DC Voters For Animals Questionnaire
Below are Erin’s responses to the questionnaire from DC Voters for Animals
Summary: DC Voters for Animals elevates the candidates who differentiate themselves on animal values. Please complete the questionnaire to indicate how your priorities align with those of DC’s animal lovers. You can elaborate at the end of the document on any of your answers.
Are there animals who have personally impacted your life?
I did not grow up with pets, in part due to family and housing instability when I was a child. I think pets offer so much in terms of stability and teaching children empathy, and I wish that I had spent more time with animals as a child.
I have had the opportunity to live for extended periods with families with pets that I have loved very dearly. Shortly after college, I was an intern for the US Embassy in Nicaragua and lived with a family that had many pets, including two dogs, chickens, and a donkey. As someone who had not spent much time with pets as a kid, living with so many animals was new and really wonderful.
When I returned to the United States I remained very close with my host family, who eventually returned to Vienna, Virginia. For many years, I was their on-call pet sitter and cared for many of their pets. They now own a farm in Virginia, with goats and horses, among cats and dogs, and my kids have enjoyed meeting their pets and farm animals.
My children love animals, too, particularly my middle child. He walks with one of our neighbors and their dogs, and I have promised him we will get a dog once the primary election passes. I look forward to adopting a new member for our family, and we’ve already decided not to purchase but instead to take in a dog that needs a home.
Will you publish information on your campaign website describing your platform supporting non-human animals?
The issues page of my website addresses a number of areas important to supporting non-human animals, including housing as a right, a modern government free from discrimination, a resilient city and sustainable future, and ethical and accountable government.
As noted below, the right to safe, stable, and secure housing, includes supporting public housing residents with pets. A modern government free from discrimination includes assuring individuals with pets do not face discrimination. And a resilient city and sustainable future — one that can confront and mitigate climate change — takes into account farming practices that worsen negative environmental conditions and protects the planet for all living beings.
Working toward the highest standards of government accountability is also essential to supporting non-human animals. My participation in DC’s Fair Elections program means I won’t be beholden to corporate interests, which have swayed policy as to farming and food practices, among other things. The proposals put forth in my DC Council Accountability Plan will ensure the integrity of the Council and that it legislates and conducts oversight well, including as related to protecting and supporting companion and service animals, promoting sustainable farming and food practices, and protecting our environment.
In addition, I look forward to publishing this questionnaire on my campaign website and addressing non-human animal issues in more detail in pieces I publish on my Medium page — the main forum I use for more detailed policy positions, like my DC Council Accountability Plan.
Affordable Housing: Increase Access for Residents with Pets
- Question: Would you advocate for DC Housing Authority (DCHA) to allow residents of public housing units to live with their pets?
- Synopsis: People who live with pets know firsthand how intimately they are part of the family. In fact, about 56% of households nationwide have pets, regardless of income level or housing policies. Yet, the 20,000 District tenants living in DCHA public housing units are prohibited from having pets in their homes. While 44% of housing providers in DC allow pets, DCHA generally prohibits pets, with limited exceptions (i.e. service and assistance animals). DCHA’s restrictive policy discriminates against District residents by their source of income, disproportionately impacts people of color, and forces families to pick between their pets and the affordable housing they need. This exacerbates housing instability in DC’s communities, which, as one of the main drivers of community health, leads to poorer health outcomes for DCHA residents.
- Jurisdictions friendly to pets in affordable housing: Countless other jurisdictions allow pets in public housing, including NYCHA, the largest public housing authority in the country! In fact, DCHA had to obtain permission from the federal government in order to implement the ban on companion animals.
Cruelty from Animal Fur
- Question: Would you support a law to ban fur sales in DC?
- Synopsis: The fur industry uses millions of animals who are kept in tiny cages on factory farms and killed in cruel ways, or trapped in the wild where they are often left to suffer for days. Advancements in faux fur have made it virtually indiscernible to animal fur. Not only have many local and national governments issued fur bans, hundreds of retailers have independently phased out fur. DC should make being cruelty free the new fashion statement!
- Who bans fur: Over a dozen countries have banned fur farming, and Israel recently became the first to ban sales. Eight cities in the US have banned fur sales, as well as the entire state of California.
Ending Force-Feeding of Farm Animals
- Question: Would you support legislation prohibiting the sale of food made from force fed animals (such as foie gras) in the District?
- Synopsis: Foie gras is known to be one of the most extreme forms of animal agriculture. The production process includes force feeding the duck or farm animal with a metal tube that is inserted in its esophagus in order to enlarge its liver. Despite being home to over 1,000 restaurants that serve foie gras, New York City banned the sale of products from force-fed animals in 2020. Abandoning this uncommon yet cruel factory farming practice is a fantastic way for DC to show its compassion.
