Monthly Archives: July 2015

Gerrymandering Blunts All Hopes

Disgraceful gerrymandering of Ohio districts blunts all hopes of the passage of our companion animal bills. Our congressional and state legislators are all in “safe districts”. Those comfortable districts have been carved out with laser precision by computers to assure a predetermined outcome on Election Day.

Efforts to control the district lines for political gain have been in effect since the beginning of our nation. Democrats and Republicans alike have used this technique to their advantage over the years. Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution. So, he attempted to draw district lines in a way that would cause James Madison, a prime author of the Constitution, to not be elected.

In the 1812, Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, endorsed a redistricting plan to ensure his party’s domination. Some of the redrawn district lines were long and skinny, like a salamander. Thus, a combination of “Gerry” and “salamander” gave us the origin of Gerrymander, a partisan attempt at drawing district lines so that the party in control benefits politically.

Gerrymandering leads to serious consequences for the health of our democracy.  It is a root cause of  frustrating political inertia. The MAJORITY PARTY NOW CHOOSES THE VOTERS in advance. It both carves out large districts for itself and packs the minority party’s voters into a few districts.

Outcomes for the November election are decided in the spring primary.  In a designated Democratic district, for example, the winner of the Democrat primary will also be the winner in November.  The winner of the Republican primary has little chance of success in that Democratic district.

Legislators are so comfortable in their districts that they do not have to work across the aisle. This is what leads to extreme political positions and lack of progress on important issues.

In contrast, in a healthy democracy, the voters choose the legislators.  The legislators compromise by working across the aisle.  There is progress on important issues, like our companion animal bills.

                                            US Supreme Court Decision

Arizona voters wanted a fairer, less partisan system of the voter districts. So, in 2000, they made created an independent redistricting commission.

The Arizona commission has five members, two chosen by Republican lawmakers and two by Democratic lawmakers. The fifth member is chosen by the other four.

The Republican-led, Arizona state legislature sued. The legislators said the voters did not have the authority to take the power away from the legislators to draw district lines.

The Arizona case made its way all the way up to the US Supreme Court. In 2015, the Court ruled, 5 – 4, that Arizona voters could create an independent, redistricting commission.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were in the majority.

Justice Ginsburg wrote for the majority, “The animating principle of our Constitution is that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

“In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government’, namely, that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. were in the minority.

                                    What happens to Ohio, companion animal bills?

Our companion animal bills do not fair well year after year in the Statehouse. They have some activity in the House. Then, when they are assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, they meet failure. In the Senate, our bills generally languish and die in a two-year period without even a hearing.

In the last General Assembly we supported ten, companion animal bills. One bill was enacted. Nine bills died. SB 177, Domestic Violence and Pet Protection Orders, the one bill that passed, had been in the General Assemblies for eight, long years.

In Ohio, when the votes are cast, Republicans and Democrats win about the same number of votes. Yet, 75% of Ohio congressional legislators and 66% of state legislators are Republicans.

Gerrymandering is why we get so little response to our calls, visits, and e-mails.  Ohio legislators are all sitting comfortably in their political offices.  They do not have to work at compromise across the aisle to stay in office. The strength of the individual voice has been seriously compromised.

                                                            What you can do

VOTE YES on ISSUE 1 on your November ballot. Issue 1 is endorsed by the Ohio Democrats, the Ohio Republicans, the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, and many more organizations.

With a fairer, more representative redistricting plan in place, there will be hope again for the passage of our companion animal bills.  It is the way forward for our bills.

 

GET POLITICAL for Ohio dogs, cats, and people at risk!

Do you want to end the suffering of outside dogs or to help the cat hoarder in your neighborhood? Then, it’s time to GET POLITICAL for those cats and dogs!

Join our Facebook groups today. Work from the comfort of your home to see stronger, legal protections enacted for Ohio cats, dogs, and people at risk.

