For background on what follows here, please read my posts of September 28 and October 1.
My primary reason for posting these four articles about our pioneering leash law is to let the dog sports world know what it took to attain success.
I get phone calls. Not a lot, but now and then. The voice on the other end says something like, "Dr. Burch of the American Kennel Club referred me to you. She said perhaps you could tell me how you got your city's leash law passed."
"I'd be happy to share that information with you," I respond. Then, with bated breath, I wait for what I've come to expect next. And more times than not I hear:
"We're scheduled to go before (and the person names their town or city council) tomorrow afternoon to make our presentation, and I'm hoping you can tell me what you said that got them to vote in your favor."
So for the benefit of those who'd like to follow in our footsteps, here's what made us successful.
We worked on it for three and one-half years. Not by choice. Internal matters in the parks department slowed us down by at least half of that period. That was frustrating at the time. In retrospect, though, it gave us plenty of time to get our ducks in a row, to rally all sorts of community support.
Right from day one we had the parks department championing our cause. I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it was that almost every time we went before a decision-making group Scott Covey was in front of the room making the presentation. Scott, the head park ranger, representing the firing line people who would be out in the field dealing hands-on with the law we were proposing. Scott, tall, articulate, uniform starched and pressed, shoes shined -- very effective as our advocate.
And, of course, Sharon Brady, in the background helping plan our strategy. When things got topsy-turvy in the parks department Sharon advised us to sit tight, ride it out. Then one day she called to say, "Now's the time." And it was.
We were able to rally important support. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's endorsement carried tremendous weight. As did the support of the Arizona Humane Society and the 4-H clubs. And the strong letter of support the American Kennel Club sent to the mayor was invaluable. As were the communications from and the presence at various hearings of representatives of local dog clubs.
We put people in the seats. At the final council subcommittee hearing -- where that committee could give our proposed ordinance a thumbs up and send it on to the full city council for a vote, or they could kill it -- we met in a city hall conference room that had a capacity of 30. More than 50 of our supporters turned out. Extra chairs were brought in. Standees lined the walls. (Thank God the fire marshal wasn't one of them.) That had to have impressed the subcommittee. Later, my councilwoman said, "Great, Willard! You packed the room."
We had effective people in our little steering group. In addition to Scott and Sharon, we had Debby Boehm and Billie Rosen.
Debby was concerned that the decision-makers -- all the way from the parks board to the council members -- had no idea what legitimate dog sports training looked like. So she put her special skills in photography and audiovisuals to work. Her materials were used in various phases of the effort. They were so professionally done that Scott told us he was integrating them into the park ranger training program.
And after we figured out what we wanted, Billie, the veteran prosecutor, drafted a proposed ordinance, the guts of which became part of what today is the unique law which the AKC holds up as a model for other cities to follow.
Finally, during the week before our date with destiny, I phoned every city council member to make sure they understood what we had done and why it would benefit the community.
We succeeded because of thorough preparation, well-thought-out strategy and diligent groundwork.
Next: How the Phoenix leash law works.