A Rat or Mouse Club Near You?
Mary Ann Isaksen
From the March/April 1999 Rat & Mouse Gazette
Have you dreamed of having rodent get-togethers in your area? Are you waiting for someone else to make it happen? You can make it happen if you have the desire, time, and a few organizational skills.
The time and skills required of anyone who wants to start a chapter of the Rat and Mouse Club of America will vary depending on what type of club you wish to start. For instance, if you just want to have an informal club that has meetings and/or rat and mouse parties once a month or less, the requirements are minimal. It only takes one person to organize such a club (although you can have more). That person needs to have the desire to hold meetings or parties, a place to have them, and the organizational skills to keep track of who is interested in attending, and the means of notifying them when a meeting is to take place. Notification can be by telephone, mail, or email, or a combination of all three. Pretty simple, right?
You may wish to add other benefits to your get-togethers. Maybe someone in your group lives near a supplier who is willing to sell you a large quantity of supplies at a discount rate. If you all pool your orders together, maybe that person can place the order, pick it up, and distribute it at your meetings. Perhaps youíd like to make your get-together a rodent swap or an ice cream social. You can do just about anything. Itís simply a lot of fun to have a group of rat and mouse lovers get together on a regular basis to swap stories and information.
An informal chapter isnít required to put out a newsletter or hold shows. They donít even need to collect membership fees. RMCA Headquarters does not require the $10 annual fee from these chapters. We do, however, ask that you name your chapter and keep us informed of your upcoming events for publication in the Gazette. You may even submit photographs from your get-togethers along with stories to be published in the Gazette!
A formal chapter is an altogether different story. In most clubs, it is one person who does the majority of the work, but itís really best if you can get a small group of people together who are willing to share the duties of running the chapter. That way, it is less likely that the chapter will fold due to the one person getting burned out or resentful of always having to do everything and never getting to just have fun with the group. A small group of hard-working people can put together a terrific chapter. Of course, more organizational skills are required.
Computer skills will be necessary to create a chapter brochure, logo (or you can use one of the three RMCA logos and just add your chapter location), show a membership database, and a chapter newsletter. These can all be as simple as you would like. Judges will need to be trained if you plan to have color/conformation class shows. However, anyone can be a pet judge if your chapter decides to only have pet shows.
It will be necessary to get your group together to decide on a chapter name and who will perform which duties in the club. You may want to have a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Show Chairman or Event Coordinator, Public Relations/Fundraiser person, and possibly even some Associates. You can ask RMCA for a list of the most common duties to go along with each of these job descriptions, or you can write your own. Your club will need bylaws. You can use RMCAís bylaws or write your own, as long as they donít conflict with RMCAís bylaws.
As long as you all work together, putting out a chapter newsletter and hosting shows is not that difficult. RMCA will be happy to provide you with plenty of guidance. The hardest task is finding places to hold shows. But, if you count on just one person to do all of the work, it wonít last and you will lose your opportunity to attend fun rat and mouse events!
Please see the Chapter Guidelines section in the RMCA Bylaws contained in the 1999 Big Book for further information on starting a chapter.
All chapters of the Rat and Mouse Club of America must consider everything from the pet standpoint first. After all, we are a pet club with breeder interests, not the other way around. Someone in another club recently told me that they donít believe the rat and mouse fancy is taken seriously enough. My response to that is that we must get the general public to respect rats and mice as pets before they will ever respect them as show animals, and as long as those of us in the fancy continue to supply reptile owners with rats and mice as food for their pets, our pets will never be taken seriously, and we will be continuing to send the wrong message. After all, if we (who say we love these animals so much) are willing to use them for that purpose, what is the general public supposed to think? We wouldnít say itís okay to feed a cat or dog to a reptile, now would we? Donít domestic rats and mice deserve the same respect?