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The AKC Judges Approval System: “Worse Than It Ever Was Before”

An Open Letter to the Dog Fancy

The following article should be read, and preferably re-read, slowly and carefully, by anyone who contemplates becoming an AKC judge, or is already an AKC judge but plans on adding additional breeds, or is just interested in how the AKC Judges Approval process works. I have heard from multiple sources that what I experienced, although probably singular in some respects, is not that unusual.

The question is not whether I am qualified to judge the breeds I was invited to apply for, or even whether “masking” is a good idea or not. The important point is this: If a judge can be penalized for “disregarding” (to quote AKC) a new rule that he or she is not aware exists, and that AKC has not yet informed its judges of, then all AKC judges have reason to worry about suffering a similar fate. I don’t think that’s acceptable, and I find it difficult to believe that this is really AKC’s intent.

My main reason for writing this article is, of course, that I hope there will be a change. Those who are ultimately responsible must ensure that judges are treated fairly, and that those who are qualified continue to be approved for as many breeds and Groups as possible. The lack of AKC multi-group and all-breed judges is a major problem and starting to become an international embarrassment. As pointed out in the article, we have far fewer all-breed judges in the U.S. than most much smaller countries with far fewer shows.

A close friend who read the article prior to publication said that if she didn’t know me she would have been sure this was fiction. Unfortunately it isn’t; the facts can easily be verified. It has also been suggested that it won’t help my situation to criticize the current AKC judges approval process, especially not if I intend to appeal the Judges Review Committee’s decision at the AKC Board Appeals Committee meeting in February. I doubt that’s true, but if that’s the case, so be it. What matters is the future of our sport, and it’s clear there needs to be a change.

It is also important to realize that this is not an anti-AKC rant. The American Kennel Club does a lot of things extremely well, and includes among its officers and employees many people I greatly respect. However, this particular aspect of AKC’s activities needs a drastic reform.

Read on and… well, you won’t enjoy this, but I hope you will take it to heart.

Nothing is more important to the long-term survival of dog shows than having the best, most experienced and most knowledgeable judges officiating. Ask any neophyte exhibitor, seasoned handler or experienced breeder: they will all agree that the quality of the judging directly affects their appreciation and enjoyment of a dog show.

AKC Knows It Has A Problem
Yet there is little agreement on how to find the most suitable judges, or the manner in which they should be approved and encouraged to progress, so those who are able and willing may judge more than just a few breeds. It’s no secret that there is a great shortage of AKC approved multi-group judges. In the U.S. we have, in fact, fewer all-breed judges than almost any other major country, in spite of many more dogs. The 2013 AKC Judges Directory lists only 16 active individuals as approved for all breeds, compared with currently e.g. 121 in Canada and 288 in Australia. AKC is aware of this problem and is reportedly planning some changes.

The fact is that the current system for approving judges, especially those who want to progress and add more breeds, is not working well. “Any intelligent person knows the Judges Approval System is worse than it ever was before, and that’s saying something!” says one highly placed individual with no axe to grind, a multi-group AKC judge and official. (I have many more quotes, but the language in them is much stronger and not suitable for print.)

If you are involved in dogs you most likely know people with impeccable backgrounds who prefer not to judge rather than subject themselves to the current approval system. You probably also know judges who can tell horror stories about their experience of applying for additional breeds. It’s unfortunate that so few go public with their disdain, but I can understand why. It’s not usually a good idea to bite the hand that doles out the favors.

My “That Sounds Crazy” Story
Now I can add my own story. It’s not a happy tale, but if making the following public can in any way improve the system it’s worth telling. Those of you who are thinking of becoming AKC judges, or of adding more breeds to those you are already approved for, need to know that what happened to me can happen to you, too. And everyone who is involved in dogs should be aware of what an AKC judge may encounter.

I won’t bore you with details of my background in dogs. The only part that is important here is that I judged my first AKC show in 1977, and was fortunate to judge a number of high profile AKC shows for a few years after that. In the mid-1980s I resigned from active judging to pursue other interests (publishing dog magazines) that AKC felt constituted a conflict. During this time I continued to judge non-regular events in the U.S. and international shows abroad, including all-breed BIS, since I have been FCI approved for additional breeds since my early days in Sweden. (As an aside, isn’t it odd that while foreign visitors are regularly approved to judge AKC shows based on their foreign license, AKC does not accept any foreign club’s recognition for judges who move to the U.S.?)

