February 17, 2010
Alabama Humane Federation On Call
State group responds to animals in need
When you are The HSUS director in a state where animal welfare has historically been a low priority, you need all the help you can get to advance the humane agenda. Fortunately for Director Mindy Gilbert, the Alabama Humane Federation has been a staunch and energetic partner with The HSUS as they work together to improve the lives of animals.
A Long-time Presence
The AHF has been active since the 1950s and has grown to some 40 organizations including animal care and control agencies, shelters, local humane societies, rescue groups, and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.
Beyond the day-to-day care of animals in need, a great deal of energy is focused on education and stronger humane laws. Says Gilbert: "No legislative session would be complete without the participation of this dynamic association."
One of the current major goals is a tough new felony cockfighting law. Alabama is one of 10 states where cockfighting remains a misdemeanor and its paltry maximum fine of $50-- the weakest penalty in the nation—attracts rooster fighters from around the country.
Another major effort is to amend cruelty laws giving judges the power to order owners to pay for their animals' care when they must be held as evidence in criminal cases This would alleviate the often considerable financial burden placed on local agencies required to hold animals seized in raids on puppy mills, animal fights, neglect cases, and the like.
While The HSUS and AHF as partners wield serious lobbying clout in the Montgomery statehouse, they weren't always a force to be reckoned with. In the 1980s, the federation focused its attention on passing animal welfare legislation, particularly anti-cruelty laws, but progress was slow and successful early legislative efforts were tough at best.
In 2000, however, the federation achieved its biggest success with the passage of the Pet Protection Act with the help of hundreds of new grassroots activists who helped educate citizens and legislators alike on the importance of increasing the penalties for cruelty to dogs and cats.
Since then, a raft of strong new laws has been enacted including bans on hog-dog fighting and some of the worst abuses in hunting practices; mandatory spay and neuter of animals adopted from animal shelters; and humane euthanasia.