Yes, I mean battles — plural.
One step at a time, you can do it.
Whether you are waging a campaign to overturn BSL, are arguing with Council for stiffer animal cruelty penalties, or are going to a state /national level with a fight like the one I discussed about puppy mill legislation, you have to focus on one thing; it’s imperative to do this first. As much as we want to run out and change all the laws, save all the animals, get every pet “fixed,” and put every cat and dog into a home, we must take small steps if we want to change the world. (And I firmly believe that one person can change the world because I have seen it.)
Call me a believer; call me an optimist. But if you’re going out there to fight the “fat cats” (no pun intended), particularly ones with deep pockets, you should be, too. Otherwise, you may get knocked down the first week… So – hone in on one thing to achieve first. Also – set realistic goals, even if you take baby steps.
And remember – always, always believe in yourself. Do not yield. To anyone. To any statement made against you. To anything. Carry courage in conviction everywhere you go. Now read on and then you’re ready to roll…
To be successful in advocating for animals in your city or area:
- Find supporters who are willing to walk the line… find some who are super-intelligent and can talk politics, some who have connections (and, if you’re indeed trying to pass/overturn legislation, find some who are willing to strongly voice opinions to ANY audience). You’ll need volunteers and campaign coordinators willing to stand in the snow carrying signs, getting signature on petitions, and some to “pester” locals by handing out brochures, getting more signatures on petitions, and approaching people who are attending pet shows, conferences, & gatherings or going into pet stores/malls. (Please see number 4 before completing this.)
- Find your financing. (I’ll post about this in more detail soon.) But, if you are planning to make a big move in terms of advocating for something, start raising funds now. I don’t care if you have bake sales and sell lemonade every Saturday and Sunday for an entire year… I don’t care if you eat Ramen Noodles every night for a month, JUST DO IT. Take your dog to a park with a vest on that has change pockets so people can put money in (and hand out flyers to owners). Find other organizations to partner with; try to find a corporate donor like the fine folks at PetSmart Charities, Newman Foundation, or IAMS, or a sponsor close to home like a local restaurant, doggie boutique, sports team, or other group that you know loves animals. (Trust me, they are out there, and they’re willing to at least hear your plea.) Never hurts to have someone on hand that has experience with this fund-raising, and/or grants/grant-writing either…
- Find organization and leadership (if it’s not you). Gather supporters in a structured manner. Pursue this possibility: use different peoples’ skill sets for different things (this is called in-kind donating). For example, I’m a marketing/SEO consultant and copywriter by trade (with a college degree). So I write/design brochures/ads/press releases/blog posts & create marketing ideas, push volunteerism campaigns for rescues & animal welfare-related non-profits. Some of your volunteers may have accounting skills, office skills, administrative skills, phone skills (i.e., patience, etiquette and the willingness to get hung-up on a lot!); others may carry M.B.A’s and care to come in at a higher level. You never know until YOU get out and start motivating the people yourself. Perfect example of fantastic organization working well? The Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions.
- Get permits if you’re getting political. If you want to get petitions signed, if you want to poll people, if you want to stand on pretty much any street corner or outside any storefront, you need permission from the city, county and whatever store/place of business. And maybe even from other places. So research well and figure out what permits you’ll need.
- Spread your word. However and where ever you can, spread details about why you are doing what you’re doing; why you are fighting for it, etc. It’s necessary to increase awareness of your issue and what you believe to be a crucial campaign if you want to grow your backing. A huge part of this is networking. Meet others interested in this online, at local shelters/rescues, etc. Contact your local newspaper(s) and news TV stations and find who the pet/animal reporters are; see if you can submit stories to blogs; start a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, etc. I cannot emphasize how critical Social Media is to any type of advocacy campaign.
- Take polls and gather information from constituents. If you are working on getting funds for spay and neuter in your city, you’ll not only need spot-on updated statistics on euthanasia/adoption, but you’ll also need to inform the decision-makers (the politicians) what they’re “constituents” really want, think and believe. So take as many polls in as many places as possible. Be sure that when you present your argument (see number 7), you use phrases like “the people who voted you into office,” “your constituents,” and “your voters” as many times as possible when referring to the local population. Remind them that they are in office for only one reason – US. WE put them there. (Don’t, however, threaten to take them out!) Also, ensure your data is iron-clad and error-free.