In 2004 I was reinstated by AKC, approved for additional breeds in 2012, and now judge approximately half the Hound group, plus a couple of breeds in the Sporting and Toy groups.
In March I was one of several judges invited to apply for additional breeds. The letter from AKC stated: “We are pleased to inform you that an invitation for advancement is hereby extended to you as a result of the recent meeting of the Judges Review Committee.” Who wouldn’t appreciate that kind of encouragement? I could apply for 15 new breeds and would be approved if I provided the requisite paperwork and passed an interview with the appointed AKC Executive Field Representative. Since 15 breeds would give me the entire Hound group, minus only the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, I asked if I could apply for this breed also. It made sense: the PPP was added to AKC’s regular roster on Jan. 1st, 2013, and I had judged their parent club’s last specialty match prior to full AKC approval in December 2012, less than three months prior to AKC’s invitation.

As a result I was asked to present myself for an interview for all 16 breeds, each listed individually, and “Balance of the Hound Group.” The interview took place on May 5. It went well, the appropriate papers were filed, and I sat back, awaiting formal approval as an AKC Hound Group judge.

After Invitation, AKC Changes Its Mind
That did not happen. Instead, a couple of weeks later I received a letter from AKC’s Judges Liaison, stating there had been a “mistake.” Since I was initially invited to apply for 15 breeds I could not be allowed to apply for 16. That I had already been interviewed and passed for these 16 breeds was apparently irrelevant, as was the fact that the members of the Judges Review Committee who had recommended me in the first place, Edd E. Bivin and Dr. Robert Indeglia (both of whom had resigned from the committee at that point), verified that their intent was for me to be approved for the Group. There are reportedly written records to that effect.

Since it was unclear to me from the communication with the Judges Liaison why he refused to accept the past JRC’s recommendations, I wrote to the AKC Board and to the new Judges Review Committee on June 22 seeking clarification. A few members of the Board and JRC contacted me to express support, but on June 28 the Judges Review Committee denied my application, stating that my “apparent disregard of the Board directive to mask judging applications by furnishing documentation to the committee identifying your current application was not acceptable. As a result […] your application was not accepted.” In other words, I was given no breeds at all.

Judges Expected To Be Clairvoyant
The verdict confused me, to put it mildly, since I had received no “directive” and at that time did not even know what “masking” meant. (Few subjects have been more hotly debated in recent months, but this was in June.) Was there a typo? Should it be “marking”? Marking what? Several dog people I showed the letter to, including some multi-group judges, were likewise mystified. Eventually a friend in New York explained that applications to judge or apply for more breeds must now have the name of the applicant “masked,” so the Judges Review Committee is unaware of who is applying.

This isn’t the forum to discuss whether “masking” is a good idea or not, but it seemed obviously unfair that I was penalized for breaking a rule I did not know existed. The “masking” rule was first made known to judges in an AKC newsletter that was sent out on July 19 — nearly four weeks AFTER my offending letter. AKC cannot seriously expect its 3,000-plus judges, not to mention prospective judges, to be aware of AKC Board decisions until they are informed of them. The ramifications of this would be simply staggering.

Qualifications “Don’t Matter”
Finding that you are not being judged on your merits is disappointing. (The Judges Liaison at one point informed me, in writing, that “no one is questioning your qualifications,” which was perhaps the saddest statement of all, since you would hope it’s our qualifications that really matter.) Being penalized by a rule you could not possibly have known existed at the time of your perceived infringement is frankly incomprehensible.

Could it get any worse? It could. I hired a lawyer, who is involved in dogs, and we drafted an appeal, dated August 15, including the pertinent dates. We suggested that I could not reasonably be denied approval for violating a rule that I did not know existed — and that I, of course, would have been careful not to violate if I had been aware of it. The response, dated Oct. 11, was the same, however: “… the Committee has decided that no change was made to the Committee’s original decision.” No new reason was given, no one suggested there was any “directive” beyond the newsletter sent out after my “unmasking” letter, and the dates are not in question. I can only conclude that the Judges Review must have believed I lied when I said I did not know this rule existed, adding insult to injury.

