Pounding the pavement
For eight months, Pam Van Hoose’s routine included 10 to 14 hours of walking every day. Not for pleasure or exercise, but because she had a mission: gathering signatures to help get a measure to protect breeding dogs on the ballot in Ohio. Following her Franklin County map, she says, “I just started going street by street.” She’d walk into a business, give a 30-second pitch, ask for a signature and move on. Day by day, she walked her way across the county, racking up support.
Building an army
Along the way, Van Hoose's calm determination drew attention. She'd been a regular volunteer at her local shelters, walking dogs five days a week before taking a break to gather signatures. But her fellow shelter volunteers—animal lovers who saw, every day, the terrible effects of Ohio’s puppy mill problem—didn’t just want to add their signatures. They wanted to help, and others did, too. Inspired by Van Hoose’s activism, 125 people soon joined what she calls her “army.” She made the work easy: Each month, she’d email the volunteers, ask whether they had any petitions to turn in, then go pick them up and distribute new copies. “Let’s keep rolling,” she’d say.
Why she walked
Van Hoose didn't just inspire people with words; she also carried visual aids—including a laminated copy of “Anatomy of a Puppy Mill Raid,” a 2013 All Animals story that reveals the conditions at puppy mills and shares how the HSUS is putting an end to the abuses. She also printed a photo from “The Dog Factory,” a 2017 Rolling Stone piece that chronicles writer Paul Solotaroff’s trip with the HSUS Animal Rescue Team to a puppy mill. “So when people ask me, ‘What’s a puppy mill?,’ a picture’s worth a thousand words,” she says. “It is just the most gut-wrenching picture. I looked at that dog and that’s just what keeps me going every day. Because if not me, then who?”
A lifelong Ohioan, Van Hoose felt compelled to fight for dogs in her state. “I can’t rely on somebody else to do something when I think it should be done. If I have the time and the energy and the inkling, then it is my responsibility,” she says. Her work paid off: Van Hoose and her team gathered 36,300 signatures. In June, the Ohio legislature passed a law strengthening regulations for commercial breeders in the state, pre-empting the need for a ballot measure. It was a hard-fought battle for Van Hoose and her army, but she’s ready for whatever fight comes next in the Buckeye State— ready, as she says, to keep rolling.