Advocacy in its simplest form, is to lend support towards a cause or proposal.

For the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), advocacy is at the core of our mission.

Since its founding in 1899, ARL has advocated for animals and people, understanding the proven link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people.

Some of the first advocacy efforts by ARL and founder Anna Harris Smith were related to improving conditions for carriage horses in the city after witnessing countless acts of mistreatment.

Advocacy in Practice

Advocacy looks different for every person who decides to get involved. We can advocate for ourselves, for others, and for causes we care about. Advocacy goals can be to change laws, to change regulations, to change practices, and to change minds.

One of the most common ways of advocating is contacting your elected officials. Wherever you live, you are represented by many layers and levels of government. This includes city or town level, county level, state level, and federal level. There are a lot of people who represent and work for you, who have different abilities to change laws and regulations.

On the surface, advocacy may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can help advocate for animals in need!

ARL’s Advocacy Department goes through the thousands of bills filed each year and tracks them to make sure that animals have a voice on Beacon Hill and beyond. From time to time, we ask you to lend your voice to help animals. When contacting your elected officials, here are a few tips:

  1. You don’t have to be an expert! A lot of people are worried that they will be asked questions they don’t know the answers to, that their effort will be met with hostility, or that their voice won’t matter. Elected officials rely on their constituents[1] to tell them what issues matter to them, and they expect that sometimes there will be disagreement. The most important question you should be able to answer is why the bill matters to you.
  1. Familiarize yourself with the background before you call or email. Knowing background information will help you talk about why you’re passionate about a bill. Maybe you volunteer in our Animal Care & Adoption Centers and you’ve worked with animals who have been the subject of cruelty cases, maybe you adopted an animal who was abused, maybe you live in a community that saw a large cruelty case, or maybe this is just something you really care about. ARL frequently updates its legislative agenda and provides a synopsis and background information for each piece of proposed legislation.
  1. Use the method of contact that makes you feel most comfortable. Email is often the easiest format because it allows you to take your time writing and it doesn’t have the pressure of talking to someone on the phone. Every elected official is different, but personalized information is always best. If you write an email, make sure to include your name, address, and contact information. If you call, they will likely ask for this information. Most elected officials keep a database of people who contact their office so they can reach out in the future. Keep in mind that you may receive a response from staff; staff is heavily involved in this work and it does not mean the elected official is ignoring you!
  1. Things often move slowly. Don’t be disheartened because you called to support a bill and it didn’t pass. The Massachusetts Legislature considers bills on a two year session, and around 5,000 bills are filed to be considered during these two years. There are bills filed on education, transportation, healthcare, civil rights, animal welfare, and many other topics. Bills move through multiple stages to get passed, and the legislature is busier certain times of year than others. Sustained advocacy is the most successful advocacy, and it’s never too early or too late to speak out! Click here to see how a bill becomes law in Massachusetts.

Advocacy welcomes all ages and abilities, and along with contacting your elected officials, you can advocate by joining groups that speak out, engaging in education, and participating in public calls to action.

Championing a piece of legislation that ultimately becomes law is a tremendously rewarding experience, and the more who become involved, the better the chances of ushering in change to protect animals throughout the Commonwealth.

Learn more about the bills ARL is supporting this session.

[1] What’s a constituent? Probably you! “Constituent” is a brief way of saying “people who live in an elected official’s district”.