10/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Send Us Your Bill

How many times have you heard about a cruel or abusive practice involving animals, and wondered, "How can that be legal? Isn't there a law against that?"

Now, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has an opportunity for you to take your idea and help shape future public policy reforms for animals. HSLF has launched its first-ever "There Oughta Be a Law" contest, and we're asking animal lovers like you to submit your concept for a federal animal protection bill.

Every good law starts as an idea, and people who care about animals know first-hand the problems and challenges they face. Many lawmakers run similar contests each year and some great new laws have bubbled up through that process.

Some of the most significant animal protection laws, too, have been the result of compelling personal Enter the Contest stories. In 1966, after America learned the fate of a female Dalmatian named Pepper who was stolen from a farm in Pennsylvania and sold to a research facility in the Bronx, Congress passed the federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act. And in 2008, 11-year-old Haley Ham led the charge to pass "Haley's Law" in Tennessee, requiring the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant, after her own beloved dogs, Jessie and Sam, were killed by the sweet-tasting liquid.

As a citizen, you have the power to influence your elected officials, and you can participate by submitting your idea -- it could become the next federal bill to help animals around the country. We've already received more than 1,200 entries, demonstrating a surge of interest in lawmaking to protect animals, and I hope you'll add yours to the mix.

The winning entry will be selected by a panel of judges including legislators and lobbyists, and will be announced at our next Party Animals event on October 25th. The winner will receive an exciting two-day trip to the nation's capital that will include a meeting with me and the rest of the HSLF staff to discuss his or her proposed bill, a visit to Capitol Hill to lobby federal lawmakers and congressional staff with us, a special feature in an upcoming edition of our bimonthly newsletter "Humane Activist," and an opportunity to see the sights of Washington, D.C.

And if you haven't participated in Party Animals before, it's another great way to get involved, bringing people together on one night at the same time for a party with a purpose. Using tools provided by HSLF, party hosts create their own website, establish a fundraising goal, send invitations to friends and family, and collect donations through a secure online server. It's fun and easy and it brings people together to stand up for animals. To join the fun, let us know if you're interested in hosting a Party Animals house party.

The core principle of democracy is a belief in the wisdom of the people. I can't wait to see the ideas that your wisdom will bring, and I look forward to the new animal protection policies that will be generated by animal advocates around the country. The contest ends at midnight on October 5th -- submit your idea today!