Animal Hero: Linda B. Rosenthal
One of the things I have realized as a budding activist is the need for mentors and heroes within the movement. I know, I know…everything we need to become successful is within us, and heroes are dangerous. Stamp it on another T-shirt and sell it if you can, but i am not buying it. Being self contained never did much for me except make me fantastic at observing myself, and if you are the same way, let's help each other. I am looking for people who make or are trying to make a difference in the lives of animals to answer a few questions and be featured here on this blog. Specifically, I'll want to know the same stuff I share–how you got into animal rights, what you are reading, what a typical day is like, and what you hold on to when things get tough. If you'd like to be interviewed here, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks a bunch!!
Inaugural Christmas Lemon hero: Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal
My first animal hero was chosen due to the timeliness of my anti-tethering post, and also because it is lobbying season and lots of you should know who she is if you don't already. Linda B. Rosenthal is a assemblywoman (D) from District 67, which includes parts of Manhattan's Upper West Side from 42nd to 93rd street along various avenues, going as far east as 5th in some places and as far west as the Hudson. There isn't much written about her time before arriving in the assembly–a B.A. degree from the University of Rochester in 1980, and a 13 year tenure as assistant to Congressman Jerry Nadler before being elected to the State Assembly in a February 2006 special election to replace Scott Stringer. Almost immediately on her arrival in Albany, she began introducing legislation, and by July 2006, she had authored and helped pass a landmark amendment to expand Court Orders of Protection to include companion animals. Not a bad freshman season—I have been at my job for five months and I felt like a hero yesterday because I had my org chart of employees memorized. I guess we all measure accomplishment on our own scales.
Lots of politicians get behind an animal welfare cause once in awhile, for a host of reasons I cannot begin to unpack lest I lose my faith in humanity completely, but Linda Rosenthal seems to be the real deal. A quick look at her sponsored legislation, and I found nearly 30 bills relating to animal welfare, from a bill prohibiting the use of “downed animals” to a proposal that “Includes acts of animal cruelty in the presence of a child as an element of endangering the welfare of a child“. She has bills in committee right now relating to the creation of an animal abuser database, including wildlife under the protection of animal cruelty laws, and expanding the requirement for middle school children to reveive humane education in schools, just to name a few. And, of course, she is one of the few legislators to take an active role in the ban of horse drawn carriages in New York, along with State Senator Tony Avella.
Here, you can find a rare interview with Ms. Rosenthal in NY Press where she talks about her commitment to animal issues: (http://nypress.com/rosenthal-albany-toiler/)
WSS: You’ve become known for introducing laws on animal cruelty.
Rosenthal: All the cats and dogs are talking to me. I didn’t know it was a priority when I got to Albany, but you know, you learn many things when you’re in office, and one of them was how important animals are to people. They’re their companions, they’re their best friends often and they serve a purpose. Constituents who care about animal issues are among the most—what’s the word—they send the most emails, they are the most focused and they actually do demand a lot from their representatives. How we treat animals is also sometimes reflective of how we treat each other. I’m trying to make a kinder, gentler society. I also find gaps in the law where animals are not protected and unfortunately, there are cruel, abusive people out there.
WSS: Are you a pet owner?
Rosenthal: Of course! I have a cat who I got at the ASPCA about 14 years ago. Her name is Olivia because she has big green eyes, and I call her Livi, and she’s not happy when I go to Albany.
If what I wrote doesn't convince you that she's extraordinary, perhaps the revelation that she offered negotiation assistance to keep Big Nick' pizzeria open might do the trick.