Did you know that the Humane Society of the United States hosts workshops about the how-to’s of effective animal advocacy to be an effective advocate and wildlife concerns? It was news to me until I saw an advertisement for a Lobbying 101 workshop in sort of nearby Syracuse. Figuring it was worth the 80 mile drive, I signed up. Good choice – I met some great people on the front lines of rescue and learned a lot.

Our teacher was Brian Shapiro, New York State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. During our very informative 2-hour session, Brian shared about the mission of HSUS and how individuals could best advocate for animals. This advocacy is necessary, he said, because even though getting legislative bills passed may be frustrating and slow, 

We cannot rescue our way out of…seal hunts and pigeon shoots.

Those words still echo in my mind.

In this article, I will share what I learned about HSUS, recent New York State victories, types of advocacy, and how you can practice effective animal advocacy to help animals in need. 

About HSUS

  • HSUS works for transformational changes for all kinds of animals – pets, wildlife and farm animals. Their mission is to protect all animals from cruelty.
  • Their approach is traditional, not radical. For example, they advocate for adequate space for farm animals. They should be able to move. Many hens currently spend their lives in cages the size of an 8.5×11 inch piece of paper.  Female pigs are confined to gestation crates which do not even allow them to turn around. This is inhumane.
  • They advocate through legal channels for bills that promote the ethical treatment for animals. They have worked with the US government to end invasive testing on chimps. They are working to end the Canadian seal slaughter and poaching of rhinos and elephants. Also horse slaughter and soring. Race horses go from the track to Amish farms to kill pens.
  • They address overpopulation and puppy mills, protect horses and equines, confront wildlife abuses, stamp out cruelty and fighting, investigate cruelty cases, campaign to reform industries. Advocate for better laws to protect animals.
  • Disaster and rescue- Currently spending 25K monthly to help care for abandoned lab chimps. HSUS and its affiliates care for more than 100,000 directly and run a network of animal sanctuaries and veterinary programs.
  • Work with local shelters.
  • They have worked with food retail corporations, including McDonald’s and Walmart, to improve the treatment of animals in their supply chain.
  • Learn more about HSUS here.

They are not a grant-making foundation that simply passes donations on to other groups. More than 80 percent of their funding is spent on program expenses to help animals. They do help local shelters. That they don’t is “It’s a lot of hooey”.

Recent  New York State Victories

  • Legislation allowing local regulation of puppy mills in NY and pet dealers in NYC
  • Banned the sale of rhino horn and ivory with the exception of some musical instruments. The ivory must be over 100 years old and only comprise 20% or less of the instrument.
  • Legislation banning public contact with big cats as in roadside zoos.
  • Banned the trapping of turtles in NYS.

Types of Animal Advocacy

  • Personal and peer-to-peer
  • Protest or boycott
  • Community education
  • Political/legislative – nothing gets done unless this happens. You can’t rescue your way out of seal hunts and pigeon shoots.

how to be an effective animal advocate

Lobbying 101: How to Put Effective Animal Advocacy into Practice

Brian made the points that taking action for animals is a human responsibility and that we are all lobbyists. He suggested a good place to start getting involved politically is by learning about different bills and signing up for action alerts through HSUS. Choose which issues are most important to you and take action on those legislative bills. Make the call and/or show up at your local district office to express your concerns and support.

Use this quick and effective template when you call your legislator to show your support for a bill.

“I am calling about funding to educate police and law enforcers. I support A.7207 and S.5320 (assembly and senate versions) which will help police enforce anti-cruelty laws. Please sign this bill.”

Regarding petitions:

  • signing on-line petitions is okay
  • signing paper petitions is good
  • writing an email or letter is better
  • making a phone call to your legislator is best. Don’t be afraid. Officials work for you.

A tip for petitioners: Get your petitions hand-signed. Arrange for the media to give you publicity for the hand off to the legislator. Have a group of people there, a podium if possible, and a few well-placed signs and/or sign-holders in view of the cameras.

Other ways to lobby are to:

  • Write a letters to the editor – create a public dialogue.
  • Attend public meetings. Ask questions.
  • Have personal meetings with legislative officers.
  • Volunteer with a campaign.
  • Join your HSUS state Facebook group. In NY the link is www.facebook.com/HSUSNewYork/. Put your full state name where NewYork is and that’s it!
  • Attend Humane Lobby Day – In NY the date is April 12th. The event is sponsored by Senator Boyle
  • Volunteer with a local shelter
  • Build a relationship with your town council. Consider zoning issues and also connect with the county department of health regarding puppy mills or other issues that may be relevant. Local laws can be stricter than state laws. (Democratic and Republican town council) Keep in mind that you need two weeks to schedule a public hearing. Call to schedule district office meetings – your public officials work for you. Local laws can be stricter than state laws. (Democratic and Republican town council)

During animal advocacy conversations with your politicians:

  • Share meaningful information and conversations.
  • Celebrate animals and confront cruelty.
  • Review their voting records beforehand and praise them or hold them accountable.
  • If they ask a question you don’t know the answer to, say, “That’s a great question. May I find out and call you back in 2 weeks? Thanks for asking.
  • Practice the Art of Persuasion

The Art of Persuasion:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Don’t call people names or yell at them.
  2. Show honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Admire, ask, and then offer help.
  4. Smile.
  5. Be conversational and polite and helpful.
  6. Make them feel important and do it sincerely.
  7. Respect opinions even if you disagree.
  8. Understand people. Talk from their viewpoint.
  9. Praise, appreciate, then gently correct.
  10. Don’t punish, reward.
  11. Say thank you.

