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February 05, 2010

Power to the People

Earlier this week, I spoke at a West Hollywood, Calif. City Council meeting in favor of an ordinance to ban the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores. I was brief in my remarks because we had strong support and expected a positive outcome. We learned just before the hearing that the mayor and the City Council would support the anti-puppy mill provision advanced by Councilman Jeffrey Prang. One explanation for the unanimous support from the Council: local lawmakers received more than 300 letters in support of the proposal, and not one against. It was those letters and calls that cemented the outcome, and will help move the market toward shelter adoption and good breeders, rather than the pet stores that prop up the cruel puppy mill industry.

Pennsylvania advocates rally at the capitol in 2008 to support puppy mill legislation
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
Pennsylvania advocates rally at the capitol.

It is a reminder to me, especially when it comes to public policy advocacy at the state, local, or national level, that we all must be engaged in this work. If citizens in communities call attention to problems and clamor for policy reforms, we stand a chance of seeing positive action. If we stand on the sidelines, and leave it up only to the professional staff at The HSUS or to other citizens, we may not get the results we so desperately desire, especially if there is a powerful force of individuals and special interests weighing in on the other side.

Last year, there were 121 new laws passed in the states, including groundbreaking reforms on puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, and fur labeling. This number of enacted statutes eclipses the previous record set in 2008—with 93 new laws passed that year. There are a lot of factors that resulted in these advances, but one prominent one was that rank-and-file HSUS supporters wrote to legislators, made calls to them, and even made personal visits.

One of the best primers in citizen lobbying can be found at our Humane Lobby Day events, which we’ve been hosting annually in state capitols across the country since 2008. At your local Humane Lobby Day you’ll both learn about and practice lobbying, participating in a morning workshop and then meeting one-on-one with your state lawmakers or their staff to urge their support for animal protection measures.

A number of Humane Lobby Days are coming up this month and also in March and April, so please browse our calendar for the event in your state. Please think about making the plunge and getting involved. You’ll feel empowered once you do.

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