We do all of the work for you. Your part is easy. We keep you informed about the companion animal bills and the legislators in the Ohio legislature. When it’s time to take action in support (or against) a bill, we post all of the necessary information for you.

Since we work primarily on state legislation, it’s important for you to know who your state senator and state representative are. (Senators Brown and Portman are federal, not state senators.)

There are 132 legislators, but each voter only has TWO that he can vote for or against, depending on where the voter lives.

You vote for your two legislators. They vote for our bills.

Find your own TWO legislators with the link below. Type in your zip code PLUS your four-digit extension in the two boxes by “Find my legislators.” (9 numbers in all). If you don’t know you 4-digit extension, there is a quick link by the box that takes you to a page where you type in your address. There you will find your 4-digit extension.

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/find-my-legislators

When you are done, you should see just two names – your state rep and your state senator. Please PM Beth Sheehan with those two names and your county.

She will send you their e-mail addresses. It’s easier for you to get them from her than for you to go to your legislators’ web sites and to fill out a form.

Put those two e-mails into your address book. That way they will be handy for you to use.

If you want to be placed on my “OHIO ANIMAL ALERT!” list, PM Beth Sheehan your own e-mail address too.

The Ohio legislators are on summer break now. There won’t be much to do until the fall.

Thank you for your dedication to Ohio, companion animal legislation to help our cats, dogs, and people at risk get stronger, legal protections!

Call your US rep today in support of HR 2293, the PACT Act (Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture)!

A landmark bill, HR 2293, the PACT Act (Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture) is the first ever, federal bill aimed at prosecuting intentional animal cruelty.  The PACT Act gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorneys the authority to investigate and to prosecute animal cruelty cases.  While individual states across the nation have their own animal cruelty statutes, this federal bill grants an even wider reach into areas where individual states’ laws do not reach.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2293  (Read the bill here.)

Sponsor:  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

Cosponsors: Reps. Trent Franks (AZ), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Martha McSally (AZ), Julia Brownley (CA), Ken Calvert (CA), Tony Cardenas (CA), Judy Chu (CA), Susan Davis (CA), Sam Farr (CA), Grace Napolitano (CA), Scott Peters (CA), Adam Schiff (CA), Eric Swalwell (CA), Mark Takano (CA), David G. Valadao (CA), Mike Coffman (CO), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT), Elizabeth H. Esty (CT), Theodore Deutch (FL), Lois Frankel (FL), Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Vern Buchanan (FL),Carlos Curbelo (FL),  Frederica S. Wilson (FL), Austin Scott (GA), Dold, Robert Dold (IL), Mike Quigly (IL), Peter J. Visclosky (IN), Michael E. Capuano (MA), Stephen Lynch (MA),  James McGovern (MA), Chris Van Hollen (MD), John Sarbanes (MD), Chellie Pingree (ME), Keith Ellison (MN), Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (NJ), Donald Norcross (NJ), Eliot L Engel (NY), John Katko (NY), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Albio Sires (NJ), Joseph Heck (NV), Dina Titus (NV), Nita M. Lowey (NY), Jerrold  Nadler (NY), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (NY), David Price (NC), Joyce Beatty (OH), Steve Chabot (OH), Steve Stivers (OH), Michael Turner (OH), Earl Blumenauer (OR),  Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Mike Kelly (PA), Brendan F. Boyle (PA), Matt Cartwright (PA), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (PA), Tom Marino (PA), Patrick Meehan (PA), David N. Cicilline (RI), Steve Cohen (TN),  Beto O’Rourke (TX), Barbara Comstock (VA), Gerald E. Connolly (VA), Peter Welch (VT), Derek Kilmer (WA), Adam Smith (WA), Gwen Moore (WI), Mark Pocan (WI)

                                                         WHAT YOU CAN DO

First, locate your federal representative.

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/   (Find your US representative here by typing in your zip code in the box.)