Other interesting tidbits:

  • NYS humane education lawHumane Education – I was excited to learn that NY State mandates ongoing humane education starting in kindergarten under Section 809, and has for over 50 years. Aspects of humane education must be incorporated in local curriculum. Sadly, as a teacher I know this rarely if ever happens.

Download this humane education resource guide containing lesson plans for young children. Share it with your local school, library, Sunday school group, etc.

  • Animal issues are very important to Republican women in Long Island as well as other regions in New York State.
  • 95% of Americans say farm animals should be treated humanely.
  • If everyone did a meatless Monday, it would save more animals than all vegans combined.

Taking action for animals – it’s about human responsibility. And YOU do make a difference.

Thank you, Mr. Shapiro, for your informative workshop on effective animal advocacy. I “liked” HSUS NY and made those phone calls you requested to our legislators. You were right – it was okay!

Want to do your part to help animals in need? This free e-course and companion guides will show you how.

Continue Reading: 2015 Animal Advocacy Victories

How to Be an Effective Animal Advocate
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29 thoughts on “How to Be an Effective Animal Advocate

  • January 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I had no idea they did workshops. Currently our legislature is trying to get declawing banned but I think they’re running into some snags.

    • January 17, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I feel bad for having a cat declawed – years ago before the internet. I had no idea what it really was. If my vet had educated me and suggested viable options (such as scratching posts – duh for me! I would have made a different decision) Last I read, NY was trying to be the first state with the legislation, but of all people, the state veterinary association was opposing it. Several major California cities passed bans several years ago. Hope your legislature is successful.

  • January 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Wow! That’s awesome that they do workshops! It sounds like you learned a lot! These are great ideas!

  • January 15, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Great tips for putting animal advocacy into practice! I certainly learnt something reading your post.

  • January 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    How awesome! I didn’t know that there was workshops like this out there! Thank you so much for sharing! Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  • January 16, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Wonderful information. I wonder if they have workshops in my area? I must check it out.

    • January 16, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Hi Kelly, They have a calendar of events on their website.

  • January 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    I love the work the Humane Society is doing to help animals. I’ll check for a workshop nearby. Thanks for the great information.

  • January 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    This is excellent information that I will certainly pass on. Thank you! Great to have some tips and starting points, as it can all seem so overwhelming.

    • January 16, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Kristen. I appreciate you passing on this information.

  • January 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    This is great information. Thanks for sharing it with us, I particularly like the advice on the art of persuasion. I think that being civil and understanding is the key to communciation.

    • January 16, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      Yes, it’s so easy to get caught up in our own perspective, but when we listen to someone else’s perspective and acknowledge it, even if we don’t agree, it makes for a better relationship and chance of your viewpoint being acknowledged. Laughing to myself I also am hearing in my mind my mother saying – you always catch more flies with honey.

  • January 17, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I had no idea there are workshops for this. I will share this with my friends.

    • January 17, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Sharing is much appreciated. The more hands “on deck” the better. Thank you.

  • January 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for sharing all of these tips! Advocating for animals is an important thing for all of us to do.

  • January 17, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    What a fantastic article, thanks for sharing as its always good to learn more about advocating for the animals

  • January 17, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    What a fantastic way to educate people. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • January 17, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks and you’re welcome. I’d love to know – what were your biggest new takeaways?

  • January 17, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Great tips and info. There are so many ways to be a voice for the voiceless. Everyone can do their part. You don’t have to have money to help. Just speak up! Thanks Val your an inspiration.

  • January 17, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Sounds like an excellent workshop as these are some excellent tips. Great inspiration. We are helping work on a puppy mills law in Canada right now and try to educate through media and events.

  • January 17, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    I’m glad to see that the Humane Society of the US is making such a big difference. These are great tips for advocating for animals too! I love that it says not to condemn other people or call them names. Sometimes I hear people do those things and it really does hurt their cause.

    • January 18, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Yes, you’re right. It shuts people off and creates me against you instead of opening lines of communication.

  • January 18, 2016 at 1:21 am

    What a wonderful article full of such great information. I had no idea that the HSUS did so many things. Thank you

  • January 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

    This is great information! A lot I did not know but will definitely use. Thank you for sharing what you learned!

  • January 19, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Val thank you so much for these recent animal advocacy posts, they are terrific! I loved this interview with Mr. Shapiro & all the ideas shared in your post. The HSUS is an amazing organization, I don’t know where we’d be without them. I hope to attend their annual conference in the next year, I missed it in FL in 2014. I rely on them quite a lot for animal welfare information.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • January 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks Cathy, I appreciate your words very much. HSUS does a lot of good. Too bad people only focus on the missteps of people in these organizations, and not all the good they do. Animals need all the help they can get.


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