- Figure out the opposition’s argument. If you’re going up against a sect of dissenters (and you undoubtedly will in the animal welfare arena as there are tons of cruel hearts that value money over kindness), find the research that they are using. Read the statistics they’re showing. Document/save the advertisements, commercials, newspaper stories, etc. being shown/published by them. Then prepare to tear them all to pieces with your well-prepared counter-attack that is logical, educational, non-political and NOT BASED ON EMOTION. Whatever you do, when in front of a City Council, legislator, Governor, etc., do not become enraged or show ire at what has not been done; do not become a crying mess because you miss your dog, etc. Politicians DON’T respond well to negative emotion, and they will absolutely respond undesirably IF YOU CALL THEM ON THEIRS (if they get angry, frustrated, impatient.) I’m just bein’ honest here and if you are a politician reading this who disagrees, I fully welcome your comments, suggestions and maybe an in-person meeting…?!
- Don’t judge or bad-mouth national advocacy groups; nor underestimate their power. You never know who you are talking to, first of all… so try not to offend anyone by “bashing.” But as for the latter part of my remark, use research, statistics and local campaigns from places like the ASPCA or American Humane Association to piggy-back on, and for reliable information. HSUS, although controversial, is particularly helpful in terms of lobbying and the political process for example, as that’s their main focus, and where a great deal of donations go—which is GOOD! You can even call and ask permission from these places to re-print website information so you can create hand-outs for your community about (geographically) nearby or closely related (conceptually) campaigns.
- Don’t give up if you get pushed back. Keep going until you feel successful in your advocacy endeavor. If you need inspiration, follow the fight for Nitro’s Law to be passed in Ohio… for the THIRD TIME… or find your own little inspiration. I’m sure you have a good reason for doing what you’re doing. After all, animal welfare advocacy is not for the faint of heart, it’s not for the weak, we folks are not easily rattled. We are tough. We are united. Remember where and why you started — and you’ll never want to quit… Good luck.
- Questions? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org put “Advocacy Question” in the Subject Line.
- Additional, general advocacy tips: learn how to report animal abuse/cruelty in your community; know what to do if you find a homeless animal or a group of ferals; keep a list of folks you meet who are involved with animals; get to know local pet haunts; start volunteering now at a rescue.One more thing: if you can, check out as many pet-related conferences and local events as possible. I highly recommend attending at least once, all of the following:
- BlogPaws.com: the Annual Blog Paws Conference: Be the Change for Animals (this one is a must-do; you’ll meet hundreds of advocates, learn a TON about everything related to animals, and also pick up new skills about taking your case online! Plus- I’m speaking!)
- Humane Society of the U.S.’ Annual Taking Action for Animals
- Humane Society of the U.S.’ State Lobby Day (meet legislators & bend their ears – this is a fantastic starter course if your battle will get political!)
- Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Animal Center Education Services Workshop (ACES) (check out all of HWAC’s offerings – they are aplenty & have kids’ classes, too!)
Our Star Blogger
Jaime Lynn Smith, Administrator/Owner/Author of http://thoughtsfurpaws.com
Some people call me a fanatic – and I believe there are lots of me out there. I call myself an “Animaniac,” but pet fanatic is okay, too. Since I was six, I have had an adoration, love & respect for all creatures that most parents can only hope to instill in their children. I write my blog & contribute to various sites, including IAMS’ sponsored The Dog Daily/The Daily Cat, the Bissell Pack of Pet Lovers and (NBC Universal’s) Petside.com, which has Annual Pet Net Events. I share personal stories, educate others, advocate for animals & learn all at once! I write most frequently about animal welfare causes/legislation, the “politics of pets,” i.e., recent pet issues, puppy mill industry, & how people can get involved locally/nationally. I love being a pet blog consultant for two large national (anonymous) organizations – it’s just one more way I can contribute. I also volunteer here in Ohio for state/national causes including banning dog auctions, passing animal cruelty legislation, puppy mill bills, et al. I have close relationships with many legislators b/c of my level of volunteer activity & intimate knowledge of the political process, which aids many animal welfare groups who are small and/ or unfamiliar with this tricky process. Find Jaime Lynn on Twitter: ThoughtsFurPaws