Cynthia Armstrong, of Oklahoma City, became involved in the cause for animal welfare in the late 1980s, when she rescued a dog.

She would eventually be named the Oklahoma director of the Humane Society of the United States, advocating for changes in state and local laws to prevent animal cruelty and neglect. In this video, Armstrong talks about the most common forms of animal mistreatment in Oklahoma and laws she believes still need to be revised or enacted.

YouTube video

Videography by Ilea Shutler. Produced by David Fritze.

“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s important issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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The first major effort Armstrong was involved in was an initiative petition to ban cockfighting in the state. She volunteered, then became campaign manager. Voters approved the ban, leaving only a few states that hadn’t outlawed the practice. Afterward, Armstrong was invited to become Oklahoma’s first state director for the national Humane Society.

The organization still is confused at times with groups such as the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, which finds homes for adoptable pets and provides spay or neuter clinics. The Humane Society of the United States lobbies for national and state policy reforms, intervenes in cruelty and neglect cases and trains professionals, such as law enforcement officers on avoiding dog bites and having to shoot dogs. During the legislative session, Armstrong often can be found at the State Capitol, trying to fend off what she calls “bad bills” that would repeal or soften animal welfare laws.

She disputed some widespread beliefs about the Humane Society. The organization’s goal is not to abolish meat from the American dinner table, although its stated mission is to reduce meant consumption. It does not want to ban zoos, hunting or farming, she said. It does oppose roadside menageries with unsafe conditions, inhumane treatment of farm animals, and hunting that doesn’t involve a fair chase.

Armstrong’s life has been full of pets. She now has two horses and three dogs, including a pit bull named Ella. “There’s a whole army of people who love pit bulls and I’m one of them,” she said. Unfortunately, too many have been trained to be aggressive, a reflection of “the whole culture of dog fighting,” Armstrong said.

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