In mid-August thousands of state legislators and staff from across the country attended the largest-ever National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) annual summit, in Nashville, Tennessee. Once again, the AKC Government Relations booth proved to be one of the most popular exhibits at the conference.
“I came over to tell you this is the best booth at the conference,” said a legislator from the Western United States. “You’re the only reason I came to the exhibit hall.” Many legislators and staff echoed this sentiment and acknowledged AKC was their first stop at the conference.
AKC has been participating in the NCSL annual summit for more than 20 years. The event provides the opportunity to meet with legislators and staff, demonstrate AKC’s policy expertise and resources, and to help legislators provide effective, positive solutions to dog issues in their states.
AKC Director of Legislative Outreach Jennifer Clark and Research Analyst Melissa Ferrell represented AKC Government Relations and provided a wealth of materials that demonstrated AKC’s expertise, commitment to responsible dog ownership and breeding, policy solutions, and the myriad of programs and resources AKC offers legislators and the general public.
The informative, positive atmosphere of the booth was once again a big hit with the record 6,700+ attendees. This, combined with the breadth of information provided by the GR department helped the AKC stand out from other animal groups attending the conference. Legislators and staff came over to discuss topics ranging from detailed legislative and policy issues, to complementing the AKC on its great work, to asking if they could share a photo of their dog.
Policy questions this year included such topics as: leaving dogs in cars, dangerous dogs, appropriate definitions and penalties for cruelty, and public health concerns with dogs coming in from outside their state or the country. GR staff addressed lawmakers' specific concerns, AKC’s positions and resources, and ideas for specific approaches and solutions. GR staff follows up personally on these conversations to provide more personalized, in-depth support on specific issues.
AKC GR also received a number of general dog questions, from getting children involved in activities/events with dogs, to finding the right dog for their family, to finding breed-appropriate activities for personal pets. Several legislators were excited to learn about affiliate programs such as the AKC Reunite disaster relief trailers and AKC Humane Fund grants for domestic violence shelters.
Every year, numerous repeat attendees stop by to visit and talk about dogs. One Midwest lawmaker who visits each year told the GR team he has been asked to introduce canine legislation in his state for the 2020 session. He asked to work with AKC on this legislation, as he feels this will give him the most reasonable, balanced, and effective approach. A Senator from Ohio who has worked with AKC GR for several years came by to celebrate the success this past session on an amendment to protect home-based breeders (and to share the latest updates on his own two AKC-registered dogs).
“NCSL is an important and unique opportunity to communicate directly with state lawmakers and staff across the country and convey that AKC is THE expert on any dog issue,” said Jennifer Clark. “People are attracted by our friendly, welcoming booth, and stay to discuss dog issues that are important to them and their community. We are proud to continue to solidify our reputation as the best source for effective solutions and information on dogs and canine legislation.”