GUIDE TO LOBBYING

Whilst the guide to lobbying is of no further use in the UK, we hope that concerned breeders in other countries can use it as a template to mount their own campaign;

Introduction

To most breeders and exhibitors lobbying does not come naturally. Why should it? Our interest lies in the enjoyment of the show ring or working our dogs, the fascination of breeding pedigree animals and the practical business of kennel management. The world of politics and the influencing of decision makers are things of which in general, we know little.

But, as many small and specialised interest groups have found to their cost, there comes a time when they too are faced with the need to defend their point of view against attack from outside. When that time comes, they need to be capable of presenting their case as effectively as their opponents who are often able to call upon the resources of large and wealthy organisations.

Such is the case with breeders and owners of docked dogs. In the past we have seen no need to defend or justify docking, since it has to us seemed nothing more than a minor procedure, a natural part of producing a litter of puppies.

Others have thought differently. They have campaigned against docking on grounds of animal welfare and indeed animal rights, and their campaign has been so effective that they have succeeded in changing the law. Our challenge is now to turn the tide. To do so will not be easy and will not be quick, but it is possible.

The need for lobbying

The Government and, most particularly, the veterinary establishment were taken aback by the hornets nest which they have stirred up by changing the law on docking, and many senior vets wish that the matter would simply go away. However, the anti-dockers will not let it. They are deeply upset at the success of the CDB in ensuring that breeders who wish to have their litters docked may still do so, and they will not rest until there is an outright ban. They are hard at work, both in this country and in Europe, to extend misguided animal welfare legislation in order to achieve the prohibition of docking.

That is why it is vital for breeders and dog owners alike to keep up the pressure. The strength of our arguments and our effective use of legal action has ensured that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons now accept that they cannot prevent their members from docking. Meanwhile our ability to ensure that docked dogs continue to dominate in the shooting field, in the show ring and elsewhere has not been lost on those who are against us.

At a national level the CDB has endorsed the need to employ the latest public relations techniques to get its message across to those who matter, but its efforts must be supported locally by every committed member.

This guide is therefore designed to harness your support and direct it towards an energetic campaign for docking. It is not exhaustive nor is it intended to be, but it will provide you with the basic tools needed to get the pro-docking message across to politicians, the media, the veterinary profession and other dog owners.

The importance of knowing the case

One of the joys of breeding, showing and working dogs is the diversity of people one meets from all walks of life. All have their own reasons for supporting docking and long may such diversity prevail. But when we are presenting a complex and lets face it, a controversial case, it is essential that we deploy our arguments very carefully and avoid contradicting each other.

We must explain concisely the arguments for docking: the avoidance of tail damage, hygiene, and the maintenance of breed standards. We must tackle head on the charge of cruelty. And all of this must be done with consistency if our arguments are to maintain credibility.

That is why the CDB has produced “The Case For Docking” a copy of which accompanies this document. Even before attempting to influence others, you must ensure you are familiar with everything it says.

In your dealings with others in the dog world, with the public, vets and politicians, try to stick to the key messages. Use them to advantage and never be afraid of repetition. If we are to achieve success we must press our case home with all the determination and consistency we can muster.

Winning friends

The more people we have who are prepared to support the case for docking, the more we are likely to maintain our traditional docked breeds and, in time, achieve the CDB ‘s long-term goal of a national register of licensed lay practitioners in docking.

There are of course some who are implacably opposed to our arguments, but even within the canine world there are those who have not yet seriously considered the docking issue. Even now there are others under the impression that because they own or breed working dogs, they are immune to the new regulations.

Before we commence the task of converting our opponents, we must ensure that we win active support from our natural supporters amongst dog breeders, owners, handlers and trainers.

Lobbying therefore begins at home. Ensure that the case for docking is actively discussed at shows, working tests, field trials and in the shooting field. Wherever and whenever you meet those who are involved with docked breeds, make sure they understand the full implications of the issue.

Aim to convert every supporter to a campaigner, every ‘don’t know’ to a supporter, every don’t care” to a “don’t know”. Only then will we stand a chance of sowing the seeds of doubt amongst our opponents.

Tackling the veterinary profession

Veterinary surgeons have been placed under a great deal of pressure by the debate on docking. On the one hand they have the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which, while it has accepted that it cannot prevent its members from docking puppies, nevertheless places a great deal of pressure on them not to do so. On the other hand, vets wish to keep faith with their clients, the dog breeders.

The CDB has made its views very clearly known to the decision makers in the RCVS and has contacted thousands of veterinary practices in the UK. The requirement now is for each individual vet in the UK to be personally visited by our members. Lobbying at ground level is perhaps the most effective weapon which we currently have in our armoury

Write to as many vets in your locality as possible and visit them. The best time to tackle your own vet is when you are planning to mate a bitch. Explain that you want the litter docked and give your reasons for doing so. Be prepared to argue your case if necessary in a friendly but firm way, in your own words.

Remember that if your own vet is opposed to docking, you have the option of moving to another practice. Do not be afraid to explain this, the long term loss of your business and that of the new puppy owners could well cause your vet to think again about the issue.

Do not be put off if a vet tells you that ‘all the vets round here are anti-docking’. Remember that the CDB conducted a nation wide survey of vets which indicated that although 76.8% of vets may be against docking, 10% are in favour and 13.2% are neutral on the issue. These 13.2% remain to be converted into our supporters!

