As a breeder, you are dedicated to your dogs and your breed. You spend countless hours, time, and energy to ensure your dogs are healthy, well cared for, and loved. And the American Kennel Club is committed to partnering with you to help achieve these goals through a myriad of programs, education, and resources.
One vital resource is the AKC Government Relations Department, which partners with you to help protect your right to continue owning, breeding and showing dogs.
Who is AKC Government Relations?
The AKC Government Relations Department (GR) educates and informs responsible dog owners and breeders about potential legislation that may impact your dogs and breeding program. Each year, the GR team tracks more than 2,000 bills on the federal, state and local level that have the potential to impact anyone who breeds dogs, participates in AKC events, or simply owns dogs. Beyond notifying you of potential issues, we also provide a wealth of resources and work alongside you so that together we can fight for the dogs we love.
Why Should Breeders Care About Canine Legislation?
Each year, AKC GR sees an increase in the number and variety of proposals and legislation that could impact your dogs, kennel and breeding program.
As canine legislation and regulations become increasingly complex, the devil is in the details. Just the use of words such as “and versus or” and “may versus shall” in a bill can have significant consequences for dogs and dog owners. AKC GR’s comments and action on legislative issues are based on analysis of the details of each individual proposal, in accordance with AKC’s policy statements and what is in the best interest of dogs. The AKC also works to support positive legislation that protects dogs and preserves the rights of owners to own, breed, compete, and enjoy their dogs.
Here are just a few examples of issues we are seeing around the country that impact breeders:
Breeding Restrictions – As the rescue and “adopt don’t shop” movements continue to permeate the media, legislators are encouraged by activists to enact increasingly strict and arbitrary regulations on breeders in an attempt, they believe, to improve the lives of dogs. Common restrictions often seen in these bills include defining a “commercial” kennel based solely on the number of intact dogs owned rather than actual commerce and sales; one-size-fits-all engineering (building and logistics) requirements for kennels (including arbitrary temperature – regardless of breed or age), and even legal mandates on what age your dog must be for breeding.
Mandatory Spay/Neuter – These proposals are particularly common at the county and municipal levels, where lawmakers are seeking an “easy solution” to shelter population issues, or in some cases, a misguided belief that this will address at-large dogs and other behavioral problems. The proposals may include a mandatory spay/neuter of all dogs 6 months of age and older, with occasionally an exception for “show dogs” (but usually it is not clear how this applies to dogs not being actively shown), or an exception for those who are willing to purchase an expensive permit (which often includes a host of other regulations).
Breed-Specific Laws – These laws and restrictions continue to appear most commonly at the local levels. While they often include restrictions, outright bans, or special regulations for those who own certain breeds they consider “pit bulls,” we are also seeing several instances where they define a “pit bull” based on appearances (i.e. muscular body, tail that tapers at the end, pointed ears, etc.). One state bill (defeated by the AKC) in 2015 sought to regulate anyone who owned a dog that weighed more than 50 pounds.
These are just a few examples of the laws and regulations being introduced every day across the United States that can impact your dogs and breeding program.
How Does AKC GR Help Breeders?
Getting involved in advocacy and politics can be daunting, but we are here to help! AKC Government Relations exists to come alongside you so you do not have to fight these issues alone.
As part of this mission, we encourage our breeders to cultivate positive relationships with elected officials, especially at the local level, before an issue arises. Animal rights activists are very good at communicating with local officials, convincing them of real and perceived animal issues in the community, and providing their ideas on how to fix them. Unfortunately, they hear a lot less from responsible expert owners and breeders. City and county officials need to know that they have expert, responsible dog owners, and breeders that are doing positive things for dogs and the community.
We help you by providing talking points, data, sample letters, and a wide variety of other resources that you can personalize and/or just print out to send to your lawmakers. We also have materials you can share at club meetings, shows, and with fellow dog lovers and breeders to encourage them to get involved and understand why canine legislation is important.
And when an issue does arise, we can help with that too! Our team is comprised of government relations experts with decades of experience who can help analyze a bill and develop effective talking points and strategy. We can also send targeted alerts to engage other breeders and clubs in your area to join in communicating with the lawmakers and strengthening the voice for dogs.
Starting in 2017, the GR team created a new emphasis and expansion in regional outreach. New initiatives include regional legislative conferences throughout the country, and regional legislative analyst outreach representatives have been or are being deployed in the field to directly help constituents in the Southeast, West Coast, and Northeast Regions of the United States. Having personnel in the field provide in-person assistance for legislative liaisons and local clubs/breeders helps establish new relationships with decision makers and provides an expert AKC resource for public policy and local events. Regional staff, along with our team in the AKC offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, are experts on their regions and are committed to helping you be an effective advocate in your community.
Where Can I Find More Information?
The best place to start if you want to get involved is our online Legislative Action Center (www.akcgr.org). This site provides legislative alerts on impending ordinances, bills, and regulations, blogs, updates on issues seen around the country, resources about the most common issues we encounter by topic, sample letters for writing your legislator, talking points on key issues, and a host of other resources designed to help breeders and dog owners communicate with elected officials. While you are on the site, sign up for the Government Relations monthly newsletter, Taking Command, to stay up to date on dog policy issues, the latest legislative updates and tales from the “trenches” of fellow club members and dog owners who are leading and succeeding in advancing dogs and the rights of responsible breeders.
If you are a club member, make sure your club has a designated Legislative Liaison. This person will receive AKC emails about urgent legislative issues that he or she can then forward to fellow club members so you can be aware of the latest proposals and know how to respond.
Whether you are actively fighting legislation or looking to help spread the word about the importance of purpose-bred dogs, the AKC Government Relations team is here to help, but we can’t do it without you! If you or a fellow breeder, club member or exhibitor hears about a local issue impacting dogs, encourage them to contact AKC GR.
We can help connect local clubs and breeders and provide the tools and resources needed to communicate effectively with the city or county. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-816-3720. We are proud to partner with all of you in this important fight to preserve the right to own, breed, and exhibit purebred dogs for generations to come.