The elections may be over, but our work as responsible dog owners, exhibitors, and breeders is just beginning. Many states elected a large number of new lawmakers on the federal, state, and local levels – most of whom likely know very little about canine legislation.
Most state legislatures will reconvene in early 2017, and many are already beginning pre-filing bills for next session. This is why it is critical for you as a member of a local club or state federation, or as a responsible breeder and dog owner, to take the next several weeks to educate your lawmakers about the importance of promoting and protecting responsible dog ownership.
Here are a few simple ideas of effective, proactive actions you can take over the next couple months to make a big difference for dog owners in your state:
- Send congratulations letters – If you haven’t already done so, take a look at the elections results for your area. Send congratulations notes to those who won (including, if applicable, Governor, state legislators, mayor and city council, and members of Congress). Regardless of whether the lawmaker is an incumbent or a freshman, send a letter and let them know that you are an active constituent and responsible dog owner/breeder/dog club, etc. Congratulate them on their election and offer to be a resource to them should dog issues arise. You can view a sample introduction letter for constituents and for your club in the Legislative Action Center. Handwritten notes are always appreciated too.
- Request a meeting/send canine legislation information – Consider asking for a brief meeting (approximately 15 minutes) to introduce yourself and/or your club and briefly talk about dog issues important to you. Often lawmakers will have public events that allow you the opportunity to meet them in person. Provide them with information about the positive things your club does in the community, as well as a few items from the AKC Government Relations Toolbox, such as the economic impact of purebred dog ownership in your state. Remember these contacts should be friendly and informational. Do not overwhelm them with a large amount of information or be confrontational. The purpose is simply to introduce yourself as someone who can help them and provide a brief introduction to responsible dog ownership issues. Should legislation arise, then you can have a more specific, in-depth legislative discussion.
- Invite new lawmakers to shows/field trials – In addition to sending a congratulations letter, consider inviting newly-elected lawmakers to a local dog show, competition, or field trial. Give them a tour of the event and consider asking them to present the Best in Show or another award. This is a great way for lawmakers to learn first-hand about the world of dog shows and responsible dog ownership and breeding.
- Follow up– Once session begins, follow up with the lawmakers you contacted, regardless of whether there is a pending legislative issue. If your club has recently held (or plans to hold) a community event, or has done something to benefit the community (such as donations for a police K-9, etc.), let them know. Don’t overwhelm them with phone calls and letters, but touch base with them periodically and let them know what you are doing to help promote responsible dog ownership.
Lawmakers deal with hundreds, and sometimes thousands of legislative proposals on a broad range of issues each year. They cannot be expected to be experts on every issue coming across their desk. They often rely on others who are perceived to be experts in a particular field to help them better understand issues. One of the most important things you can do as a dog owner or breeder is to take the time to contact your lawmakers lets them know that you are a constituent and an expert they can contact should canine legislation issues arise.
AKC Government Relations is happy to help you reach out to your elected officials. Visit our online Legislative Action Center or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance in helping educate lawmakers about canine legislative issues in your state or community.