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When speaking to state legislators around the country, the American Kennel Club Government Relations department (AKC GR) often hears this: “We don’t hear from your people. We hear from the animal rights lobbyists, but we don’t hear from you. We want your input.” 

Your right to breed, exhibit, and own a dog are constantly under siege, even during a pandemic. The most important thing you can do, especially when your legislature is out of session, is to form a solid relationship with your local lawmakers. Although AKC GR constantly sends alerts and testimony based on scientific evidence and experience, there is nothing more compelling than a legislator hearing a story directly from their constituent. Stories are infinitely more memorable than facts alone. At the end of the day, individual dog owners are the ones who will be feeling the implications of harmful policy. That’s why it’s important to help us help you for a better future for the dogs we love. 

There are many ways to create good relationships with your lawmakers, and it’s easier than you might think! One popular way clubs create goodwill with legislators is by presenting them with a ‘Legislator of the Year’ award. In this issue of Taking Command, we are pleased to announce Massachusetts Representative Tackey Chan and Michigan State Senator Kevin Daley both received this honor. In fact, Rep. Chan was so pleased with the award, he presented the Best in Show prize to the winner of the Cranberry Cluster hosted by South Shore Kennel Club and Cape Cod Kennel Club.  After receiving his award and presenting the BIS honor, Rep. Chan encouraged show attendees to join with Stacey Ober, AKC Legislative Analyst and Community Outreach Coordinator for New England and share details with their individual lawmakers about their dogs and the sport.  

Another way to connect with legislators is to share our talking points on key issues currently being considered by lawmakers. For example, AKC GR has seen growing interest on the issues of consumer protection and protecting dogs from inclement weather. As a result, AKC GR created new talking points with fresh designs that will be even more effective when communicating with decisionmakers.   

And lastly, it is always beneficial to talk about some of the wonderful programs AKC, clubs, and dog breeders are involved in, whether it’s community education, rescue, or our Detection Dog Task Force. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is finding common ground and demonstrating that you, your club, and the AKC are the true experts on dogs and have real, effective and innovative solutions to help dogs and their owners.