By Jennifer Clark, Director, Legislative Outreach
A club member sends you an e-mail or forwards you a social media story about an issue they are fighting in their community that could impact dog owners. You hear a story on the news about a proposed dog law. As a parent club, what can you do to help?
Each year, the AKC Government Relations Department (AKC GR) tracks more than 1,500 bills that have the potential to impact anyone who shows dogs, breeds, participates in AKC events, or simply owns dogs. As national organizations that comprise the nation’s leading dog breed experts, along with a nation-wide audience and membership, AKC Parent clubs are in a unique position to influence lawmakers.
Here are a few specific things parent clubs can do:
1) Ensure your parent club and each affiliated regional breed club has a designated Legislative Liaison (LL), and that your LL listing is up-to-date with AKC GR. A Legislative Liaison is one of AKC GR’s most essential links to your club. We provide important legislative alerts and communications to your club’s legislative liaisons via e-mail. In turn, we ask LLs to promptly share this information will all members. These timely alerts provide notifications of proposals up for consideration, and information on how to get involved. Getting the word out quickly to local dog owners is essential to fighting legislation. Ensuring that your LL contact information is listed with the AKC GR is a crucial communication link. Read more about our Legislative Liaison program.
2) Contact AKC GR if you hear about a proposal. This may seem basic, but AKC GR cannot track every proposal introduced – especially those we don’t know about. We rely on alert dog owners to let us know if there’s a potential legislative issue in their community. If a member contacts you about a proposal in their community, or if you hear something in the media, contact AKC GR right away. Just call us at (919) 816-3720 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will work with local clubs to analyze the proposal, take appropriate action, and provide all the tools they need.
3) Contact the lawmakers about the proposal. It is important for lawmakers to hear from those directly impacted by the proposal. Parent clubs play an especially important role because many impacted breed fanciers may not belong to an all-breed club or there may be no active all-breed club in the area. If you have regional clubs in the area, host shows, or have hosted a national specialty in the state or community, the lawmakers need to hear from you! AKC GR can work with you on talking points and provide contact information. If there are local dog clubs in the impacted area, reach out to them to learn how you can work together. Coordinated approaches by multiple impacted groups can be very effective.
4) Be Proactive. Proposals for new or more restrictive dog laws are often brought to lawmakers by constituents who have little real animal husbandry experience or may even have an anti-breeder agenda. It’s important for legislators to know they have expert dog breeders and owners among their constituents on whom they can rely as a resource for experience, reasonable recommendations and accurate information.
Your national specialty provides many opportunities to develop relationships in that community. For example, consider inviting local lawmakers to come meet their constituents who are participating, take a tour, and maybe even present an award. Do something positive for the community where the show is hosted (For example: provide a tangible or monetary donation to the local K-9 unit, collect supplies for the local shelter, or maybe even raise money for an AKC Reunite disaster relief trailer). Send press releases to local media to invite the community to your show and let them know all the good things you are doing – and that your show is providing a unique experience for the town. These actions will be noticed by lawmakers and be a reminder of the economic and other benefits that come with supporting dog shows, responsible dog owners and breeders.
5) Encourage members to donate to the AKC PAC. One of the most effective ways to impact legislation is to support like-minded lawmakers. AKC’s Political Action Committee is unique in that 100 percent of all donations go directly to fund the campaigns of lawmakers who support purebred dogs and responsible dog owners. Parent clubs can make a huge difference by encouraging their individual members to donate to this important effort. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.akc.org/pac.
AKC parent clubs are an essential part of AKC’s mission, and can play an important role in impacting the future of our sport by getting involved in canine public policy and legislation.
AKC Government Relations is here to help you and to work with your members to ensure the preservation of your breed and the right to enjoy purebred dogs for years to come.