Episode 80 – Kristen Tullo

Kristen Tullo started her journey in the animal welfare industry at just eight years old. She shares with us the story that started it all and how she started her career with the Humane Society of the United States. Kristen shares with us the historical legislation session that Pennsylvania had in 2017 & 2018, passing Libre’s Law. In 2019, Kristen will be working on the Pet Retail Sales Bill (Victoria’s Law) which will ban the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats & rabbits in pet stores unless they are sourced from Shelters and Rescues. It will also crack down on those individuals who are selling animals on the internet requiring them to have a license and provide transparency.

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Miss Tullow is the Pennsylvania state director with the Humane Society of the United States. She graduated with a master’s degree in community psychology at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. She served as a corporate outreach, in turn with the farm Animal Protection Campaign at the state Legislature, developing her own connections with lawmakers and volunteering with Humane Lobby Day before taking on the state director, Roland Hsus. Over those years, she has built a solid reputation, both professionally and personally. Through her determination for building community relationships and opportunities to grow these areas above and beyond the status quo. She was selected as one of the top 40 under 40 as in salute to emerging young professionals for her commitment to serving the community. Most recently, she led the public’s voices and raising awareness of animal welfare and carry this momentum through the passing of House Bill 1238 Incorporating libraries law, which is considered the most comprehensive animal protection legislation overhaul and Pennsylvania State’s history. Hey, Kristen. Thanks for coming on. Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s really great to be here. Yeah, we’re excited to have you. So I want you to kind of share with everybody. What? Your story in your background. And how did you get into all this? That is such an exciting opportunity to share of that personal journey and how I got involved in animal advocacy. And I think that that really starts back when I was eight years old. Actually, my mom to this day still tells this story. We were We grew up on a buy you in Florida, and so fishing was a really big thing where we lived. And one day they were a bunch of kids that were out with catching minnows. And my mom recalls this moment where I was pushing all of the kids away trying to save the minnows, and, well, one of the kids said to me, Kristen, they don’t have brains and my response back was, but they have feelings, and that was the moment where I know my mom says she understood that I understood the connection between all life, and that was really where my journey and being an animal advocate began at a very young age. And I was always the person who wanted to save every earthworm. I still do that. It’s very hard to even go for a jog. And if it’s raining and you have Earth World, all the one who’s stopping anything goes up. And so that just understanding of the connection between all life at a very young age is what led me into volunteering is as soon as I was old enough to volunteer at our local humane society and, you know, I was cleaning out different shelter areas and I did anything any job that they needed me to do. I just wanted to be around the animals and take everything in. So, you know, leading into my adult life, I got very involved with a rescue called Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, and it was a mostly companion animal rescue and started doing events with them and coordinated a five k for them. And, you know, I really understood that companion animal side through that. But then I wanted to know a little bit more about different species. And, you know, we worked to protect dogs and cats and rabbits. You know, why are we not working to protect farm animals? And what is our what does it look like for helping wildlife? And so that led to going back for my Masters at Penn State University. And that was in community psychology, where I focused my thesis on, you know, attitudes towards plant based eating and really seeing this trend in people incorporating more plant based foods into their their weekly meals. On DDE, I took an internship with the HSUS Farm Animal Protection campaign, and the first day I walked into the office there, I knew I was in the right place. I have found my tribe dialing. It was, you know, people who thought and felt exactly the same way that I did, and I was so inspired to be the best advocate that I could. And so, at that same time that I was there, The Pennsylvania State Director position had opened up, and Heidi Prescott at the HSUS really took me under wing and I got involved. And that’s what was my start with Hsus. And I wake up every single day realizing that the blessing that I have in my life to know that when I get out of bed, I’m working to save animal lives every single day. And that just makes me my heart is just completely filled with that. That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s gotta be wonderful to wake up every day and be inspired to go do