Who are the people in the Judges Review Committee? It consists of a rotating trio from 12 AKC judges and two AKC Executive Field Representatives. I know and respect most of these judges; a couple of them I hope I may even call friends. I don’t know which of the committee members were part of the teams that considered my application, but I have to wonder what they were thinking. Frankly, it felt a little like Kafka, or perhaps Alice in Wonderland…

Resigning from AKC Judging
This is where things stand now. I may address the AKC Board Appeals Committee in February. My attorney may be present, but is not permitted to speak. I am not sure if I want to do that, however. A lot of time has been wasted, I’m sick of it all and frankly am considering resigning from AKC judging entirely. Judging dogs can be a fascinating experience, but at least as far as AKC events are concerned, the whole process has lost much of its attraction.

I love this sport, have done my best to contribute to it for over 50 years, and although I will spare you my feelings I must admit that the past few miserable months have made me question if there is any inherent fairness in the AKC system. I think I have been badly served by the organization that I thought would guard my interests, as well as that of the entire fancy.

Perhaps, at some future time, with a Board that shows more concern for its AKC judges, things will be different. The AKC Board has the authority under its bylaws to approve anyone to judge any breed. If the AKC Board should ask me to judge the breeds I have spent a lifetime studying, that the then-Judges Review Committee felt I am qualified to judge, and that I was passed for by the AKC Executive Field Representative, I will be happy to accept. Until then I think I will avoid further involvement.

The world can certainly live without my judging, but will the sport of purebred dogs prosper in an environment where judges are treated with such irrationality? My case, I understand, is far from unique. For the future of the dog sport in America I hope there will be change.
It has to come soon.

Written by

Bo Bengtson has been involved in dogs since the late 1950s and judged since the mid-1970s in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan, China and Russia. He has judged twice at Westminster, twice at Crufts and four times at the FCI World Show, as well as the U.S. national specialties for Scottish Deerhounds, Whippets, Greyhounds and Borzoi.
Comments
  • Kevin January 2, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    I am approved for one breed and at this time would not ever apply for more and put myself into such a stressful situation. I would love to have more breeds, but not sure it is worth it all. I love this sport and so afraid it will all be gone without some major changes.

    Thanks for letting others know about this process and how sad it is for judges and our future judges.

  • Bonnie Clarke January 2, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Dear Bo,

    This is so ridiculous! I am not surprised, unfortunately, having spent 22 months in the Judging Operations Department. Common sense, rational thinking, fair mindedness, and business acumen have always been missing from the Application Process! The current policy, and your personal experience, would be comedic if it weren’t so sad. I refuse to participate, as do many others. To deny you the Hound Group, for any reason, is unfathomable. No one is more qualified!!

  • Rhoda Springer January 2, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Bo,
    I think getting this kind of information out is crucial to us making changes in our sport. Sadly, yours is not the only one I have heard and I fear that we will continue to lose dedicated judges due to just this sort of bearucratic harassment.
    Rhoda

  • Sharyn Hutchens, Timbreblue Whippeta January 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Bo, this is beyond comprehension, but from other stories I have heard, I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute even if I did not know you. As you said, the AKC gets a lot of things right, but I have never seen them admit they were wrong or correct a bad decision. They just keep gnawing at it and making it worse. I believe the strongest people and organizations are capable of saying, ‘We screwed up. Here is how we are going to fix it.’ Judging in this country has been so bad for so long that I, along with many others, have all but quit showing. Even when it is honest, it’s often ill-informed. I can only hope your article will effect some change. I would certainly hate for the fancy to lose your expertise as a judge and I hope the AKC will rethink this stupidity.

  • Lynda Beam (Canine Candids by Lynda) January 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    AKC could save a lot of money and aggravation if they got out of judges education and approval. If people want to judge, let them take the test and if they’re in good standing — approve them. They will sink or swim based on their judging, as it should be.

    Breed clubs should still offer breed education, the seminars can go on, but you can’t teach some people how to judge dogs, and some people don’t need as much as others. In the early days, I believe judges like Anna Kay Nicholas just asked for permission to judge and got it because they were in good standing (I don’t know if there was any testing at that time).

    You are completely correct that many people who would be good judges are not even applying because they don’t have the money, time or energy to jump through the various hoops.