Second, if your federal representative is not listed as a cosponsor above, call him to ask him if he will cosponsor this bill.  You might say, “Good morning, Representative ________.  I am _ (your name)__ from __(your city)__, __(your state)__ .  I am one of your constituents.  I am calling today to ask you to cosponsor  HR 2293, the PACT Act.  This important federal bill allows the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys to investigate and to prosecute intentional, animal cruelty.

“This is particularly important in today’s culture of violence because of the powerful connections between interpersonal violence, animal cruelty, and some, mental illness. Where there is animal cruelty, we all are at risk.”

If your federal representative is listed, please call him thanking him for sponsoring HR 2693.

You might say, “Dear Representative _______.  I am _(your name)__ from __(your city)__, __(your state)_.  I am one of your constituents.  I am calling to thank you for cosponsoring HR 2293, the PACT Act.

“As you know, because of the powerful connections between interpersonal violence, animal cruelty, and some mental illness, where there is animal abuse, we are all at risk.”

Liz Raab, a Rottie Mom

“We need (BOG) boots on the ground!  We need an army to do this!”  With those words Liz Raab from Queens, New York, became commander and chief of one of the savviest, most successful, social media campaigns any state legislature has ever faced.

Four feet, eleven inches tall, “Liz took Ohio by storm,” affirmed Wendy Flickering-Smith, one of Liz’s lieutenants.  She commandeered  a grassroots core of 2,000 animal activists, ”Nitro’s Ohio Army”,  with the lilt of her New York accent, straight talk from the heart, and a Facebook page.    “I always tell them the truth.  That’s why they go the extra mile,” assured Liz. 

Liz launched her Ohio campaign from her battle station far away in one of the boroughs in NYC, successfully using her own fiery brand of charisma, animal passion, people smarts, and a “don’t back down” attitude.  She motivated her Ohio troops in 88 counties to unyielding action on behalf of ground-breaking, companion animal legislation, HB 90, “Nitro’s Law”.  With the enactment of “Nitro’s Law”, intentional animal cruelty by owners, managers, and employees in a kennel became a felony. 

                                                               Nitro’s Tragedy

Liz began her battle to enact the initial “felony first”, animal cruelty legislation in Ohio shortly after a personal tragedy.  Her beloved three-year old, Rottweiler, Nitro, was left with food, toys, full medical coverage, and anticipation of additional training in a Youngstown kennel, while she and her husband, Tom Siesto, kept vigil at the hospital bed of her ailing father.

When they came to pick up Nitro, they were stunned by the nightmarish scene and horrific news.  Nitro was in a freezer waiting for them.  The boarding kennel had been a hell hole, with no food or water for the animals lodged there.  The nineteen dogs there had been left in a house of death.  Nitro and six other animals had died slow, painful deaths, day by day, while boarded at the kennel. 

An additional twelve animals were in deplorable physical condition, severely underweight, dehydrated, and near starvation.  How could this happen?  Liz and Tom’s much-loved animal went from a healthy 105 pounds when they left him at the kennel to 50 pounds at his death weeks later.

Ohio’s hideously weak animal laws revealed themselves at the criminal trial of the kennel owner.  For severe, animal cruelty, the agonizing deaths by dehydration and starvation of seven dogs and the near deaths of twelve additional animals, all of which had been left by their owners in his care, the kennel owner was subject to a misdemeanor charge with four months in jail with four counts of animal cruelty.  He then declared bankruptcy, which allowed him to avoid paying for the animals in the lawsuit.

                                                   The Commander Strategizes

This general would never leave behind her fallen comrade.  “Change doesn’t happen unless there is a tragedy,” Liz acknowledged.  She mustered up the grit to endure five years and three tours of duty in the Ohio General Assembly to see enacted a felony five provision in the Ohio Revised Code. 

