Getting some face to face contact with lawmakers could potentially have more of an impact than a letter or a phone call, and truly demonstrates to the lawmaker how important the issue is to you. Before attempting to meet with a lawmaker, be sure to call and schedule an appointment; do NOT just drop in to their office. Be on time for your appointment, but also be prepared to wait as most legislators are very busy and have hectic schedules. If you are going with others as a group, keep the group small and designate one person as the main speaker.
Should you be able to get a meeting, it’s important to set aside any feelings of contempt for politicians and/or your party preferences. What you really want to achieve from the meeting is to plant a seed in the official’s mind, get them to think about your issue, and hopefully sway them to vote your way! Also keep in mind, the higher ranking the official, the more likely you will be to meet with support staff members rather than the lawmaker personally. Staff members do much of the work behind the scenes in government and hold more sway than you would expect, so always treat them with as much respect as you would with the legislator.
Most important, keep your position brief - 60 seconds is optimum. Remain friendly, maintain a professional demeanor, and don’t argue. You are there to present a position, and getting into a heated argument will not help you achieve your objectives. Remain open to questions, and always answer their questions above all else, even if you are interrupted to do so. Stay positive and never demonize or personalize your opponents, no matter your personal feelings towards them.
Do your research beforehand so you are very prepared and knowledgeable on the subject. Remember, as an active dog owner, you are there as an expert. Know the bill number and full title of the proposed law or ordinance, and have any possible data or statistics to back up your position. Equally important is to know and understand your opponent’s side of the argument. You should be able to spell out their points in a positive manner, and then counter and shut each one down. Don’t ever apologize for your position. Always keep in mind that politics are consumer driven, and use all of your information you have gathered to help your lawmaker understand how the proposed bill or law will affect their constituents. Leave fact sheets if possible, and be sure to thank the official (or staff) for their time. Make sure to obtain all staff names, as these could be important contacts for future communications. Follow up your visit with a note of thanks and any additional information if requested to provide some.
Phone calls to a lawmaker can be an effective method of getting your message across when a deadline is coming up and you don’t have time to get a letter or a meeting in. You will most likely be talking to a staff member when you call, so remember what was stated previously in the personal meeting section and be respectful of the lawmaker’s staff - don’t be annoyed that you don’t get to talk to the lawmaker personally. Know what you want to say before you call; be sure to keep it brief, speak clearly, and remain professional. Introduce yourself and your relation to their jurisdiction. State your reason and point for calling, and give a few reasons why. Use what you consider to be the most important points as your reasons to support your request. Support your position or request with points that you consider to be the most important, as there will most likely not be enough time to discuss all your points. End the call by providing your name and contact information, and offer to furnish more information if they are interested.
Writing a Letter or Email
Taking the time to compose a letter or email could be one of the most effective methods of getting your message across. Writing has advantages over phone calls and meetings in that there is less room for mistakes, and you will be able to get all your points across without being interrupted or sidetracked. Many government offices prefer emails to actual letters, so try to find out what method is preferred for the office you are contacting, or if in doubt, use both methods. First and foremost, keep your correspondence short. If it’s too long it most likely will not be read. One page in length is optimal, two is the maximum. If you are sending an email, it’s better to send your letter in the body of the email and not as an attachment as many government offices will not accept attachments in emails. A personally written, original letter is better than sending a form letter, so stay away from form letters. Also, a typed letter is best. If you’re sending a handwritten letter, make sure that it is neat and legible.
Discuss only one issue per letter, and make sure to cite the number and full title of the subject legislation - don’t use any acronyms or nicknames for the legislation. Use your first paragraph to state your position and/or request. Keep that first paragraph short and concise, and save the rest of your letter to support your argument. Support your position with facts and data. Remember it’s ok to show your passion, but refrain from overly emotional arguments. Avoid conceding any points from the other side or apologizing for your position. Also, if you have any family, business, or political connection to the issue, explain that connection. It may serve to help you and your position stand out.
Close your letter by reiterating your position, and state whether you are a member of the official’s district or how else you are connected. Be sure to include a note of appreciation for their dedication and hard work. Make certain to list your contact information (address, telephone number, and email address) and inform them you can provide them with more information if they are interested.
The suggested address and salutations for state and federal legislators:
The Honorable (Name)
Salutation for senators:
Dear Senator (Name)
Salutation for Representatives (title depends on state):
Dear Representative (Name)
Dear Assemblyman or Assemblywoman (Name)
Dear Delegate (Name)