At-A-Glance: Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) works at the intersection of animal and human rights. They aim to end archaic breed restriction laws that perpetuate unequal housing policies that are racist, classist, and ableist. For most of the organization’s 36 year existence, their team has proudly worked behind the scenes without focus on building awareness for its work or expertise. However, functioning as a best kept secret in the animal rights community limited the potential success of AFF as it advocated for officials to recognize biased laws against dogs and humans that are based on emotion-driven media reports and one-off incidents. The Wakeman Agency encouraged AFF to reassess their public role and created a plan to bring the organization to the forefront of conversations on breed restriction laws. The ultimate goal was to establish Animal Farm Foundation as an organizational thought leader on breed discrimination.
BRINGING THE EXPERTS TO THE PUBLIC
The Wakeman Agency partnered with Animal Farm Foundation on its efforts to address breed restriction laws and practices that hinder access to housing and disability service resources for their human companions. We knew that their goal to revise policies meant they needed to develop their organizational identity as a leading, public expert on dog discrimination. The first step to building this public brand was to garner media attention for AFF in relation to on-going discussions about dog breeds perceived as dangerous. For instance, when airlines began banning pitbull service dogs from accompanying owners on flights, Wakeman set up interviews with national media for AFF leadership and service dog owners to discuss the issue and its impact. The Wakeman Agency used this initial coverage to launch a nationwide media campaign to highlight the efforts of Animal Farm Foundation. This public attention established AFF as an organization at the forefront of animal rights advocacy and set them up to lead legislative efforts in states across the country.
Our efforts to assist AFF with their legislative work included launching strategic campaigns in target cities to draw attention to various policies and how they frequently target low income households and communities of color. This public pressure for change led to the overturning of breed specific policies in at least 4 cities. Additionally, AFF, with the assistance of Wakeman, took its case directly to insurance companies through articles in trade publications. Animal Farm Foundation demonstrated their issue expertise through these articles and began the groundwork for the reform of discriminatory housing practices.
The Wakeman Agency’s work led to AFF establishing the foundation of their thought leadership by:
- Introducing AFF into the public sphere through key mentions in top-tier media outlets, including—The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, People Magazine, and others.
- Bringing AFF voices to insurance leaders through top industry publications of op-eds and educational information provided by the organization to insurance industry publications Insurance Research Letter, Claims Journal, and NU Property Casualty 360.
- Strategic media placements for policy campaigns in specific states where legislatures are considering controversial breed specific legislation (BSL).
Development of targeted op-eds that highlight top research by the National Canine Research Council and AFF to correct emotion-driven misinformation and reveal hard data that shows the bias in BSL laws.
- Their role as expert and thought leader contributed to 4 cities overturning breed specific policies, including Sioux City, Iowa, Council Bluffs, Iowas, Williston, North Dakota, and Keota, Colorado.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
The Wakeman Agency’s partnership with AFF has directly impacted the organization’s positioning and influence. In our role as thought partner, we have strategized approaches to help them engage their audiences on a broader scale. Our collaboration resulted in establishing the organization as an expert and burgeoning thought leader on the issue of breed specific legislation. Our work to increase AFF’s media presence, to target specific cities with media campaigns to overturn legislation, and to strengthen their public voice through op-eds established a foundation of thought leadership that can be developed further. Animal Farm Foundation’s on-going advocacy, writing, and participation in public conversations about housing and animal rights expands their position as a resource for leading voices at the intersection of animal and human rights. In particular, the foundation we help establish has enabled them to develop the Dogs, People, and Housing Insurance Project, that puts AFF at the forefront of work to end exclusionary dog breed restrictions that advance racist, classist, and ableist housing policies.