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Advocating for Animal Protection

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    As an advocate for animals, Alexis Fox J.D. ‘09 is as comfortable at the lectern as she is outdoors.

As Alexis Fox J.D. ’09 settles into the rhythm of her regular 4-mile run, she can’t help replaying the disturbing video footage in her head. At a Canadian slaughterhouse, a horse is still conscious after being hit by a stun gun. Writhing in pain in the kill box, the mare is then hoisted up by one leg to be butchered and dismembered.

“Advocating for animal protection is a privilege, but it can be stressful,” says Fox, Massachusetts’ state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “I find I need to run to clear my head.”

In her role as state director, Fox divides her time between legislation, education, and working with direct-care providers.

She recently testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding legislation to ban horse slaughter and prohibit the sale or export of horses for slaughter for human consumption in the Commonwealth.

“Because of the demand from foreign countries for this ‘delicacy,’ this cruel and predatory industry continues to buy our healthy young horses,” says Fox. “Each year, about 100,000 horses are inhumanely shipped to plants in Canada and Mexico.”

Fox’s interests also extend to domestic pets. She has been advocating for legislation to allow courts to include pets in temporary restraining orders.

“Many domestic abuse victims refuse to seek safety if it means leaving their pets in danger,” she says. “Eighty-five percent of women entering shelters talked about pet abuse in the family.” The Massachusetts Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act is also near and dear to her heart. It prohibits confinement of poultry in battery cages, calves in veal crates, and sows in gestation crates. Massachusetts farmers don’t currently use crates, but the state is actively courting new agribusiness ventures. Fox wants to help protect Massachusetts’ local humane brand.

“Institutionalized cruelty is systemic at factory farms,” she says. “After confining animals in crates so small they can’t turn around and denying their natural behaviors, owners slaughter 10 billion farm animals every year in the U.S.”

Fox traces her interest in animal welfare to her undergraduate coursework in environmental science. While studying the concentrated waste produced at factory farms, she started thinking about the animals confined inside those buildings. She ended up writing her thesis on animal protection.

Fox went on to study animal law at Lewis & Clark Law School. She helped run the law school’s Animal Law Conference and earned a clerkship with the Animal Legal Defense Fund during her second year.

“Within the animal protection community, a degree from Lewis & Clark Law School is considered golden— it’s the Harvard of animal law programs,” Fox says.

During her final year of law school, she secured an externship at the Humane Society’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. This experience led to her current position in Massachusetts. When not involved in legislation, Fox visits animal shelters, highlighting resources such as the Humane Society’s Shelter Evaluation Program and Shelter Pet Project. She once filled in for a vacationing shelter director, caring for 58 dogs rescued from a puppy mill in Vermont. “We made sure they got food and lots of love every day,” she says. “Their resilience was amazing.”

Fox and her husband, a percussionist and custom bicycle frame fabricator, share their home with two tabby cats, Venus and Luna.

“On a difficult day, when I’ve watched disturbing abuse videos, I come home, pick up the cats, and marvel at how happy and healthy they are,” says Fox. “There’s something innately healing about living with animals.”

—by Pattie Pace

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