February 17, 2010
The Animals' Friends in Maine
Legislator turned activist
"Love Animals? Hate Politics? Where Does that Leave the Animals?" reads a powerful message by Maine Friends of Animals. At the statehouse in Augusta, this animal welfare group is focused on politics—which makes sense since it was launched 13 years ago by a Maine lawmaker.
The Other Side of Politics
Robert Fisk, Jr., was a state legislator in 1997 when he launched the group. It drew 250 animal lovers as members in its first year. The next year, Maine for Animals scored its first legislative victory: a critical new law making animal cruelty a felony in the state.
Fisk left the Legislature after his first term, then devoted his career to building Maine Friends of Animals' membership and activism. This year, Maine Friends of Animals will partner with The Humane Society of the United States for Humane Lobby Day. The goal? To create and keep successful relationships with legislators and, in turn, help animals.
The group focuses on two-year issue campaigns and combines an educational component with legislation. In the past 13 years, Maine Friends of Animals has worked to end abuse of circus elephants brought into the state, stop dog chaining, and promote spaying and neutering of Maine's dogs and cats. The group has also pushed legislation to end cruel hunting practices like leg-hold traps, captive hunts, coyote snaring, and bear chasing and baiting.
Maine Friends of Animals also gets involved in electoral politics, working to elect animal-friendly legislators to the statehouse. The group created a politically effective scorecard that ranks individual lawmakers' voting records on animal welfare – a handy tool for voters who put a priority on animal issues. The group was able to spotlight—and oust—a former state legislator who supported convicted animal abusers, and then used grassroots networks to help elect an animal-friendly lawmaker in her place.
"Maine Friends of Animals is an important, informed, active, grassroots voice for animals in Maine," said HSUS Maine State Director Katie Lisnik. "We'll be working together in Augusta this year to further strengthen Maine's animal cruelty laws."