There has been much activity across the states regarding limit laws. People see television footage of dogs stacked in crates enduring horrible conditions, and then hear about limit laws and think that this is the way to prevent animal cruelty. What should be supported are laws that target irresponsible dog owners and deplorable animal care. Limit laws are ineffective, difficult to enforce and unfair to responsible dog owners. The focus should be on reasonable, enforceable legislation against irresponsible owners without punishing responsible owners and breeders.
For those of you who want to get in touch with your legislators to educate and express your view as their constituents, below are some points that could be useful when writing or calling (bullets provided via AKC).
Points to Consider
Animal Cruelty Laws and Standards of Care
The heartbreaking stories and pictures of mistreated dogs are not the result of an individual owning too many dogs. They are the result of irresponsible owners who are unable and/or unwilling to properly care for their animals. The AKC strongly opposes the breeding of dogs by those who do so without regard for the dogs’ welfare. They support scrupulous enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act and state and local regulations governing the humane care of animals.
Limiting Dog Ownership Will Not Protect Dogs
Irresponsible owners exist regardless of how many dogs they own. There are irresponsible owners of 20 dogs and irresponsible owners of one dog. Selecting an arbitrary limit will not prevent bad owners. A limit on the number of dogs an individual can own would restrict the many responsible breeders who raise and breed purebred dogs. These breeders make a serious commitment to their animals and to ensuring the future health, welfare, and breed type of their individual breeds. They carefully screen potential owners to make sure the dogs will be placed in a safe, caring environment. Also, many proposed laws that target “puppy mills” impact the many responsible fanciers and dog owners who also rescue unwanted animals and either personally adopt them as pets or find them permanent homes.
Laws Should Implement Responsible, Enforceable Standards
Any bill that seeks to improve the quality of life and care of dogs must focus on responsible ownership and strict enforcement of neglect and cruelty laws. Laws should be passed and enforced that establish reasonable standards of care. These laws should not, however, impose breeder/owner requirements that are difficult to follow and enforce.
Laws Should Not Create More Burdens on a Community
Limit laws are very costly and burdensome to enforce. If someone owns more than their allotted number of dogs, they will then be required to dispose of those over the limit. These dogs will end up housed in shelters and/or euthanized at the community/taxpayer’s expense. In addition, it’s difficult to implement such laws and results in an enormous strain on animal control officers.
Have you ever thought that there is no need to get involved in the legislative process because you are a responsible dog owner? You have a fenced yard; your dogs are all licensed and vaccinated; your neighbors don’t complain; if you breed, it’s not very often; and you sell your pet puppies with spay/neuter contracts. You might think that because you’re doing everything right canine legislation won’t affect you and your dogs.
If we lived in a perfect world, you would be right. However, the saying about one bad apple spoiling the whole bushel applies here—some individuals are not responsible owners or breeders, and they cause problems for all of us.
There’s another issue behind much of the unfair legislation that is being enacted—not everyone understands that problems with dogs are usually due to the attitude of the owners. Lawmakers are being educated to believe that certain breeds are born vicious, that breeding dogs is morally wrong, and that restrictive legislation is the only way to solve canine-related problems. We, who are responsible dog owners, understand that these are misconceptions—and we need to help legislators understand this or our rights to breed, own, and train our dogs could be severely curtailed.
Much of proposed legislation is local, which means we as residents (and hopefully registered voter) have a voice. Elected officials will listen more to their constituents than to national organizations such as the AKC or the NCA, because we will be voting for them or their opponent in the next election. Even if we don’t normally support a particular legislator, we might find common views on canine issues. Votes can be swayed when legislators hear from enough constituents.
It takes less effort to write a letter, make a phone call, or ask for a five-minute appointment now than in the future to fund a legal challenge of unfair legislation or arrange for a kennel’s dissolution, if a law is passed saying our activities are illegal. Compare this to baking a cake: It is much easier to influence the cake by helping to measure and mix the ingredients than to try and un-bake it later. This may require some of our time, but our dogs are worth it!
Think of it as another activity we do for our dogs. It can also be something we do with our dogs. Many legislators know little or nothing about our sport. Consider inviting them to shows, matches, and trials. Ask them to present trophies, give a dinner speech, or open festivities. Ask the local press to be present. Our legislators may be too busy to fit our event into their schedule, but our request will be recorded, our name or club will be remembered, and our invitations will eventually pay off.
