In Part 1 of this series, we discussed getting involved, becoming visible, and building trust within your community. Once you have those steps established, it is important to stay on top of issues in your city, county, and state. Often there are ordinances, regulations, or legislation that when proposed, with early work, can either be stopped or modified.
Do not let the policy-making process be intimidating. Afterall, policy makers are public servants and their job is to serve you, the constituent. They are responsible for making policies that benefit the entire community, not just special interest groups. Keep in mind that policy makers need to hear from their constituents in order to know what is best for the community they serve.
Before reviewing the steps to take, it is key to understand the importance of being a registered voter. While policy makers have a responsibility to their constituents, members of the community also have a responsibility to vote. How you vote is a matter of public record and it is very important in local elections. Your vote should be based on the facts. Many politicians build their platforms on making people feel good about their messages instead of using hard facts. Inform yourself of the candidate’s plan of action and what they actually want to accomplish while in office. Ask yourself if this plan lines up with your values and your livelihood.
Communities approach new laws in different ways so it is important to understand the lawmaking process in your area. Be diligent to when it comes to following local ordinances and take action when needed. Without involvement from the community, often harmful ordinances can be passed quickly without the people who will be impacted even knowing about them.
Here are some things that you can do:
• Read legal notices in your local newspaper
• Review your community websites – city and county for updates
• Review city council and county meeting minutes for topics that impact your hobbies or business
• Contact your local offices to find out how they publish legal notices
• If there is an email list you can join about local lawmaking activities, be sure to sign up
• Make sure to pay attention to language that includes key terms like, “land use,” “zoning,” “animal control,” “animal welfare” or “animal ordinances.”
• Attend meetings in person whenever possible. There is often an option to view the meetings online if you are not able to attend in person.
In addition to pushing ordinances and regulations on a local level, many extremist groups push their initiatives at the state level as well. Every year there are numerous pieces of legislation proposed that impact animal ownership across the country. Some legislators that are heavily influenced by animal and environmental extremist groups will introduce the same legislation year after year until they are able to gain support. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on legislation re-appearing even if it didn’t get traction during the legislative session the year before.
There are several websites that provide information about proposed legislation across the country. Two that we recommend joining are Ballotpedia and Legiscan. We also recommend utilizing the database managed by the American Kennel Club’s Government Relations Department. These websites allow the user to search by state and by keyword.
Keywords we recommend searching by are:
• Animal Welfare
• Animal Protection
• Animal Control
• Your specific species; i.e. “canine”, “cattle”, “livestock”, “horses”, “poultry” etc.
Once you have found a proposed bill, regulation, or ordinance that would be harmful to your lifestyle or business, it is time to act. Below are several steps you can take to ensure that your voice is heard and the work you do will be effective.
• Look past the summary. Often summaries are written in a way where they sound like a good idea, but when the language of the bill or ordinance is read fully much more is revealed.
• If the bill is amending existing law, you will often need to do some research to determine exactly what is being changed.
• Check the code cites. Often a bill or ordinance will simply list the code cites that are being changed or eliminated.
• Read the definitions. This is typically where language is changed that can have a significant impact.
• Determine the specific intent of the new ordinance or law. It is not unusual for there to be existing laws already in place that address the issues. When this happens often the group proposing the new language are working to slip in additional regulations. If the issue is already addressed in existing law – it is important that your representatives are made aware of this.
• It can take some time to understand legal language and to be able to determine the consequences of a new law or ordinance. If the information is unclear to you, don’t hesitate to ask for some help to fully understand the implications.
• Often bills and ordinances will go through several versions before a final version is developed.
• Reading the original language is important to understand the intention of the lawmaker that introduced the proposed legislation or ordinance. Once you are familiar with the intention, read through the most current version to see if any changes have been made. When building a coalition or communicating with your representatives, it is important to have the most current information available.
• With city and county ordinances, there are usually several readings and meetings. Make sure you are aware of those dates so you can keep track of the status.
• With state legislation, bills are regularly sent to different committees for review and approval.
• Find out if and when public testimony is allowed. This is your opportunity to rally others who will be impacted and make your voices heard at a public meeting.
• Lawmakers are most influenced by numbers of concerned constituents. It is important to identify those that will be impacted and make them aware.
• Alert interest groups and others in your community of impending changes to state law or city and county ordinances.