When you establish firm supporters, encourage them to write to the RCVS and to the veterinary press. Their views do carry weight with their colleagues and help to keep the debate active within the profession.

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To succeed in its main objective, the CDB cannot afford to be viewed by the public or politicians as a group of extremists. The CDB’s objective is to ensure that breeders can continue to have their litters docked legally, and to do so, we must maintain our credibility with politicians and professionals. Openly breaking the law could play straight into the hands of the RSPCA which is actively opposed to docking and eager for the prosecutions which would bring it publicity.

Docking must be presented as a procedure which is supported by a large body of responsible, sensible dog owners.

When you are arguing your case, do so firmly and with conviction. If you encounter outright hostility, do not worry. Be calm and reasonable and, if allowed, set out your case. Do not lose your temper and do not raise your voice to get your message across. Withdraw with grace once you consider that any further conversation would be counter productive.

Handling the media

The CDB has mounted a number of major PR campaigns aimed at gaining maximum exposure for the docking debate at those times when it has been most newsworthy. It has been highly successful in its objective, and has won much coverage for its case in the national and local media, and on radio and television. We cannot expect the media to maintain a constant interest in an issue which is no longer of general news value, although this will not prevent the CDB from continuing to release news stories to journalists from time to time.

We must ensure however, that the docking debate remains an active one amongst dog owners and breeders. The canine press is always happy to publish letters from readers and so are field sports magazines. Do not hesitate to write to them.

From time to time your local newspaper may mention the subject of docking, perhaps in a regular pets column or the letters page. If so, then make sure you write in support of docking. If you generate anti-docking correspondence then write again, or better still find a pro-docking friend to support you. Remember that local papers are only interested in the views of local people. If you live outside a newspapers circulation area, then don’t write yourself, find someone who lives locally to do so instead.

Keep your letters short. Get to the point quickly, be concise and clear in your arguments. There is nothing an editor hates more than a long-winded letter which requires laborious cutting. Such a letter is more likely to end up in the bin than the letters column.

Don’t forget local radio. If the subject of docking crops up on the air, then telephone the radio station right away. Most local stations are able to accept callers views. But if you are faced with a full scale media interview opportunity, then telephone the CDB helpline on 07000 781262 immediately. Handling a media interview is a complex skill and the CDB has a nation-wide team of spokesmen and women who have been professionally trained to present the case for docking effectively on radio and television.

The addresses of your local newspapers and radio stations will be printed in your telephone directory Those of the dog, veterinary and field sports press are listed at the end of this guide.

Getting to know the politicians

The long term aims of the CDB are political ones and the case for docking may from time to time, need to be presented to politicians. CDB members have helped to take forward some very valuable lobbying opportunities, especially at election times, and have given popular strength to our arguments.

The membership will inevitably be called on again from time to time to write to MP’s and perhaps MEP’s as well, since the threats to docking come as much from Europe as they do from within Britain. When your help is sought by the CDB, please be prepared to help by writing. If you do not know your MP’s name, then you can find out by telephoning the House of Commons on 0171 2193000.

The same rules apply as when writing to the press - keep your letter short, to the point and courteous. Address it to your MP by name at the House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA. Don’t worry if you support a different political party to that of your MP. He or she will want to hear your views just as much as those of his or her supporters.

Remember at election times to write also to candidates of the other political parties. Say how you feel about docking and ask for their views. Politicians are always more open to persuasion when they are seeking your vote.

Allies in the community

There is another form of “political” lobbying with which you may well be able to help. Many dog breeders are also involved with other organisations which could have an interest in docking: field sports and farming organisations for example, not to mention show societies, field trial clubs and the like. If you are a member of such an organisation especially an influential national body, make sure you write to the chairman or secretary to ensure that docking is included on the agenda at every AGM

If you are a member of their committee or council, try to get docking debated and a motion passed which supports the aims of the CDB. Their influence will be valuable in helping to persuade politicians and the veterinary establishment to change their minds. Remember that at national level, the CDB is already talking to many such organisations but that pressure from their own membership will help to reinforce the CDB’s own lobbying.

To sum up

For our campaign to succeed, docking must be seen to have solid support from as wide as possible a spectrum of dog breeders and owners. We must not relax our lobbying pressure for a moment.

  1. Know “The Case For Docking”. Stick to the key points and present them with clarity and consistency.
  2. Make sure you mobilise support from within the dog world.
  3. Write to and visit vets in your area. Familiarise yourself with the CDB’s vets survey results. Report back to the CDB which vets are Anti-Docking, Pro-Docking and those who are prepared to dock.
  4. Encourage Pro-Docking vets to write to the RCVS and veterinary magazines.
  5. Argue your case firmly and with conviction, but do not lose your temper. We must not be seen as strident extremists.
  6. Write to the canine or field sports press and also to your local paper if the docking issue is raised.
  7. Be prepared to telephone your local radio station if docking is mentioned but alert the CDB if an interview opportunity emerges.
  8. Be prepared to write to your MP. Consider visiting him at his local surgery. Write to your local candidates at election time
  9. Encourage active debate on docking in other organisations of which you are a member.