Transcript | Town Hall Video Series Part 5

About the Alliance and Its Advocacy Efforts

Darris Cooper: Hi, I’m Darris Cooper. And, of course, we’re having a conversation around dog training licensure here in the United States. And regardless of what side of the conversation you are on, I’m sure there’s something that we all have in common. And that is we are all animal lovers. Now, of course, when you think about our panel here today, we have Heidi who is a pet parent and trainer, Brad, also a pet parent and trainer. And, of course, our legal expert, Julia, who is an advocate for animals as a whole. So Heidi, when we think about, you know, the importance of licensure, why are you passionate about this as a pet parent first?

Heidi Meinzer: As a pet parent and an attorney in my other world, I am here in Virginia and have seen and gotten phone calls about horror stories and fraud. And that reflects on us. I’m a trainer, I’m a certified trainer and people are looking at that saying, oh, you know, and, and looking at all of us, possibly in that same light. And most of us are out there doing a great job and going far beyond the code of ethics and the standards of practice. And, and I want that next level for our profession. And I want other pet parents out there to not have to struggle to find and have confidence in whoever they’re going to hire.

Darris Cooper: Right now, shifting gears to Brad, of course you are well known within our industry. You’re an incredible trainer, but you’re also a dog dad. So as a dog, dad, why is this important to you?

Brad Phifer: I take great care to make sure they’re, you know, they never have a bad day. I breed and raise show dogs, and one of our mottos at the kennels is never let them have a bad day. And so, each day that we get up, we can make sure they get proper nutrition, proper veterinary care, proper exercise, right, adequate for their needs. And I think that next step is to make sure that, you know, if we were in a position where we needed to hire a trainer, that whoever we hired had demonstrated safety and competency in order to come in and give us advice on how to condition, train, and raise our show dogs.

Darris Cooper: Right. Of course. So, you know, Julia, you are a true advocate and, we’re just so incredibly lucky to have you part of this conversation. And. of course, your expertise that you’re bringing to the table, I think is just incredible. So again, same question for you from your vantage point. Why are you passionate about this conversation? And let’s call it a movement as well.

Julia Judish: So I think part of why is because I’m not a dog trainer, so I don’t know what all the standards are and what the practice guidelines are. And as a, as a pet parent and someone who cares about animal welfare in general, I want to have the assurance that I don’t have to navigate on my own deciphering, what different credentials are or understanding what the best approach is myself a as a layperson who doesn’t have that background. And when I call a plumber to my house, they’re required to be licensed. I, I’m not having to look into their, the background. Maybe I get on Yelp to see who the best one is, but I know anyone I call will have met those minimum standards that the state establishes. And it should be similar for when you put your pet, your, your animal, in the hands of someone and you entrust your dog to them to train them and shape how they behave.

Darris Cooper: Absolutely again, different perspectives, different vantage points, but there’s so many things that align all of us together. And that is of course our love and passion for pets and for their people as well. So, you know, again, this conversation is evolving. It’s certainly picking up momentum in certain areas of the country. So, you know, for those folks who are just learning about the Alliance, Heidi, why was Alliance started and which professional organizations are part of the Alliance right now?

Heidi Meinzer: So, this was started and kudos to Brad and CCPDT. They kind of spearheaded this right away at the same time, APDT was polling our members about how do you feel about licensing and right around that same time CCPDT was already looking at creating some model legislation. And it just was perfect timing for our two organizations to come together and move forward in a very seamless way. So we are the main two bodies that have formed this Alliance, the main trade association, plus the main certification council out in that dog professional world. I think Brad can specifically speak to what led CCPDT down this path that will shed some light on that more.

Brad Phifer: We had conducted a survey in 2018. I believe of our certificants that had, you know, given us some information. What we already knew, but reassured us that the majority of our certificants were interested in or thought we should be pursuing licensure and regulation for our industry, that we should spearhead that conversation. And, 2018, 2019 came around, and we were approached by an assembly member in New Jersey asking us to comment on a bill that she was going to propose in her state that was heavily weighted towards, New Jersey dog trainers needing to hold a CCPDT certification in order to practice. That conversation there, between the results of the survey and that conversation there, that’s kind of what catapulted us into further conversations and being able to network and work with Julia in her office.

Darris Cooper: You know, that is true collaboration at its finest, right? So, you know, when you think about other organizations that might want to get involved, will there be opportunities for others to take part in the future?

Brad Phifer: We are discussing that now. As Heidi said, the APDT the CCPDT are the primary steering committee members. And we are discussing with Julia ways to bring on supporting members, whether that’s individuals or organizations. And as we get further along, the pipeline and through our planning phase and unrolling the model legislation so forth, I think we’ll definitely have opportunities to bring on more individuals and organizations. We truly do feel that an inclusive voice, the combined resources that everyone in our industry brings to the table, is really important. We understand that we are not always going to agree. Uh, we may have to disagree on some things and just work from our commonalities and grow from there to create these standards that I think everyone in spirit really agrees with.

Darris Cooper: Right. I think we have a lot more in common than we have different, and I think that’s so very important for our communities to know. So, you know, when you think about all of our roles, right, we all have different roles within our industry. Whether it’s working for an organization or a certifying body, you know, to folks who are boots on the ground, they sometimes might have, the question is what do these guys do on the day to day? So when you think about, your day to day grind, let’s call it a grind. Heidi, what are you doing day to day that’s really impacting this conversation?

Heidi Meinzer: Day to day for APDT, I’m the Secretary/Treasurer right now. I’ll be the vice chair next year, the chair, after that. And, you know, looking to really, where is the industry going and where is our organization going? So I am on our legislative task force. I’m working with this Alliance, and we are constantly making sure that we’re going down the right path, that we are getting input from our members. That we’re making sure that our members are going to know how to have their voice heard throughout this whole legislative adventure that we are on. And, you know, getting communications out there to our members and CCPDT doing the same with their certificants. There’s loads of ways that any organization or individual can find out more information and help. And, we are going to be making sure that you know, how to, where to go to and, and how to get your voice heard.

