Former state legislator Manny Najera spends some of his spare time at the Humane Society of El Paso with his continuous passion for animals.
Najera represented El Paso’s Lower Valley from 2000 to 2004 in Austin.
During that time, he pushed for tougher legislation on animal abuse.
“A lot of people didn’t want it because a lot of people didn’t understand it. What we were trying to do was to get people to stop hurting animals,” Najera said.
Najera said he didn’t do the work alone, he credited his assistant and local attorneys who helped get legislation approved.
On September 1, 2001, Loco’s Law was passed and made animal cruelty a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail.
The law was named after a puppy named Loco, whose eyes were intentionally gouged out.
Najera said it was a challenge to get lawmakers on his side.
“It was to the surprise of many of the state reps because they said ‘we’ve been trying for ten years and you walk in off the street and able to do it,” Najera smiled as he recalled the day the law was passed.
“It was a good day for us.”
Najera said his passion for animals goes back to his childhood when he had dogs, chickens and turkeys.
At the Humane Society, Najera helps feed the dogs and cats.
“He doesn’t come in here as this former state rep., he comes in here as Manny, a guy who loves animals,” said Luke Westerman, the executive director of the Humane Society.
Westerman said Najera’s experience as a politician also helps him serve as an advisor at the shelter.
“We’ll talk about legislative things that we want to see improved either here in El Paso or in the state of Texas. He’ll walk me through the political landscape locally and at the state level and we’ll talk strategy,” Westerman said.
Before Loco’s Law was passed, Westerman said harming or killing an animal was the equivalent of getting a speeding ticket.
“This law has really made a big impact for animals and we’re just lucky to have Manny, the guy responsible for that, here as one of our volunteers,” Westerman said.
Westerman said the Humane Society is always accepting volunteers.
Potential volunteers can sign up online, attend an orientation and can immediately begin helping at the shelter.
The Humane Society Telethon is Saturday, August 4 on ABC-7.