If you are like most dog people you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how the dog world — our world — is governed. Almost all of us are just too busy with our own dogs, planning the next litter or going to dog shows, to have much time left over for club affairs. That, of course, doesn’t have to stop you from having definite ideas about how the dog world ought to be run. But how much do you actually know about how the decisions that shape the sport of purebred dogs are made? And did you know that you — yes, you! — could actually, in at least some small way, affect these decisions?

This is how it works. To begin with you have to be a member of a dog club — and not just any club, but one of the more than 500 clubs that hold all-breed or specialty dog shows, obedience trials or field trials and are members of the American Kennel Club. Agility clubs are currently not eligible to become members, but this may change after a vote at the next delegates meeting. (As you probably know, unlike most other national organizations AKC does not have individual members; it’s clubs that are members of the AKC. There is also a large number of affiliated clubs, about 5,000 of them, that are NOT members.) Each member club is eligible to send a representative — a delegate — to the quarterly sessions, the AKC Delegates meetings. Making sure your club has a good delegate is the first step in having a say in the decision-making process. When you’re a member of an AKC member club you can either help select a delegate who you think might be able to achieve something, or you might even become a delegate yourself.

Being an AKC Delegate isn’t all fun and games. It takes time and costs money to attend the quarterly meetings, at least if you don’t live along the East Coast, where currently all the meetings take place: in Newark, New Jersey; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Orlando, Florida — the latter in conjunction with the AKC Eukanuba show in December. There have been attempts to hold at least some of the meetings in more generally accessible locations around the country, but that has so far not been successful. Some clubs pay their delegates’ expenses, others let the delegate foot the bill.

Just being an AKC Delegate may be enough of a power trip for most people. You won’t necessarily be able to make or break any new rules simply by being a delegate, but you get to elect — or could become elected to — any of the various standing committees that deal with practical matters, show rules, etc., and once a year the delegates elect the Directors for the Board of AKC from a list of nominees, either selected by a nominating committee or write-ins from the requisite number of delegates.

The Board, of course, is where the real power to affect change within the sport lies, and if you succeed in becoming an AKC Board member you will, indeed, have achieved just about as much power as is possible in the world of purebred dogs.

Even for a determined neophyte dog fancier it would take a long time and involve a lot of work to be even considered to become a member of the AKC Board. If we’re realistic about this, perhaps your chances of affecting some real change this way are about as large as winning Best in Show at Westminster… but the opportunity is there, and if you’re determined to do so you can make a difference.


Next week, at their meeting on Tuesday, March 12, at the Doubletree Newark Airport Hotel, the delegates will vote for the vacancies on the Board of Directors, Class of 2013, from among the following delegates:

Lee Arnold, Montvale, N.J. (Southern Colorado Kennel Club), has been involved in dogs since 1984 and, with his wife, has bred champion Shar-Pei, including Best in Show winners. He is a past secretary and current Chairman of the AKC/Canine Health Foundation. A professional broadcaster, Arnold has served as commentator for dog shows on both Animal Planet and ESPN, and announcer for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

Carl C. Ashby, III, Greensboro, N.C. (United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club) has executive experience in large and small companies, extensive non-profit leadership experience, and a long history of leadership in dog clubs.

Judith V. Daniels, Acton, Calif. (Mt. Baker Kennel Club) has a B.S. in mathematics and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. She started with Staffordshire Bull Terriers in 1968, worked towards AKC recognition for the breed and owner-handled its first AKC champion and first AKC all-breed BIS winner. She is a Terrier and Non-Sporting judge and approved for 24 Working breeds. Daniels is a past President and CEO of the AKC.

Dr. Thomas M. Davies, Brimfield, Mass. (Springfield Kennel Club) helped shepherd the Bearded Collie’s entrance into the AKC Stud Book, and is an honorary lifetime member of that breed’s parent club. He is also involved in Siberian Huskies, and is approved to judge Akitas, Huskies and the Herding Group. He is retired after more than 30 years of scientific research, and product and market development.

Alan Kalter, Ann Arbor, Mich. (American Bullmastiff Association) and his wife Chris Lezotte have produced more than 160 champion Bullmastiffs, including five generations of group winners. He sold his business, the world’s largest privately held advertising agency, and was elected to the AKC Board in 2009. He serves on the Board of the AKC PAC, is involved in the AKC Canine Legislative Support Fund, and is currently Chairman of the AKC.

Gail A. LaBerge, Buford, Ga. (Atlanta Kennel Club) and her husband breed Cardigan Welsh Corgis and Wirehaired Dachshunds. They are active in conformation, obedience, field trials, tracking and earthdog. She is a registered lobbyist representing a non-profit canine organization, with extensive experience in analyzing and writing legislation. LaBerge is an AKC Earthdog judge.

Harvey M. Wooding, Redding, Conn. (Westminster Kennel Club) got his first dog in 1972, so has over 40 years involvement in the sport of dogs. He has also developed his business skill in the corporate world over an equally long period and is the owner of his own business.