June Chairman's Report
-- Join With the AKC to Protect Responsible Small Breeders --
Outside the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri, stands a statue dedicated to a Foxhound named Old Drum - commemorating a famous trial held there in 1870. Old Drum was shot and killed when he wandered onto the neighboring farm. His owner’s only recourse was to sue the neighbor.
A young attorney – George Vest, who later became a United States Senator – was retained by the owner. Senator Vest’s closing argument at the trial was just 400 words, eloquently in support of the value of a dog and included this thought:
“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. He is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.”
Shortly after he spoke, the jury found for his client and awarded him the maximum allowable damages of $50 – which was a lot of money back then. In addition, Vest’s speech established the phrase “man’s best friend is his dog.”
We all know firsthand the devotion Vest spoke about – it is a large part of what makes us ardent supporters of dogs. But today, there are forces at work that do not look at dogs like we do. And there are those who think breeding should be controlled to the point of extinction.
I believe the greatest characteristic we possess is our unyielding dedication to the preservation of each of our unique breeds. It is through a combination of our responsible breeders committing to a never-ending quest to produce dogs true to type and healthy in body, mind, and spirit, coupled with all of you personally committing to always do what is best for the dogs, that has allowed the people associated with the American Kennel Club to claim the mantle of the dog’s defender from Senator Vest for the last 128 years.
When we come together like this, we always have much to discuss – some about our sport, some about business, and some about our governance. All of those are good and valid topics that require discussion and will only serve to strengthen our organization. I believe there is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely, creatively, and courageously.
But we know our calling is for much more than the job of simply overseeing our business – it is most importantly, the responsibility we each embrace to, and for, the dogs. By recognizing that, we can together establish a beachhead of cooperation to create new initiatives that grow ownership of purebred dogs, grow our ranks of participants and supporters, and grow our voice in all things pertinent to the preservation of our breeds.
We must act quickly and with great purpose to accomplish all of that. And we must start right now.
While we are faced with many challenges, none is more immediate than the proposed federal regulation of our responsible Fancy breeders. Undoubtedly you have heard about the proposed rule changes to the Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the selling of puppies in the United States. Currently, our Fancy breeders – like you and I - are exempt, but the new regulations would treat each of us like a large-scale business. What does that mean for you? Breeders who maintain more than four females biologically capable of having puppies and who sell a puppy to just one person at a distance, would now be regulated as commercial breeders under USDA regulations. Think of the impact that would have on the preservation of our low-number breeds.
Our AKC Government Relations team met with the USDA on our behalf to get clarification regarding the language in the proposed rule that we will use to help shape our comments. We have identified dozens of critical issues that must be addressed by the USDA before they act. There are strong forces supporting these onerous regulations, making it more imperative that we create not a new balance of power, but a new understanding that the public wants the breed of dog they want, and those dedicated AKC Fancy breeders must be afforded the protection to not only survive, but prosper. Without our Fancy breeders, it will only be a matter of time before our breeds that have been preserved for hundreds of years, will become extinct. While that might be perceived as an unintended consequence of overzealous government regulation, I believe it is a quite intended consequence sought by the groups that challenge dog ownership every day.
Because we are the AKC, the USDA will pay careful attention to our comments. But we can maximize their attention through our individual support. Each of you can help achieve that. We have the opportunity now to unite our forces and clearly communicate a single, positive message for change. We have created a petition in support of the comments on the proposed regulations we will be submitting to the USDA and placed it on the AKC website. I ask that all of you join in and sign the petition. And then I ask that each of you circulate the link to every person you can think of to rally support for a most necessary outcome.
As Ronald Reagan said, you and I have a rendezvous with destiny. I believe it will be the one we make and not the one some others make for us. The most important single characteristic that defines a great organization is the desire to succeed that overwhelms all obstacles. I know we have that desire.
To those who believe we cannot come together and accomplish that, I say: “You don’t know us.”
To those who doubt our voice, I say: “You will hear us.”
And to those who love dogs as much as the jurors in Old Drum’s case, I say: “You must join us.”
Comment & Discuss
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