American Kennel Club delegates voted down a proposal to split the existing seven Groups into 11 that would have mainly affected the Sporting, Hound and Working Groups.

With three new delegates elected and seated earlier in the quarterly delegates meeting on March 13, the recommendation of a special 4-year-old committee was defeated by a vote of 231 to 165. The amendments to “Rules Applying to Dog Shows” required a two-thirds vote. If 16 delegates had voted “yes,” rather than “no,” it would have passed, says AKC Group Realignment Committee Chair Dr. Tom Davies.

Had the committee’s recommendation been approved, Hounds would have been divided into Sighthounds and Scenthounds, the Sporting Group breeds would move into two separate Pointer and Setter, and Retriever and Spaniel groups, and the Working Group would become three groups: Working-Utility, Working-Molosser, and Working-Spitz. In addition, several breeds in Non-Sporting and Herding would move to other Groups. The changes would have taken effect in mid-2015.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding that this is going to cost somebody a huge bunch of bucks to implement,” Davies says.

“We’ve had dozens of people contact us to tell us it would have been better instituted in pieces rather than all at once. If they’re concerned about how much it’s going to cost, it’s going to cost just as much,” regardless of how it’s implemented, he says.

His sense is that this misperception about cost was the major reason it didn’t pass.

He also says some clubs objected to the title of the proposed Working-Molosser Group, feeling that it was the Group for “big, scary” dogs. Davies says it’s simply a term for Mastiff-type dogs.

Something that upset him, he adds, was the many delegates who told him at the meeting that they supported the realignment, but their clubs didn’t. He says his own club, the Springfield Kennel Club, was opposed until he explained it to the members.

Although the committee has not met since the vote, Davies says he has no intention of letting the initiative founder.

“What I’d dearly love to do is get people to discuss in more detail their opposition to it,” he says, “and what we might have done differently that might have convinced them to accept it.”

He points out that if, in 1983, the Working and Herding Groups hadn’t been split, it would now be of an unmanageable size. “At that point in time, my wife and I bred Belgian Sheepdogs. A Group placement was rare. Since then, people have seen that these are good breeds, and they now do well in the Groups.” He says many breeds are “seldom awarded” and in smaller Groups “would get more of their day in the sun.”

A list of realignment FAQs on the AKC website includes this projection about the increase in the number of breeds per Group between July 1, 2011, and 2014 if new Groups are not created:

  • • Sporting grows from 29 to 39;
  • • Hound, from 28 to 41;
  • • Working, 28 to 42;
  • • Terrier, 29 to 31;
  • • Toy, 23 to 25;
  • • Non-Sporting, 20 to 23; and
  • • Herding, 26 to 38.

To see Best In Show Daily Master Blogger Billy Wheeler’s take on this growth in breeds, click here.

For now, Davies says, the committee will “sit tight for a bit. Again, it just depends on getting the whole process and concept understood by more people. We are traditionally a traditional bunch, and change is hard to effect. But I think it’s all good for what we want.”

The Dog Show Superintendents Association posted a poll in mid-January regarding the proposal, then sent a letter to delegates on February 21, 2012, detailing “problems to be understood and addressed before implementing this change” and asking them to “consider all of the factors before voting.” Included in the list of problems were longer shows due to more Group judging, possibly less TV coverage because of the longer judging day, and costs for more judges, judges’ expenses, rosettes and AKC staff time to redo documentation and forms related to dog shows and judging.

The letter, similar to one sent to delegates before a vote in 2009, concluded by saying that the “time is not now” for the realignment to be approved. Bob Christiansen is president of the DSSA.

The realignment committee responded with its own letter, rebutting most of the DSSA’s points and questioning the “the appropriateness of vendors (whom we hire to administer our shows) attempting to influence the policies and operation of our events for their own self-interest.” The letter also pointed out that Group assignments are ultimately decided by the AKC Board of Directors which would consider input from parent clubs before moving breeds from one Group to another.

To see the proposed lineup of breeds by Group, click here.