Gov. Relations Delivers for Responsible Breeders
Last year was another good news-bad news story. The good news is the AKC Government Relations team had another record-breaking year working on your behalf to counter responsible breeder threats.
The bad news is adverse breeder legislation continues to surge at all government levels, both in the number of laws and their intensity. In 2011, we tracked approximately 1,300 bills and regulations, taking action on any issues that threaten the rights of responsible breeders and dog owners at the federal, state, and local levels.
Dealing effectively as we do with such a volume of threats requires strategically allocating our people and financial resources for the greatest benefit, that is, focusing on the issues that could impact the most breeders.
AKC Legislative Strategy
Two things that separate our legislative approach from all others, also make it more effective day in and day out—where we fight, and how we act.
Where we fight. While many organizations, including the AKC, have a presence on the legislative steps and in hearings, the AKC also has professional, expert representation that provides a face-to-face presence with lawmakers. It is here, where laws are made, that we exert our greatest influence, defusing the most adverse laws before they ever emerge for a hearing or vote. Working upstream enables us to shape regulations in favor of breeders. This invisible hand does not get headlines, but it does enable us to short-circuit national threats.
How we act. Despite what many may say, no organization has the resources to provide a personal presence to combat the vast sea of federal, state, and local legislation cropping up on a daily basis nationwide. Our approach is strategic. We work at both the policy development level and at the grassroots level with our state federations, local legislative liaisons, and members of over 5,000 AKC clubs. One result of this approach is the precise timing of mobilizing breeders in contacting their lawmakers. We time our alerts for the specific point in the process that breeder engagement can have the greatest positive impact.
The AKC's approach of working simultaneously on the legislative front steps and behind the scenes has proven to be a winning strategy we will continue and expand in 2012.
AKC Credibility With Lawmakers
Credibility with legislators is one of the tangible benefits the AKC enjoys. It is the result of 128 years as a consistent, powerful voice for dogs and responsible breeders. Policy directors and lawmakers often seek our insights first when they have questions about dog breeding and policy. Our legislative credibility is just one area of effectiveness that benefits breeders. We also enjoy stature derived from a total organizational commitment to health issues, research, and education to ensure a bright future for dogs.
Sometimes it is helpful to examine the types of legislation coming from the three major bodies: federal, state, and local governments. Below is a summary you may find of interest.
2011 Federal Review
In 2011, AKC Government Relations, along with the AKC's federal representatives, again engaged on many important issues at the federal level, helping to defeat adverse legislation affecting responsible breeders. Special attention is given to federal legislation and regulations because of their national impact on all responsible dog owners and breeders.
As in previous years, federal PUPS legislation (H.R. 835 / S. 707), which was re-introduced in late spring, was a major AKC focus. Throughout the year, we registered AKC concerns with key legislators to ensure that PUPS legislation would not move forward. Strong organized interests in support of the measure have attracted many co-sponsors for the bill, but no hearings have been scheduled.
The AKC has registered serious concerns with the measure as currently written, including an overly broad definition of "high volume breeder." The AKC remains engaged with key federal lawmakers to ensure that the concerns of responsible owners and breeders are heard.
On the regulatory front, AKC has been strongly supportive of federal import regulations proposed in September 2011 (7 U.S.C. Section 2148) that would prohibit the importation of puppies into the United States for resale, research, or veterinary treatment, unless the dogs are in good health, have received all necessary vaccines, and are at least 6 months of age.
The AKC recognizes that a large number of puppies are being bred overseas and imported into the United States in order to bypass the welfare regulations and standards required of American breeders. In many cases, irresponsibly bred and undocumented foreign puppies end up at shelters, rescues or other informal or unregulated retail venues. Diseases borne by such animals can create public health issues for both animal and human populations.
The AKC supported the development of these requirements as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and in 2011 we supported the establishment of regulations to enforce this law. We believe these proposed regulations will help prevent the dumping of young puppies from facilities of unknown quality on American markets.
2011 Victories for Responsible Dog Owners
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of AKC state federations, local clubs, and concerned fanciers, breeders, and dog owners, many of the proposals failed passage. AKC Government Relations was pleased to support the efforts of local dog owners working to protect their rights.
These successes demonstrate that the voice of dog owners, when united and properly focused, is heard by legislators, and can make a big difference in protecting the rights of responsible dog owners.
View a list of 2011 legislative successes here ►
2011 State Review
Last year, more than 1,100 measures relating to dogs or animal ownership were introduced in state legislatures and Congress.
Major topics of bills affecting dog breeders included breeding restrictions, licensing, kennel regulations, consumer-protection measures, and spay/neuter requirements. Included among "other bills" were animal issues and provisions not detrimental to dog owners, but which demonstrate the interest that lawmakers are taking in animal legislation.
Following disappointing outcomes on breeder measures in Missouri and Oklahoma in 2010 and Texas in 2011, AKC Government Relations expanded assistance to dog owners and their communities by participating in the state-level regulatory processes. The AKC continues to provide recommendations and comments to states on establishing rules that would respect the needs, concerns, and rights of responsible dog owners while fairly and accurately reflecting the purpose of the new statutes.
2011 Local Review
In 2011, AKC Government Relations observed a continued trend whereby restrictive dog-ownership measures that failed in statehouses reappeared at the local level. AKC Government Relations has also seen instances where municipalities sought to pass legislation more stringent than that passed in state law. Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, attempted to define a "commercial breeder" as anyone who possessed an intact female dog, even though state law defines commercial breeders as those who own 11 or more intact females. And although the number of bills dealing with breeding restrictions declined at the state level, they increased by 10 percent at the local level.
AKC Government Relations also relies on you – our federations, breeders, and responsible dog owners – to let us know when you need our assistance with legislation in your city and county.
A Shared Interest
A number of new bills that affect dog owners have already been introduced in 2012. But we must also remain vigilant for numerous bills from the 2011 session. Legislation introduced but not defeated in 2011 has carried over to 2012 in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
AKC Government Relations will continue to work to protect the rights of responsible dog owners and breeders in 2012, but we need your help. Be sure to visit our website to view Legislative Alerts, our state legislation tracking system, and our Government Relations Toolbox filled with resources to help you be effective advocates.
Help Us Help You
If you have not already done so, please also consider joining one of our 32 state federations to work with other concerned dog owners and breeders in your state. For more information on AKC federations, or how to form one in your state, click here
or call AKC Government Relations at 919-816-3720.