A merger is underway between the Doris Day Animal League and the Humane Society Legislative Fund and I could not be more excited since the two organizations have been the bedrock of my journey in animal protection. Not a day goes by when I do not think of how Doris Day’s dedication to animals has affected my own life and the work of the organization I now lead. I am thrilled and grateful that my HSLF colleagues and I have been entrusted to carry on and extend her tremendous legacy through the expansion of our advocacy programs.
When I joined the DDAL staff in 1988, I had a year of work at a trade organization under my belt. I was the first staff member hired after Doris and her son Terry Melcher selected Holly Hazard as executive director. At the time, Capitol Hill offices typically placed animal welfare issues in the portfolio assigned to the most junior staffers or interns. In other words, we had room to grow.
DDAL was one of the first 501(c)(4) organizations for animal advocacy in the public policy sphere, and quickly became the most influential. Doris and Terry knew what they were doing. They saw that animal protection had limited political punch and recognized that a highly focused approach to lobbying and advocacy was the missing ingredient.
I’ve always felt that people underestimated Doris in some respects. She was known for rescuing individual cats and dogs and making personal house visits to assess potential adopters. This made the greatest sense to those of us who understood her view that adoption, like other simple personal acts of compassion, could be life-changing for individuals and the animals they helped. But make no mistake, she was smart on the big picture stuff, too, taking stands against cruelty in entertainment and coming out strong against fur in the early 1970s, long before others in Hollywood did so. Whenever it really counted, she put herself on the line.
That’s why it was no big stretch for her to launch a namesake organization with an ambitious federal policy agenda. With Terry, Holly, and a few trusted associates who had helped to manage her professional career, she set our agenda, and in short order, DDAL grew to include hundreds of thousands of supporters and a staff of a dozen committed individuals, many of whom continue to work in animal protection to this day. We got bigger but we never lost the sensibility of a lean and scrappy organization fighting the good fight. We focused on ending the use of chimpanzees in research and challenging the use of animal testing for cosmetics. We confronted horse slaughter and other equine cruelties. We targeted the sale of puppies over the Internet and the “crushing” of small animals by fetishists. We pushed for the addition of a “bittering agent” to toxic antifreeze to render it unpalatable to pets and wildlife, and we supported the building out of a permanent sanctuary for chimpanzees retired from federal research. There were many successes along the way.
Leaning conservative as she did, Doris had a special commitment to bringing Republicans into our policy discussions. She was known for contacting President Reagan, a friend with whom she had appeared in a movie, on issues ranging from chimpanzee research to national spay/neuter programs. The president contributed a story to DDAL’s magazine discussing the horses and dogs living on the ranch that was his permanent home.
Republicans on Capitol Hill heard from her on a frequent basis too. In 2000, amid discussions to move important legislation to create a federal body to assess replacements for animal-based tests, Doris telephoned a key Republican committee chairman to chat him up. The bill’s sponsor told me later that the chairman quickly agreed to advance the bill. Nor was this the last time we saw her work her magic in the political arena.
In 2006, DDAL joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States to continue its work and I joined the Humane Society Legislative Fund as its executive director. HSLF and DDAL worked closely together on shared priorities, and we pondered the value of a genuine combination of the two organizations. Now, we’re on the verge of making it happen, and we’re asking you to support the newly strengthened HSLF as a member and supporter. We’re asking you to unite with us in our mission to take action for animals and elect legislators who stand up for their interests.
In 1988 I could not have dreamed that coming together with Doris, Terry, Holly—and many other lifelong friends—would result in so much progress for animals. Doris made so much of that possible through her vision, her energy, her resources and her influence. But above all she made it possible through her great passion for helping animals, the same passion that will inform all that we do as guardians of her great legacy. We can honor her best by giving our best to the cause of animals, and by working closely together to secure the public policy advances to which she dedicated herself during her long career as an advocate. We hope that you’ll join us in doing so.