In honor of National Animal Advocacy Day on April 30, we’re running a special series on the blog this week to honor those individuals who dedicate their energies to standing up for animals. Meet our third profiled citizen lobbyist, Michelle Lombas of McComb, Mississippi.
Growing up as an only child in rural Mississippi, Michelle Lombas befriended animals early on.
“I had no neighborhood kids to play with, so animals were my family,” she says. “I even learned to swim by watching my Chihuahua dog-paddle.”
While she works full-time as a program coordinator for the City of McComb’s Department of Recreation, Michelle spends just as much time lobbying for animals. “I may be on my lunch hour trying to catch a stray dog,” says the 39-year-old, who has served as a responder for the ASPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) after Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, and was deployed to Florida and Kentucky to care for animals seized by the ASPCA in cruelty cases. She also handles special projects for the St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in nearby Tylertown.
Most recently, Michelle organized a rally in Jackson and created a supporting Facebook page. “We had about 100 people show up in the freezing temperatures and sleet,” she recalls. “What I loved about the rally is it inspired people throughout the state. And we accomplished our goals: to increase public awareness; show law enforcement that we appreciate their enforcing anti-cruelty laws; and tell legislators we need tougher laws.
“In our state, animal protection laws aren’t where we’d like them to be, and law enforcement doesn’t always have resources to enforce those laws,” adds Michelle.
“Local and vocal advocates like Michelle are the sustaining force and life-blood of the animal welfare movement,” says Sherry Rout, the ASPCA’s State Legislative Director of the Southern Region. “They know their communities better than anyone else, and we’re honored to work with these unsung heroes.”
Michelle acknowledges it’s not always necessary to be attached to an organization to make a difference. “People should feel empowered to organize things themselves. So many times we sit back and think someone else is going to do it, but it needs to be all of us to create change.”
On a daily basis, she does just that. During this year’s extreme winter weather, she delivered dog houses to people in her community. “It doesn’t take a whole lot,” she says. “And the reward is knowing an animal is more comfortable or not suffering.”
“Many times it’s not about cruelty,” she adds. “When I deliver hay or blankets, I see that people are suffering, too.”
At home, Michelle and her husband Louis’ four Weimaraners are their children, along with two permanent fosters, a pit bull and black Lab. Their home is also a haven for 43 ducks—mallard, Muscovy, Indian runner and Peking, among others—and the occasional flock of Canada geese.
Michelle began her animal welfare efforts in earnest after Hurricane Katrina, when she saw how people risked or lost their lives because they refused to evacuate without their pets.
“Katrina prompted me to go from ‘somebody needs to,’ to ‘somebody’s going to,’” she states. “That’s when I took action. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a phone call, or buying a bale of hay to distribute.”
Other times, it’s calling legislators who don’t always like to hear from animal advocates. “I’m a vote,” she says. “There are many more animal lovers than there are Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals. The ASPCA has given me the tools to know what to say and how to say it. Speaking for those who can’t is my opportunity to make a positive difference.”
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It’s no secret that people love kittens, so when Buddy came to the ASPCA at the age of 6 months, we assumed he’d be adopted right away. But Buddy is all personality—feisty and finicky—and his behavior just wasn’t clicking with potential adopters. Before we knew it, a year had gone by and he was still waiting for a home. Though we never imagined that Buddy would have such a long stay at our Adoption Center, it turns out that he was just waiting for the perfect people to come along. Those people were Neysa and her boyfriend, Bijan, who proved that in the end, all Buddy needed was a friend. Here is their Happy Tail.
“After my landlord agreed to let Bijan and I get a cat, we both began searching online,” recalls Neysa. The young couple browsed through the adoptable cats on ASPCA.org separately, and without even consulting each other, both selected Buddy as the cat they would like to adopt. “I had very interactive cats in the past, and Bijan grew up with dogs, so we knew we wanted an animal that was outgoing.” From the moment they spotted Buddy’s face online, it was meant to be.
At the ASPCA Adoption Center, Neysa and Bijan took a tour of every room and met all the adoptable cats, but Buddy remained on their mind the entire time. “No one stood out to us the way Buddy did,” says Neysa. “Though he was a little feisty, I knew he was the kind of quirky that would work well with us.” They adopted Buddy that day. “There was no way we couldn’t take him home,” she says.
True to character, Buddy’s transition into the home was trying. He scratched and bit often, and got upset when rubbed the wrong way. But Neysa and Bijan were patient: “Over time, we learned each other. Bijan and I realized that Buddy mainly acts out when he wants to tell us something—he’s hungry, he wants to play, he wants attention. Once we knew how to react, he stopped being so rough.”
After a bumpy few weeks, their hard work and kindness paid off. Buddy blossomed into an amazing cat, and Neysa tells us that he cuddles every night, watches TV with the couple, and is “the sweetest thing in the world.” She adds, “I think he’s very happy with us, and I know we love him.”
After a year in our Adoption Center, this frisky cat found his perfect people. As it turns out, Neysa and Bijan were exactly the “buddies” he was searching for.
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In honor of National Animal Advocacy Day, the ASPCA compiled what we consider to be the 10 most groundbreaking U.S. animal-protection laws, presented here in chronological order by date of enactment.
These laws passed because caring citizens made their voices heard and elevated the consideration of animals in our laws and in our conscience. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to play your part in passing the next groundbreaking law for animals!
