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Small Step

‘One small step for man’s “BEST FRIEND”, one giant leap for “canines” of all kinds’. In April, the U.S. House-Senate Committee looking at the current Animal Welfare Act agreed to drop the (PPA), Puppy Protection Act from the Farm Bill. The PPA broadened the Animal Welfare Act to include the governing of breeding and socialization of dogs. It was designed to only target “puppy mills” but in legal terms, it could include us, who breed for specific and special reasons. PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and other organizations or organized movements would use the legal language for their cause. This is only one small victory but with a large impact.

This defeat is a tribute to all the phone calls, e-mails and letters to Members of Congress (on the committee and not on the committee who could use their influence) by fanciers across the country. I personally would like to congratulate you, if you took the time to make contact with anyone concerning PPA. You made the difference! I know there are English Setter dog fanciers in my state who did exactly that. You are to be commended for your efforts.

In Wisconsin, where I live, a small town changed the wording of their dog laws from pet “owners” to pet “guardians”. What does this mean? It means, that no one with in their jurisdiction has the right to buy or sell domestic animals. They may rescue or place domestic animals because they are guardians, but they may not sell or buy because you cannot own a domestic animal. The change was carefully worded not to include farm animals. This is the kind of legal jargon that these organizations or organized movements would like to see happen. One word can change the whole complexion of a domestic animal issue. It only takes one zealot to change overnight what took us hundreds of years to build.

We have a fair number of fanciers who work hard to protect their rights and the rights of our dogs to coexist in a free society. It is unfortunate that one act of irresponsible owners and breeders set us back two steps. That is why it is imperative, that we get out into the community with “Man’s Best Friend” (more politically correct, ‘Person’s Best Friend’) and show our children what is meant by that statement. The AKC is asking for volunteers from ESAA and their local clubs to visit schools, camps, Scout troops and other youth organizations with their dogs, to teach children about purebred dogs, responsible dog ownership, and the events and programs of the American Kennel Club. They are recruiting AKC Canine Ambassadors.

Members in good standing with their clubs can volunteer to be placed in the AKC Canine Ambassador Directory, which is promoted to teachers nationwide. A club may appoint as many Canine Ambassadors as it chooses (there is no limit). Because Ambassadors represent their clubs, club officers must be aware of members’ participation in the program. Please contact me or the AKC Public Education department for the sign-up forms. A club officer (ESAA President, Public Education Chairman or a regional club President) will complete it, sign it and send it to the Public Education Chairman of ESAA who then forwards it to the Public Education department of the AKC.

The AKC Public Education department has created a number of materials and programs for kids to learn about responsible dog ownership and purebred dogs. Materials such as Purebred Dog Posters, Safety Around Dogs: Your Safety Begins With You!, Best Friends Teaching Kit, and many more are available for our use. All materials will contain a lesson plan with directed questions and answers, some will have videos to assist and all have activities for the kids to participate in. I have done this with a few schools and it is really rewarding and our dogs literally love the attention that the kids give them. This month’s AKC Gazette is a special issue, “First Friends: Dogs and Kids”.

Our children are our future. They will make future decisions for our domestic animals, more specifically for our English Setters. If these children have no positive experiences in which to draw from to base their decisions on, then our English Setters could be out of luck. We live in an urban society and not an agricultural society anymore. Fewer children today have the opportunity that we had to experience growing up and living with a dog. Would it not be a shame for one to grow up and never see or put their little arms around an English Setter and hug it’s neck or get a wet kiss? I cannot tell you how many people (adults) who have never seen or heard of an English Setter. A

most frequent question that I get from adults as well as children, “is that a long hair Dalmatian?” I understand that question because I did not know until I was an adult that there was an “English” Setter. I grew up with English Setters (ours did not look a whole lot different from our bench ES), loving and hunting with them in Mississippi but calling them Setters or Burdawgs. This just goes to show you, that you can teach an “old dawg”, like myself, a new trick or two.

I believe we have one of, if not the Best of Breed for companionship, friendship and membership of any family. If you were to look around my home, you will see more than two hundred different framed pictures hanging on the walls of or with English Setters in them. English Setters are one of the most painted dogs in the canine world. Why? English Setter owners can answer from experience but what about our children or adults who have never had the experience with one of our kind? One might miss:

“The mild, sweet disposition of the English Setter, together with its beauty, intelligence and aristocratic appearance in the field and in the home, has endeared it both to sportsmen and to all lovers of a beautiful, active, rugged dog.

Their lovable character makes them ideal companions for children. To this dog, love and affection are as necessary as food.

The more pleasant the association with people, the smarter the English Setter will become, and its inherent good qualities will be more fully developed when there is more frequent chance of expression.

Their natural instinct for bird hunting cannot be developed unless given the opportunity to find birds in the field. Nor will their outstanding characteristics of love and devotion be fully developed without close association with people…a Gentleman among dogs.”

Courtesy of the Kettle Moraine English Setter Club Brochure

Let us get out and “show off” outside the conformation ring and get into our children’s hearts on their own turf through their organizations. Become an AKC Canine Ambassador. Become an Ambassador for ESAA and our English Setters.

“Respect the Earth and everything there in, it was not given to us by our fathers but lent to us by our children.”

“There in” lies the English Setter.

Public Education,
Edward M. Johnson