The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill affects you even if you don’t have a docked breed or you are in Agility or Obedience. The amendments now under way are creating new processes for producing enforceable guidelines that will affect all animal welfare. The making of those guidelines will begin around September. One of the areas already marked for attention is ‘Animals in Entertainment.” I have asked senior policymakers in the Ministry of Primary Industries whether ‘entertainment’ includes the NZKC disciplines – all of them – and have very clearly been told yes.
Shortly you will see a media campaign by various animal welfare groups, spearheaded by a new one called Animal Action Aotearoa. These groups are positioning themselves publicly to maximise their political clout by the time the regulation making begins so that their input into the process has the maximum influence. They have many thousands of dollars behind them and professional media machines. Most of them are already known and respected by the public for the wonderful welfare work they do with all sorts of animals.
We on the other hand are little known. We are associated with purebred dogs, widely believed to have health problems that we recklessly breed into them for the sake of beauty. Obedience and Agility involve training and controlling dogs in ways that the liberal element of the animal welfare lobby finds objectionable. The small but influential bad element among our breeders provides a steady stream of people with sick dogs and unhappy experience of dealing with NZKC members. In areas of public and political debate these other groups can blow us out of the water.
Of course they are not our enemies. We are an animal welfare organisation too. Most of the time we will be on the same page but inevitably there will be areas of disagreement when some guidelines are being drawn up. The more liberal – perhaps extreme – factions within AAA and its associated groups will want to influence some of what we do. They will want to see their ideas about things like breeding, training methods and equipment, travelling with dogs, competition conditions, dew claw removal, health checks – anything we do – written into guidelines and regulations that you will be prosecuted for not following. If your opinions and arguments do not carry the same weight as theirs in front of politicians, government officials and the general public then your views will not be considered. The process will deliver results that could seriously affect your ability to practise your sport as you believe it should be practised.
Executive Council has resolved to engage a communications professional on a six-month contract to raise the profile of NZKC and educate the public about us so that by year end when work on the regulations and guidelines begins our voice can be heard and respected, rather than coming from a little known fringe group with an image problem.
This is an investment in the future of all NZKC disciplines. I urge you to support it and to participate in the discussions that will come over the next one or two years. Important aspects of what we do now are likely to be challenged. Executive Council will defend them but your involvement and help will be crucial.