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
pro-animal legislation.

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
    past.
  • 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.
  • Click here
    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.

Establish Goals
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
    proposed legislation.
  • 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.

Make Contact
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
    lobbyists.
  • 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
    legislator.
  • 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 info@aldf.org.

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