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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Legislation, All I Ever Wanted

Congress is on spring recess this week and next, and it provides an opportunity for animal advocates to spring into action. You may not be able to travel to Washington to meet with your representatives and senators in person, but you can meet with them in their district and state offices close to home. In fact, lawmakers often have more time to visit with constituents in their district offices, because their Washington schedules are so hectic.

PATRIOTIC-PUP

Take the time to schedule a meeting with them over the next two weeks, and talk to them about federal animal protection policies that are important to you. With bills pending on horse slaughter, puppy mills, fur labeling, chimps in research, and more, the timing couldn’t be better. You can also invite them to learn more about animal protection work by taking them on a tour of your animal shelter, pet adoption center, spay/neuter clinic, wildlife sanctuary, or other local program.

Here are some tips from my friend Stephanie Vance, adapted from her book "Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress”:

Don’t ignore the District / State Congressional Office. We all know that in order to be successful, advocates must build positive long-term relationships with their Representatives and Senators. One terrific means of doing so is to engage the district or state office in your issues.

Generally, district or state staff may have slightly more time to delve more into the nuances of your issues and understand better how those issues affect the Congressperson’s constituents. In fact, an effective advocate can turn the district staff into a “lobbyist” for them within the Congressional organization. It’s also important to know that every Representative has a “home-style” and a “DC-style”.

Frankly, many Representatives are much more relaxed and receptive in their home districts. So be sure to meet with the Member and/or their staff in the district office. Or, invite the district staff to an event or a tour of your facility – any activity that will get them involved in your issues and policy concerns. Finally, associations, business groups, or other organizations might want to consider having a “District/State Lobby Day” in addition to the traditional Washington, DC lobby day. This would be a day designated for association members to meet with their federal representatives in their home offices.

So if your spring break is a “staycation,” stay in touch with your federal lawmakers close to home, and keep them informed of critical bills to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.

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