    I’ve been involved in the fancy since 1973, haven’t bred a lot because I didn’t have time for it, but have finished and specialed a number of dogs in several breeds. My application has been sitting half finished for nearly 7 years now.

    • Karen Lee January 3, 2014 at 8:55 AM

      I agree with all of the above. I’d like to go for my license, but the expense is huge for a breeder/exhibitor to get even a few breeds, and those of us with modest means sit looking at our applications and not finishing them. Many good people who would do a great job simply cannot afford to jump through all these hoops.

    • SUE MCCLURE
      sue mcclure February 8, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      I am in the same boat, having begun in my breed in 1972. In the late 80′s I began putting together my requirements for judging, although I was not in a position to breed much. Then the rules changed and I had to start over again. Then they changed again and again I had to start over. I get asked over and over again when I’m going to get my license. I’ve chaired over 24 AKC shows but I don’t breed enough (I have giant breeds and only care to breed if I need to to continue a line) and despite serving as a professional steward for over a year, I have to keep stewarding all over again as shows move out of my area and I don’t get my requirements in 5 years. Or has that changed – I attended a judges seminar 2 years ago and I’m told it has changed again. Having heard from many who have spent untold amounts getting one group and others who have opted not to apply for any more breeds, I’ll be too darned old to get around.

  • Karen Lee January 2, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying, but if you’re planning on resigning, you are on some ballots, so please let us all know if that is going to be your decision!

  • Cathy Rogers January 2, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    I do not blame you at all if you do chose to resign and I found your comment:
    “Finding that you are not being judged on your merits is disappointing” most intriguing. What a poor example they are setting for future judges who are supposed to be judging dogs on their merits. The whole thing just makes me sad.
    I wonder where we are all headed. I love showing dogs so much and I fear we are headed for disaster if they do not get their act together, and do it SOON!

  • Patricia McCann January 3, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    It is the responsibility of AKC to maintain an active list of judges. Given the circumstances of this issue, I really think putting pressure on this judge to hurry up and make a decision in order to accommodate the needs of clubs is self-serving and heartless. When so few judges are licensed in the first place, the issue rests on the shoulders of AKC to solve in behalf of clubs, not the individual judges themselves who may be harmed in the crosshairs of rules.

  • Kerrin Winter-Churchill January 3, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Thank you for so bravely printing your story. I believe this is a symptom of our times.. political correctness, destroying our society, one brick (or dog judge) at a time. Hope this open letter has the impact is deserves. I was at a dog show in Cleveland and watched some good judging _and some dreadful judging. I hope you don’t walk away because the sport of purebred dogs needs you. Frankly, I wish it _were like the old days when one just applied and were accepted based on experience. In that world, you’d be an all-rounder by now – as you should be, based on your lifelong passion for this sport. Someone once said, “Dogs are a microcosm of society.” Look around at all the stupid rules that are cropping up in our country based on political correctness and you will see that common sense has been thrown out of a twenty story window.

  • Lynne Park January 3, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    The dismay and disgust that the average owner/exhibitor has for the AKC only continues to grow with examples like this. The motives for this irrational behavior are unclear but many of us can guess what they are. Considering the drop in entries due to the economy and other reasons and the “clustering” of shows, qualified judges who can judge multiple breeds and groups are an absolute necessity. Clubs can no longer afford judges who are limited to 1-2 breeds. The AKC should be doing everything they can to reasonably expand the judges roster.

  • Russell L. McFadden January 3, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Bo, I totally agree with you that the current approval process is the worst of the worst and a process under which I won’t even try to advance. It took me 17 years to get the Hound Group during which time the Judging Approval Process was changed five times. I would get the background and paperwork required for the then current approved process and then would receive notification that the process had changed and I would have to start all over because a new set of requirements was suddenly put in place for a “new and improved” process. (I will admit that part of the 17 years was because at one point I gave up and didn’t apply for any new breeds for almost 6 years.) Unless something changes radically I won’t be applying again for any other breeds. You are lucky in the one sense in that you are internationally recognized as a judge, distinguished author and publisher. If you lived in No-where-ville, NM with no real claim to international fame…that’s not feeling sorry for myself it is just accepting the fact that AKC continues to be an organization where it helps to have name recognition in the upper echelon. Bo, stepping back from judging is, IMO, a huge loss – your opinion is obviously greatly appreciated by the owners and breeders of the breeds you do judge.

