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Grassroots Movement Begins in Reaction to Crufts Barring Dogs from Competition

On the evening of March 16, 2012, following the Crufts dog show, 320 fanciers gathered at the National Motorcycle Museum near the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, England, to discuss the fallout from this year’s requirement that 15 “high-profile breeds” undergo veterinary examinations before being allowed to compete in the Groups. As most of our readers know, six of those Best of Breed winners were not approved to continue on to the Groups, including the Basset Hound, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff and Pekingese.

Those attending the March 16 meeting checked in as they arrived.

The initial agenda for the meeting was, according to well-respected judge Andrew Brace, “to point out to the Kennel Club that the way the 15 breeds were targeted and humiliated at Crufts is unacceptable.” In a video interview for Britain’s weekly publication, Dog World, Brace went on to say this: “We are not against health testing—far from it. We are for health testing, but on a level playing field. We want every single dog that goes to a Kennel Club-licensed show to be fit and healthy, and we want that fact established before it goes into the ring, not just after it’s won a challenge certificate or Best of Breed. Our wish is to have a kennel club that fosters the interests of the breeders, the exhibitors and the judges that support it. We are their customers.”

Andrew Brace addressed the gathering.

To quell any discussion of abandoning the Kennel Club all together, as has been suggested repeatedly on social media sites, Brace assured listeners that nothing of the kind was on the evening’s agenda. “This is not about bringing about the demise of the Kennel Club,” he said. “It’s not about trying to set up some alternative organization. To quote that marvelous Di Johnson when she had an audience with us last year, ‘What we want is a kennel club that cares for us.’”

Martin Wyles chaired the meeting and is pictured with Michael Gadsby, Howard Ogden and the unidentified woman who took notes for the meeting.

In keeping with the intention of organizers to establish a strong, cohesive grassroots organization that will then create a set of recommendations to submit to the Kennel Club, the “Canine Alliance” was formed and a steering committee selected. The Canine Alliance will represent the views of breeders, exhibitors and judges in future negotiations with the Kennel Club. The organization voted to petition the Kennel Club to acknowledge that the system used at Crufts is flawed and to suspend the high-profile-breed veterinary checks until a more fair and reliable system can be put in place.

The initial meeting was chaired by Martin Wyles and attended by many longtime breeders, exhibitors and judges, including many involved with the six breeds whose Best of Breed representatives were barred from competing in the Groups at Crufts. Of the 320 in attendance, a reported 61 were Kennel Club members and 108 part of the KC Assured Breeders Scheme.

More than 300 fanciers gathered for the first meeting.

The steering committee that was selected by those present includes Andrew Brace, Joy Bradley, American ex-pat Lisa Croft-Elliott, Phil Freer, Michael Gadsby, Steve Hall, Robert Harlow, Stuart Mallard, Howard Ogden, Diana Spavin, Tony Taylor, Susan Whitehead, Sigurd Wilberg and Martin Wyles.

The Canine Alliance has adopted the motto, “Responsible for Pedigree Dogs.” The new organization reportedly already has more than 7,000 members, and welcomes all fanciers around the world to join. The group’s current Facebook page is found by searching for “Exhibitors Choice & Voice” on Facebook, with many intelligent and interesting comments posted.

The steering committee for the U.K.-based Canine Alliance, from left to right, Tony Taylor, Susan Whitehead, Robert Harlow, Sigurd Wilberg, Di Spavin, Andrew Brace, Martin Wyles, Steve Hall, Mike Gadsby, Lisa Croft-Elliott, Phil Freer, Stuart Mallard, Joy Bradley and Howard Ogden.

The first formal meeting of the steering committee occupied most of the day on March 21. Members worked to establish a charter, make necessary arrangements for the organization’s legal establishment, and made plans for going forward. Three members of the steering committee, Michael Gadsby, Robert Harlow and Lisa Croft-Elliott, are scheduled to meet with Kennel Club representatives on March 28. Best In Show Daily will continue to report on the activities of the Canine Alliance.

