Suggested Steps For Codifying Guardian Language in Your Community

The following guidelines were written with the hope that it will make your decision to work toward codifying the language in your community a bit easier. These are only general guidelines and will vary from one area to another.

1. Thoroughly read all available information in order to understand the reasons for and the importance of the proposed language change from "owner" to "guardian" of our companion animals. Study the Guardian Pack at our website or request a hard copy by writing to

2. Find out how your local governmental process works. You may be unfamiliar with exactly how your local (city, county or state) government works or what steps are necessary to introduce the new language into the law. Call the general information number for your city, county or state government to determine who you should contact to find out how your local process works. Then ask questions:

  • What kind of government do we have - one with a City Council, a Board of Supervisors or some other system? Find out if your city has an Animal Welfare Commission that serves as an advisory committee to the Board of Supervisors or City Council.
  • What is the best way to go about introducing the proposed language change and to whom should I submit my request?
  • Will there be public meetings at which the proposal will be discussed? When will there be time allotted for public comment? How much time will be allowed for each person and how many speakers will be allowed? What are the dates and times of the meetings and when should speakers plan to arrive in order to sign up?

3. Read sample ordinances from Guardian Cities. Go to the Guardian Campaign website and click on the Guardian Pack link. Scroll down to "legal documents" and click on the city you're interested in. The word "owner" was taken out of the many of the documents (but the definition remains) and has been replaced with "guardian" or "owner/guardian." Legally, there is no change in rights or liabilities for any person. It is a simple substitution of words.

4. Contact local humane societies, shelters, rescue groups and any other organizations and individuals who might support your effort. Your local supporters are the key to showing the city government that codifying the new language will benefit both animals and people in your community by elevating concern for animals and promoting their humane treatment.

  • Many humane societies, shelters and animal care/control agencies are well known in the community and it is important for you to understand their role in the political process. They are usually well-respected entities and their opinion on animal matters is important as animal welfare is their business.
  • Create a local grassroots community of supporters, building a solid base. Reach out to individuals and organizations beyond the local animal protection organizations - friends, family, veterinarians, teachers, lawyers, educators, writers, newspaper editors and reporters, ministers and other community leaders. Explain the importance of codifying the language, i.e., animal abuse, homeless animals, etc. You might want to have printed or typewritten material ready to hand out. Feel free to use or photocopy any of the material IDA sends to you.
  • Keep your supporters informed about the progress of the campaign. It will keep them interested and enthusiastic.

5. Write letters and contact local talk show hosts. Encourage others to do the same. Write to newspapers and other local publications, explaining the reasons for the change. Perhaps a local talk show would be interested in devoting time to the issue. A community-awareness program on your local station may want to interview you to find out more about the campaign.

Dealing with negativity or controversy.

Regardless of negative attitudes, arguments or comments, or any controversy the proposed change may generate, always be polite and respectful in your speech and letters that you write. Keep in mind that some people may object simply because they don't understand or think it is an attempt to be "politically correct." Others, such as national kennel clubs, may object because they view animals as commodities or disposable property and are in the business of promoting the "selling" of dogs for profit.

Organize supporters to attend and speak at the public meetings.

Get firm commitments from supporters who are willing to speak out in support of Guardian Language. Provide them with specific dates, times and addresses (including directions, if necessary) where pertinent City Council meetings will be held.

Don't be discouraged if you encounter stumbling blocks along the way.

Most legal or social changes generate controversy, but don't allow it to discourage your efforts. Remember that you are not alone, that there are thousands and thousands of citizens across the country who believe in the importance of this language change and are working in much the same way as you to codify the language in their area. Don't forget that what you are doing is for our friends who have no voice.

Call for help.

I am here to help, so if you have questions you can't answer, problems you are uncertain how to handle, or need advice on what to do, please let me know by calling (415) 388-9641 x225 or emailing I will be delighted to help in any way I can.

Keep in mind that one person can make a difference.

It has happened in other cities and it can happen in your community too. Thank you for caring about our animal friends!

Dr. Elliot M. Katz
In Defense of Animals

Phone: (415) 448-0075
Fax: (415) 454-1031

Read the Guardian Campaign Mission Statement & Goals