Guest columnist Judy McMahon is the Legislative Liaison for the Irish Terrier Club of America and an exhibitor and breeder of Irish Terriers. She shares her experiences in organizing the widely-dispersed members of a national parent club for legislative issues.
Every AKC Parent Club, regardless of the size of its membership, can make a difference in fighting anti-pet legislation throughout the country. A good example of this is the Irish Terrier Club of America (ITCA), which has a membership of fewer than 500 people.
For a year or so I handled all of this myself. However, we soon began to see a dramatic rise in anti-dog legislation being introduced throughout the country and realized that I needed assistance to reach out to our members and be as effective as possible. The club’s Board of Governors granted my request to form a Legislative Action Team.
I recruited members from various sections of the country to form the Legislative Action Team, selecting people whom I felt understood the need to fight bad legislation and whom I knew would follow through on their commitments to serve. Team members were asked to create their own networks and databases in the states they covered to include people other than club members who could assist in contacting legislators when necessary.
I work with Legislative Action Team members and provide them with sample letters to send to their contact lists. We have continued to expand our outreach program in the past several years. About a year ago, we started recruiting other members to become State Chairs, who work with their Regional Team Member to increase contacts in each state.
We are continuing to add to our network, and hope to have a State Chair in each state in the U.S. by the end of this year. Team members are encouraged to get on mailing lists for other like-minded groups in their areas, such as AKC federations, in order to obtain as much information as possible about proposed legislation.
We have found our program to be very effective, and members of our club count on us to keep them updated on legislation that may affect their rights with regard to our beloved breed. Many are only too happy to write letters or make phone calls to legislators when we ask them to. Each quarter the team members provide me with an update on legislation within their areas which I compile into an article that appears in our national newsletter, thereby providing another avenue to keep our members informed about legislation.
The Legislative Action Team truly works together – they are encouraged to share any ideas and suggestions to improve our outreach and effectiveness – and they are regularly recognized for their hard work and efforts. I am truly honored to be the Chair of this outstanding group of dedicated men and women.
The Irish Terrier Club of America’s Legislative Action Team has been in the front lines fighting legislation throughout the country, and many other groups contact them to get their help when something arises in their area. Every Parent Club can form a similar group and make a difference in protecting our rights with regard to our animals. If you need assistance in forming your own team, please feel free to contact me, Judi McMahon, at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed by guest columnists may not represent the views of the American Kennel Club®.