2. Make an Impact
The most important thing you can do for cats is to be their voice in the legislative process. Whether you prefer to communicate with elected officials via phone calls, emails, letters, or office visits, you must communicate your support (or disagreement) of laws and policies that affect cats. The top priority of most elected officials is being re-elected. If they are aware that many of their constituents are paying attention to their stance on animal welfare, they are more likely to vote favorably.
In any communication with officials, remember to be polite and professional. Being rude and disrespectful toward an official will not help save cats’ lives.
Send Emails or Letters to Legislators
Be sure to personalize your letter or email to include the legislator’s full name and title. If available, also include the name or number of the proposed ordinance. If that information is not available, clearly identify the issue in the first paragraph. Remember to send a letter to every elected official. If there are six councilmembers, you should send six personalized letters.
See the Resources section of this toolkit for sample letters on the various laws that affect cats.
Face to Face: Schedule a Meeting
Many legislators are willing to meet with their constituents. Call ahead to schedule an appointment. If the legislator is unavailable to meet, it is still helpful to meet with a legislative aide or assistant. Their job is to take notes and report back to the legislator.
Before the meeting
- Outline what you want to say beforehand. Your message should be as short and simple as possible. Legislators are human beings like everyone else and often have short attention spans. But still include a short anecdote about how this issue will personally affect you. For example, if you care for a cat colony and have spent your own time and money sterilizing and caring for them, tell your legislator.
- Prepare a one page fact sheet to give to the legislator. Include any available local statistics that support your position on the legislation. If possible, include how the legislation would affect the city or county budget.
- Dress for success. It may seem minor, but officials will take your views more seriously if you are dressed professionally.
See the Resources section of this toolkit for sample letters on each ordinance, which you can review to prepare for your meeting.
During the Meeting
- At the beginning of the meeting, identify yourself, where you live, and the issue you are there to discuss.
- State whether you oppose or support the measure being considered and list a few points in support of your stance. Refer to your outline to stay on point.
- Give the legislator a copy of the fact sheet.
- Be friendly and polite. Even if you think the legislator is being rude, ignoring you, or openly admits to not caring about animals, always stay calm and respectful. You don’t want to get a reputation for being unreasonable or rude.
- Ask the legislator what his or her stance on the specific issue is and why. If the legislator disagrees with you or says he or she hasn’t made up his or her mind yet, ask what the concerns are. Address the concerns calmly and politely.
- Thank the legislator for meeting with you.
After the Meeting
- Follow up! Email or mail a brief note thanking the legislator for meeting with you and reiterating your key points.
Please read Negotiating with Decision Makers for a more in-depth look at conducting meetings with decision makers.
Speak Out! Public Speaking and Testimony
Before an ordinance is passed, the city council or county commission will hold a hearing to discuss its merits. This is your chance to speak out for cats and explain why you oppose or support the ordinance. Follow the city’s or county’s instructions about testifying. Some places require people who want to testify to sign up beforehand. You can call the city clerk or look online to find out the procedure in your particular area.
Dress professionally. An exception to this is if you are with a large crowd wearing a matching article of clothing (like an orange t-shirt) to signify support for cats. Be sure to alert the council during your testimony why all these people are dressed a certain way. You could also ask everyone there in support to stand up so the council can see how many people are on your side.
Keep your remarks short, to the point, and clear. Start by introducing yourself and stating where you are from. State your affiliations with any groups or whether you are a caregiver of feral cats or an owner of an adopted animal.
List the three main reasons to support or oppose the ordinance. Tell a short anecdote demonstrating the good work you do or why you care about the issue. End by summarizing your main points and thanking the legislators for listening.
You can write out bullet points or the entirety of your testimony depending on your comfort level with public speaking.
See the Resources section of this toolkit for sample testimony.
Next: Grow the Cause