According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors essential to the health and wellbeing of both.” Research shows that having a pet offers numerous health benefits, including decreased stress, fewer allergies, lower blood pressure, and increased serotonin levels. Caring for a pet also encourages exercise and socialization, therefore combating isolation and loneliness.
There is no denying the important role animals play in our lives. In Louisiana, animal welfare issues are often overshadowed by a plethora of human social issues. This month’s Community Connect is dedicated to a very special client and the work she does to protect animals on a local and state level, as well as nationally. The Witry Collective is proud to introduce Julia Breaux Melancon, the Louisiana State Director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The Human Society of the United States is based in Washington, D.C. and was formed in 1954 by Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser, Helen Jones, and Fred Myers. The founders believed in strengthening the American humane movement for all animals by playing an active role in national policy, reaching beyond local and state governments.
Julia was hired to work for HSUS, the largest animal protection organization in the United States, in 2007 and has risen through the ranks to become the Senior State Director for Louisiana and Mississippi. In her role, Julia combines her love of politics with her passion for helping all animals to live more humane lives. At HSUS, Julia works on animal welfare issues on a national scale. The organization recognizes that prevention of cruelty can only be achieved by confronting issues with the human and animal relationship. Julia has proposed and passed numerous animal protection bills into state law, including creating first offense felony level penalties for participating in cockfighting, updating the Animal Cruelty Code to include psychological counseling for those found guilty, and making it a felony to be a spectator at a dogfight.
Legislative lobbying is a big part of what Julia does for HSUS, but she also has a hand in rescue efforts, direct care, public awareness, education, and corporate reform. To enable community members in both Louisiana and Mississippi to become more involved, Julia has developed a State Council and District Leader program where members can become more involved in their particular animal issue passion projects.
Currently, Julia and HSUS are fighting for stronger policies in Louisiana against the sexual abuse of animals. According to the HSUS website, Governor John Bel Edwards, D-Louisiana signed S.B. 236 into effect, a bill that will strengthen the laws against the sexual abuse of animals. It’s hard to imagine that, in this day and age, laws prohibiting this type of abuse do not exist in all 50 states. Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. do not currently have similar statutes. This is a clear example of how policy needs change! We are inspired by all the work Julia does to protect animals. She truly is an inspiration and a voice for so many creatures that are unable to advocate for themselves.