your job. Yes, it is. You know, you always know who you’re fighting for. So on those days when you have opposition on a bill or, you know, someone may not understand why the legislation you’re introducing a bill or or just those tough days where you see cruelty and neglect and those are hard days, but you’re always reminded who you’re fighting for. And that’s something that I feel is really special. Yeah, so now what? You know, for those of us, they don’t know what you do all the time, right? What does the state director? I mean, there’s 50 state directors, I assume one for every state we have state directors in almost every state and state directors. The best part about that position with our organization is that no two days are the same. Okay, still think this is what’s so great? Some days I’m at the Capitol wearing a suit, talking to legislators about different legislative priorities to another day where I’m working with our emergency placement partners to take in dogs, for example, from the South Korean dog meat trade. Our state took in 60 dogs over the last two years from the South Korea dog meat trade. And, you know, and that’s just really another time that I’m able to be, you know, this boots on the ground and helping to do what ever needed to help those animals adjust to their new environment and working with our emergency placement partners who are hoping those pets find forever loving homes. So no two days look the same. And that’s what I love the most about this position. Now, did you know a lot about the Legislature before you get into this? I mean, I got imagine approaching senators and state reps and other stuff. Let’s get real. That intimidating. Yeah. Yeah, and I, you know, do you share this, you tear. We have a humane lobby day event and this year’s April 29th for those in Pennsylvania who can come out to our state capital. Help advocate for the bills that were introducing this session. But the very first lobby day that we had, I actually didn’t end up going to because I was so nervous. I thought, I’m supposed to meet with my state representative and senator. This is a bit overwhelming on Once I got through the butterflies off that the next year I did attend and realized that the most important thing that we can do as advocates is have a relationship with our legislators. They do care. They want to hear from you, your constituents. And that was witnessed in Pennsylvania with the passing of most recently are most historic animal protection legislation in our state history. And I realized that in those moments where you may think it’s difficult or it seems really like a nervous situation. For some reason, you think about the animals and it gives you the strength that you need to be a voice for the voiceless. Yeah, no, that’s gotta be I I can’t imagine dig down deep right and get over your own fears and say, You know what? We’ve gotta fight for them because they don’t have the ability to talk to the senators and and state reps. That is right. And I think it’s also important to mention that if you are not giving a voice to the issue that into you, you know that there’s someone with an opposing view giving a position to the legislator. So that’s another reason it’s so important that we speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Yeah, now that’s a really interesting perspective. So so talk to us about some of these laws. I mean, you mentioned it was like a monumental year. So tell us about it. This was a historic legislative session. So in Pennsylvania in 2017 and 2018 we passed a major bill each of those years, and the first year was what many people will be joyfully aware of. The bill was dumped Lee braised law, and it was the most significant strengthening of our cruelty laws in 30 years. That was all inspired by our main man, Lee Bray, the Boston terrier who suffered unimaginable neglect, and it was his miraculous recovery that sparked public dialogue across our state, calling on our general Assembly to improve our animal cruelty and neglect laws, huh? Yeah. So? So give us perspective. You said in 30 years. So what were some of the protections that were put in place with this? Yeah. So Lee braces. Law has five components, and those components include first mandatory forfeiture. So, under our new cruelty law, if someone’s convicted of felony cruelty to animals, that animal they have used must be forfeited to an animal shelter. The second, for the first time in our state history, we have an anti tethering law, and this is designed to prevent 24 7 chaining of dogs. Third, we had civil immunity for veterinarians and humane police officers. And this was huge because those who are out there protecting our animals deserve our protection. So this prevents frivolous lawsuits when a humane officer, sir, or a vet is reporting animal cruelty in good faith and then fourth, this is really big because this was Lee braised law. We were one of only three states that did not have first offense felony for torture of an animal. So now we have increased penalties were heinous animal abuse. And then finally, what I love the most about this overhaul is that our cruelty laws are no longer species specific, but their act based. So now it doesn’t matter what species it’s dependent on bodily injury to the animal. And that is nobody could have predicted