Writing an Effective Letter

As a constituent, a consumer and a community member, you have the power to create change for animals by speaking out on their behalf. Whether you send an e-mail or letter, or make a phone call, every message truly makes a difference.

A PAWS supporter shared her story after contacting her elected officials:

"To my shock, they each replied to me! And these were personal---directly to me. I am regularly writing my own letters to local, state and federal officials. It has proven quite stimulating and fun. I can't imagine much else being so worthwhile and also being free of charge."

When you do speak out, be sure to let PAWS know by copying us on your e-mail at publicaffairs@paws.org, or mailing us a printed version to PAWS, Attention: Public Affairs, PO Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046.

Letter writing tips

  • Address the letter correctly.
    • In the address, members of Congress and elected officials are referred to as "The Honorable."
    • The salutation should be, Dear Senator, Representative, Officer, Chief, Prosecuting Attorney, Councilmember, etc.
  • Include your full name, address and phone number so they can respond to you.
  • Be concise and try to keep the letter to one page.
  • State the purpose of your letter immediately in the first paragraph.
    • Discuss only one issue or incident in the letter.
    • If there are several connected incidents, present them chronologically.
  • Identify yourself.
    • Are you a constituent of theirs?
    • Do you live in the county where the incident occurred?
    • Are you a patron of their store?
    • Do you have specific expertise in the matter you are writing about?
    • Are you a member of an organization in support of or not in support of the issue (be sure not to imply you are writing on behalf of that organization.)
  • Be specific. For example:
    • "I am writing to express my support for bill SSB 5402 which will protect animals from convicted animal abusers."
    • "I am writing in regard to animal cruelty case XXX." (Find out if a case number has been opened first as this will allow the officer to get additional facts from the file.)
    • I am writing to express my concern that your store is promoting the circus."
  • Support your information with facts, not emotions.
    • Regarding animal cruelty, include names and contact information of any known witnesses.
    • Regarding legislation, include a personal anecdote on why this animal-related matter is so important to you.
  • Always be polite and state clearly what you want the person to do-vote or sign a bill, initiate an investigation, interview a witness, contact the animal control officer involved, visit an animal's residence, or end a partnership with a company which exploits or abuses animals.
  • Never threaten ("I won't vote for you if..."). Asking them to do their job is within your right as a citizen, but it is never appropriate to threaten or use foul language in a letter.

If you arrange a meeting

  • Make an appointment and arrive on time.
  • If you are going with a group of people, decide ahead of time who will be the spokesperson, and let the person you are meeting with know how many people will be attending the meeting.
  • Dress conservatively and professionally.
  • Create a one-page sheet with your facts and information (use guidelines above) and give a copy to the person(s) you are meeting.
  • If the person agrees to any action, write it down and politely repeat what you understand her or she has committed to doing.
  • Ask for follow-up. A phone call or e-mail to keep you informed will help ensure the issue is not forgotten.

Download HSUS sample letters to Prosecutors, Legislators, Judges, etc. by typing in "writing letters" or "sample letters" under the search field.

View sample letters on PETA's site or request a guide to letter writing packet.

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