1. In 1641, the first anti-cruelty law in America was enacted. When the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony created the 100 individual rights in their legal code—many of which would later be included in the Bill of Rights—number 92 was “Cruelty to Animals.” Far ahead of its time, the law read: “No man shall exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use.”
2. In 1867, just after Henry Bergh secured the incorporation of the ASPCA in New York State, he successfully lobbied for an upgrade to the state’s anti-cruelty law that included granting enforcement power to the ASPCA. Recognizing that an effective law hinges upon its enforcement and confident that goal would be best served by taking enforcement into his own hands, Bergh vested agents of the ASPCA with the authority to investigate abuse, make arrests, and seize animals in danger.
3. The 28-Hour Law, initially passed in 1873, was the nation’s first federal humane law. Aimed at reducing the horrors of long distance travel in crowded rail cars, this law requires unloading, feeding, water and rest for most species (birds are exempt) if trips exceed 28 hours. In 2007, the USDA expanded its interpretation to include trucks as well as trains.
4. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, passed by Congress in 1958, codifies the need to prevent the suffering of animals raised for food, requiring that they be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter. Exclusions include poultry, fish and rabbits. The law was amended in 1978 to give USDA shut-down authority if violations are observed. In 2002, following a shocking investigative series in The Washington Post entitled “They Die Piece by Piece,” Congress passed a resolution urging that the law be fully enforced.
5. The Animal Welfare Act, first passed by Congress in 1966, is a federal statute to protect several groups of animals: those in research laboratories, bred for commercial sale, transported commercially or used for public exhibition. Amended seven times since enactment, the AWA has been expanded to include provisions for the psychological well-being of dogs and primates in research, welfare standards for animals in the pet trade and protections against animal fighting.
6. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was enacted in 1971, declaring that mustangs and burros be protected as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” In 1959, Congress first passed the Hunting Wild Horses and Burros on Public Lands Act in response to massive public outcry over the merciless mass killing of mustangs at the behest of ranching interests who wanted to use rangeland to graze their cattle. Controversy rages today over the care and treatment of residual populations of mustangs, as well as what their fair share of land should truly be, but the backdrop of the WFRHBA clearly states that they are to be preserved as part of our landscape and treated humanely.
7. The Endangered Species Act, signed into law in 1973, provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered animals and the habitats where those animals live. The powerful protections provided by the ESA have led to the recovery of wild populations of bald eagles, grizzly bears and peregrine falcons, among other animals.
8. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards(PETS) Act, passed in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, ensures that state and local emergency agencies address the needs of people with pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency. The law recognizes that animals are vital members of families and that no one should have to choose between abandoning a beloved pet and personal safety.
9. In 2006, the Albuquerque City Council passed a ban on retail sales of dogs and cats, encouraging pet stores to work with rescue groups to offer their pets for adoption. This innovative approach has been spreading to communities all across the country.
10. In 2008, California voters were given the opportunity to demonstrate at the ballot box that extreme confinement of farm animals is unacceptable. Passed by the widest margin of any ballot measure in California’s history, Proposition 2 requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be allowed to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
The ASPCA is contributing $5,000 toward a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in a gruesome cat killing case that stunned New York’s Westchester County last week. On April 24, dozens of deceased cats in various states of decomposition were discovered in black plastic bags hanging from a tree in the community of Yonkers.
The ASPCA’s reward is in addition to $13,250 being offered by the SPCA of Westchester, the lead agency on the case. Shannon Laukhuf, executive director of the SPCA of Westchester, announced the reward on Tuesday. Other organizations contributing to the reward include the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Defense of Animals Fund, and Alley Cat Allies.
“This is a truly disturbing case of animal cruelty,” says Stacy Wolf, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group. “While our ultimate hope is that these types of heinous acts never occur, this is a message that cruelty toward animals will not be tolerated in our society. We thank the SPCA of Westchester for its commitment to finding justice for these innocent cats.”
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the SPCA of Westchester’s confidential hotline at (914) 941-7797.
Please be vigilant in your community and report suspected animal abuse. Visit our Fight Cruelty section to learn which agencies are responsible for investigating and enforcing anti-cruelty laws in your area.
Attention, animal lovers! Have you heard? Today is National Animal Advocacy Day—and we need your help! We know you’re standing up for animals all year long, but today is a special opportunity for the millions of animal lovers across the county to come together to speak in one strong, unified voice for animal protection.
There is no better day than today to let your legislators know where you stand on animal issues and to tell them to take action for stronger animal welfare laws.
With the Kentucky Derby just days away, the focus of this year’s National Animal Advocacy Day is on passing federal legislation to ban performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing. Lax or nonexistent oversight allows, even encourages, the use of any means possible—even cruel, life-threatening means—to win races. With reports of these majestic creatures breaking down and dying on the track becoming all too common, horses need your help now more than ever.
Please urge your members of Congress to support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a bill that will ban the cruel and widespread practice of “doping” or drugging racehorses—its passage is critical to protecting both horses and riders. Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to contact your legislators now—it’s quick, easy and will make a huge difference!
We hope you will join us in commemorating National Animal Advocacy Day. The more of us who call, email and make our voices heard, the bigger our impact. Take a stand and help us secure meaningful protections for America’s racehorses and for all animals.