The road to a more humane and just society for animals is paved by many hands and hearts doing many different kinds of work: Sheltering and finding loving homes for dogs, cats and other companion animals in local communities; tending to sick and injured animals, from those who share our homes to those who roam, swim or fly free; and, teaching the next generation what it means to widen the circle of compassion beyond our own species.
Yet creating a more humane society also requires work at the heart of society’s most fundamental expression of its values: Law and public policy shape what is and is not permitted when it comes to the treatment of our fellow creatures. By passing strong animal protection laws, and defeating proposals that would harm animals, we take some of the most meaningful steps in ending cruelty at its source.
This is where our unique network of state directors comes in.
Living and working in 35 states across the U.S., Humane Society of the United States state directors have been described as the tip of the spear of the largest and most effective animal protection organization. They are boots on the ground, each one steeped in the unique cultural, social and political landscape of his or her state. Passionately dedicated to advancing our mission to fight for all animals, they represent the interests of animals in state capitols, wildlife agency meetings, local municipal hearings and other halls of power. They’re master relationship-builders who draw on their vast and diverse networks to move the needle for animals in their state.
Recent victories around the country demonstrate the power of the state director model. Of course, none of our state directors succeed alone; they depend on the help and support of dedicated advocates in their state—people just like you who care about animals and want to help create the more humane society they deserve.
Here are some examples of what our state directors and their networks of activists have recently achieved:
- In 2021, state directors, working hand in hand with other HSUS staff and local advocates and volunteers, helped pass 164 state and local laws around the country.
- Our Utah, Nevada and Massachusetts state directors oversaw the passage of landmark state laws that end extreme confinement of egg-laying hens. Rather than endure lives of constant misery, millions of animals will now be able to stretch their wings, perch, scratch and lay eggs in a nesting area—in short, to express their natural behaviors as birds.
- Our state directors in Illinois and Washington passed laws that prohibit the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores; meanwhile their counterparts elsewhere around the country successfully negotiated the passage of over 40 “humane pet store” ordinances, a massive blow to the cruel puppy mill industry.
- Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii and Virginia passed laws prohibiting the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.
- Washington cancelled its spring bear hunt.
- The wolf hunt in Wisconsin was put on hold.
- Maryland banned wildlife killing contests.
Unstoppable and determined, both at the state and local level, HSUS state directors are leading the charge to shutter institutionalized cruelty, from the puppy mill industry to the factory farming industry, for good. When you volunteer to help these efforts for animals, you can expect training in legislative advocacy and support to take meaningful actions in your state—actions like lobbying your state and local lawmakers, submitting written comments or even testifying at a hearing. Many of these actions can be taken from the comfort and safety of your own home, which means our volunteers have made meaningful progress for animals even through the pandemic.
Julie Gray, a humane policy volunteer leader in Indiana, reflecting on the meaning of this kind of volunteer work in her life, said that she’d "always wanted to advocate for animals, but as just one person, it seemed overwhelming. What are the most urgent issues? Which legislators should I talk to? What are the most persuasive arguments I could use? It's especially hard to answer those questions on a state level,” she said. “The HSUS policy volunteer program really helps. And it's a great—and fun—way to connect with like-minded people."
Even an hour or so a month of volunteered time can make an enormous difference for animals. Find out here if your state has an HSUS state director, and learn how to get involved. Make 2022 the year you and your state director make an ever-greater impact for animals, right where you live.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.