Stages model of policy making

Peters’ discussion of the Stages Model of policy making was very interesting.  This model sees policy as going through five stages: agenda setting, formulation, legitimation, implementation, and evaluation.  Peters’ main point is that the model does a better job of describing than explaining, and that it doesn’t reflect the degree of conflict at each stage.

I completely agree with that analysis.  Over the past four years, I had the opportunity to work with the Ohio staff of The Humane Society of the United States as it contributed to several laws and regulations regarding animals in the state.  The law I worked on most was to regulate ownership of dangerous wild animals.  That law passed through all the stages that the model predicts.  Agenda setting started years previous as Ohio had become known for its exotic animal auction and large private menageries.  Several incidents occurred such as when a man’s tiger killed his 2-year-old grandson, and another man’s bear killed his teenage caretaker.

But nothing was as high profile as the case of Terry Thompson in Zanesville, who released 60 big cats, bears, and primates before committing suicide, leaving police to kill all but six animals.  This triggering event set the agenda to finally push through legislation.  The formulation was done mainly in the Senate Agriculture Committee by Sen. Troy Balderson, and legitimation provided by directors of Ohio’s five accredited zoos.  The law gave implementation to the Ohio Department of Agriculture advised by a board of stakeholders that negotiated recommendations for standards such as cage size and veterinary care for the animals.

The entire process was wracked with conflict. Hundreds of exotic animal owners filled the chambers at every hearing.  Once the law passed, this group sued the state twice to have it declared unconstitutional and lost both times.  They clearly felt themselves to be the losers.  But the fact is, societies change, and laws must change with them.  There are more tigers in captivity in the United States than in all of the wild, and too many suffered in horrible conditions under private ownership.  Most people feel animal welfare counts, and I am very proud to say that my contribution to this law helped dozens of exotic animals get moved to accredited sanctuaries.

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