Working with Legislators
Animals can’t vote, but that doesn’t mean they
shouldn’t have a voice in the political process. Animal advocates can
give them a voice if the appropriate steps are taken in lobbying for
Whether they’re city council members, state representatives or U.S.
Senators, elected officials care (or ought to care) what their
constituents think. By sending letters and e-mails supporting
pro-animal measures that are already on the legislative agenda, you can
help convince these politicians that the voters who put them in office
want to see animals protected from cruelty and neglect. And if there
are no pro-animal items on the agenda, you can help change that. But
first, you’ll need to do some homework.
Lay the Groundwork
Before approaching an elected official to advocate for specific legislation:
- Strive to be well informed about the issue so that you come
across as credible and knowledgeable. This will require research and
possibly contacting others who have worked on similar campaigns in the
- Research current relevant laws via the Internet or your local library.
- Find out if there is anyone else in your area working on the
same issue — if so, join them, so that efforts will not be duplicated.
- Get a feel for the legislative process. For example, if you
are contemplating a county-wide ordinance, contact the county council
office for information on enacting legislation. Then attend an open
council meeting to become familiar with how they function.
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or contact the local League of Women Voters to find out who the elected
officials are in your district. Consider attending functions where
legislators meet with constituents. Introduce yourself and thank them
for supporting other measures that may be related to your issue.
- Establish rapport with legislators’ support staff early on –
they are often more accessible than the legislators and can provide
good information. Keep all contact brief and professional, remembering
to thank them for their time and assistance.
Once you have laid the groundwork, determine your goals. Don’t choose
campaigns that are too broad. For example, a ban on hunting in your
state would be inconceivable, but a ban on baiting certain species
might be feasible and manageable. And be prepared to consider
compromises that may need to be made when working with politicians.
- Refer to ALDF’s Model State Animal Protection Laws or
consult with an attorney if you need help composing the language of the
- Obtain endorsements from influential individuals and organizations in your community.
- Prepare well-researched and well-written informational
packets that include a factsheet on the proposed reform and, if
possible, a list of endorsements.
- Find advocates in each district and ask them to contact their
legislators. Ask constituents to write polite letters to their
legislators that demonstrate support for the proposed legislation.
Letters that use the constituent’s own words, rather than form letters,
postcards or e-mails, will be taken more seriously. Personal letters,
preferably sent through the mail, are generally given more weight than
e-mails. Advocates can also write letters to the editor of their local
newspapers to garner more support for the effort.
Lobbying is nearly impossible without personal
contact. Call the legislator’s office and schedule an appointment.
While you may feel most comfortable attending the appointment as part
of a group, it is advisable to go alone or with just a few others.
Appoint one person to be the main spokesperson. The following pointers
will help the visit go smoothly:
- Dress professionally.
- Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, constituent,
business owner, voter or whatever may apply. Remember that legislators
prefer to get feedback from people who vote, rather than organized
- Be positive, brief and to the point, supporting your argument
with facts. Provide just enough background information to explain the
proposal, as public officials are busy and may know little or nothing
about the issue. Explain how the proposed bill will have a positive
impact on their constituents. Consider showing a short video if it
would help illustrate the issue.
- State clearly what you want the legislator to do — sponsor a bill, vote no on an anti-animal amendment, etc.
- Offer to work to publicize the issue and find additional support.
- Leave a packet of information that contains a clear, concise summary of your proposal.
- Always follow-up with a personal thank you to the legislator
and support staff after every visit or positive action taken by the
- If you are speaking publicly at a council meeting or
committee hearing, follow the above procedures, keeping your
presentation clear and concise.
And finally, if following these steps helps you help animals, let us
know! You can send an e-mail describing your accomplishments to email@example.com.
Other Ways You Can Help
- Send an email to your state legislators today and ask them to support a "First Strike and You’re Out" law for those who are convicted of animal neglect or cruelty.
- Support ALDF’s Animal Bill of Rights. Through the Animal Bill of Rights, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working to show Congress a groundswell of support for legislation that protects animals and recognizes that, like all sentient beings, animals are entitled to basic legal rights in our society.
- Support tougher dogfighting laws! Help put an end to dogfighting and create strong laws for animals so criminals convicted of dogfighting receive meaningful sentences. Email your state representatives now!
- Keep your animals and your families safe. Sign on to demand that your state require animal abusers to register in their communities.