the tremendous impact that that had on Pennsylvania’s animals and their guardians. Yeah, that is very significant. And I can tell the passion in your voice how much effort you put into this team making this happen. So when does Yes lot when did this law go into effect? So just over a year ago, So it was 2017 in the summer and actually had a celebration event with the governor who signed this bill into law. And Lee Bray, the Boston terrier, was there. And he had his first birthday, our first anniversary cake there as well from a dog bakery that brought that in and and his story was what really inspired this bill and a lot of people you aren’t aware of the full story, and I think sharing that really is an example and a testament to putting a face with a cause and the impact that that has. So library was rescued from a Lancaster puppy mill, where he was found by a delivery driver. This delivery driver saw Lee Bray, who was, I mean, the photos. I still have trouble looking at the day that he was found at that property and dext in the delivery drivers said to the farmer, You what’s wrong with the dog? And the farmer said, I don’t know. He won’t eat. And Dexter in said, Well, can I have him? Farmer says, Well, I don’t know why you’d want him, but you can take him and Dexter and said because I think I can save him so that kindness, that compassionate action is what sparked the next step of Dexter in reaching out to a friend of his who was a humane police officer. Her name was Jen Yields, and she went to see Lee Bray and immediately contacted Speranza Animal Rescue, which Janine is the mom of library, who is also the founder of that rescue. And she named him Lee Bray, thinking that that was the name she would have to put on his box of ashes. That’s how bad of a condition he was in. So she immediately reached out to Dr Pryor at Jill’s Berg vet center, who literally saved Lee Bray. And then I met Lee Bray just about two weeks after Dr Pryor had taken him into start treatments on him and Senator Richard Dalloway joined me there. And he was our champion of this issue in the Senate. And that was the day that Lee braised law was born. You know, Senator always said Kristin, what legislation do we not have that applies to leave race case? And it was felony torture for an animal and including starvation in that definition. And that Lee Braves laws one component of that animal abuse overhaul bill. And that’s the inspiring story of Of Les Bray. Yeah, that’s a great story. And it is kind of crazy in 2019 now, right, that we don’t have some of these protections in place. I mean, for those of us that love animals. I mean, they’re just like our Children right there, family, they at without a doubt. And and I think that this legislative victory was an example of a true democracy working as well, you know, here you have a deal? Republican. You Rich Alloway and Todd Stevens in the House, working with the Democrat Ryan, Bizarro and eerie and eerie Pennsylvania and and really, the people spoke, and that’s just the way we want you. A democracy should work, and you’re the people were calling and emailing and using social media toe urge that this bill was brought up for a fair vote. And that is truly what sparks that dialogue and and what led to the largest victory for animal protection legislation in our state history? Yeah, that’s really cool. And like you said, that’s exactly how our government should work. Not like it’s working right now, but we won’t go there. So So So now what? What do you focused on now? What’s next? Yeah, so we also had another bill last session. The Animals in Distress Bill. It was a bill that would provide civil immunity to public safety professionals who needed to enter a vehicle to rescue an animal who may have been in distress. That distress could be anything from it’s the middle of summer. Ah, hot July Day and the dog is in distress and they need to break the window to get the pet. It’s a dog or cat to it could be something as simple as the dog’s collar got caught on a part of the car seat, and they’re in distress. So this grants that civil immunity to those public safety professionals and another really big legislative victory that we had last session. And so that was an amazing wrap up of that session. And and as we’re moving into 2019 we’re very excited to announce the newest bipartisan supported. Pennsylvania’s pet retail sales bill dumped Victoria’s Law, so this bill would do two things. The first is that it would ban the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores and less sourced from a rescue or shelter. And the second thing is that we know there’s an emerging issue with dogs being sold on the Internet. So this would require any advertisements of of a dog, cat or rabbit that you would have to have your name, address and a license number advertised. And we know that this might not seem like something really big, but it really is because Internet sellers drive on a total lack of transparency, which they currently have. So this is really a big step in the right direction to crack down on the lack of transparency with Internet sales. Nice. So now when does that come up for a vote, or how does that process work? So Victoria just made her first appearance at the capital this week, actually, and we launched the co sponsorship memo. So