|Setting the Legislative Stage for Success
Experienced legislative advocates know that the best way to prevent bad legislation from being enacted is to build a relationship with public officials before an issue arises. As new legislators are being seated at the federal, state and local levels in the coming weeks, fanciers and concerned dog owners should be organizing to connect with these leaders. Below are a series of suggestions about how you can work with your elected officials to build a strong relationship. If your club has a legislative liaison, talk about how you can combine your club’s legislative and public education efforts to undertake some of the following proactive suggestions.
- Send a congratulations letter; better yet, send one on club letterhead and use the opportunity to invite the politician to attend a club meeting.
- Arrange an individual meeting with the members of your city council to introduce your club members and to make your club available as a resource on any animal control issues that may arise.
- Invite newly elected legislators to take a guided tour of a dog show and ask them to present an award. (Special Tip – Elected officials love photo opportunities with kids, ask them to present the Jr. Showmanship Award.)
- Invite a local legislator to work with the club in hosting a showing of our Safety Around Dogs or Best Friends videos at the local library or a local elementary school. The legislator can help advertise the event and having a local celebrity there will help attract press coverage. AKC can also provide your group with individual workbooks for each child to take home from the event. (Special Tip - As an added incentive to legislators who sponsor these events, a label can be affixed to each workbook proclaiming it “Compliments of …” )
- Talk to your local city or county about putting a “Responsible Pet Owner Tip of the Month” on their website. AKC public education materials are a great resource to find issues and suggestions. Visit our resource center for ideas.
- Many cities and counties have a newsletter that they distribute via mail or email to local citizens. Offer to write a guest column on responsible dog ownership or a particular animal control issue facing the community.
- Ask a local city council member to sponsor a resolution recognizing the AKC Canine Good Citizen® Program and encouraging residents to engage in obedience training with their dogs. (Special tip – At the meeting present certificates to city council members whose dogs have earned a CGC, you just might get them some positive media coverage!)
- Co-host an AKC Canine Good Citizen Test Event with a legislator. Find out if there are any local festivals or events that you could get a spot at, or talk to the parks and recreation department about reserving an area on a Saturday to conduct tests. You might develop a congratulations letter signed by both your club and the legislator to mail to participants whose dogs earned a CGC.
- Many elected officials maintain an email distribution list to share news and a list of the functions they will be attending in the community. Ask members of your club to subscribe to the legislator’s mailing list so you can stay informed.
- Some legislators host informal coffees or lunches in order to meet constituents. Encourage members of your dog club to make it a priority to attend these events. This will help you keep abreast of issues facing the community and give you a chance to act before a bad proposal can be introduced.
If you are able to work with any elected official to co-host an event, be sure to remember to thank the legislator for their contribution to promoting responsible dog ownership in the community. You may want to honor them with a special mention in the club newsletter or on the club website.
The goal of elected officials is almost universally to get re-elected or to move on to higher office. In order to do this they must build a base of support in the community. Joining forces with legislators on public service projects like the ones suggested above can help your club develop an active role in the community and will help your club become a group that legislators look to for support. The club will see many long term benefits from taking these small steps to work with elected officials.