Darris Cooper: Right. The, having our trainer’s voices heard, because again, they are critical if not one of the most important pieces of this conversation outside of the pets and the pet parents. So, Brad kind of staying on the same topic of pulling back the curtain. Right? One thing that I really appreciate with this conversation is we’re back the curtain a lot with this conversation, as far as some of the inner workings behind the scenes. So, what are some things that you feel comfortable sharing that, you know, you would like all dog trainers and interested to know, as far as your involvement with this conversation?

Brad Phifer: Professionally through the CCPDT you know, my role as the executive director has me right in the thick of things, if you will. We are directly working alongside Julia and Heidi at APDT to oversee the Alliance and the work of the Alliance to bring model legislation, to assembly members in different states. The CCPDT obviously has a lot of work on its own between exam development review. We currently have 5,000 certificants worldwide that we are working with on a regular basis, professional outreach efforts, working with our certification compliance committee to make sure that our certificants are being held accountable to the standards of practice. That’s all great. And, it’s really important work. And I, and I value it, and I’ve learned so much over the past nine or 10 years that I’ve been involved in the organization. But the other piece of my world, and maybe the larger piece of my world in the day to day is that I’m a practicing dog trainer.

Brad Phifer: I have two facilities in Indianapolis. We see probably 60 dogs a day between day training, board and daycare. I have six trainers working with me, all of who have started as animal care attendants within my company, you know, scooping runs, managing playgroups, and they have worked alongside of me and our other trainers to gain their experience, gain their experiential hours, and have then sat for this CCPDT examination to earn their CPDT KA, and are now practicing dog trainers. And that’s something I’m really, really proud of. Not just that I am kind of overseeing this conversation or being a part of the conversation at this larger level, but on a day to day. Me and my coworkers here at my facilities are working alongside pet owners, and helping them get their house, their puppies house trained, or teaching their dogs not to be reactive on leash. And more importantly, that these young people have come along with me and gained their hours and have from the get go learned best practices to hold themselves, according to the standards of practicing code of ethics, to follow LIMA and all those principles. And I think it’s really important. So as they grow up and mature and they move on in their career, hopefully they’re paying that forward a little bit.

Darris Cooper: Paying it forward. Indeed. And, and every single one of you on this call have certainly done that throughout your career. I’ve been tracking each of you and just so incredibly inspiring what you guys have done and continue to do for our industry, you know. Bradley, you said something that I thought was just super important. You know, when I think about, you know I often call them baby trainers and the importance of really setting a solid foundation. And I think one thing, when we think about legislation that we really are focusing on creating that solid foundation for trainers to then become the next Brad or the next Heidi. Right. And, getting everyone on the same page and putting that grind at the very beginning throughout your career, I think is going to be absolutely imperative. So, of course we’re talking about legislation, as a primary focus of the Alliance right now. But at the end of the day, what are some of the plans for the Alliance and is everything going to be focused on legislation?

Heidi Meinzer: I think that’s a great question. I’ll take an initial stab at it. You know, our primary focus right now is, or, or was to finalize our model legislation with input from the industry as a whole, right. Really take a step back, let them know what we were thinking, give them a draft review and allow them to comment. And they did so passionately, and we are appreciative of that. And those comments really allowed us to make some necessary and substantive improvements to what ended up being a very comprehensive piece of legislation. I think now, next steps are to work directly with a couple of the state assembly members that we are in contact with, who have already discussed, or are considering some sort of model legislation for their state, and then decide from there, based on the success in that plan, of what is next, you know, how many other states could we look at?

Heidi Meinzer: Can we take what we achieve in one state and transfer that and replicate it in another state. And then also just making sure that we’re a resource for the industry as new bills come on our radar, to be able to share that with the individuals who have come to us and, and participate in our jot form  at the Alliance for Professionalism in Dog Training website, to make sure we’re giving information to the industry on, on what’s ahead of them, what might be happening in their city or state and how they can act.

Darris Cooper: Right. That, that’s amazing. Amazing. So, Julia, this question is for you. So again, there is a lot of terminology in the dog training industry, and certainly when it comes from a legal standpoint. There can be some trainers that will read a bill and they’re like, what does this even mean? And how does this impact me every single day? So what best advice can you give a trainer who sees a bill? And they’re like, what does it mean? How should they start and where should they go?

Julia Judish: Well, I should start by saying that any dog trainer that has been practicing for at least a year, there’s a, a phase in period that the model legislation calls for, so that they would automatically, if they applied for a license and committed to abide by the core standards adopted by the board, qualify for a license, whether or not they hold certification from an approved certification organization. For brand new trainers who are offering their services for the first time, they’ll have to apply for a license, but it’s fairly straightforward. They could apply for a license or a provisional permit. And yes, that there is the administrative part of applying for license, just as you renew your driver’s license every three years, you’d have to renew your dog trainer license or provisional permit periodically. But beyond that, it just provides assurance and credibility to every practicing professional dog trainer.

Darris Cooper: Right? So very important. And again, I’ll say this as many times as I can on any platform that I can, you know, we are so much more alike than we are different. And I love this conversation because it’s driving the importance of collaboration, communication, and accountability, which is certainly very much so needed within our industry. So I want to take this time to thank our panel very much for joining us today and all of you for tuning in to take part in the conversation. Now, if you want to learn more about the Alliance for Professionalism in Dog Training, licensure, frequently asked questions, something that we hit today, and of course, the model legislation, head on over to