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How to Pass a Local Ordinance in 10 (Relatively) Easy Steps

  1. Select an animal issue on which to focus. Choose an animal issue that concerns you. It is best to pick an issue that is a problem in your city or county and that can be resolved through the adoption of an ordinance.
  2. Become familiar with the selected issue. Learn about the issue you have selected. Gather as much relevant information as possible prior to approaching your councilperson. In order to be taken seriously, you should have at hand well-documented facts and specific incidents related to your issue. You should be able to state the reasons that the city or county should pass regulations. To that end, familiarize yourself with the animal welfare, public safety, and public health issues raised by the issue.
  3. Research laws governing the issue. Become familiar with the state and local laws addressing your selected issue. Information will be available from your city or county clerk and the appropriate state agencies. Local libraries and law libraries may also be useful places to conduct research. Born Free USA also has available summaries of local and state laws on a variety of animal issues.
  4. Find a model ordinance. You will need a model ordinance to present to the city or county council. No need to reinvent the wheel here; simply find a sample ordinance or an actual ordinance that has previously passed in another locality. It is important that the language you submit has been reviewed thoroughly by you, by experts on the issue, and, if possible, by attorneys. Born Free USA can provide model ordinances on a variety of issues and assist with wording of ordinances.
  5. Reach out to allies. Developing a broad base of support will greatly increase the chances that your ordinance will be adopted. Look for support in the likely places, such as animal and environmental advocacy groups, state and local humane societies, shelters, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation organizations, sanctuaries, other grassroots activists, and well-known or influential individuals.
  6. Know your opposition. It is essential to become knowledgeable about the people and entities that your proposed ordinance will affect. Identify and understand potential objections to the ordinance and be able to present well thought-out counter-arguments.
  7. Introduce your proposed ordinance. Find a sympathetic council member to introduce the ordinance. Try to identify one who has introduced or supported animal-friendly legislation in the past, or ask your own councilperson to introduce the ordinance.
  8. Start lobbying. Once you have a sponsor and a bill number for your ordinance, you should begin lobbying. Provide the city or county council members with information packets about the bill. These packets should clearly and succinctly illustrate the need for the proposed ordinance. Mobilize a group of people, including grassroots organizations and local residents, to help publicize the issue through action alerts, letters to city councilpersons, op-ed pieces, etc.
  9. Attend a public hearing. Once the ordinance is introduced, a public hearing is likely. If a public hearing is scheduled, arrange for strong witnesses from diverse backgrounds to testify. Rally supporters to attend the hearing, as well.
  10. Prepare for the vote. When it is time for the vote, you will want to contact your city or county councilperson via phone, fax, or mailed letter to encourage him or her to vote in favor of the ordinance. Encourage as many other residents as possible to write their legislators.

Remember that regardless of the outcome of the ordinance, you reached many people with your message. Public education is key to the success of any campaign and, over time, an educated public will effect positive changes in the lives of animals!

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