With 2012 campaigns already underway, it is important that dog owners join together in support of candidates who will defend our rights to responsibly own, exhibit and breed our beloved purebred dogs. Now is the time to tell incumbent and aspiring candidates for office that their positions on dog issues will be a significant factor in determining who will get your vote in the upcoming elections.
Too often, citizens are reluctant to become involved in the political process. For many people, it can be confusing, complex and not particularly fun. But as responsible dog owners, we cannot stand by as voters head to the polls to choose candidates whose actions in office may significantly impact our rights. Will we let others decide our future with dogs, or will we – the knowledgeable and experienced dog owners and breeders – make our voices heard?
At the recent AKC Legislative Conference, Michele Kasten of the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners (IFDCO) provided a thought-provoking statistic. The collective dog care and breeding experience represented by the IFDCO totals more than 15,000 years. That is significant, particularly when an increasing number of bills seek to dictate how many dogs we may own, how our dogs will be housed and cared for, and if we will have the right to responsibly breed our dogs.
Think about the many years of dog care experience represented by members of your dog club, by your federation, and by yourself as a dedicated dog owner. If your organization has 100 members, the membership probably includes a few new dog owners and novice breeders who joined the club to learn more. But it is likely that the majority of your members will have ten, twenty, or even forty or fifty years of experience with dogs. Even a small dog club may represent hundreds of years of collective dog care, training, and breeding experience. Add it up, and consider this – whose voices should our lawmakers heed when formulating laws and regulations on dog care? They will only hear us if we speak out. And to hear us, they must first be elected to office.
Here are some things you can do:
Step 1: Register Yourself and Others to Vote
If you are already registered to vote, make sure your fellow club members, breeders, exhibitors, and concerned dog owners are also registered. You may wish to consider hosting a voter registration drive at an upcoming dog show or other dog event. Most Secretary of State or County Recorder/Register offices can provide information on requirements and provide the necessary forms. Note the voter registration deadlines for voting in primary and general elections and plan your voter registration drive ahead of those dates.
Step 2: Find out Where, When and How to Vote
Step 3: Become an Educated Voter
Visit AKC’s 2012 Legislation Tracking page to view state and federal canine legislation the AKC is tracking and see how your legislators voted. Consider attending legislative hearings, public meetings or debates. Call campaign offices or contact the candidates directly and ask questions about the candidates’ positions on common dog policy issues such as limit laws, perspectives on commercial kennels, etc. If you get to speak with the candidate, be sure to have some talking points prepared to educate him or her about issues of concern to you as a responsible dog owner. Offer to meet in person to discuss these issues. Let your legislators and candidates for office know that these issues are important to you and will affect your voting decisions.
Sometimes it is helpful to see which other well-known interest groups have endorsed candidates when determining if they align with your views on canine legislative issues. Many organizations publish voting records and endorsements on their web sites. Check organizations that you agree with on canine legislation, as well as those with which you don’t agree. In addition, many candidates publish endorsements on their campaign web pages.
And don’t forget your local (city and county) elections. The majority of problematic measures, such as breed bans, pet limits, mandatory spay/neuter and overreaching dog care requirements (some of which may actually be detrimental to dogs) are introduced and passed at local levels. Fortunately, your local representatives are also likely to be the most accessible.
Step 4: Mark Your Calendar for the Upcoming Elections, then Get Out and Vote!
Taking time now to participate in the political process could make a tremendous impact on your ability to continue to own, breed, and exhibit dogs in the future. If you have any questions about the elections or how you can get involved, contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.