Stuck at home petting your dog? Five things you can do today to protect your rights as a dog owner.

2020-03-25 | AKC Government Relations Department

The number one priority of dog owners who are under shelter-at-home orders is to attend to the care, health, and safety of their family members, animals, and themselves.

AKC Government Relations has been busy advocating on your behalf to ensure that pet food, supplies and crucial services such as kenneling/boarding are exempted under state business closure directives. We thank all those who have contacted their local officials to make this happen.   

The COVID-19 response has also created significant challenges for AKC clubs that must cancel and reschedule events, so many club members are busy dealing with those details.

However, based on the explosion of dog videos and memes on social media, some dog owners currently are confined, bored, and looking for things to do. Here are five things you can do from home to stay up to date, get involved, and be ready to take action for your dogs, your rights, and our future together:

  1. Stay informed about legislation that impacts dogs and dog owners.  Sign up for the AKC Government Relations “Taking Command” e-newsletter by clicking here to subscribe. AKC GR also sends out legislative and informational alerts by email. If you are not already receiving the alerts, click here to sign up. Any time you’re online, you can see current alerts from AKC GR and view federal and state bills and resolutions.
  1. Take time to learn about your state and local animal advisory boards. Some states and many local governments have animal advisory boards and citizens’ committees that are often the first (and sometimes only) source of information used by elected officials on animal issues. These boards often have tremendous power in introducing and influencing laws and regulations that affect dogs and dog owners. Here are some important questions you can research online:

    Does your state, county, or city have animal control or animal advisory boards? Who sits on the boards, and does the board membership equally and fairly represent all animal owners? How, when, and by whom are board members appointed? Are dog trainers, exhibitors, breeders, boarding kennel owners, groomers, kennel club members, and private practice veterinarians on the board, or is the board stacked with representatives of animal rights corporations and shelter employees/volunteers? Are any seats on the board currently open? The answers to these questions can often be found on your state or local government website.

    Seek appointments to these boards for yourself, other responsible dog owners, and kennel club members who live within the board’s jurisdiction. This is vitally important to ensure that residents with a variety of backgrounds and expertise will have “the ears” of elected officials in shaping canine and animal policy and laws where you live. Be proactive, add your animal activities to your résumé, and ask to be appointed.
  1. Know who represents you and how to quickly communicate with them on issues. Legislation, especially on the local level, can move overnight. Do you know who represents you and how to quickly communicate with them? Take advantage of this downtime to compile a list of your elected officials, their phone numbers, and email addresses.

    At the federal level, this includes your two senators and your representative in Congress. In most states, it includes your state senator and representative who are elected by your district. On the local level, it includes your county and/or city representatives who are elected by district or at large.

    To make your list of elected officials, first, click here and scroll down to “Find Your Elected Official”.Enter your address, and then click on each elected officials to view and record their contact information. You can also go to your state and county/city government websites for contact information. For a small local government, contact the county or city clerk and ask.

    Sometimes no email addresses are provided, and instead, you must communicate through an online messaging system. Check it out so you will know in advance where to find it and how to use it.
  1. Send a friendly email or make a friendly call. Right now, many elected officials are working hard on emergency responses to Covid-19. Depending on where you live, it might not be the best time to try to redirect their focus to dog issues. But if your state legislature or local government is in recess or their meetings are suspended, this could be a great time to engage in a discussion on dog issues. AKC’s Legislative Action Center can provide you with updates on the status of your legislature. If capitol offices are empty, you may be able to reach your state officials through their district offices or home contact information.

    Get your thoughts together about what you want to say, which might include these elements:
    My name is ___, and I live in the ___ district.  (This lets your elected official know that you are their constituent. If contacting a lawmaker from a different district, indicate that you live in their state, county, city, etc.)
    I am a dog owner and I’m involved in ___.(AKC events, pet therapy, breeding quality dogs, dog training classes that benefit the community, search-and-rescue, etc.)
    I have ___ years of expertise as a ___ . (Dog owner, breeder, exhibitor, trainer, etc.)

    I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about ___.
    I am concerned about legislation that seeks to ___.
    I support legislation that seeks to ___.
    As my (Senator, Representative, County Commissioner, City Council member, etc.), I encourage you to ___.
    Please consider appointing me to serve on the ___.
    If you have questions on dog issues in the future, I would be pleased to share my experience and expertise on ___.

    Even if you decide it’s best to make your call or send your message at a future date, take advantage of the downtime to script your message. Click here for information and tools from AKC GR that you can include in your messaging.
  1. Learn where your elected officials—and candidates for office—stand on issues that affect dogs and dog owners.  AKC GR provides a candidate survey you can use, or write your own questions about issues that are important to you. While many governments are in recess, reach out and ask!

As always, AKC GR relies on you to let us know about pending canine legislation in your city or county, so please stay involved and stay alert. When local laws or regulations are discussed or proposed, please advise AKC GR at doglaw@akc.org

Use this shelter-in-place time effectively, stay safe, and keep petting your dogs!

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