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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Meeting Your Legislators by Jenny Thrasher

Howdy folks! I've been away for a week, and am catching up today on the bazillion or so e-mails filling my in box. I finally got everything pushed aside and deleted in order to devote the last bit of moisture in my contacts to Pet Law and other legislative issues. So, in reading 27 Pet Law digests in a row, I have seen a tone of negativity amongst my fellow listmates. Buck up, little Breeders! it may not seem like it, but we are winning. Contrary to popular belief, our legislators are not stupid. Bear in mind that the more we win, the more vicious the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will get in its bid to live up to Wayne's (their leader) ridiculous claims, the more raids they will conduct to prove the validity of their existence, and the more the media will portray us as uneducated morons out to make a buck at the expense of our furry little goldmines.

For those of you in states with hardcore bills coming up, remember a few things:

  • If you go to your capitol for any reason, dress up. No jeans, no t-shirts. If you don't know what to wear, go into your bank, and look at what the bank management is wearing. Copy them. Thrift stores carry a lovely array of dress clothes at very reasonable prices. This is very important, because we are trying to break a stereotype, and want to present a PROFESSIONAL APPEARANCE. Nice manners, a big open smile and a handshake will open most doors. Also, take gum and breath mints. Use them.
  • The legislators are generally not as personally involved in the outcome of these bills as are we, and most of them are not looking at these bills with the aim to personally attack us. For most of these Representatives, the bill in front of them is just another bill they will vote on during their session. Figure out a way to make it personal for them, a way to make it matter that they not pass that bill.
  • The best thing about passing a "puppy mill bill" for most legislators is that they think they are passing a "feel-good" bill. It will be something they believe their constituents will praise them for in the next election, and they generally equate it to saving the puppies and kittens, then move on to bills that they consider of genuine importance that will affect far more constituents in these scary economic times. Show them how detrimental it will be econimically to pass that bill. Show them just how many constituents will be negatively affected by the outcome of that bill in front of them, and that they will be crucified in the next election for passing such a bad bill. Show them the numbers of constituents who will not vote for them.
  • Support your lobbyists by going up to the capitol and making the rounds with them. This shows faces to the legislators, and shows that your poor lobbyist isn't just working for their own sake. The legislators need to meet the people who will be affected by by bad laws, it then becomes personal. It also becomes more real for us, because it's very easy to sit 100 miles away and bitch, but do nothing. Again, no one is going to save you. Go work towards your own salvation - you'll feel better about yourself in the end, because when we defeat this session's devil bills, you will have that warm fuzzy feeling of "I did this! I helped make this happen!". The reverse is also true, and you will have no one to blame but yourself if you did nothing.
  • Legislators serve on more than one committee. Legislators also sponsor more than one bill. Figure out which bills are the most important to them. You can usually call up to the Capitol and just ask their aide. This is politics, and all legislators have to operate on the "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" policy. All of these legislators have an interest in at least appearing to be productive during their term. It gets them re-elected. If Rep. Hoo-hah has sponsored devil bill HB 666, it's possible that he has also sponsored or co-sponsored angel bill HB 777, which he could need support for, because it could be a good bill. If angel bill HB 777 is in Committee, find out how it's doing, and let Rep. Hoo-hah know how much you and your 5000 club members would like to see it pass, but because he has also sponsored devil bill HB 666, you and your 5000 friends are going to have to oppose that one too. There is nothing wrong with calling up the groups that will be affected by angel bill HB 777 and asking them if they want help with getting their bill passed, because you need help getting your bill defeated. The two bills don't have to be related. This tactic would be an end run around the AR, and involves getting to know your politicians and their platforms. You could also find out which committees they are on, and if your groups actively oppose each and every vote that a particular Rep is likely to cast, he will get the message loud and clear.

The bottom line here is that all this is politics, and as important as it is to us, the legislators could very well be getting tired of dealing with what they consider to be a small segment of their constituency, and really want to move on to other more "important" matters. Help them feel ok with not passing these bills, let them know that the media is being fueled by propaganda spewed from the same source as the bill in front of them, and they will more than likely understand what is going on. Let them know also, if you are a member of the HSUS in order to watch what that group is doing, and make those legislators wonder just how many more of the 10 million members of the HSUS are doing the same thing.

I would suggest to the moles out there that they start buying as much vitamin B Complex as they can afford - from this point on, their Vegan Masters are going to need every brain cell they can rub together to try to win the remaining 13 states. It has not been, nor will it be, the "slam dunk" the HSUS thought would happen.

(disclaimer - no insult is intended to the vegetarian members of this list - I know you take your B-12!)

Jenny Thrasher
Pict O'the Highlands Scottish Terriers

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