Last November, using a similar strategy, HSUS secured a more narrow victory in Missouri, successfully banning puppy mills despite dishonest advertisements by opponents who claimed the bill would hurt agriculture and outlaw pet ownership.
While successful, the ballot initiative process can be costly and risky, which is why Pacelle prefers turning his enemies into allies and finding common ground. After superstar quarterback Michael Vick served jail time for dogfighting under a law Pacelle helped craft, Pacelle brought him into HSUS as a speaker about the evils of animal cruelty. Pacelle’s ability to bridge differences also is effective in Washington, D.C., where he has the rare reputation of being able to bring people at political odds together on the issues that HSUS represents.
In Ohio last year, HSUS worked with the governor and agricultural trade groups, using a ballot initiative as a looming threat, to craft sweeping reforms related to cockfighting, puppy mills and the treatment of livestock in a law similar to California’s.
“It’s HSUS that has gotten the job done in propelling these reforms to the forefront,” Pacelle says. “Industries are not eager to talk. They have no incentive to deal. We have to prove that their views are not in line with the public.”
Pacelle’s most difficult challenge may be deciding what to do next. He has honed his strategies to the point at which industry bullies quake at the thought of HSUS appealing directly to the voters, and he continues to check off more and more states in which all animals are protected by laws.
His first book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, which he describes as “part memoir, part manifesto,” will be published this April by William Morrow.
After three decades of fighting for animal welfare, Pacelle has developed a groove and an organization that captures success in almost every election cycle. With his good looks, reputation and confidence in front of any audience, public office seems like a natural next step, but Pacelle has not been blinded by the fame. His biggest concern truly seems to be the voiceless creatures he has chosen to defend.
“This may be the pinnacle for me,” he says, reflectively. “I thought about politics, but I think I can make a bigger difference right here.”