Many people claim his/her love of animals by having domesticated companions, adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and reporting or sharing acts of cruelty seen in the neighborhood or on social media platforms. Most, however, are not as familiar with animal welfare litigations and policies, which are extremely useful when educating and advocating to the public your beliefs regarding the welfare of animals.

Although we as a society have a long way to go before demolishing this hierarchy of species placing humans on top, we have made numerous advancements towards reaching this goal. In August of 1966, the Animal Welfare Act was born. To think that before 1966 there were absolutely no regulations of how farmed, wild, or domestic animals should be treated is a crude representation of what they have seen as; disposable property.

The Animal Welfare Acts (AWA) purpose was to require minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial use, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.

As with all legislation, eventually, amendments should be made to keep up with social change and the peoples’ beliefs. And so several amendments were made to the AWA including but not limited to 1985 where improvements were made regarding the laboratory animals act, 1990 where the treatment of pets was emphasized more specifically, and 2007, which consisted of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. Following 2007, there were two more significant amendments including 2008 where the food, conservation, and energy act was established and 2013 when the definition of ‘exhibitor’ stated in the AWA was modified and explained in more depth.

Despite turning this article into a research paper, the point is that policy work is crucial to any advancement in history, especially animal welfare. If we become complacent as a society, so do our laws. If we are not advocating for change, change will not occur. Many are under this impression that we do not have the power, that the “law makers do.” And while this is true to the extent where most civilians are not drafting and passing legislation, laws typically follow societal change, not create. Meaning, there has to be a shift in societal beliefs that encourage the amendments of laws and policies to fit this new mindset or ideology.

One thing I would like to point out is that you do not have to obtain a Masters in Public Policy or a Juris Doctorate to have the ability to influence sustainable change in the field of law and policy. Whatever your belief be it domestic violence, video gaming, gender studies, capitalism, etc. educate yourself on the law history behind it. Not only will this improve your arguments and logic if up against an opposing viewpoint, but will also invite healthy conversation with the hopes of transitioning the topic towards a positive outcome.

My biggest fear for this generation is becoming stagnant. Thinking that those before us have done it all, fighting for the rights and privilege we take advantage of every day without considering how much more we should be doing. One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Denis Waitley is, “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility of changing them.”

Not everyone is meant to be a lawyer or policy analyst, but we are meant to better the world, to create change while we’re here, and to conquer what we believe in.