Florida Classic Park

As I have written here, the month of January is critical to the AKC conformation show season. Three venues provide so many points that a dog who does well at one or more of the sites can build an almost insurmountable lead for a national campaign. One of those clusters is the Florida Classic Cluster in mid January. The cluster in Brooksville FL offers exhibitors ten shows in a eleven day period every year. The other sites are on the West Coast in Indio (Palm Springs) CA the first week of January and in Portland OR the third week of the year.

For some time I have heard rumors that the January shows at the Florida Classic Park in Brooksville were in jeopardy because of a dispute among four of the host clubs. The site is owned by four clubs, the Clearwater Kennel Club, the Tampa Bay Kennel Club, the Pasco Florida Kennel Club and the Inverness Kennel Club. The Inverness KC has brought suit against the Florida Classic Park and Florida Classic Clusters LLC Last Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reported, “The ongoing legal battle means the 2013 Florida Classic Clusters, scheduled to be held Jan. 10 to 14 and Jan. 16 to 20, likely will not be held at the Hernando facility, its home since 1999.”

The Tampa Bay Times article outlines some of the grievances that sparked the suit, but I’m not interested in who did what to whom. I am more concerned about what impact this suit will have on the sport. January’s shows in Florida shows provide a balance to the show game that will be out of kilter if these shows do not find a home. Exhibitors who live on the West Coast, and those who have the money to travel to there, will have a distinct advantage on those living this side of the Mississippi, roughly 70 percent of those showing dogs. The impact on the clubs party to the suit is unclear.  Not only is there the possibility that the January cluster will be lost, the site may be lost permanently, impacting the viability of these clubs and others who use the site.

There are impacts beyond our own hobby, beyond the four clubs, and the exhibitors at the cluster. There are dozens of businesses that will have a difficult time recovering from the loss of this venue, e.g., show vendors, local restaurants, motels, and others.

While I spend a lot of my time writing about the rankings races, records, and competitions at the marquee shows, my main mission is to promote this game I love. I am a firm believer that the purpose of dog shows is not to break records or gather titles, but to put on display the wonderful animals we share our lives with, and to educate the public about what we do and why we do it. Those of us in the sport have an obligation to put our own interests second to the viability of the hobby. There’s not much satisfaction in having a kennel full of titles and records if you have no place to take your dogs to show them off.

I frequently hear from one person or another who has a complaint against the AKC, a club, or another group of people. I almost never hear from someone who wants to know what they can do to strengthen the dog game. I’m sure that there are some legitimate issues to be worked out in this case. I hope the parties can reach a quick and mutually satisfactory resolution. It would be a shame if the legacy the parties to this suit left to the sport was the demise of one of its most successful and loved institutions. And that’s today’s Back Story.