Sunday, February 1, 2009

Collinsville attorney gets national post with animal rescue group

Ledy VanKavage, an attorney from Collinsville, has gone national in her new job as senior legislative analyst for the Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal rescue organization.

Her new job has her working on enacting progressive animal welfare laws and working on repealing ineffective breed discriminatory ordinances, she said.

"I sort through all the bills filed in all the states for animals," VanKavage said. "I try to figure out if what they are doing is good or bad for animals. I also get to write pro-active legislation."

She said she already has issued an action alert for the state of Montana, where someone introduced legislation that would have banned pit bulls and called for the destruction of existing animals.

"It's now tabled in committee," she said.

VanKavage worked for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for nine years. She spearheaded 20 animal-related bills that were passed by the Illinois legislature.

"We're the only state where convicted felons can't have unsterilized dogs," she said. "All they want the aggressive breeds for is defense."

She has three rescued pit-bull-type dogs of her own and also manages a neighborhood feral cat colony where she traps and neuters the cats so they won't reproduce.

VanKavage said there is so much hype about dogs that can't be rehabilitated that it makes saving animals hard.

"Best Friends has 22 of the Michael Vick dogs," she said. "They have play groups and are quite docile. They even have cats that play with them. It's more about how you treat and train animals."

She said she still is doing police training at the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, helping to educate officers about animal cruelty laws and how to handle dogs during confrontations.

Best Friends, based in Utah, operates the largest no-kill sanctuary in the country. The organization is on the front line of animal law, advocating for animals.

"They do have a wonderful place and they do believe animals are redeemable," VanKavage said. "It's a great gig. They are a great sanctuary."

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