05/02/2012 10:27 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2012

Saving Animals Through Advocacy

Few causes are able to unite people such as Lorenzo Borghese from ABC's The Bachelor, actors Bo Derek and John Corbett, school children and animal welfare organizations, but all of these people and groups got together last week to participate in the "Horses on the Hill" event on Capitol Hill. The ASPCA was proud to co-host, along with the Animal Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States, this event in which we publicly urged legislators to stop our nation's horses from being slaughtered at home or abroad.

Killing American horses for human consumption is simply not acceptable. The ASPCA's founder, Henry Bergh, loved all animals, but initially focused his efforts on stopping horse abuse. Mr. Bergh would not have been surprised by the people who turned out to help horses because he believed animal protection was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. More than 140 years have passed since Mr. Bergh founded the ASPCA, but our commitment to horse protection remains steadfast.

We know that most Americans care deeply about the horse slaughter issue, as a recent Lake Research poll found that 80 percent of Americans opposed horse slaughter -- a sentiment that cut across gender, political affiliation, and geography. Despite the overwhelming opposition in this country to horse slaughter, this despicable act has been legal since a federal ban on horse meat inspection funding was lifted in the Agriculture Appropriations bill that passed last year.

Horses in this country are in grave danger, and we need your help! The ASPCA's very special guest at Horses on the Hill, nine-year-old Declan Gregg of New Hampshire, has created an organization and blog called Children 4 Horses. Declan spoke eloquently about the urgency of protecting our horses. We were also joined by Senators Mary Landrieu and Scott Brown as well as Representatives Jim Moran, Ed Whitfield and David Rivera -- all of whom spoke strongly to the need for passing a ban on horse slaughter.

Senators Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Representatives Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., sponsored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176/H.R. 2966, which would prohibit killing American horses for human consumption in the United States and would also stop the cruel practice of transporting horses across the borders to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. The bill enjoys tremendous, bipartisan support: 163 cosponsors in the House and more than a quarter of the Senate are on board with this legislation. We need to push for a majority in each chamber so we have more work to do. You can make a difference by contacting your Congress members to request that they cosponsor and support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

We know your phone calls and letters to Members of Congress make a difference -- legislators repeatedly emphasize the importance of constituent correspondence when we meet with them on Humane Lobby Days. "Horses on the Hill" was just one of the special lobbying events the ASPCA has co-hosted. We have traveled to almost 20 states conducting training and lobby days for more than 1,100 citizens in the past year alone. At these lobby days, people from all walks of life, whose only similarity might be that they love animals, travel to their state or national capital to meet their legislators to advocate for or against legislation. Humane Lobby Days are co-sponsored by dozens of national and local animal advocacy and rescue groups that unite around our shared goal of saving animals.

2012 is still young, but so far we've had great success during Humane Lobby Days. For example, following the Idaho Humane Lobby Day, Idaho's Senate passed a felony animal cruelty bill after years of resistance, and after the Florida Humane Lobby Day, dangerous Ag-Gag language was stripped from pending legislation. In these two states alone, animals were saved because advocates organized and told legislators in no uncertain terms that voters care about animals.

While our focus is on the immediate needs in each state where we hold Humane Lobby Days, there are terrific ancillary benefits to the attendees. First and foremost, attendees tell us they are surprised by how much fun they have and find the gatherings empowering and energizing. Staff from animal welfare organizations brief attendees on priority bills, train them how to be citizen lobbyists and then take them to meet their legislators. Every step of the way friendships are budding as people share their passion for animals. We'd love to have you join us at a future Humane Lobby Day in your state or in D.C. You can get more information by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade here. In the meantime, please keep calling and writing your legislators to let them know that animals are important to you. You're making a difference!