How you can advocate for shelter animals in 2023

Captain Cowpants the dog lying in front of a Capitol building
By Julie Castle

2023 is just a few days away, and if you’re like me, you’re thinking of your New Year’s resolutions. How about making advocacy part of them?

Advocacy is defined as a set of actions that raise awareness, draw public support, and/or get people involved in a cause or policy with the intention of making a difference. For Best Friends, that means working with people in your community, including elected officials, to support pet-friendly programs and policies that will make a major difference for animals.

Newly elected and reelected legislators will soon be moving on from the momentum of the fall campaign and election season and into legislative mode (if they haven’t been sworn in already). They can — and very likely will — impact the future of shelter animals, owned pets, community cats and pet owners. And while we as an organization actively work on legislative policies and proposals, we need your help to reach every community to create positive change for pets and people.

So, I challenge you to build or strengthen your relationships with your elected officials.

Regardless of whether you identify with a political party or your candidate won their election, I know you can find some common ground with your officials at the local, state and federal levels. You might be surprised to know that the legislation Best Friends works on is supported all along the political spectrum, from some of the most conservative legislators to some of the most liberal. Helping shelter animals is a cause for both sides of the aisle.

We’re doing all we can at Best Friends to maintain broad political support for shelter animal issues that will take us across the finish line to bring the country to no-kill by 2025, but that doesn’t mean your own elected officials know what your local shelter needs or how to stop the pipeline of animals ending up in a shelter. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to be advocates in our own communities.

Here are 10 ways to kick-start your New Year’s resolution to increase your advocacy involvement and relationships with your elected officials:

  1. Join the Best Friends 2025 Action Team. When you join the 2025 Action Team, you become part of a group of advocates who believe that all pets and people deserve compassion and that when we work together, we can create real change for dogs and cats in need.
  2. Send your elected officials a note of congratulations for being elected or reelected. Let them know you look forward to working with them to better the lives of all animals. Now is about the time elected officials are being sworn in and getting started on issues, so it’s the perfect time to reach out.
  3. Make a list of your local, state, and federal elected officials and their contact information, so you won’t have to search for it if you need to take quick action and ask them for a vote.
  4. Offer to demonstrate how to use the pet lifesaving dashboard and compare your area to others. Share how it can be used as a tool to support local shelters and inspire lifesaving policy change.
  5. Research your elected officials to see if they have taken a position or cast any votes on animal issues. Doing your homework on what their values are before you reach out to them will help you prepare and break the ice! There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, so don’t be afraid to ask them to explain their positions if they don’t match yours.
  6. Meet and get to know the staff who support your elected officials. Learn about them and if they are passionate about animals, too. Staff members are often the gatekeepers to effective communication.
  7. Clip an article from a local media outlet about animal services or positive animal interactions, and send it to your officials. Include a brief note letting them know you just wanted to share the information. Or you could send them the Best Friends magazine!
  8. Ask your elected officials to visit your local shelter or rescue group with you to learn more. Be sure to check with the shelter or rescue group first, of course.
  9. Find out if your elected officials have a dog or cat, and connect with them over your shared love of pets. Suggest meeting them at a dog park or a cat café to chat and introduce yourself.
  10. Host a coffee meetup with your elected officials to discuss the importance of shelter animal issues. Invite friends, family, neighbors and/or fellow animal lovers to join. You don’t have to meet with legislators at the Capitol or their local office. Choosing a more casual setting helps everyone feel more at ease.

So there you have it — 10 ways to start building relationships with your elected officials. If you do this, you’re putting your face and your shelter animal friends’ faces on the critical issue of getting to no-kill by 2025. Best Friends and animal organizations across the country cannot be successful or reach their goals without supporters and advocates like you building these important relationships and friendships.

Happy New Year, and thank you for what you have done and will continue to do in 2023 to Save Them All.

Follow Julie Castle on Twitter and Instagram.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society