One of the most proactive and effective ways to combat bad canine legislation is to educate lawmakers about responsible dog breeding, dog events, and dog ownership.
Recently, the Dog Federation of Wisconsin (DFOW) hosted a “breed showcase” event as part of their third annual legislative day at the state capitol. State legislators and their staff members met with responsible dog owners and breeders in a fun, relaxed atmosphere that allowed them to put a face with those who are directly impacted by canine legislation. Lawmakers were introduced to well-behaved dogs ranging from AKC Grand Champions to herding dogs from Wisconsin family farms.
Prior to the event, DFOW built up excitement and enthusiasm for their event and their four-footed special guests by e-mailing announcements to lawmakers and staff to come meet the dogs and their owners. The outreach included special “dog biographies” with photos, explanations of titles the dogs had earned, fun facts, and breed characteristics. This colorful document offered an appealing preview of the featured dogs to participating legislators, and provided an informative and positive overview of the event to lawmakers and staff who were unable to attend.
The 2011 DFOW Legislative Day began with an educational workshop for dog owners on being effective advocates and understanding canine legislation issues. The workshop included a review of pending legislation and what to do and say when meeting with legislators and staff. Featured speaker Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, JD discussed “Purebred Dogs – Wisconsin’s Next Endangered Species.”
Later, DFOW presented Wisconsin State Representative Don Pridemore a certificate of appreciation for his work on behalf of responsible dog owners and gave his aide, Liz Pusch, the second annual Outstanding Legislative Aide Award. Representative Pridemore is currently gathering support for LRB 1798, proposed legislation that would change the definition of the term “commercial breeder’ in state law to ensure that hobby breeders and rescues are not unfairly targeted.
Following the workshop, attendees assembled outside with their dogs for the breed showcase event. Bernese Mountain Dogs pulling carts, service dogs wearing vests, and representatives of breeds frequently targeted by breed-specific legislation were among the dogs presented by knowledgeable owners.
“This was the first time that legislators had the opportunity to meet the objects of our passion – our well-mannered, friendly dogs – from the frolicking Irish Setter to the charming White Bull Terrier,” said DFOW Vice President Tracey Johnston.
“Each dog that participated in the event was a wonderful ambassador and a testament to its breed,” Johnson added. “To see legislators and their aides grinning from ear to ear and kneeling on the ground to play with our dogs was well worth the effort that went into planning the event.”
Other DFOW representatives returned to the capitol legislative offices to distribute information packets that included DFOW’s position statements on current and potential legislation, AKC’s economic impact fact sheets for Wisconsin, and the federation’s informational brochure.
Coordinating, staffing and promoting an educational or breed showcase event at a governmental facility often requires securing permissions and permits in advance. DFOW members recommend consulting the legislative calendar and attempting to schedule legislative days early in the session.
“Planning at least six months in advance gives everyone a comfortable time frame to arrange vacation days and put together what you want to present – brochures and handouts, speakers, etc.,” advised DFOW President Joy Brand.
Finding the right dogs for a breed showcase is important, too. A broad range of different breeds of well-mannered dogs was provided by members of current and pending DFOW member clubs. “We asked for volunteers with dogs that were good examples of their breeds with great temperaments,” Brand said.
The success of the 2011 DFOW Legislative Day and the breed showcase extended beyond the state legislature. “Governor Walker sent his staff, and one of our state Supreme Court justices also came to visit,” said Brand. “The capitol photographer was there taking pictures.”
Brand said that several legislators sent emails indicating they wanted to attend, but could not due to scheduling conflicts. “They asked us if we would do it again,” Brand said.
Have a story to share on how you, your club, or federation is creatively educating lawmakers and taking a stand for responsible dog ownership? E-mail us at email@example.com and you may be featured in an upcoming issue!