• At the minimum, your Coalition should be comprised of local constituents that are impacted. Along with this it is also important to get other groups involved even if there are members who are out of the area or out of state. Keep in mind that extremist groups target areas they feel are either under-represented or weak in order to set a precedent. Once they pass an ordinance or law, they use that as an opening to push their agenda in other areas.
o Organizations like Protect The Harvest, National Animal Interest Alliance, Western Justice, The Cavalry Group, and the American Kennel Club can be of great assistance in coalition building.
o Your local and state Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups
o Breed clubs and organizations – whether the issue involves livestock or pet breeding
o If the issue involved land use – notify other landowners
o Contact local and state businesses that would be impacted
• Develop some talking points about the proposed ordinance or bill so that the people you are communicating with, whether it is your coalition or lawmakers can understand the key issues.
• Develop a reference list of resources to help answer questions. We have a wide variety of topics on our website and are available for help as well.
• Prepare information sheets for meetings with lawmakers and to hand out to the public.
• Plan what you want to say before your call – outline key points.
• Ask first to speak with the official’s support staff member. Keep in mind that in many cases lawmakers rely on their support staff to field calls and prioritize issues.
• Make sure the message is short and include the number and title of the proposed legislation or ordinance.
• Repeat your name and provide contact information at the end of the call. Offer to be available for further questions and ask to set up a meeting.
o Reason for the call – give the title and name of the ordinance or legislation
o Your name at the beginning and end of the call
o Contact information
o Follow up with a letter or email
• Contact your lawmakers and ask to set up a meeting to talk about your concerns.
• Meeting with support staff members is also helpful since they may have more time available to listen to your concerns. In many cases, lawmakers depend on their staff to make recommendations and to triage issues important to their constituents. Developing a good relationship with staff members will help your issue get to the top of the list.
• Be prepared for a short meeting. Make sure you have succinct talking points and additional support materials ready.
• End the meeting asking what you want them to do, “Oppose xxx” or “Support xxx.”
• Thank them for the meeting in person and follow up with a letter, thanking them again and providing a reminder of the key points and your specific ask.
• Many lawmakers respond to letters and emails. Prepare emails regarding your issue in a professional manner by using correct grammar and punctuation. Encourage others in your coalition to do so as well. Keep in mind that canned form letters are rarely considered.
• Provide email writers with a list of key points and ask them to compose original letters to submit.
• State the specific issue in your first paragraph.
• Refer to specific legislation or ordinances by number and title.
• Present fact-based information in a professional manner in the same format whether your message is being delivered electronically or via the mail. Lawmakers will not respond well to aggressive language, foul language, or insults. Make sure to use the proper form of address.
• Letters and emails should include personal and relevant information about the sender. It is important that lawmakers know whether a letter is coming from one of their constituents, a private person, or a business.
• Work with members of your coalition to determine the best speakers in the group and help them prepare to speak at public meetings.
• If you are attending a meeting and speakers are allowed, make sure to note the time available, so that most important and key points are presented.
• If your coalition members are attending a public meeting, make sure lawmakers can clearly see how many people have turned out with concerns. We have seen people identify themselves with unified t-shirts, buttons, or even shirts with specific colors.
• Always dress neatly to demonstrate respect for the process.
• Many animal and environmental extremist groups compliment their push for federal, state, and local laws by launching websites and social media pages. In today’s day and age with easy to use and host websites, your coalition should do the same in order to combat misinformation about legislation.
• Easy to use and set up websites can be found on platforms like 1 and 1 and Wix.
• Set up a Facebook Page or Facebook Group to post information about your coalition and proposed legislation. You can post and share information on other sites as well.
• Create content that tells your story and why your coalition was formed. Make sure to post regularly and share into interest groups on Facebook to get the word out.
• Facebook business pages are preferrable to Facebook group pages because they allow boosting of posts to reach a targeted audience.
• Content created for posting on your Facebook page can also be posted on other social outlets via your coalition member’s personal pages if you do not have the resources or time to set up coalition pages on other outlets.
• Protect The Harvest has a Social Media Guide that you can download and print out which provides information about how to most effectively advocate online.
Click HERE to View and Download the Social Media Guide
Protect The Harvest’s mission outlines three steps: Inform, Protect, and Respond. Our first step is to inform people about the activities of extremist groups. We then work to protect by providing support for those who are facing challenges from animal and environmental activities. Lastly, we respond and help others respond in a variety of ways depending on the issue at hand. From providing access to resources, to helping form coalitions, to informing the public via social media campaigns, we are here to help you combat the extremists that want to take away your way of life.
We must be united and stand up to these groups before we lose our American freedoms. Please keep us informed of issues that you are aware of in your area.
To Read Part 1 Click HERE
To Print out the Checklist Click HERE