Animal Petitions – How to Make Them Matter More (From Janet) Janet Bovitz Sandefur Animal Advocacy Animal Welfare


You may be aware that is working with local and state legislature on “puppy mill” reform.  

During a meeting with one of our NYS State Legislators for this, the topic of Animal Petitions came up; and the way that a legislator’s office receives and processes United States petition signatures on Animal Welfare issues.

After our discussion, we called a number of US Senator and Governor offices, and asked for their comments as well.  Many of them were the same:

Many petition creators and signers are not aware that many United States Animal Petitions*, even with meeting their goal of the desired number of signatures, are not acted upon.  A few of the main reasons for this:

  1. Who is signing:  When directing Animal Petitions to legislative offices, many of the petitions are signed by individuals that are NOT constituents of that state’s legislators.  The majority of state and county legislators only act upon the requests of THEIR constituents, and that is then based on the number of signatures/calls/letters received on a specific issue.
  2. Where the issue is located: The majority of state and county legislators normally do not have jurisdiction to impact issues going on in other states, or even in other counties in the same state.
  3. How petition signatures and petition information is received: When individuals sign on-line petitions, the signatures come into a legislator’s office ONE AT A TIME.  The legislator is NOT the first person who reviews these petition signatures.  There is usually an appointed person who maintains and monitors this.  

With that said, if the petition information is NOT clear, and/or if the issue is something that the legislator cannot act upon because it is either out of jurisdiction or there are not enough constituent signatures, the petition is usually NOT acted upon and many times does not reach the individual it was directed to.  

Processing petitions on the end of the receiver is time consuming and there are costs associated with that.  Obviously, more time will be spent on petition signatures that have all the ready and clear information up front, rather than spending time on those that do not.

  • What can make petition information unclear?
    Lack of identifying, and/or vague, and/or false vague information.  Petitions should always be created to include the following mandatory information:
      1. Name, Address (with State, City/Town, Zip and County) and valid e-mail address of the petition creator.   A Valid e-mail is necessary so that the receiving entity can respond back to the creator, and confirm or address petition information if necessary.
      2. Specific petition goal description, or if the goal is to amend an existing entity, then the existing entity should be listed by the Full Name and/or Bill number.
      3. Name, Address (with State, City/Town, Zip and County), and valid e-mail address of petition signer.  A Valid e-mail is necessary so that the receiving entity (ESPECIALLY if it’s a legislative office) can respond back to the petition signer with an acknowledgement of signature receipt.  I have been told that many petition signers do NOT provide a valid e-mail address.
      4. The State, City/Town, Zip and County (and name/address if you can obtain it) of where the issue is.  Believe it or not, many petition creators neglect to mention this crucial information.  This plays into who should be signing.
      5. Supporting information of the specific issue. Try to include these key items: names, dates, pictures, supporting documentation, links to related information and a timeline. The content of information in your petition should be clear, direct, and factual.
      6. Are there other related Animal Petitions on the same issue? Include those links in  your content also. It’s okay to have more than one petition circulating on that same issue.
  • Who really should be signing?
    Limiting or restricting the related petition (WITH A NOTIFICATION of who should sign) to only those constituents who have the power to influence their related legislation works the best.  Examples:
        1. If a petition creator is trying to abolish ‘puppy mills’ in the State of California, then only residents of California should sign the petition.
          • This petition should then be directed to the Governor of California, and the related legislators for that State.
        2. If a petition creator is trying to abolish ‘puppy mills’ in the town of Sacramento, California, then only residents of California should sign the petition with a specific request ask those residents of Sacramento, CA to sign the petition.
          • This petition should then be directed to the Governor of California, and the related legislators for that town.

Many people do not know who their legislators are, so many will be unsure of whether their signature will help or hinder a petition.  There are many available methods through the Internet (including zip code searches, which is very easy), to help an individual determine whether or not they should sign a petition.

IMPORTANT:  This is NOT to say that you should only ask local residents to sign a petition. But rather, highlight the importance of key constituent signing, and then asking all to sign and share, regardless of their location.

  • How should the results come to the petition receiver (example: legislative office)?
    During our most recent meeting with our State Legislator’s office, I was shown real-time examples of how different on-line petition signatures are received via e-mail.  Many times, the signature e-mail page received has less than ⅓ of the necessary identifying information that is needed in order to take any action.  And, remember, these signatures come in as INDIVIDUAL e-mails.  
        1. What is needed for the petition receiver?
          • Complete (ALL) information as stated above.
          • Properly obtained signatures as outlined above.
  • Petitions should be regularly updated on the Petitioner’s end.
    On many petitions that are signed, the signers and sharers never hear back on the status.  It can be a simple as “We haven’t heard back on our petition submission yet”.
    Along with this, the targets that are provided the related petition is not followed up with, so once the petition is submitted, petitioners need to be diligent on reaching out to the target to find out updates on action.  NEVER LET A PETITION DROP. If people care enough to sign and share your petition, then see it through to the end with whatever action(s) you have stated you will do.
  • Want to make an additional impact?
    It was suggested that petition creators should include a way for petition signers to make an additional, more personal impact, by also always asking that in addition to electronically signing, that they also send a personal message to whomever the petition is directed to via e-mail or mailing address (both of which should be provided).  
      • Why?  Because it hits home the importance of an issue on a personal level, one that will most likely be better remembered than a form letter from a petition. 

        Personal messages should include:

        1. Issue, clearly stated.
        2. Petition signer’s Name, Address (with State, City/Town, Zip  and County), Telephone Number, E-Mail.
        3. Reason why this is important to petition signer.
        4. Acknowledgement that they also signed electronic petition.

*This is NOT to say that globally signed Animal Petitions do not make an impact – because they certainly do.  So we are not saying don’t sign them.  YOU SHOULD.  Circulated Animal Petitions evoke Social Media action. Many times, petitions are acted upon solely from the “uproar” and awareness that is caused on Social Media rather than the petition itself.  That’s why is DOES matter whether or not you sign, and share, petitions – regardless of whether they are regarding an issue in your district or not.

*These guidelines are posted to be helpful, additional information so that Animal Petitions are created with the most impact in mind.

There are those that have the opinion that Animal Petitions don’t make a difference.
So keep signing, keep sharing, and go that extra mile to JUST DO SOMETHING in the Animal Petition world.

Go here to find a list of sites where you can sign and share Animal Petitions.

  • Want us to share an Animal Petition? Give us the related link, and we will do just that.
  • Want to tell us about the Animal Petition YOU created and are passion about? Tell us in the form of a Guest Blog, and we’ll post it and share it all over the place.

YOU can make a difference, we ALL can.
Creating, signing and sharing Animal Petitions is one way we ALL can help change the lives of animals in need.  So get out there and help make a difference – right now!

Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur


Animal Advocacy logo Janet Bovitz Sandefur

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