Advocates, Dog Lovers Meet at Mountain West Legislative Conference
GR staff, AKC Board Member Chris Sweetwood, Patti Strand, and the CO Federation Board
Dozens of dog owners and breeders descended on Denver, Colorado, last weekend to attend the AKC Mountain West Legislative Conference. The backgrounds, breeds, and states varied, but the attendees had a common goal – to network and learn how to be better advocates for their dogs.
The two-day conference included a broad range of topics to help accomplish these goals. This included presentations by AKC GR staff Sheila Goffe, Vice President of AKC Government Relations, and Director of Legislative Outreach Jennifer Clark, on the tools AKC provides, overviews of recent trends and programs, and tips and ideas on how to be effective advocates. Marcus Bach, Director of AKC Inspections and Investigations, provided information on this important program and what it means for dog breeders, and Dr. Diane Brown, CEO of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, provided an overview of the organization and canine health updates relevant to political advocacy. Sheila Goffe also provided an overview of the new AKC Detection Dog Program and the importance of building support for domestically-bred dogs to protect U.S. citizens.
Dr. Diane Brown discusses AKC CHF programs
Other topics included AKC’s federal lobbyist Mike Williams providing an overview of national election and political trends, and Ohio attorney and AKC lobbyist David Paragas on what animal owners should do when a ballot measure is introduced (and in particular the success in Ohio on preventing a dangerous measure from getting on the ballot). Linda Chezem, retired judge and professor emerita at Purdue University, engaged the attendees in an important discussion on the partnership between animal rights and law enforcement and how to protect your rights.
Linda Hart with the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs gave an overview of all the federation is doing in the state and stressed the importance of working together and having a united voice for dogs. Susi Szeremy, a local Colorado Puli fancier, inspired the attendees with her story of how she created the National Purebred Dog Day movement to instill pride, awareness, and recognition of the benefits of purebred dogs.
Susi Szeremy discusses National Purebred Dog Day and encourages local involvement
Patti Strand, President of NAIA, provided an overview of the increasing problem with importation of dogs into the United States and the importance of raising awareness of this critical issue impacting dogs. She also discussed a Colorado model law to address some of these concerns, as well as the work NAIA and the AKC are doing on the federal level to get important language into the Farm Bill to begin to more closely study the issue of importation. The conference ended with media training lead by PR professional Bob Vanasse to help attendees take what they’ve learned and become better communicators.
Patti Strand of NAIA discusses the Shelter Project
“It [was] absolutely fabulous to have the conference here in the western states,” said Linda Hart, Corresponding Secretary and State Liaison for the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners, Inc. “We needed this so people who wouldn’t normally go to a conference… can come and get something out of it. [It was important for us to] find out AKC is doing so much for us that we don’t even realize, and to [engage] new people who didn’t even know they were interested in getting involved before this conference.”
AKC Government Relations has been hosting regional conferences throughout the United States to promote canine legislation advocacy to AKC club members, breeders, fanciers, and legislative liaisons. The next conference will be in the Sacramento, CA, area, on October 6. Another conference is anticipated in the Kentucky/Tennessee region. More information on these conferences will be provided in the coming weeks.
CO State Representative Polly Lawrence
Colorado club member discusses value of Mountain West Conference July 2018