The American Kennel Club is proud to present the Hillsborough County Florida Dog Fanciers (HCFDF) with the fourth quarter 2010 Walter Bebout Memorial Award for Leadership in Canine Legislation.
Named for the late Director of the AKC Government Relations Department, the "Bebout Award” recognizes federations and owner/breeder organizations that demonstrate exceptional commitment to educating legislators about responsible dog ownership issues and to preserving the rights of responsible owners and breeders. Winners of the Bebout Award receive a $1,000 donation to the organization to help offset the costs associated with their legislative efforts.
AKC Government Relations Director Sheila Goffe said, “Under Tim Golden’s leadership, the Hillsborough County Florida Dog Fanciers has become a model of how a dog club can truly have a positive impact in their community. Through their public education programs, their outreach to local shelters, their legislative activism and service on the county animal advisory committee, this exceptional group has demonstrated a unique commitment to their community and the wellbeing of all dogs.”
The HCFDF was formed in 2009 by a group of breeders, judges, handlers, exhibitors and dog owners who were drawn together by their dedication to the sport of purebred dogs. Club secretary Judy Seltrecht said, “We’re a relatively new group. Our goal was to produce a 21st century dog club that gives top priority to promoting dogs, community service, involvement in dog legislative issues, supporting youth and educating the public.”
Among their many activities in 2009 and 2010, club members staffed information booths at the 12-day Florida State Fair. Volunteers brought dogs for “meet and greets” held in the Purebred Dog Tent that reached an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 visitors. In 2009, more than 2,000 signatures opposing anti-dog legislation were collected and sent to legislators.
In 2009, HCFDF President Tim Golden noticed some people attending the fair in business attire. “They were there for the Governor’s Luncheon and to get there, they walked right by the Purebred Dog Tent. In 2010 we were standing right there with our information. We handed out ‘I own a dog and I vote’ pins and invited them over to meet our dogs,” Golden said.
HCFDF members reach out to young dog owners by providing obedience demonstrations and educational programs at special sessions for pre-school students at the Hillsborough County Fair and by presenting AKC’s Safety Around Dogs program in classrooms throughout the county.
Club volunteers partner with the Hillsborough County 4-H Dog Project to provide a training facility and instruct conformation, obedience, rally, Junior Handling, AKC Canine Good Citizen® and agility classes for the public and 4-H students. “Our members hold 4-H matches, make donations, help as stewards, judges, and do the set-up and tear down for 4-H events,” Golden said.
Another HCFDF public event targeted a high-need sector of the community. “Instead of a stand-alone event, we held our Responsible Dog Ownership Day in conjunction with a free vaccination clinic,” Golden said. “We worked with animal control to identify a zip code with the greatest need where many people could not afford vet care, and we held our event there. We were able to get our message out to that community, and 700 dogs and 500 cats were vaccinated.”
In 2010, HCFDF member and training instructor Duane Bryant began training Hillsborough County Animal Services staff how to rehabilitate and socialize unadoptable dogs. Recently, HCFDF members decided that rather than having a 2010 holiday gift exchange they would donate new and used grooming equipment to the shelter for use in grooming shelter dogs. Club members donated two grooming tables, dryers, clippers, cases of shampoo and other equipment to the shelter.
In addition to the club’s extensive public outreach and educational activities for students, dog owners and government officials in their community, the club is also actively involved in canine legislation issues. “Members spend many hours on the phones with state senators and representatives,” Seltrecht said.
The club works with AKC’s Florida federation, the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs (FAKC) to help educate about emerging legislative issues that impact dog owners in Hillsborough County and throughout the state. In 2009, the HCFDF worked with the FAKC to present a Grassroots Legislative Workshop in conjunction with an AKC Canine Health Foundation event. “For dog owners, I don’t think there is much that is more important than legislative issues,” Golden said.
Golden and club member Lisa Walker have also been appointed by their county commissioners to serve on the Hillsborough County Animal Advisory Committee. The committee serves as an interface between the animal services department and the county commission. “We are the go-between,” said Golden. “It’s unfortunate that many people on animal councils only see dogs at their worst. We try to help them see that most dogs are very well cared for.”
“Dog owners and breeders with 20-30 years’ experience are the resource that people should be coming to for information about dogs,” Golden said. “There is no reason why any club with motivated individuals can’t do everything that we are doing.”