    • Kimberly Kentopp January 10, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      Are you kidding 17 years! I totally agree there needs to be a larger pool of All Breed Judges for the clubs to choose from.

  • Katie Tazza January 3, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    Bo,
    It seems a very sad situation when following unknown rules is more important than
    Knowledge, experience and integrity. It is important that you are bringing attention to this matter. We have to stick around to change the system. The temptation is just to walk away and leave everything status quo. Keep up the fight to improve the system.
    Its important for the future of the sport for those with integrity and knowledge to stay involved in making the system change.

  • Christopher Johnson-Brown January 3, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    I was wondering if I could converse privately with you. My email is Mariki2006@aol.com.

  • Lori Evans January 3, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Bo, You are one of the few judges I have shown under that I truly felt cared enough to do the very best job of judging dogs, here and abroad. I was lucky to live in the EU for 5 years and attended many FCI shows where I learned how much is wrong with AKC shows. I have tried to talk to several AKC reps and judges, but it is such an old boys club. They laughed me off and called me ‘Eurocentric’. AKC is a lost cause. Until the points system is abandoned, the best dog will never rise to the top anyway, so why do they need good judges??

  • Sue Flynn January 4, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    Dear Mr. Bengtson,

    This behavior does not surprise me. I had a similar occurrence when I first applied for four breeds. I have two breeds and have never applied for more breeds. I have been involved in the sport for 40 years.

    AKC’s treatment of applicants, double standards and inconsistencies have fostered the lack of support for their judges program. Why would anyone want to apply? I know so many knowledgeable individuals who are needed as judges but will have nothing to do with the process. You are generally disrespected. The sport is one of opinion. If you can fill out the forms and provide evidence of the requirements you should be accepted for approval. It is just that simple. It is up to exhibitors to support judges or not. AKC would save themselves much trouble by making things simple. They would also foster more participation and stronger support for the sport.

    I feel as you do that there is much good concerning AKC and the sport. I know many individuals that work for AKC who are good people and are doing their best to make changes for the better. I know many who have worked for AKC but have given up. There is much that needs serious improvement.

    It is sad that you were treated in this manner. I know others who have been treated poorly, including myself. It is even sadder that they choose to treat people this way based on their mistakes. Before long one will have to hire a professional to help one work their way through the application process.

    You can join the ever growing majority of those of us who are not in AKC’s favor. You would think this fact plus declining litter registrations, individual registrations, dog show attendance and the Animal Rights Activists movement toward zero breeding and pet ownership would wake them up. They need to foster good relationships, and positive participation.

    I am a person who stands on my principles. I applaud you for standing by yours.

  • jakub sumowski January 4, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    “The lack of AKC multi-group and all-breed judges is a major problem and starting to become an international embarrassment. As pointed out in the article, we have far fewer all-breed judges in the U.S. than most much smaller countries with far fewer shows” actually US show fraternity should be glad of that. In many cases (far too many to anybodys liking) it is those multi-group and all-breed judges who provoke most embarassement to their lack of knowledge.

  • Eric Liebes January 4, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Bo,
    Quite the absurd story. Unfortunately I know of a couple of others which are as bizarre. Good luck in your appeal. We all want to see you succeed.

    –Eric

  • Libby O'Donnell Naimo January 4, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Kudos, Bo, for coming out with your article! I have also been frustrated by the judges approval process, the favoritism, and the disregard for good quality, honest judging versus rules and I have even toyed with giving up on showing at the specials level.
    So far, I’m hanging in there, and hope you do too!
    As Sue Flynn said I applaud you for standing by your principles.

  • Barbara Rae Wilson, Del Rae January 5, 2014 at 6:41 AM

    Dear Bo, I applaud you for writing this article to inform the vast majority of us to just what is going on behind closed doors. As a show chairman, trying to get new and different judges year after year at our Memorial Cluster shows is becoming more and more difficult. Unfortunately as our all arounders are fewer and fewer, more individual judges need hired and it seems they are getting harder to find. If you don’t start working on your judges panel almost two years in advance you are sometimes left working with AKC to get the last few breeds covered. Naturally if you have shown and worked with your Clubs to put on shows, everyone has their favorite judges, but you can’t hire them year after year. Many Clubs are having a difficult time just holding their shows, you have to have entrys to help pay the cost. Without a good line up of judges, you won’t get your entrys……sometimes I think AKC has lost touch with why they were formed in the first place.
    Wishing you the best in whatever decision you make.

