USDA APHIS and (From Janet)

“Don’t waste your time”, we were told.  But we ignored that. And we went.

This past weekend, I caught up with Mr. David Sacks, and formally met with Dr. Chester Gipson, Dr. Gerald Rushin, and Mr. Julian Prager of USDA APHIS.

I have been speaking to Dr. Gipson for the better part of two years.  My introduction to him started with a letter I had written to Tom Vilsack about “puppy mills”.  My letter was addressed by the office of Mr. Vilsack, directing me to reach out to Dr. Gipson with my questions and concerns.   So, I called him.  And, he called me back.  And we have been talking ever since.

As many people know, I started this website with the purpose of fighting the good fight against “puppy mills”.  However, the more I learned, the more I read, the more people and organizations that I spoke with,  it also became extremely clear to me that championing JUST against “puppy mills” was becoming difficult as there were many other animal welfare issues that I just could not turn my back on. Fighting for just one issue no longer was an option for me.

I have had the great pleasure of talking to many people and organizations from all over the world. The one universal piece of advice that I have received during more than one conversation is to stick to one cause because to spread yourself too thin was to burn yourself out faster.  But how does one do that when you see and hear about ALL the atrocities committed against animals? For me, the answer is you can’t.  I don’t mind spreading myself on the thin side. I’m a good multi-tasker, with a big mouth and a strong conviction. I can take being stretched, so I stretch and reach and strive and do a thousand other things that we as animal advocates do to make a difference where and when we can.

And, no matter what other advocacy issues come up, I have still remained focused on my original goal – championing against “puppy mills”.

With that said, I personally felt that I would need to include meeting with USDA APHIS as part of my journey in Animal Advocacy in the fight against “puppy mills”.  I have found that you CAN spread yourself thin when it matters, BECAUSE it matters.

So, what do you say to USDA APHIS when your request for a meeting has been approved? So MANY things to talk about, so little time to squeeze it all in.

After months of consideration, I narrowed down my main talking points, in no particular order, as follows:

  • Revising current AWA Regulations (Dr. Rushin)

My comments: Comments on Animal Welfare Regulations

  • Vehement public backlash on appointment of Mr. Prager to USDA APHIS as Canine Program Advisor (Dr. Gipson and Mr. Prager)

Questions for Mr. Prager: Questions to Julian Prager

  • Public reactions USDA APHIS actions and non-actions on hot topic animal welfare issues (Dr. Gipson)
  • USDA APHIS website revisions geared towards the public (Dr. Gipson, Dr. Rushin and Mr. Prager)

General Comments: USDA APHIS Comments

Can one meeting make a difference? I think so.  Meeting with USDA APHIS this past weekend did not change anything – or did it? One of the first things you need to evoke change is communication. I felt HEARD in this meeting. People need to “get” you before they can understand you and see where you are at. I talked about things not from a USDA or legal perspective, but rather from a constituent or layperson perspective. I didn’t yell or cry. I kept my emotions under control while still managing to convey passion in what I was sharing.

I felt that as good as it was for me to share my information with them, it was just as beneficial for them to hear it from me. No lawyers in the room, no egos or negotiating. Just one person, letting them know how important it is to do better by those that cannot speak for or defend themselves.

Animal Advocacy Blog Picture Janet Bovitz Sandefur

This one tiny blog cannot convey how much went on in this initial meeting.  I did not come away from it thinking I had changed a lot, but I already know I have changed something.

I will be connecting again with Dr. Gipson, Dr. Rushin and Mr. Prager at the end of this month.  I am already planning my next meeting.

Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur

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