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March 19, 2014

If you were planning to do something and suddenly learned that a substantial number of people were opposed to it, would you ignore them and go ahead?

It’s possible, depending on who they are and what it is you’re considering. 

But what if those people had the power to fire you?  Would that make you more likely to sit down with them, hear their concerns and try to find a solution?

That’s the situation elected officials face every time they consider a vote.  It’s one of the secrets behind the legislative successes of large-member organizations like the AARP and the National Rifle Association.  And it’s the reason PIJAC has been working diligently to build the pet industry’s grassroots activism capabilities.

The more we can do to effectively educate, motivate and engage local pet industry advocates each time relevant legislation comes to our attention, the more legislators will seek out our input before they introduce a bill or propose an ordinance.

To accomplish this, PIJAC has recently upgraded our online advocacy toolkit.  Using CQ Roll Call’s Engage platform, we now have the ability to more fully integrate email and social media into our efforts to make our voices heard by lawmakers. When we learn about an issue that will affect you, we can quickly and easily let you know, help you to submit a comment to your elected officials, and share it with your contact network to spread the word.

In the earliest days of advocacy, supporters were urged to write letters to their legislators. These handwritten missives gave way to the form letter and the preprinted postcard, both of which sought to make up for their impersonal tone with sheer volume of responses.  Old hands on Capitol Hill still tell stories of weighing piles of mail, for and against an issue, to gauge constituent sentiment.

When you respond to a PetAlert sent out by PIJAC, you get the best of both worlds.  Our system helps you identify your elected officials and pre-addresses your comment.  We then provide you with space to write your message. Not sure what to say or how to say it? Just click on any or all of the prepared points to add them directly into your comment.  When you’ve finished, one click and it’s sent.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who have this kind of technology. And even the best advocacy tools in the world can’t make up for a lack of participation.  That’s why PIJAC has coupled our technical upgrades with a push to grow our nationwide network of pet industry supporters.

With literally thousands of companies large and small across all 50 states and in almost every county nationwide, our potential pool of grassroots activists is huge.  We continue to work to identify and engage industry contacts so that we can make sure you and your staff are able to weigh in when legislation affects you at all levels of government.

Our strength doesn’t end with our employees and allies, either.  According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of American households own a pet. That translates to a staggering 82.5 million households, many of which include more than one registered voter, and all of which are served by the pet industry.

Legislation that hurts us indirectly hurts them, as well.

When you receive a PetAlert, the first thing you should do is take action yourself.  Then, consider sharing it with your customers and supporters through your website, social media and any contact lists you maintain. Our system can even help you do it.

Pet ownership cuts across generations, income brackets and party lines. The more of your customers whom you can get to weigh in on your behalf, the harder it is for a legislator to dismiss their comments.  As an added bonus, you’ll be able to identify who among your network you can turn to in the future for outreach efforts.

By continuing to work together as an industry, we can make an impact on elected officials at all levels of government.  And the more local voices we can bring to bear on a given subject, the greater the impact.

For more information on PIJAC’s PetAlert program, or to make sure you’re signed up to receive PetAlerts, get in touch with PIJAC today at info@pijac.org or visit our website at www.pijac.org.

– Mike Bober

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