Wyomissing, PA -  Animal advocates learned the steps they can take to become lobbyists Thursday at a presentation hosted by the Animal Rescue League of Berks County.

"You are their voice," Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania director for the Humane Society of the United States, told about 80 people at the program. "Animals can't tell us what they need, so it's our responsibility to protect them by giving them that voice."

In addition to Tullo, the event, held at the Crowne Plaza Reading in Wyomissing, featured retired state Sen. Roy Afflerbach, who urged the audience to get to know their legislators and their legislators' staff members.

"It is the staff who will have the ear of that legislator, that councilman, that mayor, that governor long after you leave the office," Afflerbach said.

There are two kinds of elected officials: your friend and someone else's friend, according to Afflerbach.

Politicians are more likely to listen to a friend asking for support on something than a stranger, Afflerbach said.

"If we're not taking time to meet our elected officials - to talk with them, to send them emails, to make telephone calls, to write letters, to communicate with them - somebody else is and that somebody else may have views that are 100 percent opposed to ours," Afflerbach said.

Always come away from every meeting with plans to follow up, Afflerbach said.

Tullo encouraged the audience to make phone calls to their representatives, stay in touch with them through social media and to write letters to the editor of newspapers.

Each person in attendance also received a folder from the Animal Rescue League filled with additional information on how a bill becomes a law and current bills in the state House and Senate under consideration.

Tracy Christmann of West Lawn said the presentation gave her ideas of how to get involved in advocating for the protection of animals.

"I learned a lot," she said.

Christmann said she's been an animal lover her entire life and it's important to stand up for them since they can't do it themselves.

"Animals provide so much unconditional love and it's heartbreaking when that's taken advantage of," Christmann said.

The Animal Rescue League also honored Reading council members Chris Daubert, Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz and Donna Reed, thanking them for Code Red/Code Blue and anti-tethering ordinances that were passed to protect animals in the city.

Contact Matt Nanci: 610-371-5095 or mnanci@readingeagle.com.