On the afternoon of March 28, 2012, three members of the recently formed Canine Alliance met with two representatives of the Kennel Club in Great Britain to air their grievances regarding the breeds that were disqualified from Group competition at Crufts this year. Canine Alliance Secretary Robert Harlow, along with Michael Gadsby and Lisa Croft-Elliott, met with KC Secretary Caroline Kisko and Executive of Canine Activities Kathryn Symns at the KC offices in Clarges Street, London.
In a meeting that lasted approximately one and a half hours, the alliance representatives aired objections to what it has described as the “fundamental failings” of the Kennel Club’s launch of its program to require veterinary checks for 15 so-called high-profile breeds. The decision to require these inspections was taken by the KC General Committee on the advice of its Dog Health Group. The first show to require the vet checks was Crufts, but they are to take place at future General and Group Championship shows.
Kisko noted in a press release following the meeting that the Kennel Club and the Canine Alliance, a grassroots organization formed following Crufts that boasts more than 1,500 paid members, have the same goals for this and future meetings. “We are glad that we all share the same objective, of protecting and supporting the well-being of pedigree dogs and of ensuring that healthy dogs are rewarded in the show ring,” she said, “and we are committed to ensuring that fair and equitable measures are put in place to achieve this outcome.”
Among the points that were included in the alliance presentation, compiled by Gadsby, was the request that the KC immediately suspend the current program until a more suitable method can be developed. Kisko said that although the program cannot be suspended at this time, “We have asked the alliance to present their specific proposals for our consideration.”
After the meeting, Harlow said, “We were delighted with the response of the Kennel Club to our request for an early meeting and feel that our proposals are being taken seriously.” However, he went on to say that they “had hoped this meeting would have led to a prompt response to the actions” that led to the creation of the Canine Alliance, and that alliance representatives were “disappointed that the veterinary examinations of Best of Breed winners are continuing to go ahead in their present form.”
The next show at which dogs will be subject to the examinations is the U.K. Toy Dog Society show on March 31 in Stafford.
Among many points brought up during the meeting, Gadsby noted that since the uproar that began in Britain’s dog show world following the airing of the “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” television program in 2008, breeders and exhibitors have, from the outset, been supportive of the KC health initiatives and that progress has been made toward strengthening the relationship between the Kennel Club and its constituency. However, as he pointed out, “Changes that will be of benefit to our breeds cannot be achieved overnight.”
Members of the alliance have come out in support of taking appropriate action to ensure that pedigree dogs are healthy and long-lived. Their argument is largely with the fact that 15 random breeds were chosen for the health checks under the new system, while such initiatives should be designed to protect all breeds. Further, prior to the Crufts show, KC Chairman Steve Dean assured exhibitors that the veterinary examinations would replicate the examination that each dog receives by the judge in the show ring. The reality was reportedly far from that.
The Canine Alliance argued both that the veterinarians chosen for the exams were not selected with the necessary care and that the examinations were not carried out as promised prior to the show. According to CA published comments, fanciers whose dogs underwent examinations reported that the veterinarians were “overzealous” and that the exams were “so intrusive as to cause distress to the exhibit and to the owner/handler.” According to the CA, in all 15 cases the time taken for the examinations allegedly “far exceeded the time a judge would take to examine an exhibit.” No instruments were to be used in these inspections, yet in several cases the veterinarians did exactly that.
Also of concern to the alliance is the fact that the discernment of Kennel Club judges, all of whom, according to Gadsby, “have been put through the most rigorous training and testing procedures,” was brought into question. The judges whose BOB selections were disqualified are expected to themselves be able to identify a dog with an exaggeration that would lead to health or welfare issues. Yet the KC elected to act on the opinions of veterinarians who were reportedly hastily selected without sufficient briefing or vetting.
Finally, the CA objects to the fact that no appeals process was put in place that could be implemented during the Crufts dog show. At Crufts 2009, after ringside observers suggested that the Best of Breed winner in Pekingese be seen by a veterinarian, she was disqualified from going on to the Group. However, an appeal and an examination by a second veterinarian led to the disqualification being overturned.
While the initial meeting between the Kennel Club and the Canine Alliance was inarguably a positive step, much work remains to be done. According to Harlow, “We informed the Kennel Club that our next committee meeting is due to be held on 18th April, and they have asked us to come back to them with specific proposals after that meeting.”
More information about the alliance’s activities can be found at www.caninealliance.org, where interested parties can also join or make a donation. The Canine Alliance can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/caninealliance.