON – The Humane Rescue Alliance held an animal welfare advocacy training Tuesday focusing on educating attendees about animal welfare legislation scheduled to come before the D.C. Council. 

The event focused on the Animal Care and Control Omnibus Act, The Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act, and the bird-safe building legislation for D.C. Panelists at the training shared information on the pieces of legislation and how people can get involved. 

Councilmember Mary M. Cheh introduced the Animal Care and Control Omnibus Act in 2019, and it is pending reintroduction this legislative year. The act would make seven changes to domestic animal control operations. 

The act would ban implements of dogfighting, authorize emergency vehicles in cases of life-threatening emergencies involving animals, and allow Humane Law Enforcement to recover the costs incurred when caring and boarding seized animals while criminal proceedings are pending. 

The Animal Care and Control Omnibus Act would also require pet stores to source rescued animals, prohibit cat declawing and manage pet ownership in a divorce. It would also eliminate the loophole on sexual contact with animals as bestiality remains legal in some states and the District of Columbia. The bill would prohibit sexual contact between a person and an animal. 

“D.C. has the unfortunate distinction of being in line with only four states that do not have an expressed prohibition of sexual contact between people and animals, so we need to close that loophole and pass some anti-sexual abuse law that pertains to animals,” said Emily Hovermale with Humane Rescue Alliance. 

Jill Eckart, the managing director of nutrition for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, spoke about the Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act, which would put more plant-based food options in D.C. hospitals. 

Eckart said the act’s implementation of plant-based food options in D.C. hospitals would also help get animals out of human diets. 

“Getting animals off our plate is such an important move for us as animal advocates,” Eckart said. “It’s one of the fastest ways to make such a big impact for our animal friends, so I am delighted that I get to work on this issue.” 

The act would also aim for at least one full entrée for breakfast, lunch and dinner and eliminate all processed meats. 

Other legislation focused on the bird population in the District. Anne Lewis, the president of Lights Out, a program that researches bird deaths due to windows and encourages turning off bright lights to help birds move on through cities safely, spoke on helping local birds. 

Lewis said North America is experiencing a serious bird population decline, and windows are the second largest contributor to these deaths that humans can control. Bird-safe legislation for D.C. would make windows more visible to birds and implement them in buildings in the city. 

Lewis said there is no existing legislation for bird safety in the District of Columbia and the current policy is not effective in helping birds because of its voluntary nature. 

“We need to do something about this program so that these buildings don’t continue to kill birds because birds don’t learn,” Lewis said. “The situation is not going to reverse itself over time, in fact, it’ll get worse.” 

Hovermale said attendees and other animal advocates can encourage their D.C. Council members to pass these legislations by learning about animal laws, council member backgrounds and speaking to the members briefly and respectfully. 

Attendees were also encouraged to share their own stories with their D.C. Council members and continue to spread the word on animal issues and the legislation made to help them. 

“In order to make systemic change, we must act collectively,” said Matt Broad with D.C. Voters for Animals. “As they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s why we need you speaking up with your council members.” 

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