Texas Humane Legislation Network – Part 1


Texas Humane Legislation Network Part One – Who They Are, and Who Their Friends Are

The Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) has been a part of Texas for over 40 years. In this three-part series, Protect The Harvest will expose this animal extremist group which attempts to pass overreaching legislation locally as well as its connections to national animal extremist groups. THLN is affiliated with groups like the Humane Society for the United States (HSUS), Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA).

Who IS Texas Humane Legislation Network?

The THLN according to their website, is a 501(c)4 and, “the only Texas-based organization focused on addressing unjust animal welfare laws.” The website states they are working to stop animal cruelty before it starts. This sounds like a good thing on the surface, but a closer look tells a much different story. According to the group Capital Research Center’s InfluenceWatch website: “Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) is an animal liberation advocacy group which focuses on legislation involving animal rights in the state of Texas. THLN lobbies and participates in partisan activities, allowing the group to influence legislation in support of its animal rights agenda.”

Upon closer investigation, there are some familiar players within the organization, as well as others THLN plays with in the proverbial sandbox. In addition, there are some similarities between THLN and other animal extremist groups we at Protect The Harvest have written about.

Previously Known as Texas Humane Information Network (THIN)

THLN was founded in 1975, originally as Texas Humane Information Network (THIN) when “a handful of concerned advocates from across the state recognized the humane treatment of animals needed to be the law.” Until 1994, the group THIN was more moderate and leaned towards animal welfare, but they had little success with the legislature. This lack of success opened the door to evict then President, Martha Cox, and bring in a more radical group of board members. In a “donation needed” letter from the new, President Louis D. Marks, Jr., he stated:

“As reported in our September newsletter, no animal protection laws were passed by the 73rd Texas Legislature despite the efforts of our lobbyist, THIN board members and volunteer networkers.

In preparation for the 74th Texas Legislative session which convenes in January 1995, the THIN Board of Directors has decided to re-think the organization’s activities and develop new strategy to ensure future successes. Since last October, with the assistance of an experienced business counselor, the concept for a new master plan began to evolve. During 1994, the board’s efforts will focus on goal setting, planning, defining action steps and determining tactics. In other words, our charter is to develop and implement a strategic plan which fulfills and strengthens THIN’s mission – passage of humane animal protection legislation in the State of Texas.”

According to Texas Humane Legislation Network’s website, “Since its inception, THLN has evolved to form partnerships with local animal shelters, animal service agencies, law enforcement and animal advocacy groups.” They are also involved in grassroots lobbying as well as hiring prestigious professional lobbyists to facilitate the passage of dozens of animal protection measures. THLN considers itself to be the, “…only organization in Texas who works year-round to protect animals through legislation.”

THLN’s Bed Partners

It should not be surprising to learn that THLN has current and former staff members who have hopped from one animal extremist group to another. It is also not a surprise that THLN has partnered with other animal extremist groups including American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA).

You may recall that the disgraced former Executive Director of HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, has attempted to reinvent of himself by starting the Animal Wellness Action organization. In fact, up until the sexual harassment claims were made against Wayne Pacelle, the HSUS logo was featured on THLN’s “Partners” page. Since that time, HSUS’s logo is no longer there, but instead, the logo of Animal Welfare Action has replaced it. AWA is using front man Marty Irby (former HSUS) as a puppet to be manipulated by none other than Wayne Pacelle.

Board of Directors

According to their website, the Board of Directors at THLN, “…is comprised of individuals who bring their professional talents and animal welfare expertise to the organization to help further its mission for the animals. All work is provided on a voluntary basis. The duties of the Board of Directors include establishing and implementing legislative agendas designed to pass effective animal protection legislation; providing information to the news media concerning THLN issues; informing THLN’s membership of animal-related legislation; increasing membership statewide; working with other organizations who share THLN’s goals; and fund raising to provide the financial resources needed for lobbying, membership communications and media-related activities.”

  • President Stephen Hurst has spent his professional career in real estate development and finance. He has no background in animal husbandry, except for fostering dogs for a rescue group.
  • Vice President and Legislative Chair Jaime Olin is currently Senior Counsel with the law firm Skiermont Derby, practicing patent and commercial litigation. Her prior work history was as Legal Advocacy Counsel with ASPCA focusing on “animal welfare” litigation, animal cruelty prosecution support and “equine welfare” issues.
  • Treasurer Stephen Phillips is a “…self-proclaimed activist for the causes of those who cannot speak for themselves.” His background is with founding, funding and operating non-profits and he has experience with the state law and rule making machinery to “further THLN’s objectives.” He was raised on a farm and showed livestock and is a board-certified tax attorney.
  • Secretary Mona Thaxton has a professional history of more than 35 years in nonprofit healthcare, education, and volunteer civic leadership. She served for 9 years as a board member of San Antonio’s Animal Care Services Department. She is currently retired on her family ranch near San Antonio and has become more involved with the “interests of cattle, sheep and goat ranchers, and protection of wildlife.”
  • Sharon Hotchkiss is a lawyer and works as a solo practitioner. She has been practicing law for over 25 years. Her primary areas of practice are in business transactions and intellectual property (copyright and trademark). Her clients are primarily start-ups and non-profits, including “animal welfare” and rescue groups.
  • Susan Beldon served on the board of the San Antonio Humane Society for 6 years and currently sits on the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services Advisory Board. She is interested in animal-related legislation and laws.
  • Eric Holliday’s path to THLN began about 6 years ago when a family in the neighborhood moved and abandoned their dog. He began working as a volunteer with a German Shepherd rescue group. He was raised on a farm in Louisiana.
  • Jennifer Rogers grew up with family pets. She has a degree in journalism and psychology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She has owned businesses in the pet care industry for 15 years, she has a marketing/creative firm that focuses on small business needs, and has worked with various animal rescues.
  • Elisabeth Rutledge combines a passion for animal extremism (rights) with experience in public affairs and advocacy communication to help THLN further its mission.
  • Reading this list of the Board of Directors shows one very stark fact- not one person is a licensed veterinarian, nor does anyone have a degree in animal husbandry. In fact, the Board of Directors list is long on attorneys and non-existent on animal welfare professionals.

