By Stephanie Lane, former AKC Canine Legislation
Breeders who often have their hands full with a
new set of pups or a pregnant bitch may feel they
are simply too busy to get involved in canine legislation
issues. However, as many veteran breeders will attest,
being involved in the political arena is a critical
component of any responsible breeding program. That#8217;s
because each year, numerous laws are passed that
seek to regulate #8212; or even eliminate #8212;
your right to breed. Without involvement from the
breeding community, elected officials only hear
one side of the issue. That can mean trouble for
even the most conscientious breeder.
dog fanciers and breeders meet with a congressional
aide during AKC#8217;s Lobby Day on Capitol
#8220;Legislation can negatively impact
breeders in a variety of ways,#8221; noted Sue Weiss, who has been
breeding Welsh Terriers for more than 30 years.
#8220;Local restrictions may prevent
you from breeding at all or regulate the way you
sell your puppies. You could be limited in the number
of times you can breed each year or required to
obtain an expensive permit to do so. It#8217;s important for breeders to be
familiar with their laws but even more important
that they have a voice in what those laws say.#8221;
AKC#8217;s Canine Legislation department was created
more than 15 years ago to give responsible dog owners
and breeders a voice and speak out on legislative
issues in order to protect and preserve the breeding
and sport of purebred dogs. Since its inception,
the department has worked tirelessly to ensure that
local, state and federal legislation dealing with
dogs is reasonable, enforceable and non-discriminatory.
By developing initiatives, monitoring and positively
affecting proposed laws, and working with a nationwide
network of concerned dog owners and breeders, the
Canine Legislation department has posted an impressive
In fighting proposed breeding restrictions or laws
limiting the number or breed of dogs one may own,
success ultimately lies in how active resident owners
and breeders become.
Elected officials want and need to hear from their
own constituents, not just the American Kennel Club.
While they may recognize AKC as a national organization
with expertise on animal welfare issues, ultimately
legislators want to hear from their voters.
Dr. Al Stinson, a Michigan veterinarian and long-time
breeder of Labrador Retrievers, agreed.
#8220;Breeders best understand the issues at hand.
Who else can better speak to questions surrounding
canine health and welfare, pet population concerns
or responsible dog ownership? Legislators won#8217;t
know that, however, if we don#8217;t make ourselves
heard,#8221; Stinson said. #8220;To have political
impact, we must organize ourselves and stand up
against legislation that threatens our breeding
If you#8217;re feeling a bit intimidated by talk
of jumping into the political arena, don#8217;t.
You don#8217;t have to be a lobbyist or even a
good public speaker to have a voice in your government.
Simply by being aware of current issues and monitoring
your local community, you#8217;ve already taken
a first step toward protecting yourself against
unfair legislation. That#8217;s because it#8217;s
much easier to positively affect a proposed local
ordinance or state bill before it becomes law. Once
legislation is on the books, it#8217;s often difficult
to have it amended or repealed.
AKC#8217;s Canine Legislation department has developed
several tools to assist breeders in their efforts
to impact legislation. For the latest information
on #8220;hot#8221; issues that require immediate
grassroots action, breeders can subscribe to an
e-mail service that automatically notifies them
when a new Legislative Alert is posted to AKC#8217;s
website. The department also publishes a monthly
electronic newsletter, Taking Command, which covers
legislative topics around the country and alerts
breeders to pending positive or negative legislation
that will affect them in their areas. Information
packets with model laws, talking points and brochures
on lobbying techniques are also available to concerned
breeders as well as to interested legislators.
In addition to resources and materials, AKC supports
and expands breeders#8217; legislative efforts
in other ways.
#8220;The AKC Canine Legislation department regularly
sends letters of support or opposition to officials
at all levels of government,#8221; said Noreen
Baxter, AKC vice president of Communications. #8220;Department
staff can help put breeders in touch with other
groups or individuals who are working on an issue.
That#8217;s essential, because, while every voice
is important, a group representing hundreds or even
thousands of voices can have a much stronger impact.#8221;
The department also retains a government relations
consultant to represent AKC#8217;s views in Washington,
D.C., and holds a Lobby Day event in the Capitol
each year where key fanciers receive a day of issue
briefing and education followed by a morning of
Capitol Hill visits with lawmakers.
Some breeders, sportsmen, dog clubs, and others
in the dog community have created their own unique
ways of reaching out to legislators by forming federations
such as the Georgia Canine Coalition (GCC).
Dog clubs from all over the state come together
under this organization
to speak with one voice in their government. Their
far beyond weighing in on key bills, however. GCC
member clubs regularly invite legislators to dog
shows in their districts, send holiday cards each
on behalf of the federation and annually participate
in Conservation Day at the state capitol. The Department
of Agriculture-sponsored event allows
GCC to network with legislators and hand out dog
leashes with the group#8217;s name and #8220;I
own a dog and I vote#8221; slogan printed on it.
#8220;It#8217;s a perfect opportunity to answer
questions and introduce legislators to our sport,
as well as build name recognition for the Coalition,#8221;
explained Gail LaBerge, Legislative Liaison for
the group and long-time Cardigan Welsh Corgi breeder.
#8220;With so much legislation aimed at breeders
these days, from differential license fees to breeder
and litter permits, it#8217;s imperative that we
get involved early on and build long-term relationships
with elected officials. If we don#8217;t educate
them as to why some of these proposals are ineffective
and detrimental to dog owners, we could
see our sport begin to disappear in a
Clearly, there are many levels at which concerned
breeders can get involved in legislation. Success
in the legislative arena is not determined by whether
you have a lobbyist, but in recognizing that your
voice #8212; your vote, your opinion, your input
#8212; is valuable. To preserve your right to breed,
you need to be involved in politics, and AKC#8217;s
Canine Legislation department is here to support
you in a host of ways. Find