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.
- 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.
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.”
- 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:
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Don’t call people names or yell at them.
- Show honest, sincere appreciation.
- Admire, ask, and then offer help.
- Be conversational and polite and helpful.
- Make them feel important and do it sincerely.
- Respect opinions even if you disagree.
- Understand people. Talk from their viewpoint.
- Praise, appreciate, then gently correct.
- Don’t punish, reward.
- Say thank you.
Other interesting tidbits:
- Humane 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