Residents support animal rights by reviving defunct association

Ben Burke

A band of Ames residents recently reformed an animal-rights group that had been inactive for nearly a decade.

The Iowa Alliance for Animals, founded in 1991 by Vicki Biondi, began holding meetings in January after interest in animal-rights issues among Ames and Story County residents apparently began to rise, said Alliance member Paul Meenan.

“I heard issue after issue, and I wanted to find out more. I just sort of fell into it, and it has become my life goal,” Meenan said of the Alliance.

Shelley Coldiron, Alliance president, said recent acts of local animal exploitation have brought about the need to once again activate the organization. She said the ISU Humane Society, whose members are mainly students, was not offering enough opportunities for residents to get involved in animal-rights activism.

“Forming the Alliance provided for more resident involvement in order to create a more stable membership,” she said.

Coldiron said the Alliance has set several goals in the last two months, including raising the awareness for the lack of animal foster care in the community.

The purpose of animal foster care, Coldiron said, is to provide an alternative to animal shelters. Individuals who can no longer care for their pets can find them homes without banishing them to a shelter.

Coldiron said animal foster care is a natural extension of existing services for battered spouses, victims of natural disasters and senior citizens.

Another project planned by the Alliance is to establish a toll-free hotline for pet owners who have questions about the spaying and neutering of animals. Coldiron said the hotline would also allow pet owners who don’t have the money to “fix” their pets to have the procedure done for a reduced price or for free.

Coldiron said the Alliance would also like Ames to begin using pet therapy — when animals are taken to visit elderly or ill people in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and hospice services.

“The effects I have seen on individuals helped by the program are amazing,” she said.

But perhaps one of the most important issues the Iowa Alliance for Animals is hoping to tackle is lobbying Iowa legislators on animal-rights issues such as the proposed mourning dove hunting season.

“Hunters want to use the mourning dove for hunting practice. They are not overpopulated, and you can’t eat them; there is nothing there to eat,” Coldiron said. The proposal has not been passed after several attempts but is expected to be revisited again in the next few years.

Coldiron said Alliance members would also like to see animal cruelty offenses, currently misdemeanors, bumped up to Class-D felonies.

“You can get in more trouble for stealing a stereo, but only a slap on the wrist for torturing an animal,” she said.

Meenan said the animal cruelty lobbying is probably the most emotional project the Alliance will tackle.

“This is an issue that touches the heart,” Meenan said. “People would wake up in the middle of the night at the horror of the thought of their pet being hurt.”

Meetings for the Iowa Alliance for Animals are held on the last Monday of every month. The next meeting will be 7 p.m. on March 27. The location has not yet been determined.

For more information about the Alliance, contact Coldiron at 292-5888 or by e-mail at [email protected].