Head to Capitol Hill
blue tote bags with the American Kennel Club logo prominently displayed
on the side, AKC Legislative Liaisons from across the country ascended
the steps of Capitol Hill on September 29th, ready to bring the fancy’s
concerns to Congress. The Hill visits were the culmination of this year’s
Lobby Day, an event hosted by the AKC’s Canine Legislation department
in an effort to increase our organization’s visibility in the Capitol.
With many purebred dog owners calling on their Senators and Congressmen
at the same time, Lobby Day served as an effective, coordinated way of
raising awareness about the fancy’s federal legislative agenda.
Attendees at this
year’s Lobby Day were chosen in recognition of their commitment
to responsible dog ownership and to reasonable, effective canine legislation.
Many already had a great deal of lobbying experience at the local or state
level, having been involved in everything from fighting community breed-specific
proposals to organizing state-wide opposition to breeding restriction
bills. Their past work served as a jumping-off platform for an afternoon
training workshop that was held at the Lowes L’Enfant Plaza Hotel
the day before their Hill visits. During that time, fanciers heard presentations
from AKC staff detailing the federal issues that are currently impacting
dog owners, and how they can help positively affect those issues. They
also learned more about federal government structure, from committees
to agencies and everything in between. Finally, Congressional staff shared
their inside view on what Members want to hear from their constituents,
along with the importance of working with legislative aides and assistants.
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for caption and larger view.
Following an afternoon of issue
briefing and training, Legislative Liaisons enjoyed cocktails and dinner
at the hotel, compliments of AKC. The relaxed atmosphere gave attendees
a chance to share stories, strategies and ideas, and in some cases, to
finally put faces with names they had exchanged legislative e-mails on
Wednesday dawned a
bit soggy as the last remnants of Hurricane Jeanne cleared out, but the
sun soon shone through as fanciers took in a continental breakfast and
received last-minute instructions for their upcoming appointments with
Members of Congress. Then it was off to Capitol Hill, where construction
and security made navigating the already challenging space a bit tricky.
Liaisons took it all in stride, however. Armed with materials to leave
behind at their Members’ offices, fanciers enthusiastically headed
off to their first appointments. Most individuals had three meetings scheduled
for them—one with each of their Senators and one with their Congressman.
Liaisons met directly with either their representative or with a legislative
aide or staffer from their representative’s office. While there,
they talked about their involvement in purebred dogs and discussed projects
and programs held by their clubs and federations in the Members’
states or districts. They also pointed out the economic benefit their
shows and events bring to a community. Finally, fanciers talked about
AKC’s federal legislative agenda, asking for their Members’
support on our issues.
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caption and larger view.
At the close of each
meeting, fanciers left behind a packet with information about the American
Kennel Club, their own club or federation, and the core federal issues
that presently concern AKC: strengthening enforcement of the Animal Welfare
Act, ensuring continued access to air transport for dogs, and the passage
of a Congressional resolution commemorating September 17th as Responsible
Dog Ownership Day. Members also received a dog leash with AKC’s
logo and the message, “Love Your Dog, Leash Your Dog.” All
of these materials will be future reminders for Senators and Congressman
that AKC and the purebred dog fancy are invaluable resources when it comes
to canine legislation and animal welfare issues.
When asked to report back as
to how their meetings went, most Liaisons felt that their presentations
had been well-received. Many believed they had secured support for some
of AKC’s concerns, while others were simply pleased to have put
those issues on their legislators’ radar screens, laying the groundwork
for future lobbying efforts. All agreed that their Hill visits had made
AKC and the purebred dog fancy more visible to Congress, in effect personalizing
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caption and larger view.
When Lobby Day attendees said
goodbye to Washington on Wednesday afternoon, they may have left materials
behind, but they took home a great deal more: new information and ideas
to share with fellow fanciers, fresh contacts in their Congressional offices,
a new network of colleagues to call on for help with canine legislation,
and, hopefully, a renewed energy and enthusiasm to continue their outstanding
lobbying efforts. Lobby Day 2004 took the American Kennel Club’s
legislative program to a new level, and we extend our appreciation to
everyone who helped make it possible.