As election season heats up around the country, we will be publishing a series of articles on proactive things dog clubs, owners and breeders can do to make a difference. In this second installment, we provide ways to find out candidates’ views on canine legislation.
One of the most effective ways to ensure your rights as responsible dog owners and breeders are protected is to ensure that dog-friendly lawmakers are elected. But how can you know for sure that you are voting for someone who will support your rights? AKC Government Relations has several suggestions on how to determine if a candidate will protect your rights as a dog owner.
Research Incumbent Voting Records
If the candidate is an incumbent, start by researching their voting records on canine legislative issues during their time in office. Start with their most recent term, and then research previous terms if applicable. For state legislative incumbents, visit the AKC’s 2010 Legislation Tracking page, and click on your state to see the canine legislation issues AKC tracked this year. Click on each bill to review its bill history and any votes that were taken. You can also view who sponsored the legislation.
Some local municipal web sites also allow you to search archived votes and meeting minutes. If they do not, contact your city or county clerk’s office (depending if the issue was considered by the city or county government) and request the vote record for the issue of interest. These records are available to the public.
Many other political and advocacy organizations also post candidate voting records. Check the sites of organizations that agree and disagree with your positions on canine legislation to see how they rate your candidates and how the candidates voted on issues of interest to that organization.
Research Candidate Endorsements
Another great way to learn about candidates is to research their endorsements. Many have this posted on their campaign web sites and in campaign literature you will receive in the mail. You can also call their campaign office and ask if they have a list of endorsements. Check to see if organizations you support (or oppose) are supporting your candidate. Many candidates will also be endorsed by public officials. Consider whether these officials are dog-friendly.
Take the time to also search the web sites of organizations that support and oppose your views on canine legislation. Many of these sites post endorsements or ratings systems for candidates.
Ask the Candidates
One of the most effective ways to find out the candidates’ views is to ask them directly. Attend town halls, public forums, debates, and other public events that allow voters to ask the candidates questions about issues important to them. Here are some suggested questions:
Do not ask them their opinions on specific organizations, as they may not be aware of where various groups stand on dog issues. Rather, asking them policy questions will give you a much better idea of their positions. We also recommend that you do not engage in a public debate. Instead, follow up with their campaign office and ask if you can meet with the candidate or their staff to discuss canine legislation issues. Make sure to let them know that the candidate’s positions on these issues will impact how you vote!
Remember–if they do not share your views, dodge a question, or have not voted how you want, view it as an opportunity to educate. When you follow up, invite candidates to your next club meeting or dog show to talk about canine legislation. Remember to visit the AKC Government Relations Toolbox for resources you can give candidates to help educate them about the value and importance of supporting responsible dog ownership!