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Be an Effective Advocate

HSUS Poster Chile, a Baby Harp Seal

Looking at some of the responses to my earlier post about the British Kennel Club’s new policy requiring health certifications for certain breeds, it reminds me that many people in the show community need to prepare themselves to defend our way of life. When I was younger, and a whole lot more energetic, I spent a lot of my time as a political activist, a natural out growth of going to college in the late 1960s and studying political science. Early in my work career I worked as a congressional liaison where I got a real world education in influencing our legislators. After moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 1976, I found ample opportunity to utilize my experience by fighting the animal rights lobby so pervasive in northern California. Back in 2008 I offered up this primer on effectively combating the people who want to end all pet ownership.

First, every dog lover needs to wake up and educate themselves about the threat these people represent to our way of life. Make no mistake, the intent is to deprive you of the right to keep pets. The AKC’s legislative column on it’s website does a good job of posting alerts on pending legislation.

Second, develop a focus. Turn the Animal Rights tactics back on them. Believe me SAVE THE FAMILY DOG is much more compelling than SAVE THE WHALES.

One strategy is to focus on the preservation of rare breeds. Our elected officials need to understand the connection between restrictions on hobby breeders and the impending extinction of rare breeds. I used to own a Sealyham Terrier. Sealyham Terriers are one of the rarest breeds in the AKC registry. There are more gray whales, lowland gorillas, & polar bears in the world than Sealyhams. The American Foxhound, a breed kept by George Washington, is the poster child for our right to breed pure bred dogs. What US legislator will admit that he’s OK with loosing this iconic symbol of the beginning of our nation. When you talk to your elected officials ask them if they own a dog. Look for the guy who grew up hunting with a rare breed. Find just one guy who had a gun dog sleep on the foot of his bed and you have an advocate that will go to the mat for us.

Another strategy that’s worth pursuing is the economic one. There’s two parts to this one. Restrictions on breeders will cause people to lose jobs and they cost money to enforce these types of laws. It’s a myth that these laws can be made to be self funding. It hasn’t happened in the last 30 years. It’s not as compelling an argument with us dog owners, but it resonates with elected officials who are don’t want to be seen as focusing on minor problems (that’s us) in these tough economic times. What you gonna do? Save workers’ jobs in your district or confiscate the family pet?

Third, share your anger with everyone. Boil down your argument to a single succinct paragraph and then send it to every government official you can think of. Elected officials in the US really do listen to their constituents, especially in election season. The website, CONGRESS.ORG makes it really easy to contact them. However, don’t limit your contacts to a single website accessed from your armchair. Share your frustration with the members of your church, your coworkers, your hairdresser, or anyone else that likes to gossip. I’m serious here. In political circles, it’s called “grassroots”. Remember, you want to leave people with a visual image similar that of the baby seal in the snow that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) used so effectively. Find me a photo of a little boy crying over his lost dog or a little old lady in a rocking chair with a dog in her lap. I want every person that ever shared their home with a dog to fear these animal rights people the way a parent fears pedophiles.

By expressing our concerns we are putting our elected officials on notice that we are watching them and even though the elections are over, they are still nervous about holding on to their jobs. Now go tell the girl at the check out counter that these guys are trying to take her dog away.  And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.