The following information was sent from steering committee member Lisa Croft-Elliott:

Should you wish to support the Canine Alliance before membership details are finalized, please send money in one of three ways:

  • 1) Using PayPal at the alliance’s new website, www.caninealliance.org
  • 2) Check made payable to NIMANA, and mailed to: Exhibitors Choice and Voice, , Williamson House, Wotton Road, Ashford, Kent TN23 6LW, UK.
  • 3) Direct bank transfer:
  • Account Name: NIMANA; Account Number: 10058963; Bank Sort code: 20-02-62
  • Branch address: Barclays Bank, 66 High Street, Ashford, Kent TN24 8TL, UK.

The Canine Alliance asks that you send whatever you feel is appropriate. Everyone who sends a contribution will be granted a one-year membership. At the request of the alliance, if you are a couple or family who wants to support the Canine Alliance, please send one donation per supporting person, because the organization need members as well as funds. To contact the alliance, email: caninealliance@me.com.

To see previous articles and blogs on this topic, click on the name of the writer you’d like to read: Dawne Deeley, Christi McDonald, Billy Wheeler or Pilar Kuhn.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
  • Vet Barnes March 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Right on its about time to take back the ownership for your rights and responsibilities from the animal rights cults that abound in the UK. The system is flawed.

    Crufts: Lost Opportunities
    By: Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, JD, NAIA President Date: 03/23/2012 Category: | Animal Welfare | Canine Issues |
    Last year, the Kennel Club announced it was ushering in big changes for 2012, the most noted being new judging criteria, where a veterinarian can overrule a dog show judge, taking away the breed win and eliminating that dog from representing his or her breed in the group ring. As a veterinarian who works with dedicated purebred breeders, I cautioned against such an approach, and consider the recent decisions at Crufts both disappointing and harmful.

    The Kennel Club says that the objective for this new policy “… is to improve canine health and protect the sport of dog showing,” and no one disagrees that it should be promoting good health in dogs. But whether implemented in an honest attempt to improve breed health, or as a misguided public relations ploy, these policy changes have failed on both levels. As predicted, they have done little to placate the critics of purebred dogs and conformation shows; the only major success has been in alienating its own exhibitors and breeders.

    Carts Before Horses

    For exhibitors who think veterinary screenings at dog shows are appropriate, much of the outrage over the veterinary inspections could have been avoided if the veterinarians simply performed their inspections prior to the breed judging. The public display of yanking away a breed win with no specific statement of the alleged defect not only fosters uncertainty, it is embarrassing and frustrating to the owner, judge, breeders, and the sport.

    Of course, such an approach would have required many more dogs to undergo veterinary inspection. But if the true goal is to “improve canine health,” why not inspect them all? This could have been an educational opportunity for owners to learn what constitutes a disqualifying fault – at least under that particular veterinarian on that particular day – and an opportunity to screen the health of all dogs within the breed. As is, the policy is inflammatory, and sets everyone up for failure. Instead of “protecting the sport of dog showing,” it gave the sport and those involved a black eye.

    On top of putting the cart before the horse, the inaccessibility of comments explaining why individual dogs were disqualified further fanned the flames of rumor and outrage. In many livestock and dog judging events, judges are required to provide verbal or written comments to support their decision. Why not at Crufts? If the policy allowed for objective and fair criteria, there would have been no reason not to share the reasons for disqualification with the world. Again, an opportunity for education lost.

