We’re so psyched for next Thursday’s Roundtable, Building Stronger Communities for Pets and People, that we caught up with Cori Menkin Herbig, one of the presenters, for a sneak peek of what to expect. Cori shared more about her work as Director of U.S. States Public Policy at Mars, Inc., and their Better Cities for Pets program. Pet-friendly businesses, pet-friendly housing, pet-friendly parks and public spaces…yes, please!
The Association: Next week’s panel is going to focus on ways organizations can advocate for pet-inclusive housing and advance initiatives to make cities more pet-friendly. That often involves changing policy. Please share a success you’ve had in changing policy, and how you made it happen.
Cori Menkin Herbig: I’ve had a long career in legislative and government affairs, and my best examples probably come from outside of the animal welfare space. I worked as an advocate for gun violence prevention for years, and I found constituent pressure was always the most effective and impactful. When we needed to keep the gun lobby from rolling back a key public safety law in Florida, we had constant grassroots pressure at the capitol. It started with a steady trickle of attendees at committee hearings and crescendoed to nearly a thousand people at the statehouse for an advocacy day.
The following can have a strong impact in influencing lawmakers:
- Media pressure, including letters to the editor from constituents and Op-Eds from community leaders and influencers
- Phone calls from constituents sustained over a period of time
If they think they’ll lose their seats over a vote, they’re unlikely to vote that way.
The Association: Does the Better Cities for Pets program have resources specifically for shelters?
Cori Menkin Herbig: In my short time at Mars, I’ve found that our strength lies in our ability to provide comprehensive solutions. Through our Better Cities for Pets program, we’ve developed a variety of ready-made tools that cities can use to become more pet-friendly. All of the tools are guided by our Playbook for Pet-Friendly Cities, which provides concrete steps that shelters, homes, parks and businesses can take to support pets and their owners.
Using that Playbook as a guide, we’ve also developed model ordinances that cities can use to help end pet homelessness and other tools designed to support shelters and businesses. In January 2019, we launched the Better Cities for Pets Certification to commend cities that are using the principles of the Playbook for Pet-Friendly Cities to make significant strides towards pet-friendly standards. Cities can get certified through a free assessment on bettercitiesforpets.com. With the Playbook as a guide, we’ve developed a system of tools that encourages municipal leaders to collaborate with shelters, homes, parks and businesses to create a municipal ecosystem focused on animal welfare.
The Association: Any words of wisdom for anyone trying to go about making change?
Cori Menkin Herbig: Animal welfare can be emotionally heavy work. But if you’re looking to influence lawmakers, it’s usually best to leave emotion at the door and focus on the facts. A fact-based, data-driven approach is often harder for them to dismiss outright, especially if you can demonstrate an economic impact or find a way that the policy you’re advocating for will positively impact your target’s district directly. Lawmakers are always eager to go back to their constituents and tell them about all of the great things they’ve done for the people in their district. If your proposal gives them something to talk about, you’re most likely to have a strong ally.
Register for Building Stronger Communities for Pets and People and hear more from Cori and her co-presenters, the ASPCA’s Susan Riggs and Michelson Found Animals Foundation’s Vince Wong. See you on Thursday, August 5, at 5 ET.