This is an actual letter recently received by an AKC club member and breeder from their small, rural city’s Building Commissioner:
Dear Property Owner/Resident at (address):
It has been brought to my attention…you are operating a business at [this address]. We have seen you advertising your [dogs] for sale on your website and Facebook. This is considered a puppy mill.
This property is zoned as a family residence and not zoned for a business. You need to cease and desist immediately or face further legal action….
The letter goes on to say that the city recently passed a new ordinance that in part states the following:
“It shall be unlawful for any person or persons breeding, raising, and offering for sale young dogs (puppies) to the public on any real estate located within…the city…that is zoned Residential.” The ordinance also states that you must first get a license before selling dogs in a business or industrial zone.
The letter included a copy of the new, 15-page ordinance and when reviewing, the breeder also realized that ear cropping was now banned in the city unless a veterinarian issues a signed certificate that “the operation is necessary for the dog’s health and comfort.”
The first the breeder even knew of this ordinance was when the letter was received in the mail – and by that point it was already law. The breeder immediately notified AKC Government Relations and her kennel club – and hired legal counsel.
Unfortunately, this breeder’s options are limited now that the ordinance has been enacted. AKC GR and the state federation can work to encourage amendments or a complete repeal of the law, but that is much harder than stopping a proposal still in process.
The Importance of Being Proactive
While it is not always possible to stop a local ordinance once it’s been introduced, there is a much higher chance of success – and at least amendments – when local clubs and breeders take action before an ordinance is enacted. Unlike state legislatures or Congress, many local governments can pass laws very quickly with just a handful of votes – and these laws can have an immediate and detrimental impact on dog owners and hobbyists. In addition, surrounding localities also looking to regulate animals will often model their laws after those of their neighbors.
According to U.S. Census data, there are approximately 19,500 cities and towns and over 3,000 counties in the United States. There is no mechanism for the AKC to track every one of these local governments. Even on the state level, federations do not have the ability to track every single local governmental entity.
This is why it is essential for clubs, local breeders, and hobbyists to get involved and be proactive in their community. Here are a few simple actions you and your club can take today.
Help Watch for Local Dog Proposal Introductions:
- Watch your local media – Keep your eye out for reports on animal incidents in your community. Often proposals are introduced as a response to a tragic incident (For example, in 2019, a child attacked by a dog led the City of Detroit to propose a measure regulating large dogs. Onondaga County, NY, proposed tethering regulations after a dog died when tethered outside during a winter storm).
Also, it’s not unusual for proposals that initially start out as a limited response to a specific animal incident to expand into something much more expansive, extending well beyond the stated purpose of the proposal. In Detroit, for example, the final proposal included not just dangerous dog regulations, but also breeder permits and limits on litters.
When you learn of incidents, reach out to your local lawmakers. Let them know you share the community’s concerns about what happened and offer your expertise in developing effective solutions.
- Regularly check city and county websites – Most cities and counties have websites where they post meeting agendas. Learn when the council or commission meetings are held and find out when agendas are posted. Also check to see if your city or county has an animal advisory committee and check those agendas as well. When you learn of an issue, contact AKC Government Relations and we can help you with analysis, talking points, and spreading the word to other local clubs and breeders.
Actions to Take Today Before Something is Introduced:
The most essential thing you and your club can do is make sure that your lawmakers are aware of local constituent dog breeders (and experts!) right in their community. Often lawmakers will reach out to those that they know can assist them on issues of interest. They need to know you are willing and able to help.
In addition, it helps them when considering proposals. There have been times when AKC has contacted a city about a proposal that would impact hobbyists or shows, and the councilmember was surprised to learn there were local clubs that would be impacted – and in some cases that there are dog shows and events held in their community. Here are some ideas to help develop these essential relationships:
- Introduce yourself and your club – In the AKC Legislative Action Center, we have sample letters to help you and your club with lawmaker introductions.
- Invite them to shows and events – This is a great way to introduce lawmakers to our sport and the importance of supporting responsible breeders and hobbyists. Consider giving them a tour – or better yet, allow them to present a best in show or another award. AKC GR can help you with inviting the lawmakers and providing appropriate resources and materials they can take with them to learn more about how dog events and responsible dog owners and breeders benefit the community.
- Let them know of your club’s good works in community – When communicating with lawmakers, AKC GR always lets them know if there are AKC clubs in their district/city/county. You can help strengthen this talking point by letting them know what you do in the community. If you are offering a training class or CGC certification, write your local lawmaker and let them know. Did you donate money for K9 vests or participate in the Adopt a K9 Cop Program? Let your lawmakers know! This demonstrates your value to the community and also again shows your expertise on local dog issues.
- Volunteer at your local shelter – Not only is this a great community service, but it shows your local animal control officers that you care about these dogs and want to be a part of the solution. Often, too, local proposals are brought forward by local animal control directors and officers. By having a relationship and working with them, you may be able to better learn about these concerns and offer your expertise before a negative proposal is introduced.
- Sign up for local boards and advisory commissions – Many counties and communities have an animal advisory board or commission. Consider applying for open seats on these boards to ensure the voice of local clubs and hobbyists are heard. If there aren’t any open seats or animal boards in your area, perhaps consider other boards or commissions that deal with issues of interest to you. Being involved in your community helps develop those essential relationships with leaders who can impact your ability to breed, own, and show dogs.
As a reminder, AKC Government Relations is available to help you in communicating with lawmakers and developing policy solutions. Visit AKC’s Legislative Action Center at www.akcgr.org. The Toolbox, Blogs, and Key Issues tabs are updated frequently with new resources. You can also always contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are glad to work with you to be effective advocates in your community on behalf of our dogs and our sport.