  • Ellen Frenkel January 5, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    Hi Bo,although I am now retired I can only totally agree with you.I too was rather surprised at the process of becoming a “DOG SHOW JUDGE”it more or less depends on whom you know NOT what you know.Although I am not familiar with the European selection for “DOG SHOW JUDGES”I trust that it would be a bit more demanding.I would love to hear from you,Ellen Frenkel

  • Elaine Saxen January 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Dear Bo,

    While I do not know you personally, I regularly read your column and have great respect for you. That you have been treated (that any judge) in the described manner is such a grave injustice, it becomes understandable why the AKC is going downhill at breakneck speed. I have encountered problems as a long time (40+ years) breeder that make me shake my head at the lack of logic of the organization. I sincerely hope that the Appeals Committee recognizes the error of the previous actions, and that you are “given” the entire hound group. It’s too bad that so many incompetent judges advance, and the intelligent ones appear to be left behind. While recognizing that I have a difficult breed to judge, there are judges out there who manage to do so. What happened to the Winies and Alvas who had eyes for dogs?

    Best of luck to you. Elaine

  • Coleen Minnick January 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    The rule police have gotten out of control. I do not know Mr. Bengston personally nor do I show any hound breeds so I have no personal stake in whether or not he is approved to judge additional hound breeds however this situation is ridiculous! From my former career in law enforcement we were taught that the law can be separated into two parts. The letter of the law is thought of in solid black and white terms and means that it is enforced exactly as written and leaves no room for any interpretation. But the Spirit of the law allows the individual to consider the reason the law was written in the first place. I can honestly say I have never heard of any rule that should be enforced before it was actually written so leave it to the AKC to be the leader in this farce of a parade. How can a rule possibly be interrupted by committee members if it was not actually written in black and white? I don’t think even the Supreme Court could interrupt such a law, much less the majority of the dog show fancy.
    I also wonder if any members of the judges review committee ever actually look at the people at dog shows across the country. I was at the Palm Springs shows the last few days and clearly the people participating in dog shows are aging- from exhibitors to judges there are fewer people under 40 than I have ever noticed before. Am I the only person to notice this aging of the dog show world? What if we had a dog show but could not find anyone to judge because the approved judges are to elderly to judge and younger, qualified prospective judges never completed the approval process because of the true horror stories in the approval process? I abhor poor judging just as much as the rest of the fancy but I think that maybe it is better to let a few poor quality judges slip through the process than have no judges at all (I am not saying that Mr. Bengston is a poor quality judge).
    What about integrity and personal responsibility? How can the judges review committee commit such a mistake and then ignore the situation they created? In law enforcement such actions by the judges review committee would render them unreliable and possibly untruthful too. With the exception of the members who resigned, I would never take the version of any story told by the judges approval committee as honest and complete if it was given to me in my previous career. I am not familiar with the identity of the members of this committee except the two mentioned who resigned and sorry Mr. Bivin but I never give you an entry as I disagree with your opinions about dogs but I can say that your actions are those as an honest person and and I am unfamiliar with Mr. Indeglia but I consider you honest now as well. The rest of this committee, whoever you are, consider that actions often speak louder than words and your image is tarnished in my view (however I am a nobody so don’t trouble yourself with my narrow opinions). Mr. Bengston I am sorry for these actions taken against you and wish I could assist you but I am one of the hundreds of nameless, invisible, dog show people and have no influence whatsoever. I support your actions whatever direction they take and wish you success.

  • Elizabeth January 5, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Here Here!

