Attorney Elissa Katz had been rescuing cats for years when she attended the Humane Society of the United States’ Taking Action for Animals conference in 2007. She hoped to learn more about advocacy in general, but one workshop changed her life: Heidi Prescott, HSUS senior vice president of campaigns, shared how public policy and grassroots campaigns can benefit huge numbers of animals.

“She laid it out in a way that made action very easy to understand and to take and made it clear that each one of us could take an action that could be impactful,” says Katz. She left TAFA with a renewed sense of purpose.

There’s huge opportunity for systemic change in the political arena ... [local ordinances aren't] changing the landscape overnight, but they’re moving it in a really good direction.

Max Broad

Headshot of Elissa Katz and Max Broad
Elissa Katz and Max Broad
Joan Fairman Kanes; courtesy of Max Broad

Every two years, volunteers and advocates converge on Washington, D.C. to attend TAFA workshops and discuss the latest animal issues. The event typically culminates in Humane Lobby Day, where attendees head to Capitol Hill to meet their federal legislators or their staff—guided by HSUS experts every step of the way. For Max Broad, a climate policy specialist who attended TAFA in 2018, Humane Lobby Day is a unique opportunity.

“It can be really profound,” he says, adding that many people and corporations that harm animals already have the ear of politicians. “If we don’t speak up, if we as the citizens aren’t adding our voices to the conversation, it just cedes more authority to them.”

Katz and Broad both ramped up their advocacy to incorporate public policy work after attending TAFA. Katz joined the HSUS Pennsylvania State Council and started working with Prescott to end cruel pigeon shoots in her state. Broad became an HSUS district leader volunteer in Washington, D.C. and founded his own nonprofit, D.C. Voters for Animals.

"There’s huge opportunity for systemic change in the political arena,” he says, citing recent progress across the country such as citywide fur bans. “They’re not changing the landscape overnight, but they’re moving it in a really good direction.”

This year, TAFA will look a little different: Renamed Taking Action for Animals Online and scheduled for September 19-20, the event will be virtual in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees can still watch speakers and view sessions, and they’ll have opportunities to network with sponsors and other animal advocates.

For anyone considering attending, Katz has a simple message: Do it. She says you’ll leave with something of value, whether it’s a new contact, an idea for your hometown or even just the knowledge that you’re not the only one fighting for animals.

“It’s very, very energizing,” Katz says. “It carries you for months and months and months.”

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