- Who bans foie gras: New York City, California, India (import), Argentina, Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, and the UK (production)
Mayoral Animal Welfare Liaison
- Question: Would you support creating and funding an Animal Welfare Liaison position within the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs?
- Synopsis: DC government provides liaisons for LGTBQ, Latinx, African, and African-American communities, among others. An Animal Welfare Liaison can serve under the mayor to fulfill many roles, including working with relevant city departments, fielding constituent concerns, and addressing neglected components of the city’s animal laws.
- Who has an Animal Welfare Liaison: New York City, Borough of Brooklyn, and Montreal
- Question: Would you support a law that updates D.C.’s building code to require that new builds employ bird-safe glass and building design to curb bird collision mortality?
- Synopsis: It is estimated that up to a billion birds die every year in North America due to collisions with buildings. Our feathered friends often have difficulty seeing glass surfaces, particularly because birds with eyes positioned on either side of their head that have more difficulty with depth-perception. Studies demonstrate that almost all collisions are with structures under 12 stories tall, with 44% occurring with structures one to three stories. To help remedy this growing problem, new features have been designed to help birds realize the presence of the glass beforehand and greatly improve the avoidance of collisions.
- Who has bird safe building legislation: New York City, NY ; San Francisco, CA; Oakland, CA; Madison, WI; Cook County, IL; Toronto, CAN.
Transparency in Meat Processing Plants
- Question: Would you support legislation to track data from labor, animal welfare, and health performance for food imported from slaughterhouses?
- Synopsis: The pandemic illuminated immense problems in slaughterhouses for labor, animal welfare, and public health. Workers were crammed together as COVID-19 spread like wildfire through meat processing plants, and kill lines for animals were sped up at both a cost to the workers and the immense suffering of animals. DC could inform consumers by passing a law to track workplace injuries, animal welfare violations, and antibiotics consumption at meat processing facilities for food imported into the District.
- Who tracks data from meat processing plants? San Francisco, CA
Which of the above initiatives would be a priority for you? Are there other initiatives that would be important for you?
With regard to the initiatives noted above, I strongly believe housing is a human right, and I strongly support allowing residents of public housing to live with their pets as a matter of dignity and non-discrimination. Sometimes, notices to cure or quit are issued to individuals with pets residing in public housing, which unfairly deprives those individuals of safe, stable, and secure housing or the essential companionship of a pet.
As someone who has worked for more than a decade to bring ethics and accountability to government and institutions, it’s not lost on me the history of corruption and poor oversight that has dogged our government food purchasing. While I’m excited that DC has signed on to the Good Food Purchasing program, our experiences show us that rigorous oversight and accountability are a must to ensure it lives up to its potential. I would also like to see it expanded to include high-quality, ethical sourcing for all government food purchasing, not just schools — but also our senior meals and jail food service program.
I’m dedicated to expanding access to healthy foods as a measure that not only improves health and corrects for chronic disinvestment in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, but one that also reduces reliance on industrial food production. This includes expanding local funding for programs like Produce Plus, which provides a weekly check to DC participants in various benefits programs for use at participating farmers markets throughout the city; and Produce Rx, which provides patients with chronic conditions with a weekly voucher to purchase fresh produce, as well as targeted incentives for grocery stores that are specific to neighborhoods and subject to vigorous oversight. The Qualified Supermarket incentive has largely not resulted in grocery stores locating in areas with need and requires targeting and accountability.
As an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I have been proud to support several efforts to improve animal welfare — including construction of and amenities related to a new dog park in Takoma and Momma’s Law to improve the ability to rescue neglected animals. I look forward to building and expanding on that support on the DC Council.
Anything you care to elaborate on?
My vision for DC’s clean energy future includes acting urgently and thinking boldly to reduce the impacts of climate change on our communities, rehabilitating our existing infrastructure, and developing and implementing new solutions. I believe every government action needs to be viewed through a climate lens, and I plan to institute a Council Office on Environmental Sustainability and Justice — similar to the Council Office on Racial Equity — that reviews DC government actions for their impacts on environmental sustainability and justice.
The potential for DC’s human and non-human inhabitants to have a mutually beneficial and sustainable future is truly amazing. By restoring our wetlands, we provide habitat for our animal neighbors, mitigate the impacts of climate change on communities of need, and restore our rivers to a healthy, swimmable state.
It’s often said that every map of DC looks the same — and our tree coverage map does too. By expanding our efforts to plant trees in underserved communities, we reduce heat islands, create habitat for animals, and sequester carbon dioxide.