I’m tempted to answer Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of
the U.S. (HSUS), but in fact the Sportsmen’s and Animal Owners’
Voting Alliance (SAOVA) was initially formed to respond to general
animal rightists threats to hunting dog owners. SAOVA’s interests
have grown to encompass all sportsmen, pet owners and livestock
producers. We’re natural allies in this struggle against a common
adversary. SAOVA operates in all 50 states, relies heavily on
Internet communications, and is currently evaluating and endorsing
political candidates for election on November 7, 2006.
Tell us who
you are and how you got involved with SAOVA?
retired from federal affairs consulting in 1995 and planned to enjoy
my grandchildren, travel, field trialing, hunting and fishing. When
animal rightists attempted to ban field dog events from public lands
in the late 1990’s, I began pro bono advocacy to protect those
interests. I formed a nationwide ad-hoc coalition of field trialers
called the Pittman-Robertson Working Group and we intensely lobbied
Congress and the Department of Interior. Many sportsmen contributed;
we made good progress on the Hill and achieved an unprecedented
agency decision reversal in August 2001. I concluded during that
extended fight that we needed a stronger, permanent organization and
much better grassroots outreach. SAOVA and the Virginia Hunting Dog
Owners’ Association (VHDOA) were the result. Some of our named and
unidentified volunteers at
http://saova.org/members.html have been together since
It’s been said
you can be single-minded, unbending, even unpleasant when it comes
to legislation. Is that true and if so, do you consider those
descriptions insulting or complimentary?
There’s no question that I’m very focused and intense. I have
ruffled a few feathers and been called “not nice” by some fanciers.
Coworkers frequently take the edge off my hotter posts. I find that
I have less patience as I’ve grown older, the anti’s gain ground and
pet owners refuse to recognize or act on that threat. The Pet Animal
Welfare Statute (PAWS) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) have been
a real strain in that regard. The anti’s have taken direct aim at
pet owners and had their most success improperly regulating us at
the local level.
My approach is patterned after the National Rifle Association’s
(NRA) take no prisoners advocacy of gun owners. SAOVA does its
homework on legislation and candidates. We’re professional,
knowledgeable and try to be thorough. I can be the best friend or
worst enemy you ever had in a political fight. Richmond and
Washington legislators know that well. What sets SAOVA and VHDOA
apart from the NRA is that we're nonpartisan, much smaller and
composed of volunteers.
Our remarkable success is owed in large measure to our extensive
grassroots e-list network and relationships with hunter's rights
groups, sportsmen and pet owner organizations, farmers, wildlife
professionals and press contacts, with whom we cooperate, share
intelligence, data and compare notes. Critics often snipe at us and
may claim credit for our wins, but that’s life.
What did you
do before SAOVA?
By training, I’m a petroleum/chemical engineer. During the Arab Oil
Embargo in 1974, I was “drafted” to work at the Department of
Energy. After a short stint there, I joined a trade association and
eventually began representing small refining companies’ interests in
Washington. Most of my clients were owned by farm cooperatives. That
agriculture connection and my experience as a cattleman have helped
broaden our perspective and made a material difference in lobbying
PAWS before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Few dog owners or
animal rightists expected the PAWS opposition support that we
received from the farm community. Politicians and staff change over
time, but there are constants in effective lobbying: never lie to a
legislator; work as part of a coalition, if possible; respect
confidences and return all phone calls.
Do you have
dogs? Do you hunt?
I’ve had Brittanies since 1970 and bird hunted over much of the East
Coast and the plains states. I got my first dog when we lived in New
Jersey. I joined the American Brittany Club and started field
trialing shortly thereafter. I’ve been a regional club officer,
event chairman, field trial and hunt test judge and titled some
outstanding dogs. I bred a few litters many years ago. Hunting dogs
are my passion.
credit for “helping” defeat bad legislation. SAOVA has an
interesting list of “Animal Rightist Voting Legislators” that were
defeated or won their seats back
Very rarely does any single group kill a bill, but you’re right,
success has many fathers. Insiders know the players and the
pretenders. It’s extremely difficult to defeat incumbent
politicians. The advantages of incumbency are enormous and very few
seats are party-competitive. Moreover, most citizens haven’t a clue
how their representatives vote. That’s why SAOVA works extra hard to
identify the best candidates running for open seats. We also support
our friends. That’s simply smart business.
Does SAOVA get
involved in fighting specific legislative initiatives or does it
deal mostly with defining and providing information on candidates?
Both, you can’t separate the two. All effective advocacy groups AMA,
NRA, realtors, teachers and farmers both lobby bills and endorse
candidates. One activity makes the other stronger. SAOVA’s political
profile is very low, in part because we lack an expensive political
action committee (PAC). Instead, we try to educate folks about
candidates and encourage them to donate directly during election
years. SAOVA’s volunteers are asked to send $100 to the candidate of
their choice. We are also involved in local Virginia and New Jersey
elections, which are offset from most. The rest of the time, SAOVA
monitors and works on bills.
