Since the death of my long-time friend Ben — a rescued dog that I was fortunate enough to be able to invite into my family — I have thought deeply about the roles animals play in our lives and the roles we play in their lives.
The humane treatment of animals has always been important to me as a legislator, community activist, parent, neighbor and sister. Advancing this value is complex and multi-tiered. I have sometimes been successful with my support of animal protection legislation. Animal welfare should never be a partisan issue, but frequently the General Assembly votes have broken along party lines. However, as the majority has moved into Democratic hands, we have had the opportunity to pass legislation that will protect and support animals in Virginia.
I am proud that I successfully patronned the Humane Cosmetics Act in this session, making Virginia one of four states in the nation to protect animals from cruel cosmetics testing. My bill, HB2250, mandates that the sale of any personal products containing ingredients tested on animals in Virginia will be unlawful as of July 1, 2022. I have been working on this ban since I first introduced the bill in 2016.
I have fought for legislation allowing a police person to break into a car to rescue a pet in danger of dying from heat or cold. I also worked to prohibit towing a car with a pet inside it after a constituent brought me her story:
Her dog was inside her car when it was towed. She spent many hours trying to find her pet and car. When she finally located them, she was not allowed to free her dog until she had waited in a long line, filled out numerous forms and paid a fine. I worked with local governments and towing companies to prevent this from ever happening again.
I have supported legislation mandating the adoption of animals used in testing facilities against the fierce lobbying of universities performing that testing; mandating shelters to notify the public when planning to euthanize any animals due to lack of space so that the animal may be adopted or moved to another shelter before euthanizing.
I have supported expanding the legal definition of “service dog;” the decriminalization of catch and release of feral cats; the creation of the Registry of Adoptable & Transferable Companion Animals. I have worked legislatively and with community activists to ban puppy mills and puppy sales in pet shops. I have voted to ban tethering dogs outside in very cold or hot weather, and failing that outcome, to restrict the conditions in which that tethering may occur.
Over my years in the House of Delegates, I have been proud to receive awards from the Humane Society, PETA, accolades from the Dog Army and from Humane Domain for my actions to protect animals. I intend to continue my battle for animal rights as a legislator, a community activist and rescued pet owner.
I grew up with rescued dogs and cats.
My mother taught us that it is irresponsible to purchase a pet when so many are in shelters without a forever home. Currently I live with two rescued cats and just lost my rescued dog (after 9 great years) to a neuropathy disorder. I support local rescue organizations and encourage others to do so at every opportunity.
I founded the Legislative Animal Welfare Caucus in 2018. I have continued to Chair and staff this Caucus thus bringing diverse experiences and voices to the table in our search to make Virginia an animal-friendly and humane state. I actively support all animal rights legislation brought before the General Assembly. I am very concerned about the lack of enforcement of animal protection laws and will do all I can to increase funding for the Animal Law Unit in the Attorney General’s office. I will work to make our companion animal laws more inclusive.
I pledge to Ben that I will explore all legislative and community-consensus avenues to end animal cruelty wherever it is found in our Commonwealth.