Results of primary elections are narrowing the slates of candidates for federal, state and local offices, and the November election date is fast approaching. As campaigns heat up and candidates make increasingly impassioned appeals to voters, it's important to identify dog-friendly candidates and use your vote to elect those who will protect the rights of responsible dog owners and breeders.
An article in the February issue of Taking Command discussed how your vote and voice are more important than ever, especially in light of increasing legislative and regulatory measures that affect dog owners and breeders. To review, here are four steps that every dog owner should take in this critical 2012 election cycle:
- Register yourself and others to vote – consider hosting a voter registration drive at an upcoming dog show or event.
- Find out where, when, and how to vote – including absentee and early voting options.
- Become an educated voter – identify and support those candidates who respect your rights as a responsible dog owner.
- Mark your calendar for the upcoming elections, then get out and vote!
But how do you know for sure that you are voting for someone who will support your rights? How do you become an educated voter? AKC Government Relations has several suggestions on how to determine if a candidate will work to protect your rights as a dog owner:
Research Incumbent Voting Records
If candidates are incumbents, research their voting records on issues that impact dog owners. For federal and state office holders, you can find information about their actions during their most recent terms by visiting AKC GR’s 2012 Legislation Tracking page. Click on “US Fed” and on your state to review the canine legislation issues AKC tracked this year. Click on individual bills to see who sponsored a measure and to view the votes that were cast in committees and on the floor of the legislature.
Analysis of selected issues going back to 2003 can be found by visiting AKC GR’s Legislative Alerts page. View prior years by clicking on the “previous years” link at the bottom of each page. You can also visit your state’s legislative web site to research information on current and past bills. Most state web sites allow you to search for bills introduced in the past 3-5 years.
Some county and city web sites provide current and archived meeting minutes that record the votes on local measures. If they do not, contact the city or county clerk’s office to request the vote record for an issue of interest. These records are available to the public.
Research Candidate Endorsements
Another good way to learn about candidates is to research their endorsements. It can be helpful to see which special interest groups have endorsed or “rated” a candidate on animal issues. Check organizations that you agree with as well as those with whom you don’t agree. Some candidates will also be endorsed by public officials. Consider whether these officials are dog-friendly. Many candidates publish endorsements on their personal or campaign web pages.
Ask the Candidates
An effective way to find out a candidate’s views is to ask him or her directly. This not only helps reveal candidates’ opinions and attitudes on canine issues, but it also lets them know that these issues are important to you, the voter. Attend town hall meetings, public forums, debates, and other public events that allow voters to ask the candidates questions about issues important to them. You can find upcoming opportunities on websites hosted by the candidate’s political party, if applicable, and on the candidate’s website. Look for lists or calendars of upcoming events.
Here are some suggested questions:
- Do you support the right to breed dogs, as long as it is done in a responsible and safe manner?
- Do you support the right to keep dogs that are not spayed or neutered?
- Do you support the right to own the breed or mixed breed dog of one’s choice?
- Do you support limiting the number of animals someone can own?
- Do you support holding dog shows (and/or field trials, hunt trials if applicable) in your state/district/community?
- Do you believe there is a pet overpopulation problem? If so, what do you believe is the cause of the problem and how would you resolve it?
Do not ask them their opinions about specific organizations, as they may not be aware of where various groups stand on dog issues. Rather, asking them policy questions will give you a much better idea of their positions. We also recommend that you do not engage in a public debate. Instead, follow up with their campaign office and ask if you can meet with the candidate or their staff to discuss canine legislation issues. Make sure to let them know that the candidate’s positions on these issues will impact how you vote!
If they are not familiar with the issues, do not share your views, evade a question, or have not voted how you want in the past, view it as an opportunity to educate. Click here for tips on communicating effectively with elected officials. Be sure to have some talking points prepared to provide information on issues of concern to you as a responsible dog owner. Visit the AKC Government Relations Toolbox for resources you can give candidates to help educate them about canine issues and the importance of supporting responsible dog ownership. Invite candidates to your next club meeting or dog show to talk about canine legislation issues.
You’ve identified the candidates who will receive your vote. Now what?
Get involved in campaigns that are important to you. Let your candidates know why you support them, and volunteer! Even if you have only limited time, taking a few hours to stuff envelopes, answer phones, or put up signs is a great way for candidates to see that responsible dog owners care about legislation and will support those who will protect our rights. Helping on the campaign is a wonderful way to establish a relationship with elected officials for when canine legislative issues arise.
Candidates for federal and state offices often get the most press, but don’t forget your city and county elections. Local measures often have the greatest and most immediate impact on dog owners. Problematic ordinances such as breed restrictions, pet limits, mandatory spay/neuter, and other overreaching laws are often introduced and passed at county and city levels. Not only are these measures of immediate concern to responsible dog owners, but your local commissioner may someday run for state or federal office. Take time to learn their positions, educate them about yours, and serve as a reliable resource for accurate and sensible information about dog care, events, and breeding.
Are you a member of a political party? Does your party maintain a local office, hold scheduled meetings, host speakers, or organize community events? If so, get involved! This offers an excellent opportunity to get to know community leaders and policy makers outside the legislative arena.
Spread the Word
Electing lawmakers who respect the rights of animal owners helps ensure that the concerns of dog owners are heard and understood when canine legislation is considered. If you identify a dog-friendly candidate for office, spread the word to other animal owners, your club’s Legislative Liaison, and the AKC GR team.
The AKC has established the AKC Political Action Committee (AKC PAC), a fund that combines donations from individuals who believe strongly in the need to take a stand in support of the rights of responsible dog owners. One hundred percent of donations go directly to the campaigns of candidates for federal and state offices who share the commitment to preserving and defending these rights. Donations to the AKC PAC may not be earmarked for individual candidates, but donors may make recommendations to the PAC Board about candidates they believe are worthy of support.
If you would like the AKC PAC board to consider supporting the campaign of a candidate you have identified as dog-friendly, please contact AKCPAC@akc.org. Click here for additional information about the AKC PAC.