On June 3, 2019, the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs (NJFDC) held their quarterly delegates meeting. At the meeting, the guest speaker was Dr. Peter Guzzo, President of TTP Government Relation, who is a well-known lobbyist in the state of New Jersey. Dr. Guzzo was there to help prepare the delegates for the upcoming annual NJFDC Lobby Day on June 10th.
“Each year our Lobby Day grows. Not one delegate has ever walked away saying it was a waste of time or they would not do it again,” stated Jeffrey Ball, President of the NJFDC. “After Lobby Day, delegates realize it’s not difficult, rather fun and that they can really make a difference.”
On the morning of June 10th, delegates gathered at the Capitol tunnel in Trenton at 8:30 a.m. Nametags were distributed, tables set up, and teams established. There were also three therapy dogs present, a Collie, a Sheltie, and a Great Dane. The dogs are always a great attraction, but the Great Dane, with its size, helped stop legislators. The goal was to meet as many legislators as possible. The group had three objectives for the day and had tables set up for each with information. The first goal was to propose a bill making the Collie the NJ State Dog. The NJFDC Board and delegates all unanimously supported having the Collie as state dog because of its long history in the state. Gerrie Oliver from the Collie club had put together a detailed history of the collie in New Jersey. “As a long-time member of the Collie Club of Northern New Jersey and VP of the Collie Health Foundation, I was pleased to join the NJFDC at Lobby Day in Trenton to introduce the Collie as the New Jersey State Dog. With the collies’ extensive connection to sites in New Jersey it is the perfect candidate. Together with the NJFDC and the AKC, we identified Sunnybank in Wayne, NJ, the former home of famous dog story writer of the early 1900’s, Albert Payson Terhune as a key to the numerous resolutions highlighting the collie in NJ. The Collie is a sweet-tempered, easy-going, loyal, family dog and a perfect candidate for New Jersey’s State Dog.” On the day of the event, Gerrie brought handouts, several billboards, and books, but what made the most impact on the legislators was a three-ring binder of children’s letters endorsing the Collie for state dog. Our goal was to have sponsors sign on the bill and many did.
The second goal was to discuss revising two upcoming bills. Legislators were very open to listening to our concerns, especially since all we wanted was two small changes to help to protect the canine fancy. Rather than just attack, the bills, discussing changes was a much more productive approach.
Our third goal was to educate legislators about AKC Reunite and the great programs they have. Megan Ault from AKC Reunite was there and did an amazing job. Legislators were very surprised about what AKC Reunite does and what they have to offer. Counties that legislators represent that do not have AKC Reunite Pet Disaster Trailers were now interested. Additionally, there was extensive opportunity for them to learn about microchipping and the health programs were eye-opening. AKC Reunite is a great tool to shows what AKC is really about, canine education, health, and most of all, welfare.
“This was my first experience with a Lobby Day. It was extremely organized, and everyone was well versed on the bills being presented. As Assemblymembers and Senators walked through the hallways, they were met by many of us to discuss current and future bills that could potentially affect our ability to breed or even own dogs. I learned not only how these bills are presented and move forward, but also how powerful an organization can be in protecting our rights as breeders and pet owners. As a board member of my breed club, I am currently working to find ways to expand our reach,” stated Theresa M. Lyons, a first-time attendee.
The day ended by awarding Assemblywomen Valerie Huttle with the 2018 Legislator of the Year award. The Assemblywoman has designed a bill to address safety at grooming facilities, which came about after a dog died in the hands of a groomer with insufficient training. The Assemblywoman has also been working with AKC and the NJFDC to protect the fancy.
“I think I can speak for everyone involved, it was a fantastic day and everyone walked away energized. We met with fifty-seven of our hundred and twenty legislators, ” said Jeffrey Ball.