Writing a letter to your elected officials may sound intimidating, but don’t worry, it’s really quite easy!
The key is to keep your letter short and to the point. Also, always be respectful.
Snail Mail, Fax, or E-Mail?
Nowadays, any of these forms is acceptable. E-mail is the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient. It is generally the best option for addressing fast-moving issues like BSL. However, some smaller cities and towns still do not have widespread Internet access, and some city officials do not publish their e-mail address, so e-mail may not always be possible.
what a letter should look like
Your first sentence/paragraph should tell the elected official what you want them to do. Some examples:
–“I am writing to ask you to vote against HB 2304.”
–“Please do not support the proposed vicious dog ordinance.”
–“Please make our community safer by supporting a dog ordinance that does not single out specific breeds.”
In your second paragraph, you can show your elected official that you understand and share their concerns. Use two sentences to reframe the issue and take the focus off dog breed.
–“I live in the community and I share your concern for public safety. We can make the community safer through dog ordinances that all dog owners have to follow, no matter what their dog looks like.”
–“Dangerous dogs are a problem. Bad dog owners are causing the real problem here, and our laws should target them.”
–“I also want to protect children from dog bites. But we should help our kids be safe around all dogs, not just certain breeds.”
You can end your letter here if you want to keep it really short!
OR, in subsequent sentences/paragraphs, you may include
–Statistics or facts that support your position
—Model laws/ordinances that are breed-neutral (great way to show officials how it’s done without BSL!)
–An offer to send additional detailed information, if you have more
Always thank your audience at the end of the letter.
I repeat, keep it short. Elected officials get swamped with correspondence every day. They won’t read an essay.
What to Avoid
For the sake of brevity, stick with two points you think are the strongest or most important. Don’t worry about hitting every single point you want to make. Other people will write. They will probably make the points you didn’t.
Don’t send a form letter. Those are too easy and impersonal, and officials know it. Most elected officials don’t read form letters. After all, why should they be concerned about an issue that you haven’t spent any time on?
You do not need to mention your dog’s breed. Owners of certain dog breeds are, unfortunately, associated with a strong negative stereotype. Be aware that if you mention your dog’s breed, your audience may make a snap judgement about you—and about the validity of the information you’re trying to share with them.
Communicating with Congress: How Capitol Hill is Coping with the Surge in Citizen Advocacy
ACLU: Tips on Writing Your Elected Officials
Michigan Humane Society: How to Write Your Elected Public Officials
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