  • Robert E. Hutton January 6, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Dear Bo,

    I have long admired your expertise in the Fancy of Pure Bred Dogs. After reading
    your article you are now my hero! So much needs to said and dealt with in
    regards to this so called judges approval process. The damage done to the Fancy
    these last few years, I do believe, is irreparable. It seems that we, the
    Fanciers with the passion, are dealing with many who are not honestly “dog
    people” and plain do not get it. Some of the others are in country club mode and
    are working more for a selfish not selfless result. I have had so many tell me
    that they, for various reasons, are afraid to speak up, which of course will do
    no good for these problems. Thank you many times over for speaking out. I, and I
    am sure many others, are grateful for what you are doing. May you persevere and
    receive a positive outcome from this rather coarse (to say the least) treatment
    and at the same time serve the Fancy well.

    My very best regards,
    Bobby Hutton

    Previous Message | Next Message

    • Gayle Kaye January 9, 2014 at 5:49 AM

      I think you just hit the nail on the head. More true dog people need to get involved at the upper levels. Good reply…..I concur 100%!

  • Sherry Wallis January 7, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Bo, Like a lot of other judges, I certainly know how you feel. I would have written my sad story, but I figured everyone would just think I was airing a tale of sour grapes.

    My initial approval was for three breeds in 1992, and in order to do that, I had to take a hands-on in a breed that I had shown for years. In my second application, I applied for three more breeds. At that time, the breed test wasn’t open book, and I took a proctored exam at University of Houston. I waited for my application approval to arrive but finally had to call to find out what happened to it. According to the Judges Dept, I hadn’t returned my exam. Thankfully, the school had a signature. I’ve always wondered about the “mail machine” at AKC, because it seems to have a lot of mail behind it.

    Even then, I was denied a breed I’d handled for a friend for a while. Dealing with dog shows, my national club, and my own breedings as well as my family life, I took a break from the applications, and when I applied for five more breeds a few years ago, I was told that I shouldn’t apply until I was observed.

    However, I didn’t have any assignments, and at that time, solicitation was prohibited. When I applied, I went through my interview which I passed easily. I got a letter from the AKC secretary saying that my application was denied because I had not JUDGED ENOUGH SHOWS, that I should judge two or three shows and then reapply. A call to the judges department told a different story–I hadn’t been observed. .

    I offered to send them a video of my judging my national specialty, but that was laughed at, and my request to be observed there beforehand was refused because, the AKC doesn’t send field reps to nationals. Imagine my surprise, then, when I attended anther national a few month later and watched the judge there being observed by the field rep who was there.

    People who know me, know I’m not someone to take on something I don’t study. One of the breeds I was denied was the same breed I’d been denied back in the 90′s, even though I handled them (but for free, as a favor to a friend), attended at least three of their nationals, and had extensive experience with it.

    I was told I couldn’t reapply for a year. I was so upset by this treatment, that I was still too angry to send in the application at the end of the year. The thing that made furious was that on the application where the prerequisites for application for new breeds were listed, there wasn’t one word about the necessity for an observation. Further, there was nothing on the website anywhere about it. I looked back into four years of board meeting minutes and couldn’t find any reference to this as a board policy, nor was it in the board policy manual. When I brought this up to AKC staff, I was told that it was in a letter sent out to judges. I saw that, but since it wasn’t listed on the requirements, I thought it was something you’d be advised to do but not a requirement.

    As the years have rolled by, I’ve found myself increasing less interested in starting this over. After several years of preparation for my failed application, the thought of starting over after five or six years have elapsed is just not appealing. If you don’t do a group and aren’t provisional, clubs don’t have an economic or compliance reason to hire you, so I’m hardly likely to be asked to judge.

    I talked yesterday to someone I know very well who is conscientious about learning about new breeds. She spends a lot of time and money educating herself about them. She went into her interview and felt she was treated very poorly by the field rep. What she said to me was almost exactly what I read on the Judges List recently from another person.

    I don’t understand why dealings with the judges department has to be an adversarial process, which has always been my experience. I don’t understand why applicants are treated as if they were naughty children at best, lying cheats at worst. Without some drastic changes, the dog show world will continue to lose people with much to contribute in the ring.

  • Celeste Gonzalez January 8, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Thank you Bo for telling your story.

    Political correctness and administrative bureaucracy are slowly bringing the AKC judging approval process to its knees, and we, the judges, are being dragged along in the dust left in its wake.

    One doesn’t need to look at just one show-giving organization if one wants to enjoy the sport of dogs and judge…there’s always the UKC. Maybe a mass exodus on the part of exhibitors and judges would send a very clear message to the AKC.

