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Protesting for Beginners

Protesting is a time-honored tradition and your legal right. Protests can be as peaceful, legal, and safe as you wish, suitable for teens and elderly people and everyone in between. We recommend protesting as often as you can because you are more likely to have an impact that way.

For us, that is once a week for 1 & 1⁄2 hours each time. We respect our volunteers' schedules and always try to start and end the protests on schedule. We base our protests on those of activist Janet Enoch, who successfully closed down two Petlands through weekly protests.

If you have never been to a protest, here are some tips on getting started.

SIGNS
We start out with the assumption that if even two people show up, that’s enough for a protest. That makes signs very important, because curious passers-by will read them whether they are attached to a person or not. You want to make signs that are as large as you can hold so that they can be easily seen. They should have a very short, understandable message and should be neatly printed. If possible, include some drawings or pictures of animals (from a yearly calendar or a poster, for example). We include our website in smaller print on each sign, as well. What we do is attach two signs to one wooden stake, making a double sign. In that way, one person can hold two, even four signs at the same time. You can pay a visit to your local arts and crafts store to pick up these supplies:

--foam core board, at least 20 inches by 30 inches, as many as you need (Staples sells foam board that's 32" by 40"--makes a very visible sign)
--sets of stencils, several different sizes
--magic markers of various sizes and colors, including the jumbo ones
--clear plastic film
--acrylic paints in the same colors as the markers

From a home supply store, you can pick up:
--lightweight wooden stakes, about 46 inches long
--duct tape
--clear mailing tape

Here are some examples of messages on our double signs:

- Petland’s private breeders = puppy mills/Adopt from the shelter (picture of dog)
- Boycott Petland!/Petland’s private breeders = puppy mills
- Boycott Petland/Adopt from the shelter (picture of dog or cat)
- Don't buy animals in stores/Adopt from the shelter (picture of animal)
- Save a Life/Don’t breed or buy - Adopt! (pictures of parrot, iguana, rabbit)

- Boycott Petland, Adopt Homeless (pictures of animals)/ Adopten un animal sin casa!
- Adopt from rescue groups/Boycott Petland (attach poster: Puppy mills breed misery, Free the prisoners of Greed, available from http://www.hua.org/ )
- Boycott Petland/Petland + puppy mills--partners in cruelty
- Boycott Petland (attach Puppy mills breed misery poster)/Can't stand Petland (large poster of a puppy)
- Boycott Petland/Adopt from rescue groups (picture of rabbit)
- # Dogs killed in shelters every 5 minutes/ (poster of 30 dogs)


- Boycott Petland!/Puppy mills in a red circle with a slash through it. (You can make the large circle by tracing around the lid of a large round object such as a trash can lid)
- Signs in Korean (or whatever foreign language is commonly spoken in your area) that translate to “Adopt a pet from an animal shelter” and “Don’t buy animals in stores.”

For stenciling, use the largest letters that will fit on your foam board, and follow the directions on the package to fill the words in with magic markers. This takes a while! It could easily take a couple of hours to make one sign. If the letters have gaps in them because the stencil is supposed to be fancy, you can fill in the gaps to make the letters easier to read. If you are in a hurry, you can make signs much more quickly by just writing your message in jumbo magic marker, but it won't look as nice. The magic marker also doesn't create a really dark color, so you can touch that up with acrylic paint if you like.
    If you’re going to be protesting many times in all kinds of weather, it’s a good idea to try to weatherproof your signs. We put clear plastic film over the front of the sign and tape it with clear mailing tape. Clear contact paper can also be used, but it’s harder to work with.
    After the signs are done, we use duct tape to tape two signs together, with a gap in the middle where you can hold them. The duct tape holds better if it’s lengthwise along the stake as well as sideways.
    Finally, tape a gallon-sized plastic zip-lock baggie to the back of your sign.    You can store some fliers back there and hand them out to interested passers-by.
    You can also use plastic banners. They’re kind of expensive when made at a sign shop, but you could try making some homemade banners.

FLIERS
Fliers about puppy mills available from many organizations, including In Defense of Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, PETA, Friends of Animals, and others. Hearts United for Animals has one with many photos of puppy mill dogs. A dog named Hope on the front of that brochure. We stamp our website on fliers in red to distinguish it from the rest of the print.
    Many people going by want to know the alternative to pet stores. We hand out a booklet that lists all the local shelters and rescue groups in the area.
    We also hand out a “What You Can Do” sheet for people who want to help fight the cruelty of pet stores through writing letters, making phone calls, etc.
    We hand out a sheet giving the times and dates for upcoming protests for those who want to join us at a future date.
    We also have a flier in Spanish, since many of the people shopping in our local Petland are Spanish-speaking.
    Bring with you to the protest paper and pencil for getting new names and e-mail addresses, and a camera or video camera in case anyone harasses you.

