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February 22, 2010

The Dawning of an Activist

Sunrise Ayers campaigns for cage-free eggs

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Sunrise Ayers juggles work, family and activism, making for a very busy schedule.

With a young son and a full-time job as an attorney at Idaho Legal Aid, it isn’t easy finding time to fight for humane treatment of animals. But Sunrise Ayers manages to do it -- sometimes spending her lunch hour visiting restaurants, hospital cafeterias, and universities to provide information that will hopefully convince food service managers to start buying eggs from farmers who don’t confine their chickens in tiny cages.

Unlocking the Cages

"I am so grateful to have Sunrise heading up our Idaho Cage-Free Egg Campaign," says HSUS Idaho State Director Lisa Kauffman. "She has spent many hours distributing material and following up with businesses to educate them on the horrors that hens can face in the egg-laying industry.  Her dedication and determination can only mean success for animals in an industry that few know the truth about. Sunrise has already secured one commitment from a local downtown Boise restaurant to use cage-free eggs,  and I'm sure many others will follow suit."

On February 23, Ayers will be at the state capitol for Humane Lobby Day, joining Kauffman and other HSUS volunteers to raise awareness about humane treatment of animals.

An Animal Lover Always

As a child, Ayers was always rescuing stray kittens and finding them homes. When she went to law school at Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon, she was very interested in animal welfare issues and was an active member of the Animal Law Review and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.  She and other students sometimes drove an hour outside Portland to Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, where they helped feed the rescued farm animals, clean their stalls, build fences, and just generally help out with chores at the farm.

Today, the 29-year-old Ayers lives outside Boise with her husband, son, and two rescued kitties.

She first got involved with volunteering for the HSUS by doing two research projects. Her first project was collecting media stories on the problems associated with people keeping exotic animals as pets. In her second HSUS project, Ayers researched animal abuse cases in Idaho as part of a push to document the problem and get the state Legislature to strengthen animal cruelty laws in the state.

 "I'm particularly passionate about trying to get both political progress and community education of these issues in Idaho," Ayers said.

The Idaho Legislature ended up passing a felony dog fighting statute in 2008, but has yet to create a felony statute for animal cruelty. That's one of the issues Ayers says she'll be bringing up when she and other activists meet with lawmakers during Humane Lobby Day.

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