Guest columnist Nancy Glick is an Iowa dog breeder and member of a new state breeder group called “Animals in Our Care.” During the 2012 Iowa Legislative Session, two bills were introduced that would have made detrimental changes to Iowa’s dog breeder regulations. A group of Iowa dog breeders, including Ms. Glick, formed Animals in Our Care (AIOC) and hosted a legislative day to advocate against the bills and educate about responsible dog breeding.
As explained by Ms. Glick, the name was chosen because many of the participating breeders are also farmers, and they wanted to demonstrate solidarity with all who responsibly raise and care for animals in Iowa.
We in animal husbandry have been a sleeping giant for too long. As responsible dog breeders, we always thought the things that animal rights groups pushed for were too outlandish to gain public and legislative favor – until we realized that they had carved out a foothold while we’d been busy with our day-to-day lives. Moreover, here in Iowa, we’ve seen increased attempts by local activist organizations to tell the legislators how our dogs should be bred and raised. Some have even gone so far as to use the derogatory term “puppy mill” in writing to define anyone who owns three dogs and keeps them in a kennel – regardless of the conditions!
We are very capable of communicating the message that it’s those of us who live and work with animals daily who are the experts in their care and husbandry. At our legislative day, while we were advocating against two bills that would have been horrible for Iowa dog breeders, we primarily wanted to tell our side of the story, establish our expertise, and demonstrate our care of our dogs to the Iowa Legislature.
Telling Our Story
We promoted our event to the legislators prior to our legislative day. In addition to sending out materials specifically about our event, we included information in letters we wrote about legislation. For example, at the end of letters about specific bills I let the legislators know what date I and other members of AIOC would be at the Capitol and encouraged them to stop by to learn more about responsible dog breeding in Iowa.
Most of the legislators who stopped by to visit and look through pictures and handouts were not those who usually support us, but rather those that oppose us. We told them that because of all the hype to push these bills every year, we have repeatedly made offers for legislators to stop by and visit our kennels when they were in the area. Very few have ever done so. We explained that since we hadn't been able to get them to come, we decided to bring our kennels to them.
At the event itself, we had a table set up with displays showing off our dogs and kennels. Unfortunately, legislators usually only see the many pictures of a few bad kennels taken by animal rights groups and are misled into believing that those pictures are representative of the majority of kennels. Thanks to pictures we brought of our own facilities and those sent by other breeders, we were able to show legislators the good side of dog breeding. We also included pictures of our dogs playing outdoors in the grass, with each other, and with our families.
We made it very clear these were not pictures we all “threw together for show” (in fact, many of our pictures were time and date-stamped over a three-year period). We also displayed letters from many of our buyers, Christmas cards we've received, and other memorabilia showing how happy they were with their pups they had purchased from each of us.
Hearing and seeing the reactions from legislators and visitors as they began to finally understand the truth about who responsible dog breeders are and the pride we take in what we do was worth all the hard work and efforts we put into this day!
Representative Sweeney has worked just as hard over the last two years to encourage livestock producers to work with us and support us. Educating and establishing strong relationships with legislators can sometimes help keep bad legislation from passing, but we all have to do our part and remain vigilant. What's important is for all sectors of the animal industry to work together (pets, livestock, hunters, fisherman, and so on). When we combine efforts we are a massive force for good – and we far outnumber the animal rights activists.
The opinions expressed by guest columnists may not represent the views of the American Kennel Club®.