ALEC Legislator Meeting a Success, Demonstrates the Value of Ongoing Legislator Education
The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Annual Meeting, held in early August in New Orleans, provided another venue this summer for direct outreach by the AKC Government Relations team to lawmakers, legislative staff, and policy professionals from around the country. The ALEC meeting is smaller than The National Conference of State Legislator’s (NCSL) annual meeting, but it provides many opportunities for in-depth, one-on-one discussions with policymakers interested in pursuing sound animal welfare laws and policies that honor responsible breeders and owners.
Phil Guidry, GR’s Director of Policy Analysis staffed the AKC booth over the conference’s three exhibition days. He reports that many legislators expressed respect for AKC’s policy agenda and the manner by which AKC conducts itself. “ALEC attracts legislators and staffers who are dedicated to the principles of limited government and free markets. While many of the attendees hold views in line with AKC’s positions, multiple legislators from both sides of the aisle stopped by the booth each day to complement us on the way we respectfully conduct ourselves and communicate our views. In light of the current national political climate and the usual tactics of animal rights groups, it was nice that the GR team and AKC grassroots volunteers were repeatedly recognized as remaining above the fray,” he said.
Popular policy discussions covered a wide variety of issues, including animal cruelty enforcement, service and detection dogs, consumer protection and pet choice, the important difference between animal welfare and animal rights, and rural development initiatives.
Phil also reports that his conversations revealed the need to continuously educate legislators about basic responsible pet ownership issues. “In the midst of deep, valuable discussions on some of our more sophisticated, I was surprised that not one but two conference attendees—one a legislator, another a legislator’s influential spouse—separately expressed concerns with our breed-neutral dangerous dog position.”
He commented, “If there is one policy topic that I believe has the most common ground, it’s opposing breed-specific legislation. Hearing attendees express doubt about the policy was alarming!” After further conversation, he learned that the main concern in each case was not the breeds themselves, but whether dogs available at shelters are appropriate for all types of owners.
“This served as an opportunity to explain why our positions detail how sellers of all types, including shelters, should place animals with appropriate purchasers, and why purchasers should do their homework in making sure that the dogs they buy are appropriate for them and their lifestyle. In the end, I was happy to help reframe this important issue in their minds; but I was reminded that in the companion animal policy realm, we must stay on our toes and continue to educate.”