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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Transition at the top, continuity at the core

By Michael Markarian

When I decided to relinquish my leadership role and my position within the Humane Society Legislative Fund some months ago, to follow a lifelong dream, I had no cause to worry about the future of the organization. The HSLF has a great and well-practiced team, a record of achievement, and a fantastic base of support.   

But of course, we also needed a leader, and we have one in Sara Amundson, our longtime colleague. The HSLF board selected Sara to be the organization’s next president earlier this year and you’ll be hearing from Sara in this space going forward. I’d like to share a few things about Sara so that you’ll feel just as good as we at HSLF do about her appointment. 

Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS
Sara Amundson, president HSLF

Experience is not an issue with our new leader, that’s for sure. Sara has spent her entire professional career in animal protection lobbying and advocacy, starting with the Doris Day Animal League in 1988. She came to HSLF in 2006 as executive director, and was one of our first employees. She worked to build the legislative and regulatory work of the organization, political activity to support humane candidates for office at the state and federal levels, and HSLF’s affiliated Political Action Committee.

Over the course of her career, Sara has been a major presence before Congress and state legislatures, testifying on bills focusing on the “retail pet store” rule to regulate puppy mills, the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze to render it nontoxic to pets, wildlife and children, and a requirement for alternatives to animal testing of chemicals and cosmetics. She has led successful negotiations with the chemical industry to voluntarily adopt bittering agents for household antifreeze and to gain support for the replacement of animals in toxicity testing through federal appropriations, voluntary commitments, and the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

For me as for many colleagues, Sara epitomizes the discipline, strategic direction, and tenacity needed to advance the animal protection agenda in public policy forums. The road to success in our work, with respect to just about any issue of concern to us, is a long one, and Sara understands that. 

When we formed HSLF more than a dozen years ago, we did so with the certain knowledge that there were Americans—many of you—who wanted to support a 501(c)(4) organization that would take on the greatest and most urgent of challenges in the political arena, whether it involved legislation, regulatory action, or election and candidate endorsements. 

I’m very proud of all that you have helped HSLF accomplish since the founding of the organization, as together we have reshaped the legal and political framework for animals in this country. We’ve seen the passage of dozens of new federal laws to protect animals, including laws banning puppy mill imports, requiring labeling of fur trim, planning for the needs of pets in disasters, and retiring chimpanzees from labs to sanctuaries. We’ve also strengthened the laws on shark finning and wildlife trafficking, made it a crime to attend an animal fight, banned animal crush videos, and much more. We’ve seen more than 1,500 new state and local laws passed for animals since 2005, cracking down on puppy mills, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife trafficking, private possession of dangerous wild animals as pets, confinement of farm animals in cages, and other abuses. We’ve held the line and prevented horse slaughter from resuming in the United States and blocked other cruel threats to animals. We’ve helped to elect humane candidates to office who are championing animal protection policies and reforms.

This work is only possible thanks to your support and advocacy. I hope that you’ll do all that you can to support Sara and HSLF in what is shaping up to be an important political season. But more importantly, I hope that you’ll all stay involved with HSLF for the long haul, because that’s ultimately the best way to secure the kinds of changes we all hope to see.

I’m moving on, but I plan to support HSLF as a rank-and-file supporter in the future. I’ve been honored to serve as the organization’s first president, and I’m confident that Sara and the outstanding HSLF team will continue to deliver the transformational and lifesaving results and outcomes for animals that you as a supporter have come to expect from us.

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