Can you tell
us briefly about some particular bills your organization has helped
Since its founding, SAOVA has actively lobbied
in Washington, in eleven state legislatures and at the county level.
I’m personally very active in Richmond during January-March. PETA is
headquartered in Norfolk, while HSUS and DDAL tend to use Virginia
as a laboratory and training ground. In the last session, we had
twenty-two (22) bills on our plate, mandatory spay-neuter, breeder
licensing, higher fees, dangerous dogs, “potentially dangerous”
dogs, hunting dog prohibitions, the whole gamut. http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com/staterk.html
(sorry this page has moved or is outdated)
This is a war and it’s a triage-type situation. The anti’s are
everywhere and we try to stop the worst bleeding. SAOVA’s also
worked bills in Sacramento, Austin, Baton Rogue, Raleigh,
Springfield, Annapolis, Trenton, Albany, etc.
Our most important historical Washington victory was in 2003, when
the sportsmen’s groups combined and turned back HSUS’s effort to
federally dictate hunting regulations to the states.
http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com/federal6.html Our worst
defeat was this year in Richmond, when HSUS, its allies and
misguided fanciers managed to pass the first state law in the U.S.
requiring veterinarians to supply dog owner information to local
authorities. In turn, they must make the data publicly available to
insurance companies, other commercial interests, activists and
curious busybodies. This licensing database enforcement mechanism
has already spread to Sacramento where it’s proposed to be used to
require all dog owners to microchip their animals, sterilize them or
buy $150 intact tags.
feels you have been largely responsible for stalling PAWS. We hope
it is defeated. Are we wrong on this?
Thanks, BJ. I’ve worked extremely hard to oppose S1139 and so have
many others. This effort gave SAOVA the opportunity to expand its
outreach to pet owners well outside our normal comfort zone. That’s
crucial to extending and strengthening our defense of responsible
sportsmen and animal owners. Many more AKC club presidents,
delegates and judges now receive our alerts and updates.
As to PAWS, it’s not wise to say never in politics, but I don’t
believe S1139/HR2669 is much of a threat this Congress. SAOVA’s NO
PAWS Honor Roll list of 390 organizations hasn’t wavered.
http://saova.org/1139opponents.html HSUS has other
priorities. Doris Day Animal League’s still opposed. AKC remains
confused, and Sen. Santorum’s desperately trying to get reelected.
Do you know of
any national organization that has been as effective as SAOVA?
There are numerous effective hunter advocacy organizations. They
compete for support and donations, but their leaderships cooperate
and pull together when faced by anti-hunter’s threats. That’s
somewhat the case with cat owner groups, but not at all true of dog
you to take on Santorum and the AKC?
SAOVA/VHDOA lobbied against the Santorum-Whitfield 2001 Puppy
Protection Act in a modest way, so that I had that background and
some warning vibes regarding AKC’s negotiating strategy with HSUS/DDAL.
Having AKC and HSUS announce their support for PAWS the same day
caught my attention, to say the least. In addition, my 1999-2001
experience with AKC management during field trialer vs. animal
rightist fight was that it was a significant hindrance, not a help.
Not having Dennis Sprung or Ronald Menaker answer my personal emails
or phone calls about PAWS convinced me that AKC didn’t know what it
was doing and was in over its head.
Which do you
think was the catalyst for PAWS?
All the PAWS supporters had different motives. HSUS’s courtship of
DDAL was certainly a factor. AKC’s registrations are at a 40-year
low, event entries are dropping and it’s desperately trying to
recover lost market share. Its management received horrendous
political advice about the inevitability of PAWS’s passage and saw
the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over other canine
registries, despite the bill’s devastating impact on individual dog
owners. Fascination with playing the political “insider game” may
also have been a personal factor for some.
Which do you
think had the most to gain?
Unquestionably HSUS. It saw the opportunity to further consolidate
its power in Washington, while possibly capturing hobby breeders and
hunting dog owners in a net of federal regulation. To have both the
AKC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) assist it
was an incredible coup.
Do you think
it is over with?
Something like PAWS may resurface in the future. What’s more a
concern to me is the anti’s continuing infiltration and conversion
of the AKC and AVMA managements. The defeat of PAWS is a wonderful
victory for animal owners. However, there are significant incentives
and pressures for AKC and AVMA to set aside their customers
interests and pursue accommodation with aggressive animal rightist
groups. No, it’s not over. The battle’s barely begun.
Thank you Mr.
Kane. Our readers realize that you don't do interviews and
they especially appreciate knowing that this conversation
will be continued. An expanded look at these complex areas and
advice on how show breeders and their clubs
can become better organized is anticipated. This is a lot to
digest but it's imperative that we remain vigilant. We look
forward to Part Two.