Diane J. Albers
February 18, 1943 – December 20, 2008
On the morning of December 20, 2008, just a week after the Orlando Cluster, Diane Albers died peacefully in her sleep. The dog world, especially in Florida, will never be the same. Whether we realize it or not, all our lives have changed forever. Diane spoke for us all and feared no one. Diane fought for us all and no just cause was too large for her to handle or too small to get her attention. Diane helped us all whatever the need, whatever the hour, whatever the cost. She was the advocate supreme. In truth, she wore herself out working for us.
Diane was born on February 18, 1943 in Patterson, New Jersey. As a young woman, she was a pediatric nurse and she kept her medical knowledge current throughout her life. She leaves a husband, Frank, a son and several grandchildren and Bulldog children. She apprenticed under Duncan Wright, the fabled activist who headed the American Dog Owners Association when it was a significant force in rooting out inhumane treatment of dogs and fighting unfair and restrictive laws impeding dog ownership; it was from him that she learned her skills in politics and legislative design.
Diane became president, AKC delegate and show chairman of the Central Florida Kennel Club, Inc, in the mid-1970’s and held those positions until her death. Diane was elected president of the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, Inc in 1979 and re-elected every year since. She singlehandedly transformed the FAKC from a state organization of dog clubs principally concerned with promoting dog shows to a powerful vehicle for improving and protecting the interests of dogs and the dog fancy, expanding into the arenas of animal welfare, legislation both state and local, animal rescue, disaster relief for animals and consumer protection. She possessed a very rare talent for organization; she knew who had everything you needed and how to get them to give it to you. She could do more with just a telephone than whole corporations can accomplish. She was a veritable library of information on many subjects and remembered everything. And she was very persuasive, but, if necessary, could be equally intimidating. She knew how to manage legislation and legislators. She knew how to write laws to be fair and effective and she knew how to attack laws that weren’t.
Under her guidance, the FAKC funded a chair for the study of canine reproduction problems at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Florida and provided an 800 telephone number for easy access to assistance by clubs and individuals with problems related to pure bred dogs. This service is invaluable when dealing with disaster relief and actually came about in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
In 1991, she was instrumental in securing the passage of state legislation forbidding local governments from passing laws banning ownership of dogs based on breed only and successfully defended it against almost yearly attacks. A very serious attack is underway in the coming legislative session. What will we do without her?
In 1993 when it became clear that Hurricane Andrew was heading straight for Miami, Diane organized the first major animal disaster relief project. The day after the storm struck she arrived in Miami with a convoy of eighteen-wheelers filled with dog food, water, ice, medical supplies and equipment, crates, etc and established a free veterinary clinic in a partially demolished strip mall in south Miami. That clinic, funded by contributions from dog clubs and individuals around the world, remained open for almost two years. A large percentage of the animals which survived the storm and its aftermath were rescued by that unit. This was before the popularity of microchips for identification. Each ownerless animal brought into the unit was photographed and described along with the location where it was found. These animals were evacuated from the disaster area to foster homes and their movements precisely recorded so that when the owners came looking for them later, they could be located quickly. She accomplished more than anyone could have imagined with very little money. The volunteer network she established has remained a major player in subsequent disasters, the Florida fires of 1998, Hurricane Katrina and the recent Missouri floods, to name a few.
Diane has left an indelible imprint on the dog world. She will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace. We can only do our best to continue the work that she did so well and hope that we are adequate.