Advisory Board

As with the Board of Directors, the Advisory Board reeks of animal extremism.

  • Cile Holloway served as THLN’s Board President for more than 40 years.
  • Julie Caramante investigates cruelty against horses, and led a campaign to close the Dallas Crown processing plant.
  • Lisa Gilchrist is the President of the Board of Homeless and Orphaned Pets Endeavor (HOPE).
  • Sherry Ferguson is the Executive Director of the Houston Humane Society. The Houston Press reported on allegations of mismanagement and misconduct at Houston Humane Society in 2017. It alleged that Ferguson was “rarely on site, sometimes disappearing for months at a time.”
  • Jack Knox sits on the Advisory Committee to the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission and on the board of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
  • Glynda Ray serves on the board of the Animal Services Center Advisory Board (ASCAB).
  • Erin Shults, DVM, is founder and CEO of Mazie’s Mission, a non-profit animal rescue hospital.
  • Robert “Skip” Trimble formerly served on the board of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a litigation groups seeking to secure legal “personhood” for animals. He was the chair of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission and helped to establish an Animal Cruelty Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office in Dallas County. It is also important to note that Trimble has given the following funds: current State Representative Eddie Lucio lll $1,500 in campaign donations, Humane Society Legislative Fund $5,000 per year since 2011, and Animal Wellness Action $5,000 per year since 2018. Trimble is also listed on Texas Humane Network (the 501(c)3 counterpart to THLN) website, along with his wife, Mary (another animal extremist), as “Corporate Premiere Partners.

THLN’s Cooperation with Other Extremist Groups

THLN does not even try to cloak their animal extremist origins. Their 2016 Annual Advocacy Conference list of speakers reads like a Who’s Who of animal extremism. This list is only a partial list, the full list can be found HERE

  • Joyce Tischler “affectionately known as ‘the Mother of Animal Law’”, is the co-founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and was ALDF’s Executive Director for twenty-five years. As of 2016, she was ALDF general counsel, responsible for in-house legal matters.
  • Lara Tomlin, Esq., Assistant District Attorney Denton County, is the Secretary of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. She handles animal-related cases.
  • Nancy Perry, ASPCA Sr. Vice President of Government Relations, and is responsible for the overall strategic and tactical direction of the ASPCA’s legislative efforts and public policy at the local, state and government levels. She also worked at the Humane Society of the United States for 16 years, where she served as Vice President of Government Affairs.
  • Kevin O’Neill, Vice President of State Affairs of ASPCA Government Relations, works closely with lawmakers and their staff and other animal advocates to pass legislation and regulations that improve and strengthen animal welfare laws. Prior to joining ASPCA in 2012, he worked in the California Legislature for 15 years and worked on California’s Proposition 2 (Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act requiring poultry farmers in the state).
  • John J. Pippin, M.D. F.A.C.C., is the Director of Academic Affairs at the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PRCM), a PETA affiliate. PCRM has worked to replace the use of animals in medical and drug research, medical education and the training of physician’s, veterinarians and other medical professionals.
  • David Balmer, Political Director at the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and former member of Colorado State Senate, resigned to become the political director of state campaigns for the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
  • Katie Jarl, Texas State Director of the HSUS, works to pass animal extremist legislation at the state and local levels. She previously served as Deputy Director of the HSUS Media Relations department.
  • Audrey Perdue, Grassroots Manager with the ASPCA, manages their legislative advocacy efforts, three volunteer programs and trains “advocates” to use their voices to help animals. Formerly she was a legislative coordinator for Federal Affairs team of HSUS.
  • Kelsey Eberly, Staff Attorney with ALDF, assists ALDF with cases and projects. She was the chair of UCLA Animal Law Society, the school’s student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter. She earned a graduate certificate in animal Policy and Advocacy from Humane Society University in 2006 and served as a legal intern with Compassion Over Killing.
  • Jeff Pierce, Legislative Counsel for Animal Legal Defense Fund, has developed and brought lawsuits under various causes of action including the Endangered Species Act. He earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School and conducted legal research for Compassion Over Killing.

Know What’s Lurking

After reading through the “cast” of Texas Humane Legislation Network and their “friends and family” it is very apparent that this is a group who has spent the past 40+ years developing their animal extremist strategies. They have formed corporate partnerships, developed an extensive donor list, (their IRS form 990 from 2018 shows a single contribution of $1.5 million dollars and that they had over $2.1 million in publicly traded securities). THLN has successfully crafted legislation that is overreaching in one of the top states in the country for tough animal cruelty laws.

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

In Part 2, we discuss how THLN is influencing the children of Texas against animal agriculture and animal ownership.

To read Part 2 click HERE

To read Part 3 click HERE