  • jan dykema January 9, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    Dear Bo:
    I hear you loud and clear.. I want to apply for a few more bull breeds but won’t because of this …I hope you decide to “stick it out” because your tenacity will help others.. are you sure you are not a bull breed owner.. ?? LOL

  • Gayle Kaye January 9, 2014 at 5:43 AM

    Dear Bo,
    So sorry that someone with your knowledge, experience, expertise and qualifications has to be put through this. They should be humbled by the fact that you want more breeds and should give you whatever you want on a silver plater. UNBELIEVEABLE!!! Hope this situation is rectified soon!

    Gayle Kaye

  • Libbye Miller January 9, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    I am struck by the number of experienced, well qualified applicants who have had similarly disheartening experiences with the approval process. It seems that AKC is intent on running off many of the people who would make excellent judges with their labyrinthine, rather whimsical rules.

    Lynda Beam’s suggestion is an excellent one. Let the parent clubs continue to do the education, AKC could test on the general rules and regs and give the breed standard test, applicants who pass should be approved and the exhibitors can sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    • SUE MCCLURE
      sue mcclure March 26, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      I think clubs and exhibitors would have less to complain about if it were up to national clubs to approve a person to judge their breed after they attend a breed seminar, national with judges education or re approved through 2 mentors [these clubs ALSO have to beware of the same bureaucratic , who you know attitudes AKC is accused of, so there needs to be a checks and balances process for every club (I've attended very good and very bad breed seminars approved by national clubs)] Clubs would then be responsible for educating the judges on their breeds and AKC can be responsible for procedures. Better breed schooling and possibly more judges would apply. Also – get rid of the incestuous fees to apply. If AKC turns someone down, they should not be able to collect for a second try. It’s not like dog show judging is going to make a living wage for most, if any.

  • Hoover January 9, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Well, I for one believe AKC is a good ‘ol boys club and if you are in their click you are good to go. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Sad that they take this attitude toward those wanting to get their judges license.

  • liz thornton January 10, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Hello Bo, hope all has been well for you and yours since we last met up in Italy. Horrified to read this – and hope someone has the nous to send all these replies to the AKC to help them understand the concept of feedback. My own experience with them ( I judge one breed) was pretty horrific, after someone complained about my winners dog, a junior, at the national speciality. Happy to say that dog is no 1 in breed 2013 and a grand champion now ( vindicated!). It still doesn’t remove the rather unpleasant taste of being treated like a criminal by the AKC for having the temerity to mention on my website that one of my hounds was related to some of the breeders…. you couldn’t make it up, the litter mates i mentioned were by my stud dog born in 1990. This was apparently favouring this kennel. I don’t have to judge in the States and frankly prefer not to….. but how they can throw away someone with your experience and knowledge and moral calibre is quite beyond me.

  • Mark Sachau: Duxinarow Labs January 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    This is the unfortunate, but predictable consequence of years of introspection in an elitist organization that at most opportunities fails to reach outward to its constituents. Most of us compete with our purebred dogs for recreation and fun and because we want the opinions of experienced breeder judges who connect with the everyday exhibitor. Establishing a judging qualification system that discourages the best from being a part of that system is about as ridiculous as AKC’s long time failure to support local animal shelters to help place abandoned dogs. Don’t get me started about the failure’s of our dear non-profit organization that has focused much of its energy on making certain that competing dog organizations have trouble gaining traction or any sort of competitive edge.

  • Fraya Katz Ariel Standard Poodles and Norwich Terriers January 13, 2014 at 2:07 AM

    I just went through all the trouble of filling out papers, verifying numbers and stewarding for a number of shows because somewhere along the way a prospective judge has to know how many dogs were in each class she stewarded .

    After all of this and, oh yes, the application process changed several times while I was trying to go through it, I read the above from one of the most respected judges at AKC and I am suddenly hesitant about going forward.

    Is it worth all the time and money to get a few breeds to judge and then be unable to progress? Dog shows are my beloved hobby, I still show my dogs. Do I need the aggravation?

  • James Dok January 13, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Sad to read, and you are not the first. This is what can occur when there is a serious vacuum of LEADERSHIP!

    • James Dok January 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Appreciate you leaving the comment as I sent. Thanks,
      Jim

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