How we treat animals reflects the values that we hold and impacts the livability and vitality of our communities.
Fortunately, animal protection is a bi-partisan issue that brings together people from across the political spectrum.
I’ve spent my adult professional life proudly fighting to better protect animals from cruelty and to find ways to eliminate animal suffering.
Virginia has a great record of being at the forefront of animal protection, including recent efforts to ban fox-penning, encourage alternatives to laboratory testing and strengthen anti-cruelty statutes. I worked with Delegate Kaye Kory and Senator Dave Marsden to launch the first animal welfare caucus in the Commonwealth. In the legislature, I will continue these efforts and strongly support better protections for animals in the legislature as well as encourage enforcement of those laws once passed.
There is still work to be done. As we face the existential threat of climate change, it is time to reform our food production, support plant-based initiatives, protect animals and workers from abuses in intensive farming operations, and encourage consumers to support local food production.
It is time to implement new solutions to wildlife conflicts. For too long wildlife professionals have had - literally - only one arrow in their quiver. If there's a problem, the animal must be killed. Using technological advances, from contraceptives to scare devices to the use of dogs to move geese, with ingenuity and compassion, we can live in harmony with wildlife.
And we need to look at how animals are used in entertainment throughout Virginia - from roadside zoos to travelling animal acts. During my career we’ve witnessed a significant shift in the definition of and tolerance for animal abuse. I led a successful effort to end using chimpanzees for entertainment. We’ve also seen Ringling Brothers remove elephants from their acts and Sea World has stopped using whales. I look forward to the day when our culture rejects the notion that keeping wild or exotic animals in captivity for our enjoyment is morally wrong.
Although we should be proud of the strides we’ve made to protect companion animals since I started working on this issue (the number of animals euthanized in our nation’s shelters has plummeted from an estimated 13 million to under 500,000 per year.), there is still much work to be done. Dogs still live at the end of chains; cats still live without homes, and cruelty, unfortunately, still exists.
Our legislature should enact new laws to reflect our changing, and more compassionate, relationship with animals.