March Chairman's Report
-- Defending Our Rights --
New York, NY – For years, animal rights extremists have focused on attacking the health of purebred dogs based on what they determined were improper breeding programs, and have indiscriminately discredited dog breeders with unsupported anecdotal stories as opposed to facts. We all know the unsubstantiated accusations all too well.
Unfortunately, the rather gullible media simply accepted these allegations without objective investigation. A case in point is the untruthful story about Bulldogs published in the New York Times Magazine. Interestingly, while we supplied significant factual information about the health of Bulldogs, as did the Bulldog Club of America, the article was selective – which is just a nice word for “biased” - in the utilization of those facts. In the end, the story was simply propaganda, not journalism.
But starting last year, there was a subtle, yet very noticeable shift in the communication tactics of the two largest animal rights organizations. Previously, for the most part, they had practiced a strategy of either ignoring or dismissing the AKC. Simply put, they did not see us as an organization of any concern to them in their quest to eliminate dog ownership through the elimination of breeders. As they have made very clear, their stated goal is “no new puppies” – a goal they intend to accomplish through legislation and ballot initiatives to mandate spay/neuter and restrict breeders to the point of oblivion.
So, what changed? We did. In the past few years all of us - you, your clubs, and the AKC - have become more aggressive, more organized, more vocal, and more visible in legislative matters.
The tipping point last year appears to have been our proactive approach to the proposed APHIS rule changes, which included both a well-documented, reasonable, and thorough review of all the issues with suggestions to make the intent of the regulatory changes achievable without unnecessarily damaging hobby breeders, and a petition of support signed by over 75,000 concerned dog owners. Our response to APHIS caught the extremists completely by surprise and sent them into a whirlwind of activity that amounted to nothing. Most likely, their evaluation after the storm was that the AKC needed much greater attention from them.
But the proactive plan around the APHIS rule changes was just the tip of the spear the AR extremists have been feeling of late. The AKC Legislative Department, led by the pleasantly indomitable Sheila Goffe, has made our presence, knowledge, and commitment felt on a myriad of legislative issues around the country. Last year, Sheila’s department monitored more than 1,500 pieces of legislation. Contrary to what the AR extremists would have people believe, we are a respected resource in dog legislation for legislators and governmental organizations charged with animal care oversight. Our Care and Conditions of Dogs Policy is accepted as an intelligent and fair standard. Our careful analysis of proposed legislation helps reveal unreasonable requirements buried in a bill that would make it virtually impossible for a legislator’s constituents to be in compliance. Our individual financial support of legislators’ campaigns has made new and strong friends for the AKC and our mission. And your clubs, and the hard-working AKC legislative liaisons at both the state and local levels, have made significant inroads in protecting our rights to own and breed our dogs responsibly.
Today, the AKC is neither being ignored nor dismissed by the AR extremists. Instead, those organizations are now attacking us using the same propaganda tactics of lies and innuendo. I believe our position as squarely in the sights of the AR extremists is a status and a challenge we should accept with resolve and great pride.
As a former ad guy, I am reminded of a 1915 magazine ad for Cadillac considered one of the greatest print ads of all time. It only ran once - in the Saturday Evening Post. I believe that ad, titled “The Penalty of Leadership,” captures the essence of the American Kennel Club and the challenges we face from AR extremists. The ad explains why companies that honor "standards of excellence" become "targets of the envious."
Here are a few pertinent sentences:
“In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone. If he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging.
The leader is assailed because he is the leader. The follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy. If the leader truly leads, he remains - the leader.”
How are we leading in this fight for our rights?
First, we are proactively taking our messages of the Good Things We Do (the Parent Club rescue network, AKC kennel inspections, AKC CAR, and our collective commitment to improving the health of dogs) to the public; we are telling the facts about purpose-bred dogs and the desirability of owning a well-bred purebred as the family dog; and we are telling the stories of the passionate commitment of our breeders to protect, preserve, and improve purebred dogs. We are doing that through a combination of an aggressive public relations strategy utilizing every media opportunity imaginable to get our story told correctly and in its entirety. In addition, we now have an expert in social media, which gives us the ability to tell the narrative of the AKC throughout the world of social media. For the first time, we will have a constant and consistent platform to reach the general public every day.
Second, we will always be aggressive in responding to AR propaganda posing as media stories. The difference in our response to the Bulldog story and the response to the New York Times attack on the AKC is a demonstration of our new commitment to act quickly, broadly and emphatically.
While the cost to have a day-in and day-out public outreach program and an immediate response program is significant, we can afford it. In fact, we can’t afford not to have it.
With Churchill as inspiration, our mantra now is this: we will fight with growing confidence and growing strength; we will defend our rights, whatever the cost may be; and we will never stop fighting.
Your comments and suggestion are most welcome firstname.lastname@example.org.
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