For the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA), “preserving and protecting” their breed means more than just words on a web page. In the midst of their 2021 National Specialty, on a Tuesday night following the agility trial and before the Agility Top 20, the club hosted a roundtable to discuss legislative issues and share expertise among club members and with invited lawmakers.
The DPCA not only held this successful networking and outreach event despite the uncertain circumstances of 2021, they’re now energized and already planning for “bigger and better” at their 2022 National Specialty.
What They Did
Envision an enormous conference table seated with smart, dedicated Doberman Pinscher owners. Around the table are exhibitors, trainers, breeders, an AKC judge who is a lobbyist, a breed historian, veterinary professionals, and others—together representing hundreds of combined years of dog experience.
Seated among these experts are a dog-savvy Tennessee Congresswoman, the district’s State Senator, and representatives of local city and county governments who attended at the invitation of their constituents.
Trot in a friendly, happy Doberman puppy, with ears braced and tail docked, and knowledgeable owners to discuss the functional background and devoted care that goes into preserving the Doberman Pinscher’s historic appearance.
That was the scene of the DPCA Legislative Round Table. The goal: increase education and involvement on legislative issues that affect dogs –not just among club members, but also with lawmakers, community leaders, and the media.
How They Did It
Meet Rebecca Roter, Chair of the DPCA Public Education Committee, breeder, and exhibitor. Earlier this year, in her role as Legislative Liaison of the Atlanta Doberman Pinscher Club, she hosted a Zoom meeting with AKC Government Relations Southeastern Regional Manager Patty Van Sicklen and chapter club members to discuss legislative trends relevant to Georgia dog owners.
Rebecca brought the idea to DPCA to include a legislative component at the 2021 National Specialty in Kingsport, TN. She assembled a team, scheduled meetings, and outlined a plan.
“We want to change the narrative about dog breeders. We want lawmakers to know we are a friendly and reliable source of valid information,” Roter said.
Meet Lita Frazier-Brannon, Chair of the DPCA Legislative Committee, DPCA Legislative Liaison, breeder, and AKC judge. She is a federal lobbyist, and she suggested inviting Representative Diana Harshbarger, an East Tennessee native and dog owner, whose Congressional District encompasses the site of the 2021 DPCA National Specialty.
Meet Ann Wulbrecht, DPCA President, 2021 National Specialty Show Chair, breeder, exhibitor, and a serious get-it-done person.
“We needed a time, a room, and volunteers willing to plan, communicate, and conduct the meeting. This type of event is within the scope of every Parent Club, and I challenge every club to add a canine legislation component to their National Specialties,” Wulbrecht said.
Roter, Frazier-Brannon, and Wulbrecht are just three of the DPCA members who took the idea and ran with it. A series of evening Zoom meetings were held throughout the summer. This culminated in the decision to invite federal, state and local lawmakers to attend a one-hour round table, followed by a walk down the hall to the big ballroom for the Agility Top 20.
Robert Vandiver, AKC judge and member of the DPCA Judges Education Committee was tapped to do a brief presentation on the history of the breed. An educational flyer titled Why We Matter, which outlines some of DPCA’s programs was produced. Invitations to lawmakers were extended.
DPCA participants at the round table spoke from their hearts. “The depth of knowledge and passion for the breed was palpable in the room that night,” Van Sicklen said.
An hour passes quickly when discussing breed history, purpose, health research, breeding, public education, legislation supported and opposed, and the countless initiatives on which AKC Parent Club members take the lead. Add in information about the positive economic impact that AKC events bring to a community, and the round table could have continued much longer, said Van Sicklen.
“Elected officials are constantly faced with a myriad of issues at any given time and must rely on the experts to help them understand all points of view. We were fortunate to be able to have our experts spend time with federal and local lawmakers discussing the various issues affecting dog breeders and owners all over the county. There's a political saying, ‘If you aren't at the table, then you are probably on the menu.’ So to me, having our experts at the table with them was a tremendous first start!” Frazier-Brannon said.
Next, the Fun Part
After the roundtable concluded, participants and guests were invited to view the Agility Top 20 where they were able to ask questions of competitors and spectators.
The DPCA Agility Top 20 is an engaging, high-action event and a wonderful showcase for an athletic working breed. The ballroom was brightly decorated, with rosettes on display, vendors around the perimeter, and sleekly beautiful dogs standing alert and ready to run. In an adjoining room, rows of crates and dog care equipment is neatly aligned.
This is a side of dog ownership—the world of dedicated breeders and AKC events—that many lawmakers never see. Too often, legislators are inundated with extreme and heartbreaking stories of animal abuse and neglect, which makes it easy to forget the more than 80 million dogs in the US that enjoy good lives.
“Good US dog owners are the vast majority. Great dog owners were in the ballroom that night,” Van Sicklen said.
Local Media Takes Notice
The next morning, AKC Government Relations provided educational materials and Van Sicklen answered questions at the DPCA public education table Later, she met with Lara Potter of “Visit Kingsport” and hotel manager Ramona Jackson about hosting more events and the local spending AKC events generate. Potter contacted a reporter.
The DPCA National Specialty made front page news and appeared on social media. The Kingsport News Times reported the event was contracted for 1,370 guest nights at the hotel with an attendance of 450 to 500 people. Visit Kingsport estimated local economic impact of more than $800,000.
Bigger and Better in 2022
DPCA’s National Specialty will be in Topeka, Kansas in 2022, and the club is exploring more legislative events for next year. Additional lawmaker invitations, an owner-focused educational forum, and outreach to students at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine are under discussion.
Participants in this year’s round table will be key to DPCA’s success in 2022. In addition to Roter, Frazier-Brannon, Wulbrecht, and Vandiver, 2021 round table contributors included:
- Kay Backues, DVM, Head of DPCA PEC Veterinary Advisory Task Force/Cropped and Docked/Grant Program, breeder, and exhibitor.
- Elizabeth Barrett, AKC Licensed Handler, Veterinary Technician, and breeder.
- Nancy Christensen, Top 20 Agility Committee, AKC judge, and breeder.
- Dawn Danner, Alba Medical, Veterinary Technician, AKC judge, and breeder.
- Angela Ferrari, member DPCA Legislative Committee, president Dog Owners of the Granite State, breeder, and exhibitor.
- June Hagman, breeder, exhibitor, and constituent.
- Larry Hagman, breeder, exhibitor, and constituent.
- Glen Lajeski, DPCA AKC Delegate and AKC judge.
- Karen Evans Mundy, exhibitor and constituent.
- Judy Pinkevich, training facility owner, breeder, exhibitor, and constituent.
- Patty Van Sicklen, Regional Manager AKC Government Relations and exhibitor (Siberian Huskies).
A Challenge to AKC Parent Clubs
“The work and leadership of these dedicated club members, Rebecca, and Lita made it happen. For the preservation of our purebred dogs and events, every club needs to make education about legislative issues a priority,” Wulbrecht said.
Some clubs’ show committee members may be thinking, “Our club will never have time for that.” Maybe not. But consider this:
The DPCA National Specialty and associated events span nine days. In 2021, the schedule included more than 50 competitions, seminars, meetings, showcases, and other activities. The event schedule was already set when a legislative program was first considered. Pandemic response lent uncertainty to even the best plans. Despite these challenges, they stepped up.
“Similar to DPCA, every Parent Club’s membership includes individuals with tremendous breadth and depth of knowledge about dogs and other talents. We urge AKC clubs and club members to accept the challenge to share that knowledge with elected officials, both at home and in conjunction with club events,” said Sheila Goffe, AKC Vice President of Government Relations.