Every dog supporter has his day

April 24, 2018 GMT

GREENWICH — Fred Camillo was a supporter of all creatures big and small even before he became a Republican state representative for District 151. On Friday, Camillo earned a special citation for his advocacy for animal rights.

Camillo was presented with the Humane Legislator Award by the Humane Society of the United States at a brief ceremony at the Adopt-A-Dog headquarters in Armonk, N.Y.

In giving him the award, Annie Hornish, the Connecticut director for the Humane Society, noted Camillo’s longtime support for animals.

“He is the leading animal advocate at the Capitol,” Hornish said. “He’s been leading for years on many issues and has taken some very brave positions on controversial animal issues. My favorite being a bill that would allow municipalities to ban trapping. That takes a lot of political courage because you’re going up against state agencies, and he’s unafraid to do it.”

Camillo “has been leading on every animal issue imaginable,” she said, including battling to stop puppy mills and the ivory trade. He works behind the scenes and in public to get people involved in building support for important animal rights and safety issues, Hornish said.

Naturally, Camillo’s beloved German shepherd Teddy, named after Teddy Roosevelt, accompanied him to the casual ceremony.

“It’s such a great honor, and I would love to share it with everybody who has ever helped an animal or fostered a dog or a cat,” he said. “You can’t do these things alone and having all these volunteers all over the country, especially here in Connecticut and in Greenwich, inspires me to work harder for them.”

Camillo is the co-founder of Legislators for Animal Advocacy, the first group of its kind in the country. It “legitimizes animal welfare issues in a big way,” Hornish said, and other states are following Connecticut’s lead.

Camillo playfully chided Hornish, though, for leaving out a few facts — including that the advocacy group was her idea in the first place.

“I was honored to do this with her,” Camillo said. “Talk about courage: Annie has never stopped really standing up for what I call our voiceless constituency. That’s why I am so happy to be here today and linking a broad reaching national organization like the Humane Society with a terrific local organization like Adopt-A-Dog.”

Hornish credited Camillo for championing Buddy’s Bill, which increased penalties for people who kill dogs.

“Fred is always there leading the way and he continues to fight in the legislature for animals,” Hornish said.

Camillo admitted it is not always easy to focus on animal welfare bills at the Capitol. While people clearly love their pets, he said, the state has other priorities as it continues to battle budget deficits. But he vowed to keep at it.

“To me, animal welfare can never be pushed aside,” he said. “They truly are a voiceless constituency and like other voiceless constituencies, that’s what you’re there for. If they can’t speak for themselves then you have to be that voice and you can never, ever put that aside.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the legislative session and his re-election bid in the fall, Camillo said several bills focused on animal welfare are on the agenda, including a bill that would increase penalties against people who harm or kill police dogs and a bill that would allow someone to break a car window on a hot day without liability to help an animal or a child trapped inside.

Camillo thanked Adopt-A-Dog for hosting the ceremony at its headquarters, which is near the border with Greenwich.

Adopt-A-Dog, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, has been serving the tristate area for more than 30 years. It works closely with municipalities to provide a place for dogs when the shelters reach capacity.

It is open seven days a week for people looking for a dog; appointments are recommended but not required. The group works closely with the Greenwich community, and its annual Puttin’ On The Dog event is held every September in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.