By:  Date: 07/18/2007

NAIA Newsletter: July 17, 2007
Patti Strand, National Director

Sacramento, CA – Finally, California dog and cat lovers can hug their pets and heave a sigh of relief. The three-ring circus doing business as the California Healthy Pets Act, AB 1634, has folded its tent and left town – at least until next January.

On July 11, 2007 about three hundred pet enthusiasts descended on Sacramento for the Senate Local Government Committee's hearing of AB 1634. For many it was their fourth trip. As they squeezed into the hearing room entry line at 5:30 a.m. their spirits were lifted by an article in The Sacramento Bee morning paper in which all 5 Committee members acknowledged problems with the bill. At 6 a.m. they were further buoyed by word that the bill's author, Assembly Member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), had told a TV news reporter that he would pull the bill after the hearing, a move that would prevent a vote and kill the bill for the rest of 2007.

Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D), the respected Chair of the Senate Local Government Committee, granted both sides 20 minutes to make their cases and monitored the time with care. But when the testimony ended and it was time for Levine to fulfill his early morning pledge to pull the bill, he offered instead to amend it again. The bill had been amended seven times already! Thankfully, the Chair, Negrete-McLeod, and Vice Chair, Senator Dave Cox, (R) expressed discomfort with "taking amendments on the fly." Sensing doom, Levine finally pulled the plug on AB 1634 himself. In doing so, he avoided committee action and can bring back the entire show – all three rings – this coming January. But for this session, the bill is dead

Over the last 17 years, NAIA and its friends and supporters have fought a lot of tough battles, but AB 1634 qualifies as one of the toughest. The California Healthy Pets Coalition ran a sophisticated, well planned, well funded, highly organized campaign. Whatever else one might think of them, they were not amateurs! They rallied key legislators, a host of respectable organizations, celebrities, and high-profile leaders from the animal protection movement to their cause. They were all over the media in a coordinated, sophisticated communications effort.

But it's not the California Healthy Pets Coalition that makes AB 1634 so memorable. In fighting this pernicious bill, dog and cat lovers truly rose to the occasion. Scores of individuals and organizations converged to create a new level of cohesive communication and action that spelled political power. Never before have we worked with so many wonderful, dedicated, focused and gifted people as we did throughout this long but ultimately successful battle.

NAIA's deepest thanks go to all the individuals and groups that fought AB 1634: In California these include The California Federation of Dog Clubs, The Animal Council, The Concerned Dog Owners of California, PetPac and At the national level we thank the American Kennel Club ( AKC ) and Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). We also thank the numerous chat lists that kept everyone informed and energized throughout the fight.

Our speakers at the Local Government Committee were qualified, dignified and downright awesome: from Dr. John Hamil, past president of the CVMA, to Angie Niles, who represented NAIA; Bill Hemby of PetPac; Joan Miller of CFA; Douglas Surber of Save our Dogs; and finally to Jeff Leacox, the AKC lobbyist. All of them deserve our gratitude, and they certainly have it.

Very special thanks to Laura Sanborn, Angie Niles and to the veterinarians; John Hamil, Sharon Vanderlip, Charles Hjerpe, and the many other veterinarians in San Diego and across the state – who rose in opposition to this bill.

And finally, I want to express my personal gratitude to the free-form media activist team of ladies led by Brat Zinsmaster and Diane Amble (Operation Media) who made it their mission to bring the iconic team of Timmy and his Lassie to the Capitol.

Our heartfelt appreciation to Robert Weatherwax, famed trainer of the "Lassie" collies and to Jon Provost who played "Timmy" on TV's most memorable series, for bringing "Laddie" (the ninth generation of the Weatherwax lineage of "Lassie" collies) to the Capitol and for speaking out against a bill that threatened the future of all dogs and cats.

As USA Today put it: "When it comes to lobbying, Lassie's progeny just beat game show host Bob Barker…Celebrity testimony can be a powerful persuader in California but in Laddie's case his mere presence was all that was needed."

Passion and truth make for an irresistible combination. In the battle to defeat AB 1634, our side marshaled those qualities as never before. Visit the NAIA website for details and links to the path, pictures and conclusion of this entire saga. It is entertaining, but more importantly, it's instructive for the kind of action that will be required in other parts of the country as this misdirected onslaught of anti-pet legislation continues.

Soon we'll be preparing for January; but for now THANK YOU ALL!



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