|Canine Legislation Department Welcomes Summer Intern
The American Kennel Club Canine Legislation Department welcomes Ashley Currence a member of the 2007 internship program. Below Ashley shares her experiences working in the legislation department and “re-opening a closed door.”
I was never one to profess a working knowledge of legislative issues or even an extended interest in governmental discussion. My liberal arts education, although at times overly encompassing, has rendered the completion of just two government courses. English seemed more compelling both for the intense study of rhetoric and the indulgence of classical literature by those of the caliber of Shakespeare, Austen, and Spenser. I closed the door to my prior aspirations of Political Science -- I was uninspired . . . or so I thought.
The American Kennel Club, an organization that prides itself on their position regarding responsible dog ownership and the sport of purebred dogs, has always been the organization that I sought to be a part of. My expectations about the organization have been met and exceeded. There are many aspects of the company that appeal to me and my current position in the Canine Legislation Department has been a wonderful experience. After closing the door to politics, I’ve allowed my affection and appreciation for purebreds and the sport to re-open it.
My experience at the AKC has taught me that spark is passion for purebreds and the sport, and heat is willful determination. The greatest lesson that I’ve learned during my internship is that a spark and heat are the only ingredients needed to ignite a fire. Never before have I felt so proud of something that I’ve been apart of. Everyday I’ve felt satisfied because I knew I was positively impacting purebreds and their owners. It is impossible not to catch the fire when you are engulfed in the heat of it -- protecting the rights of owners.
The AKC utilizes a legislation monitoring service that keeps us informed of any state-level legislation or regulatory proposal that is pertinent to the interests of the purebred dog fancy. We are able to notify our core constituents as to the nature of the proposal and, if necessary, to coordinate a response. During my time as an intern at the AKC, I have had the privilege of working on several projects of high priority. With the abundance of dangerous dog proposals and breed specific legislation, tethering bills, and the infamous California Healthy Pets Act (AB1634), I’ve learned that canine legislation struggles and disputes are rampant and endless. AB1634, the mandatory spay/neuter bill introduced in the California Assembly and backed by various so-called “pet-friendly” organizations, was a notorious piece of legislation that engaged the department. Each member of the department played an essential role in the overall operations.
The Canine Legislation Department is a well-oiled, four person working machine. From the very first day of my internship, I knew that spark, the passion for purebreds and the sport, was not only present in each individual, but rather it was evident on every level of department operations. Walt Bebout, Director of the department, overseas operations and strategies. He is constantly formulating ways to ensure that AKC’s legislative endeavors better the lives of dogs and their owners. Phil Guidry, the department’s Legislative Analyst, had his hands full during the months of June and July. AB 1634 was the proposal that occupied his time. With the primary job of monitoring and analyzing state proposals, Phil also spent a considerable amount of time contacting constituents, responding to letters sent to the department, and traveling to seminars aimed at improving the efficiency of public outreach. Sarah Sprouse, Manager of the department, was in overdrive most of the summer. Sarah’s five years of professional experience as a staffer with the California Legislator made her an invaluable resource for AKC and she traveled several times to Sacramento, CA in order to represent the AKC. Back in Raleigh, she is in charge of dealing with most of the department’s inquiries, sending resource materials to interested parties, and communicating with the public. Melissa Allcox, the Research Coordinator, managed the computer networks and databases and played a huge role in all communication processes. Much of the department’s correspondence is done through Melissa, and she, like everyone else in the Canine Legislation Department was bombarded by AB 1634.
When observing the issues that concerned owners face, all conventional assignments jump into a category of precedence--- the heat is turned up. Mailing information, sending letters and e-mails, and compiling folders containing information about a proposed bill suddenly matters because it affects purebreds and their owners. I can not fathom the amount of man-power expended on AB1634; I can only speak to the five weeks in which I was involved. The department lived and breathed AB 1634 and all attention was given to the fight against it. Phone lines were swamped with concerned citizens who were looking to the AKC for help. Public education was one of the main ways that the department reached out into the community. One of our many jobs was to encourage each individual to become involved in the legislative process. Together, as a strong united force, a difference can be made. AB 1634 was finally pulled by Assembly-member Levine on July 11th after the note-worthy defense, positive public education, and all other substantial undertakings of the department.
The door of Political Science and its realities had been closed for many years and taking the place were well-crafted works of English literature. I would like to thank the Human Resources Department, my supervisors, and fellow co-workers for providing me the opportunity to re-open that door. My experience at the AKC, Raleigh Operations, has re-opened the door to the realities of legislation--- the issues that dog owners face. To advocate for the purebred dog, to protect owners rights, and to promote the sport are the goals that I’ve learned and achieved during my internship. The Canine Legislation Department is filled with others that feel the same. It is not that I’ve asked them, and it’s not that they’ve told me. Their actions speak louder than words, and their diligence in protecting dogs and their owners is apparent day after day. All that is needed to start a fire is spark and the right amount of heat. I’ve always had the spark; all I needed was the heat, the willful determination, which radiated through the legislation department each and every day. For me, a high tide of literature will never extinguish that.
Ashley attends Malone College in Canton, Ohio, and will be graduating this fall with a bachelor degree in English Composition/Rhetoric and Literature. She is involved with CGC training and GRIN, a Golden Retriever rescue organization. She has served as Secretary, Vice President, and President of the Canton 4-H Dog Club where she participated in several capacities: exhibitor in obedience, agility, and conformation; community outreach trainer and caretaker; organizer of a project for therapy dogs; and a volunteer at local animal shelters. Among Ashley’s many accomplishments she is the author of several published poems and short stories, a 2007 NAIA Track and Field Triple Jump All-American, a member of the Malone College Debate Team, and a life long dog enthusiast.