Congress welcomed purebred dog owners from across the country last week as part of the American...
Congress welcomed purebred dog owners from across the country last week as part of the American Kennel Club's third-annual Lobby Day. Hosted by the Canine Legislation department, Lobby Day gives attendees a chance to learn more about issues that impact fanciers on the federal level. More importantly, participants are given an opportunity to carry the fancy's concerns directly to their legislators during pre-arranged meetings with their Members of Congress.
Expanding on past Lobby Day programs, this year's event was held at the Holiday Inn on the Hill in Washington , D.C. --only a short walk from the Capitol-- and included a full day of education and issue briefing opportunities. Presentations were made by John Goldberg, Senior Staff Member for the House Agriculture Committee; Jeff Stoltzfoos, Project and Policy Assistant for Sen. Rick Santorum; Dr. James Holt, AKC's Federal Government Relations Consultant; Noreen Baxter, AKC Vice President of Communications, and Stephanie Lane, AKC Director of Canine Legislation. Sessions included in-depth information about the federal legislative process, tips for effectively lobbying a Member of Congress, and substantial issue briefings on three key agenda items: strengthening enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act through support of PAWS, encouraging open access to microchip technology for animal identification, and assuring access to air transport for dogs and those traveling with their animals.
Having spent the day absorbing information and asking questions, invitees relaxed that evening with new colleagues and old friends at a cocktail hour and dinner hosted by the Canine Legislation department. Joining them as a guest was former Illinois Congressman and House Republican Leader Bob Michel and his assistant Sharon Yard, President of the American Sealyham Terrier Club. A dog lover, Congressman Michel spoke about his role in helping enact the Extra Label Drug bill a number of years ago. The legislation helped ensure that critical medications be made available to dogs. Ms. Yard shared facts about her breed club's recent struggle to deal with large numbers of dogs being imported into the US.
There was much excitement the following morning as fanciers met over a continental breakfast before heading to Capitol Hill. Carrying AKC tote bags full of information packets and dog leashes to leave with their legislators, participants met with their Congressmen, Senators, and staff to discuss issues and educate Members about the sport of purebred dogs and the importance of responsible dog ownership. Fanciers also shared personal stories about their involvement in the sport and about public education efforts their clubs and federations contribute to their states. Finally, and most importantly, they asked for support of AKC's agenda items. The excitement of walking through the halls of Congress and truly being part of the legislative process was clear from everyone's faces as they went from one meeting to the next.
Lobby Day attendees continued their outreach to legislators later that day by joining AKC staff in representing the organization at "Pet Night" on Capitol Hill. Hosted by the Animal Health Institute and co-sponsored by AKC and other animal organizations, Pet Night is an informal reception held annually to share concerns and once again promote our positions on federal legislation. Fanciers helped put a personal face on AKC and the sport as they mingled with over 500 Members of Congress and their staff, as well as representatives from other major animal organizations such as American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and Hartz. The fun, casual event made for a wonderful climax to this year's two-day Lobby Day program.
The AKC's Canine Legislation department extends its appreciation to everyone who participated in Lobby Day 2005. This signature event is an integral part of AKC's legislative program and over the years has exponentially increased the fancy's presence in the Capitol. Due in no small part to this increased visibility in Congress, purebred dog owners are quickly becoming recognized in Washington as an authority on animal issues—a fact that helps to ensure that responsible dog owners' rights, as well as the health and welfare of purebred dogs, are protected on the federal level.
Click on the images below for an inside look at this year's event!