we have two bills. One is in the Senate and one is in the house and they’re mirror bills. So they’re the exact same bill being introduced in both chambers. So right now, what advocates conduce to take action is to contact their state senator and their state representative toe urge that they sign on as a co sponsor to this. The this bill in the Senate and the House and the more co sponsors we have, the more support that will have to get this bill brought up for a vote earlier in the legislative session. And that’s our goal with this co sponsorship campaign right now. Yeah, that’s really cool it and it definitely seems to be a trend. I see lots of laws being passed in California just passed a really important law. Um, and I see even just community smaller cities that they’re not waiting for the state to pass laws about where the animals can, where pet stores have to get their animals. Yeah, and actually, it’s interesting you brought that up because in Maryland was the recent neighboring state to Justin Act a pet retail sales ban. So we want Pennsylvania to be that next state to bay on the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rapids and our pet stores. And with seeing that, I think, you know, we really have an opportunity to just get out there and highlight the seriousness. The pervasiveness of this issue in Pennsylvania. Victoria is an amazing ambassador. Canine ambassador on this bill, she was a German shepherd. She is a German shepherd who was bread for 10 years in a happy meal in a Pennsylvania puppy mill, and she on We’re approximating. She produced 150 to 200 puppies. The worst part about this is that she has a genetic condition that is being passed down to those puppies, and those are the puppies that air, then being sold in pet stores and on the Internet. And so Victoria’s helping us to raise awareness of the dogs who are still suffering and puppy mills. And she’s just you see, Victoria, and you just connect with her. And you understand why this issue is is critical and why we need to pass this legislation in our state. Yeah, it sounds like she’s a great ambassador for it. She is. She is. Ah, perfect ambassador for this bill. Yeah, No. One of things I know you and I were talking about before was live pigeon shoots. And you mentioned something to me that you guys were one of three states that still legally allow this. Yeah, we’re with the states. Yeah, that that openly hold live pigeon shoots. And these are a cruel killing contest that they basically what they do is they are shooting pigeons from sunup to sundown, and they’re launching them out of a box. So the pigeon is really confused. They’re dehydrated beforehand, so they are in a really vulnerable position to begin with. But once they’re launched out of the box, there are circles on the field where they placed bets on where the pigeon will land. We we believe that this is under the cruelty act the byproducts of the shoot often wounded birds who are flying off and sometimes suffer for days. There are live birds that air tossed into containers with dead birds. So we do believe that under our cruelty laws that those acts are would constitute cruelty under Pennsylvania’s cruelty laws. But until we have an explicit law that bans the pigeon live pigeon shoots, this seems to be a gray area for the state. And so the best thing that we can do is pass a bill that would end live pigeon shoes. Yeah, well, that is kind of crazy again. Do you think 2019 right, that this is something that people are doing for sport? Yes. And, you know and again, Pennsylvania just past this amazing cruelty of all. And now we really need to take action to end live pigeon shoots, especially with neighboring states like Maryland. Most recently, they had a pigeon shoot creep up in their state, and the Legislature immediately took action and introduced legislation and outlawed live pigeon shoots. So we would like Pennsylvania Thio step up next on both of those bills the pet retail sales bill, victorious law and ending live pigeon shoots. Those are our top two priorities. This session. Yeah, it sounds like you’ve got a lot a lot of work cut out for you, but you’re making great progress. Yes. And that is the perseverance of animal advocates. You know, we just continue giving a voice to the animals that need a voice. So that’s what’s inspiring to me is to see the advocates each and every day who are taking action to make sure the laws are continuing to move forward. Yeah, well, I’m glad you came on today to talk about some of this stuff. Is there anything else you want to mention, Kristinn before we wrap things up? Yeah, I think just really reinforcing the importance of having that relationship with your legislators. And now is a great time if you’ve never contacted your legislator, you know, to reach out to your state senator in your state representative and ask them to support Victoria’s Law as a co sponsor and a vote yes. On those bills in the Senate and house. Yeah, absolutely. If you’re in Pennsylvania, you should do that. And even if you’re in another state, reach out and get to know your legislatures. I think that that was a good idea without health. Well, thank you, Christopher. Coming out. It was great to talk to you. Well, thank you so much for having me on. 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