By Wayne Pacelle
Pictured -- Rep. Nick Rahall's dog Billie Sue joined us at the banquet dinner.
Last weekend nearly 1,000 advocates from across the nation came together for The HSUS’s sixth annual Taking Action for Animals, connecting with other advocates and learning how to make the best possible case for animal protection. I’ve captured just a few of the highlights here, and you can also see a recap in this video from the event. If you joined us at TAFA, I’d also love to hear your thoughts—and please save the date for next year’s conference, July 15-18.
- A laugh-out-loud performance by actor and comedian Hal Sparks at Saturday night’s banquet dinner, where we learned that Sparks shares a house with Chewbacca and Barbara Walters (a chow mix and Pomeranian, respectively).
- Meeting Rep. Nick Rahall’s adopted dog Billie Sue, rescued from the D.C. streets just before last winter’s blizzards.
- A standing ovation for our four lively plenary speakers: radio personality Jerry Cesak, author Meg Daley Olmert, ethologist and author Jonathan Balcombe, and photographer, "America’s Next Top Model" judge and HSUS spokesperson Nigel Barker.
The first-ever student summit, attended by 60 incredibly inspiring students and parents from all across the country, including Colorado, California and Michigan. Students learned about being an effective advocate for animals and how to get more involved, then rounded out the day by writing letters to their legislators. One group of youth, Opportunities for Action of New Jersey, woke at 2 a.m. to arrive at the conference on time. And before TAFA they sold homemade cookies, raising $350 for The HSUS’s anti-animal fighting campaign, $2.50 at a time.
A packed exhibit hall with 72 fantastic exhibitors—including animal advocacy organizations, commercial vendors selling animal-friendly products, and authors signing their books for attendees—and happy four-legged faces greeting you throughout the conference, from Pud, a cat on a leash, to Dolce, the friendly registration desk dog.
At a Social Media 101 workshop—one of more than 20 TAFA workshops on a wide range of topics—you would have learned how nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 per month in free advertising through Google Grants and have a donation button placed on their YouTube page.
Members of Opportunities for Action at the TAFA Student Summit.
Insight into what keeps “Hot in Cleveland” actress Wendie Malick up at night (the plight of wild horses) and her hopes for a postcard brigade—an army of advocates who mail postcards to the Bureau of Land Management and congressmen, asking for an end to wild horse roundups.
The crowning of the first “mayor” of TAFA (Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue) on Foursquare, a location-based social networking website, and prizes to Foursquare users who "checked in" at the conference.
One-on-one meetings with your legislators at a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, and a Get Ready to Lobby training session on how to effectively communicate with legislators and their staff.
A lot of tweeting, and not from birds. We had a lively dialogue and conference play-by-play on the social networking site Twitter. Here are just a few examples:
The HSUS's Michael Markarian and Wendie Malick.
A footnote: On Tuesday I asked you to submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management on the agency’s new policy proposal for wild horse and burro management. Since that time, we’ve heard from many of you who had difficulties using the BLM’s online comment submission system. We contacted the BLM immediately on your behalf and, as a result, we’re now providing the opportunity for you to submit your comments via email through humanesociety.org. Please make your voice heard before Aug. 3 in support of humane, sustainable programs for managing the herds.