Liz, her daughter Christina, her husband Tom, and her thousands of soldiers in Nitro’s  Army, sacrificed much and campaigned tirelessly with the Ohio legislators to put Ohio, which had been 34th in animal protections, on a playing field with the other states, forty-nine of which had felony provisions for animal abuse.

“I am far from a quitter.  When someone tells me it cannot be done, I push ahead more,” asserted Liz.  With her Army, Liz facilitated peaceful rallies throughout Ohio on behalf of animal welfare.  The troops attended pet shows, parades, events, and expositions to educate the public about animal cruelty legislation.  Platoons went door to door to collect signatures.  Liz sent battalions to monitor specific, animal cruelty cases in courthouses throughout Ohio.

In addition, she initiated her “Wanted Wednesdays” program. On Wednesdays,  Liz featured “cold cases” of Ohio animal abuse and cruelty on social media.  “People send me their cases from all over Ohio.  Sometimes the media sends them to me too,” Liz stated. 

How did the 27,000 animal lovers who followed Liz on Facebook feel about her mission to protect companion animals?  Kristina Manley, a soldier in “Nitro’s Ohio Army”, wrote, “Every Wanted Wednesday lights my fire to do more! Yes, it’s heartbreaking, but every one of those stories feeds my desire to change the world. It reminds me what we are fighting for. I don’t want those animals to have suffered in vain. I want to stop all the suffering. I will stand by all of those animals who have been wronged.”

Liz strategized her maneuvers for success in the Ohio General Assembly all the way from New York, speaking weekly with State Representative Ron Gerberry, from Youngstown, Ohio, where Nitro’s tragedy happened.  She kept in touch personally with many of the state representatives and senators by phone and by e-mail.

The general was on her war game “24/7”.  When in Columbus, a nine and a half hour drive from her home, she met personally with as many members of the Ohio Congress as she could.  She watched all the taped versions of the Ohio General Assembly and its committees to study the personalities of the individuals, their preferences, their interests, their special projects.  The general was mapping out her war plan.

Where did she get her grit?   Liz answered, “I’m a Rottie mom.  In all honesty, I’m just true to my breed.  A Rottie is a very loving and caring animal, but he’s forceful when necessary … God sent this terrible situation with Nitro to me.  It was my destiny.  I believe that this was meant to happen because God knew that I would do something.  He sent it so we could enact legal protections for animals.  And we are going to keep on doing it!”

                                                             The Five-year Trek

What was a five-year trek through the Ohio General Assembly like?  Liz replied, “There were no highs along the way, no clear victories. There were a lot of disappointments.”   Still, she mustered on.  It seemed in 2012 with the Ohio House approving HB 90 and an informal poll taken of the senators’ votes, that “Nitro’s Law” was headed for a long-awaited victory.  But the Ohio Senate president refused to put the bill to the floor for a vote.  Another opportunity for improved laws in Ohio died.

Thankfully, the tides turned favorably in the spring of 2013.  Ohio Governor Kasich signed into law HB 90, “Nitro’s Law”.  It was step one, an incremental part of a journey to increasingly strengthen Ohio animal protections.   Liz announced, “We’ll be back in the fall.  My dream is to see all of the animal groups in Ohio, the groomers, the breeders, the rescuers, the hobby breeders, the sportsmen, all come together.  They need to check their feelings and preferences at the door and work together for what is best for Ohio animals. 

“Nitro and his kennel mates will now be able to rest in peace.  This law will make a huge difference.  It will be built upon, in future General Assemblies, to include more and more (legal protections) for our companion animals, our family members.”

Now, even though “Nitro’s Law” had been enacted, Liz and her regiments in the Army remained on active duty.  All of their successful campaigns continued in their Ohio garrison for the “next step”, felony for  animal cruelty.

Liz Raab, commander of “Nitro’s Ohio Army”, distinguished herself in her call to duty.   She showed unparalleled courage and dignity during and after the deaths of her beloved Nitro and each of her dear parents.  In spite of her own health issues, she soldiered on with extraordinary leadership and selflessness, animating the troops with photos, songs, and funny pictures.  

