On Tuesday morning, January 24, we drove to Richmond to meet with other Virginia wildlife educators, zoo directors, animal rescues, wildlife veterinarians, and small business owners who will all be negatively impacted if Virginia Senate Bill No. 477 and/or House Bill No. 1242 are passed. We also spent time meeting with senators and house members to let them know the unintended consequences that would happen if these bills were passed.
We learned a few things that would be helpful for anyone interested in helping us stop the passage of these poorly written bills:
1. Write hand written letters to the Senators and House Members on the committees in charge of the bills. The letter should give reasons why the bill, if passed as is, will impact you personally. A one page letter is best. We were informed that emails are rarely, if ever read. Also, form letters are often thrown out before being read. Hand written letters, from a personal perspective, are the most likely to have impact on a representative.
A list of state Senators, including all contact information, involved in the bill is at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+com+S01
The list of house members, including all contact information, involved in the bill is athttp://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+sub+H01001
To find out who your Virginia representatives are, visit http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform
2. Be kind, cooperative, and respectful when addressing your representatives, their aides or any office staff, whether in writing or in person. Keep the door open with the legislator so that he/she will continue to listen to you in the future. The goal is to have the bill thrown out – but sending the bill “out for study” is good too. We agree that people need protection from dangerous animals, but these bills, as they are written, will not stop dangerous animals from being kept in unsafe conditions in Virginia, they will only put a stop to responsible animal ownership and education.
3. Meet with committee members in person, especially if the member represents your district.Plan ahead. Be ready to make your point in 3-5 minutes. Bring a lots of copies of the bill itself and a one page list of bullet points that summarize your position against the bill that you can give to each representative or his/her aide. Many of the representatives may not have read the bill or may not be fully aware of what it says. Also, remember to dress properly: business attire is best.