By Debbie Dennison, Chair Legislative Committee
9 Tips for expressing differences of opinion in the public policy arena.
It’s easy to get frustrated when your lawmakers seem to be doing the exact opposite of what you’d like them to do, or when another interest group is supporting legislation which works directly against your interests and beliefs.
At first glance, their opinions may appear groundless or misinformed.
But, while you may not always agree with all proposals for the policies governing you, the following tips may help you handle these disagreements more productively and, ultimately, gain respect for your opinions on issues of canine legislation.
Try To Remember:
1. Your lawmakers are trying to do the right thing.
They just may not have the same base of knowledge or expertise about dogs that you do. Instead of chastising them, try educating them. If your facts are convincing, you may persuade your lawmaker that your way is the "right" way.
2. Laws are proposed and passed to solve problems.
By the time a law gets proposed, the lawmaker has already been convinced that the problem exists. At this point, it may be too late to convince your lawmaker to do nothing, or that there really is not a "problem" at all. Instead, try suggesting a different "solution" to the problem. Your approach doesn’t even have to involve a law - for example, education is a good way to address problems involving irresponsible dog ownership.
3. If you want a solution that does not involve a new law, be prepared to help.
After all, if the government isn’t going to solve the problem, someone else will have to. And who better than you (or your club) to deal with an issue that you know so much about, and to make sure things are done your way? You can begin these volunteer services while the proposal is still under consideration. Such initiative will convince your lawmakers that (a) you are serious about your offer to help, and (b) the job will actually get done.
4. Be sure to understand the proposal.
It’s never safe to assume that all proposals which are not in the best interests of dog fanciers are the same, nor is it safe to assume that what you read in your newspaper is an accurate description of the law. Even similar types of legislation often have different wording which makes them very different when enacted. You need to know what you’re dealing with, because without all the facts, it’s hard to make a convincing argument. Having a specific understanding of the reasons for and content of the proposal will help you to put together a rational, complete response to it. Reading the proposal and knowing the details will also alert you to the issues that your opposition most wants to address, which may help you come up with some more acceptable alternative solutions.
Don’t just tell your government that their proposal won’t work - tell them what will.
5. Rudeness never wins respect.
Listen carefully and respectfully to all speakers during public meetings. Don’t let bad manners undermine your credibility.
6. Never raise your voice or lose your cool.
No one wants to listen to someone rant and rave, no matter how good their ideas may be.
7. Avoid threats.
Threats immediately put people on the defensive and close their minds to what you are saying. To get your opinions heard and respected, you want to get people to listen to you.
8. Always back up your positions with facts.
When you disagree, explain why. For example: "I know some people think that breeders only breed their dogs to make money and get rich, but my experiences as a breeder and show judge of 15 years have shown me that this is most often not the case. Responsible breeders breed to the standard and for the betterment of their breed, and are not motivated solely by profit."
9. Keep your focus on the ideas, and not on the people presenting them.
Personality criticisms appear petty or vindictive to the casual observer, and can damage your own credibility as much as your target’s. Be careful not to let personal attacks distract from the merits of your position.
Remember, actions speak louder than words.
Make Your Contact Count
How to Write, Meet, and Call Government Officials with Maximum Effect
Writing a Letter to a Government Official
Writing a letter can be an effective way of making your voice heard in your town, county, state or in Washington, D.C. To give your correspondence the most impact:
• Address only one issue in each letter.
• Be brief. Try to keep your letter to one page.
• Be courteous, but make your point and don’t be too apologetic about it. If you’re angry or feel strongly, you can let that show, but be polite.
• State your specific purpose or position in the first paragraph of the letter.
• Refer to specific legislation by number and title.
• Mention whether you are a constituent, or identify another connection with the recipient’s district.
• State why you support or oppose a particular measure. Don’t concede the other side’s points, even if you agree with some.
• Personalize your letter. If you must use a form letter, type or write it over yourself.
• Before sending an e-mail letter in response to a legislative issue, call the legislator’s office and ask his or her staff if e-mail from constituents is given any credence by that particular legislator. Use normal rules of etiquette for sending e-mail.
Your letter may be read by an office staff member, who will report to the legislator the volume of correspondence and its general content. These people may deal with many issues, and huge amounts of correspondence. It is important for your letter to be concise and clear.
To a Federal Senator:
The Honorable (name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
To a Federal Representative:
The Honorable (name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman or Congresswoman___________:
To a State Senator or a State Representative:
The Honorable (name)
(state capital address)
Dear Assemblyman or Assemblywoman __________:OR
Dear Representative___________: OR
(depending on the title used in that state)