All eyes on CDA, Polis as staffers are selected
The eyes of Colorado’s agriculture community are on the Polis administration’s picks for two key positions at the Colorado Department of Agriculture following the resignation of Ellen Kessler who was appointed to the Board of Veterinary Medicine in 2020. Kessler, an animal rights activist who repeatedly posted anti-agriculture sentiments on social media, reportedly resigned of her own volition despite pointed pleas directly to the governor. The two positions that have not yet been announced are the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, currently held by Steve Silverman, and the director of the Bureau of Animal Protection.
The Bureau of Animal Protection director serves as liaison with approximately 125 BAP commissioned agents that work with CDA and local law enforcement authorities to investigate, document, and potentially intervene to protect animals who are subject to to animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, and/or abandonment. Other duties may include involvement with animal emergency incidents; participation in compliance of disease control programs, livestock inspections, disease surveillance and outbreak response; and regulatory work during livestock events, shows and exhibitions. This position travels as needed throughout the state for field inspections, assessments, and assisting investigations and other job duties.
The duties associated with the position are to communicate and advise BAP agents and other law enforcement officials actively investigating civil or criminal animal neglect/mistreatment/abandonment and animal fighting; serve as part of the team that recommends courses of action and use of the statutes, and provides input to district attorneys; aid in the investigation of cases of suspected animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, and/or abandonment, and aid in planning courses of investigatory action; aid and assist local agencies with the seizure of domestic or other privately owned animals and livestock; receive complaints concerning animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, and/or abandonment via phone and email; when appropriate, refers complaints to the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction; assist and coordinates with the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) program as needed when complaints are received involving companion animals.
The director is responsible for the Dangerous Dog Database; is part of the team to review and analyze statutes and rules, and recommend changes as needed, as related to animal cruelty/mistreatment/neglect/abandonment; part of the team that provides input on animal protection and cruelty issues in meetings with political entities, lobbyists, and private humane organizations, as well as city and county governments in Colorado.
ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
Hannah Thompson-Weeman is the vice president of strategic engagement with the Animal Agriculture Alliance and said she is seeing a trend of animal rights extremists or people with views consistent with or sympathetic to animal rights extremist organizations attempting to become involved with the veterinary world and regulatory roles. Thompson-Weeman said those roles can be seen as an avenue by which to influence animal agriculture and a way to promote their views, which she said, is ending animal agriculture.
“It’s really essential that both policymakers, regulators and the government is aware of that trend, as well as the animal agriculture community because some of these groups are very effective at eschewing their true intentions,” she said. “Some extremists are very upfront about their intentions and what they’re working toward, and others are more strategic and try to position themselves as focused on animal welfare.”
Constant engagement with government by the animal agriculture community, she said, is essential. With the question of enforcement of animal welfare laws, many of which were pushed by animal rights extremist groups, she said there is concern how activist organizations could position themselves in potential roles of authority.
“It is absolutely would be a concern that someone who is affiliated with an animal rights extremist organization could seek to be in a role that would give them legitimate access to farms,” she said. “As we know, these organizations are constantly speaking, whether its by trespassing or using false pretenses to get hired, they want to get on farms so they can take things out of context and get ammunition they can use for their various campaigns.”
Thompson-Weeman said those in animal agriculture need to be informed of the animal welfare laws in their state. Notably, a 2020 law signed by Gov. Polis allows employees of Colorado nonprofits to serve as BAP agents with limited ability to investigate animal cruelty and neglect and issue summons and complaints. Despite that state authority, BAP agents under the employ of nonprofits are not subject to Colorado Open Records Act requirements.
In her role with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Thompson-Weeman said she followed the governor’s appointment of Ellen Kessler to the State Veterinary Board, her anti agriculture comments, and her recent resignation, calling it potentially positive. She said it is, however, concerning that Gov. Polis did not ask Kessler to resign despite the concerned outcry from the state’s agriculture community.
“It will be interesting to see how that role is filled, and if there is someone with a concerning viewpoint who gets to step into that position now because, again, from my understanding, the governor wasn’t going to ask her to step down, that was a decision she made herself as a result of the feedback she was getting,” she said.
NO RESPONSE FROM POLIS
The Fence Post Magazine has received no response from Gov. Polis’ office following a request for a statement about whether the governor is involved in the hiring of the BAP director. The Fence Post Magazine is also awaiting a reply to a Colorado Open Records Act request made to the CDA about the applicants for the BAP director position.
The application period remains open until Jan. 31 for the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture position. According to the job posting, the Deputy Commissioner has statutory authority to act on behalf of the Commissioner of Agriculture in the management and operations of the department; assures that the department effectively administers all programs and authorities delegated by state or federal law. The Deputy Commissioner assists the commissioner in the direction of departmental operations and activities and provides leadership and management to division directors; represents the department at meetings and conferences with delegated authority to speak and act for the commissioner; may undertake investigations, conduct hearings and make recommendations to the commissioner on matters related to the powers, duties and functions of the department. In close coordination with the Senior Policy Advisor, the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture tracks changes at the federal level that may impact Colorado agriculture or the department. Assists in coordinating the department’s activities with the governor’s office and other agencies of state and federal government. This position is very collaborative; successful candidates must be able to demonstrate how they will work as a team with other senior-level leaders.
Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg announced this week her hiring of Hollis Glenn to serve as the Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the CDA. Glenn is currently the director of the Division of Inspection and Consumer Services (ICS). He will begin in the new position on Feb. 1, 2022. The Deputy Commissioner of Operations is a new position at CDA.
Over the past six years, Glenn has overseen a number of regulatory programs that provide economic protection to agricultural producers and ensure Colorado consumers receive products that are safe, properly labeled, and sold in an honest manner. Glenn told the late Brian Allmer in a 2020 interview that he has a long professional history in the regulatory world. In his previous post with CDA, he oversaw the inspection of scales, seed, dog food, animal feed, farm product commodity handlers, animal shelters, and meat processors, among others.
Commissioner Greenberg has appointed Mark Gallegos to serve as Acting Director of ICS division. Gallegos is the section chief of the Technical Services Section. He develops strategic planning and analysis and directs administration and daily operations for TSS. His regulatory work gives him an opportunity to engage with a wide range of industries including livestock, grain and feed manufacturing. Gallegos graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business and comes from a family that has been involved in agriculture in Colorado since the late 1500s.
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