PUNXSUTAWNEY — In this country, there are those who can vote and whose actions can make a difference.
But animals have no voice.
They are the innocent creatures whose lives often hang in the balance and whose fates are left up to the human beings who choose to save them.
At a recent event, Senator, Roy C. Afflerbach, Ret. of Red Lion, visited Punxsutawney with the goal of educating members of the community on how to identify animal abuse and what to do about it when they do witness it.
After leaving office, Afflerbach started his own lobbying firm — the Afflerbach Group, LLC.
One of its main causes is to end animal cruelty.
He currently serves as co-founder and treasurer of Humane, PA, PAC.
His political career began in the early ‘80s when he started out as a state representative and later became state senator.
He took a brief retirement and then became mayor of Allentown for four years.
Because of his background in lobbying against animal cruelty, he was asked by the Humane Society to give a lecture on how to have one's voice heard.
At the lecture, Afflerbach talked about elected officials and the role they play in state legislature.
"There are two kinds of people in the elected office — your friend or someone else's friend," said Afflerbach. "They are the people who make public policy decisions."
Afflerbach talked about the forums that are needed in order to pursue a public policy advocacy — educational, administrative, legislative and judicial.
He talked about a subject that has become a humane alert for animal advocates — “Pennsylvania's Mass Pigeon Shoots.”
These acts of animal abuse are held in various counties throughout Pennsylvania, especially at private gun clubs, he said.
The pigeons are gathered, then stock-piled in cramped cages, where they are then deprived of food and water.
Then, once they are disoriented, Afflerbach said the birds are launched from boxes and shot down by the shooters.
Some birds are wounded, while others fly off to die a slow and painful death.
Afflabach said that the shooters will travel to other states, especially to New York City, where such a thing is illegal.
They will trap as many pigeons as they can and bring them into Pennsylvania, where it is legal.
He said that Pennsylvania is the only state that allows such shoots and that there is big money in it.
Participants even gamble on who can shoot the most pigeons, he said.
In 1995, Afflerbach was the first senator to introduce the first bill to end pigeon shoots.
He currently has 23 senators in line and needs 26 votes to pass it.
The Pennsylvania Senate Bill 510 will be introduced, and its goal is to end live animal target shoots.
One can help to get this bill passed by calling, writing or emailing their state representatives and state senators and asking them to vote “yes” on the legislation.
Another topic in his discussion was animal law and how it is only taught in certain colleges.
According to Afflerbach, many judges don't know about animal law, and therefore, it is much harder for them to deal with it when faced with an animal cruelty case.
The state of Pennsylvania has been working with the Supreme Court to enforce animal law education for all judges.
Afflerbach said that 90 percent of animal cruelty cases go in front of a Magisterial Judge.
He also said that in almost every jurisdiction, district attorneys and police officers simply don't have the time to investigate every animal
abuse case, adding that in many cases, the individual who witnesses the act may have to do some investigating.
As it is an election year, he urged participants to let elected officials know how they feel.
"You don't have to be a pro lobbyist; your legislator would much rather hear from the people he or she is representing," said Afflerbach.
He then went on to talk about the successful public policy advocacy efforts and the four dynamics they contain, which are recruit, educate, motivate and mobilize.
All successful public advocacy efforts share five common characteristics, he said: they are planned, focused, strategic, sustained and measured.
"We need to make a great impression with the person within the first 30 seconds," said Afflerbach.
He also said that social networking plays an important part in spreading the cause.
"We can have an impact on officials through social networking," said Afflerbach, adding that social media makes a difference today.
During the lecture, he spoke about how to present oneself when facing a state legislator in person.
He said that word content, vocal tone and body language are all very important.
He also gave "Nine Procedural Tips for Success," which included: Believe in Your Mission and Develop a Base Knowledge of the Issue; Determine Who To See; Know the Policy Maker's Background; Apply Proper Courtesies; Communicate Clearly; Disagreement is OK — Personal Criticism is Not; Follow Through Promptly and Accurately; Avoid Becoming a Pest; and Honesty Is the Only Policy.
He also said that if the elected official isn't available, one should speak with chief of staff, who will then give the message to the official.
In closing, he educated those in attendance on the present animal legislations being discussed in Pennsylvania:
• PA SB 510: Live Animals as Targets — Bans the launching or tethering of live animals for target practice, especially pigeon shoots.
• PA HB 41/SB 522: Tethering — Prohibits tethering a dog outside for extended periods of time, especially in bad weather conditions.
• PA HB 82: Care of Seized Animals — Provides a bond to assure a shelter recovery of costs of care during adjudication for animals seized in an animal cruelty case. (Passed by the House in Senate Judiciary Committee)
• PA SB 82: Puppy Lemon Law — Increases protections for dog purchasers under the Puppy Lemon Law. (On Senate Calender)
• PA HB 575/SB 521: Exotic Animals — Eliminates the private ownership of exotic animals and restricts other types of ownership.
• PA HB 164: Animal Fighting Paraphernalia — Makes a possession a misdemeanor.
• PA HB 683: Ag-Gag — Prohibits recording images or sound of an agricultural operation without permission.
For more information on the Humane Society and how one can help, contact www.humane-pa.org .