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Junior Participates in Civic Education Competition
By Sharon Unrau, Ph.D.

On Friday, May 12, 2008, Hilltonia Middle School in Columbus Ohio, participated in a statewide civic education competition. Sponsored by The Ohio Center for Law Related Education, the group presented their concerns with pending Ohio S.B. 173 and Ohio H.B. 223 at The Ohio State Capitol. The bill seeks to require licensure and inspection of an establishment that, in any given year, keeps, houses, and maintains nine or more adult dogs for the purpose of breeding.

Project Citizen, established in part by the Center for Civic Education and funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, is a portfolio-based civic education project for middle and high school students as well as youth groups and is designed to promote competent and responsible participation in state and local government. Project Citizen actively engages students in learning how to monitor and influence public policy and encourages civic participation among students, parents, and members of the community.

Thomas S. Meade II (also an AKC. Junior Showman) participated in the competition receiving the highest hearing room score for his ability to discuss formally and informally his concerns, and field questions from the adjudicators. He, along with his teammates, presented recommendations for bill clarification, and his role as a junior AKC Showman, and responsible breeding practices of dog fanciers. "The adjudicators said they had heard proponent testimony from adults, but never a child. They didn't know how EXTENSIVE our OFA health testing program is . . . and the why we test our dogs."

I was honored to present an issue so important to our sport. He, along with three classmates, presented to Ohio Senators the needs of the dog show community (as presented by AKC Delegate Roberta Brady and others in the dog show community and the State of Ohio). The group also presented the economic/fiscal benefits to the state by implementing such a rigorous law and questioned WHY there was monetary fees for licenses.

"We looked at everything, and from our finding we believe profit for the state is a big factor (in addition to regulating spay/neuter) in both of these bills. Responsible dog fanciers don't breed for money . . . they breed to advance and maintain the quality of their specific breed. Most importantly,dog fanciers who register their litters through the AKC are self-regulated by the American Kennel Club. We already have a proven system in place."

With the extensive background research required to undertake such a large and 'of-the-moment' topic, the group began working on the project in March of 2007, completing the final details moments before the hearing. "It's important to speak out constructively and with respect toward the politicians. If passed as written, the current proposals will immediately affect the dog fancier community . . . not to mention individuals wanting to simply buy a dog," said Thomas.

The group was award the prestigious "Exceptional" ranking by The Center for Law Related Education, and had an opportunity to eat lunch at the Ohio State Capitol Building with Ohio Representitives and Senators. Thomas believes the success of the group was based on how helpful the dog show community was in offering quality interviews, the acqusition of paperwork from the AKC library, and AKC legistlative department and elsewhere . . .and amazing guest speakers (passionate about this topic) visiting the school to work with the students. As part of their competition preparation, the group researched pending legislation in other states, contacted Ohio Senators Representaitives directly, and visited several dog shows.