Blog by Elissa Katz, President, Humane PA PAC
If you believe getting to know and contacting your legislators is a waste of time, you are wrong! That point was highlighted by a stellar panel of seasoned legislators and insiders at the Animal Advocacy Through Legislation panel on July 26, 2016, while they talked with a packed room of passionate animal lovers about how to be more effective advocating for legislation. There could not have been a more inspiring, expert, compassionate, and passionate panel on the topic: NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak, Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, PA State Senator Andrew Dinniman, PA State Representative Madeleine Dean, PA State Representative Kevin Schreiber, and PA State Senator Daylin Leach’s Chief of Staff Zach Hoover, with special appearances by Philly Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, and moderated by humane hero PA State Senator Roy Afflerbach, Ret. Each legislative participant is a sponsor and leader for significant animal protection bills; bills which have the power to improve and/or save the lives of 1000s of animals.
This informative and excellent event, organized by The Humane League and Penn Animal Advocacy, served as a clear and strong wake up call that if we want better laws for animals, we must put our voices and muscles where our hearts are.
The obvious questions on the minds of the packed room of attendees: can we make a difference for animals through public policy? Can we influence our lawmakers to enact important animal protection laws? The unequivocal and resounding answer to both questions is – YES! But then, how? What can we, advocates who care about the humane treatment of animals, do? The comments from the panel echoed the themes often reflected on the Humane PA Facebook page and on its website.
The panel members advised: first, and foremost, VOTE! And, of critical importance – speak up; raise your voices in support of humane legislation. The panel advised that legislators do indeed pay attention to emails and snail mail they receive on an issue. They are moved by voices and numbers. Will power and team power are needed to push a bill through committees and the legislature. Get to know your legislators. Visit their offices, either in Harrisburg or in their home district, to talk about and demonstrate your interest in a bill. Consider showing up when there is a legislative hearing on a bill of interest and let your position be known. Hold legislators accountable for their actions. Question them on social media when they don’t do the right thing or when they won’t support or move humane legislation.
Next time you feel discouraged or question the power of your voice in the political process, or wonder about the value of your response to an action alert, remember what the experts in this field have said! Our voices do count. Our voices and participation in the political process are needed and do make a difference. We must always speak up. The animals deserve no less.
Elissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA PAC and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, Gaudioso & Newlin, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), assisting with cat care and adoption applications at an adoption site. She is also a board member of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.