When enemy forces bore down, she wielded her mightiest weapon.  She sent her soldiers pouring down on Ohio senators and Ohio representatives with calls, letters, and visits.   She lit up social media with gospel choirs singing “Oh, Happy Day!” to rally the troops to action. On other days she ignited combat operations with raucous music, like “I’m Not Afraid to Take A Stand” and “Bad Boys, Bad Boys Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?” 

                                                         Mission Accomplished

We salute you, Liz!  Mission accomplished.   Ohio enacted its first “felony first” law, “Nitro’s Law”, to protect the defenseless, companion animals and their owners.  We await the enactment soon of its sister bill, HB 45, Humane Officer Training.

One determined woman from New York stayed the course for five years, directed a huge social media blitzkrieg from a faraway state, and propelled tens of thousands of animal advocates to action, in order to replace the weak laws in Ohio, to forever protect companion animals and their owners, in memory of her own beloved Rottweiler, Nitro.

Hot cars kill pets

 

As I got out of my car at the strip mall, I was blasted by the thick, summer heat, now the fifth day in a row over ninety degrees.  That dense, invisible heat wall weighed heavily on the day. 

As I headed into the hardware store, I heard the persistent, muted barking of a small dog.   I followed the sound to the other side of the parking lot.  The pretty white terrier was alone in a car across the lot with the windows up, but the car was running.  I walked over to see if he was okay.  “Hi, pretty pupper!  Are you feeling the heat too in there?”  He seemed to be alert and lively.

I then headed for my errands in the hardware store.  About forty-five minutes later, I had my errands completed.  I exited the hardware store, again confronted by that oppressive heat wave. There was that plaintive, muffled sound again.  “Oh no!  That pupper is still barking!”

I couldn’t leave the area, knowing the dog was locked up in the car with that concentrated heat bearing down.  So, I reentered the hardware store and asked if the clerk could put a message on the store loudspeaker about the white dog.  No one responded to his announcement.

I then went next door into O’Malley’s bar to see if I could find the dog’s owner.  The place was dark and cool with just a few people talking quietly together on stools along the bar. “Does anyone know who owns the white dog inside the blue Oldsmobile?  He’s been barking for forty-five minutes outside.”  No one answered me. “I was wondering if anyone in here owns the white dog outside in the car.  I’m worried about the dog in this heat if the air conditioning fails.”

Without saying a word, one of the young men slid off his stool, walked past me outside to the Olds, and got inside of the car with the dog.  The next thing the man did really stunned me.  He turned off the motor, got out of the car, locked the car door, and strode back into the bar.  Now, the dog for sure had no air conditioning.  The windows were all up tight.

That man was going to show me what he thought of my concern.

“Please get that dog out of that hot car.  He won’t live in the closed car with this heat wave.”  The man continued talking to his girlfriend, ignoring me.

Just this week, on July 1, 2015, Tennessee’s new amendment to its Good Samaritan law went into effect.  This measure allows people to break into cars if an animal inside is at risk of suffering or death.  This law is an extension of Tennessee’s Good Samaritan law that allows people to break into cars when a child inside is endangered.    The law spells out the steps that the Good Samaritan must take, such as trying to locate the owner and calling law enforcement, in order to avoid civil liability for damages to the vehicle. 

Tennessee has joined seventeen other states which have statutes that ban leaving animals in confined spaces, in extreme weather, without proper ventilation.  Each state has its own statutes on who (police, peace officers, firemen, volunteer firemen …) is allowed to enter a vehicle to save the animal. 

Would you like to such an ordinance passed where you live?  In addition to laws in seventeen states, there are numerous jurisdictions throughout the nation that have similar, local ordinances.   It’s easier to pass a local ordinance than to pass a state bill. Contact Beth Sheehan on Facebook today to see how you can get a local initiative started where you live.