    Arbitrary Guidelines

    The clinical signs selected by the Kennel Club were described as those that required only a “veterinary visual observation and opinion at the time and for the purpose of establishing whether the dog is fit for function in continuing on to the group competition on the day.” The general guidelines list four areas the veterinarians should look for clinical signs:

    externally visible eye disease
    dermatological disorders
    respiratory distress
    These guidelines sound fine on the surface. But problems are easily noted on closer inspection. First, the guidelines don’t have uniform application. The Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shar-Pei and Saint Bernard are not allowed to have had “clear evidence of eyelid surgery;” is that an implication that other breeds are allowed to have had eyelid surgery and still be allowed to show without disqualification? And why is the Chow Chow’s “clear evidence of eyelid surgery including tacking a “MAJOR” disqualifying conformational defect, while it is not major in other breeds? Is it possible to determine on visual inspection that the scar or ulcer on the cornea is caused by face folds, distichiasis, ectopic cilia or poor eyelid anatomy and not from trauma in the garden, or that visible hair loss or scar is from dermatitis and not from some other cause such as trauma unrelated to dermatitis?

    The Basset Hound, one of the 15 “high profile” breeds required to undergo veterinary exams at Crufts

    And what to make of “free of signs of discomfort or suffering associated with exaggerated conformation”? These are very subjective criteria, with no easy way to measure what “discomfort” or “suffering” means. If these are the specific conditions the Kennel Club is choosing to eliminate, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the dogs pre-screened by a veterinary expert with appropriate equipment and objective guidelines prior to the day of the show? Requiring exhibitors to file appropriate supporting health screening paperwork prior to exhibiting would go a lot farther toward enhancing health in the selected breeds of dogs.

    It is clear that the Kennel Club chose disorders that were “hot button” issues and not health concerns that had true science behind the screening tests or health priorities. The guidelines targeted characteristics that set these high profile breeds apart from others… for now. They targeted the extreme appearances that make these breeds what they are – unique in their appearance.

    Who Watches the Watchers?

    The published policy does not indicate how the veterinarians are selected and what their qualifications are.

    If I were a competitor, I would want to know who the veterinarians selected are and how they were determined to be qualified to ensure the dogs allowed to go forward were “free of signs of discomfort or suffering associated with exaggerated conformation.” Having a veterinary degree does not mean the veterinarian is qualified to make these far-reaching decisions. The published provisions for training veterinarians to provide this service to the fancy seem to have the potential to be loosely applied.

    As a competitor, I know who my conformation judge is. Shouldn’t we also know who has been deemed qualified to overrule conformation judges, the judges who have had to meet guidelines that determine they have the experience and knowledge to make breed win decisions?

    The application and institution of this policy at Crufts has been a wake up call to dog fanciers in other countries, as shown by the emergence of groups like The Canine Alliance and Exhibitor’s Choice & Voice. Rather than complacently watch the harsh application of this process of having our breed standards hijacked by the pressure of public opinion, this should be our opportunity as breeders, exhibitors and buyers to take back our dogs. If this is the best idea The Kennel Club can come up with to “improve canine health and protect the sport of dog showing,” then we are all in serious trouble, and it is now up to us, as dedicated breed enthusiasts, to step up and save our sport before it is too late.

    About The Author

    Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, JD, NAIA President –
    Dr. Greer has run the Veterinary Village Small Animal Clinic in Wisconsin since 1982. She is an expert in canine reproduction and a frequent lecturer on the subject. She serves on the Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board, the board of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, and as district representative for the American Veterinary Medical Law Association.

  • john March 27, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Yet while we meet and debate ( a few thousand ? ) the Green Party and others with cash and numbers are already lobbying for further restrictions , testing on breeding and showing .

  • Peter Dawson April 2, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    It seems to me that the C.A. appear be more concerned with preserving entrenched interests than it is with the removal or correction of unhealthy breeds. In the wider public interest I suggest there should be no place in the future for anyone to sell,register or show those breeds carefully identified as having harmful genes, since it does little for the hobby’s reputation to be supporting breeds which can ultimately cause much distress, disappointment and expense to members of the public who buy them and, as importantly, much pain and discomfort to the poor dogs concerned There are plenty of healthy alternatives. Please correct me if I seem to be wrong about anything I’ve said here.

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