LEGAL ISSUES
   
Before you start your protest, find out where private property stops and public property begins. You can do this by calling the local police or the Department of Public Works. You need to protest on public property, such as the public sidewalk along a city street near a strip mall. Petland is usually one store in a mall, and the entire mall may be considered private property. So during the protest, you will probably not be allowed to either park or walk in the parking lot without risking being arrested for trespassing.
    If you plan on having many protests, try to get the information that you are on public property in writing. Have it with you at the protest in case the police want to see it. You should not need a permit to protest unless you are an extremely large group, but ask the police ahead of time, since this may vary in different areas.
    You may not be allowed to place objects, such as a television playing a tape about puppy mills, on the sidewalk without a permit.
    You should be allowed to politely offer people fliers whether they are on foot or in a car, provided you are not (1) interfering with traffic or (2) blocking pedestrians' path on a sidewalk. Unless the police are illegally restricting your rights, it’s a good idea to obey their rules if you want to continue protesting there on a regular basis.

PEOPLE POWER
   
Before your first protest, contact (the easiest way is by e-mail) everyone you can think of who might be interested in helping--animal welfare groups, animal rights groups, animal rescue groups, petsitters, etc.
    Also "table" at community events, informing people about puppy mills and pet stores and what you are doing, and have a sign-up sheet for people to be notified of upcoming protests. If you are already a volunteer for other animal groups, they will usually be happy to give you some space at their table.
    We wear our "Boycott Petland" t-shirts and sweatshirts around town and to work, and when people ask us why, we hand them information. When you need only a few shirts, the cheapest way is probably to make them yourselves using iron-on letters and an iron-on picture of a dog.
    When people come to your protests, make sure you get their name and e-mail address and add them to your e-mail distribution list. Treat your supporters with respect. We e-mail only once or twice a month in an effort to avoid annoying people with excessive e-mails. Give directions to the store, and start and end your protests on time. Make sure everybody at the protest (e.g., those out of sight at a different entrance to the parking lot) knows when you're packing up to leave.

THEME PROTESTS
A protest with a particular theme can attract more attention. We've had a number of theme protests:

--Free the Prisoners of Greed (quoted from Hearts United for Animals): We had dog, rabbit, and parrot masks and wore prison outfits, complete with ball and chain (these can be rented from a costume store).

--Candlelight vigil, with candles and candle-like flashlights (in case of rain)

--Mourning protest--wore black, including mourning veils. Some signs were in the shape of tombstones.

--Marathon--8-hour-long protest for the entire time Petland was open that day.

--Adoption--the focus of our signs was on adopting from shelters and rescue groups.

--Around Easter time, our protest focused on rabbits.

A day or two before your first protest and any other protest that you think will be particularly interesting (e.g., a candlelight vigil, a puppy mill survivor as a special guest dog, a person wearing a dog costume), send a press release to local newspapers and TV stations. (Check the Internet for how to write a press release.) If anyone you know has contacts with the media, send messages to the attention of that reporter. Bringing friendly dogs to your protest may help attract media attention.

You can also place ads in the local papers, on the back of a bus, or inside a metro train. (This can get expensive.) PETA learned of our campaign and kindly placed this ad on 4 buses in Fairfax city for one month.

http://www.prisonersofgreed.org/ has several ads already made that you can use.
Encourage your supporters to write letters to the editor about pet stores when animal-related stories appear in the newspaper. You can also write brief public service announcements and submit them to local radio stations.

RESEARCH
   
Learn as much as you can about Petland in particular and puppy mills in general. Get a video of the April 2000 Dateline NBC undercover investigation, available from PETA at 1-757-622-PETA. Look for current news stories about Petland and research the Hunte Corporation, Petland’s supplier, on the Internet. Talk to former employees, people who have bought animals at the store, people who live near the store, veterinarians, trainers, and anyone who approaches you with information.

IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN THE STORE
   
At first we assumed that our local Petland knew state anti-cruelty laws and was complying with them, but we were wrong. Check the laws in your state dealing with the humane treatment of animals in pet stores. They are usually available online and not as hard to decipher as you might think. (See our Pet Store Laws section.) Visit the store and make sure Petland is in compliance with them. If they aren’t, immediately call your local Animal Control so that they will visit and note the violations and hopefully force Petland to fix them. Revisit the store frequently and report them again if they failed to correct the violations.

MEET WITH THE MANAGER
   
Tell him you are concerned about puppy mills, in-store conditions, and the homeless animal crisis, and that you would stop protesting immediately if he would switch from selling live animals to supplies only. His reply may not be what you are looking for, but at least he will understand the reasons for your opposition to his choice to join the Petland franchise.

    

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