I DON’T know how many of you take the trouble to read the minutes of the Kennel Club liaison council for whatever aspect of the dog world you are involved in. It’s worth doing so to see what the delegates are putting forward on your behalf and it may well be that some of their ideas eventually come to reality.
The minutes of the November Breeds Council meeting are to hand and hardly surprisingly the subject of judges was uppermost on delegates’ minds.
Starting with previous recommendations, the KC had been asked to ‘re-evaluate the procedure when appointing first-time judges by taking account of the breed council’s views on prospective judges’.
The General Committee confirmed that breed club opinion was always taken into consideration: ‘However it was the quality of the information which was crucial in its deliberations. In particular, information must be objective and factual.’
The Committee requested that in order to give a better understanding of what the Sub-Committee required when considering questionnaires the office provide some guidance on ‘useful and meaningful opinion information’ and that the Council be made aware of the information that the KC had recently issued with regards to Stud Book bands and breed club judges list requirements.
Brought forward was a proposal that as part of the judges’ contract all critiques must be sent to both dog papers and the show secretary. Secretaries should be asked to include in their annual returns a list of reports they have not received.
The office explained that there was no specified time limit for publication of critiques as it was up to the dog press to set its own publication schedule. However it was highlighted that the office would investigate any missing critiques which were drawn to its attention. Societies may, if they wish, specify in their contract with the judge that a critique should be submitted to the secretary, and if this requirement was not fulfilled, the matter should be referred to the office for investigation as a possible breach of contract.
On to actual proposals and the Irish Red and White Setter Club of GB proposed that in the interest of breed security, where out-crossing to another breed is recommended, a development register should be created by the KC. The club felt that the current system of marking outcrosses with an asterisk was adequate but not ideal as it could be prone to error and could lead to confusion.
The KC had not used a development register for over 20 years and considered that doing so would represent a backward step. However, the council obviously disagreed with that view as it supported the proposal.
The Welsh Corgi Pembroke Judges Sub-Committee made various suggestions regarding requirements for first-time CC judges.
It expressed its concern that having spent considerable effort in considering potential new judges as to their suitability to award CCs, its views were often apparently disregarded by the KC. As a result some shows had attracted extremely poor entries for judges who were not held in esteem by exhibitors. It was concerned that numbers of classes and dogs judged seem to be the main criteria, and suggested that acceptance of its proposal would help to ensure that judges built up sufficient knowledge of the breed to gain positive support from the breed club/council.
For the KC, Simon Luxmoore acknowledged the frustration experienced by clubs when it appeared that their views were not taken into account, but explained that the objective of the KC Judges Sub-Committee was to ensure fairness and consistency when considering judges for approval.
Breed clubs’ opinions were taken into account but that where a breed club did not support a judge, it was important that a clear and objective rationale, with supporting evidence, was provided to support the opinion. Where this was not provided, or where there was sufficient evidence to suggest that the judge was capable of judging a breed well, the opinion of the breed club may be overridden.
He acknowledged that it was increasingly difficult for judges to accumulate numbers of dogs judged due to the decline in show entries and revealed that the KC is considering an alternative approach to methods of assessing the suitability of new judges to award CCs.
He also said that a breed club may specify its own criteria for placing a judge on its own A3 list; these did not necessarily have to be identical to the KC’s guideline for numbers required in each breed. However, where a breed club’s requirement was different from that of the KC, the KC would assess a potential judge based on its own criteria, not those of the breed club. It was also highlighted that a proportion of questionnaires were submitted by B list judges who may not fulfil all the requirements for a club’s A3 list.
Going on to the Pembroke people’s specific proposals:
That all judges who wish to judge a new breed should have to attend a breed appreciation seminar being run in compliance with the KC code of best practice: supported.
That they should be mentored by a breed specialist, nominated by the breed club/council: deemed impractical and not supported.
That they should study breed Standards and specific breed literature and reference material as recommended by the breed club/council: agreed.
That they should spend time observing the breed at shows and speaking to exhibitors about the finer points of the breed: agreed.
A concern was raised that should the above proposals be approved by the General Committee, there would be a good deal of additional work which may be onerous in those breeds where there was only one club. It was confirmed that the KC would generally look favourably upon applications for a second breed club as long as normal criteria were met.
The Pembroke people also raised a sensitive issue, and proposed that the KC consider re-introducing an upper age limit for judges awarding CCs for the first time in a breed.
Mr Luxmoore explained that the JSC could only implement the KC’s own regulations and could not impose an upper age limit. It was hoped that those show societies nominating older judges were doing so in the knowledge that the individual concerned was capable of fulfilling the appointment in a satisfactory manner. Should the JSC have a concern over a particular judge it would draw it to the attention of the inviting society.
The council did not support the proposal, but hoped that judges who did not feel able to continue judging would be able to offer their services in a mentoring capacity.
Under discussion items the Great Dane Breed Council, Mastiff Association and Southern Bullmastiff Society expressed concern in response to the KC’s A3 judges list guidance where it had altered the requirements without consultation with breed clubs. The decline in show entries meant that it was increasingly difficult for aspiring judges to accumulate sufficient numbers to achieve A3 status; however there was also a concern that reducing the numbers required to qualify for an A or B judging list could lead to a reduction in the quality of judges being approved for such lists.
Mr Luxmoore confirmed that the JSC had always assessed potential judges based on the Stud Book banding for each breed, which was derived from entry figures at championship shows, and that this policy had not been changed. The figures were recalculated on an annual basis so reflected trends in entries for each breed. The guidance had been released solely in the interests of clarity.
He again clarified that breed clubs may set their own criteria for judges lists and that it was not necessary for them to use the KC’s criteria if they wished not to do so.
The Great Dane Council was another to make suggestions to improve the quality of judges, some of which had been dealt with earlier in the meeting. Others included the introduction of a trainee judge system, which apparently is already under consideration by the KC. It was accepted that it was important to differentiate between those new to judging and experienced judges wishing to judge additional breeds. Mentoring was mentioned again; the Great Dane Club of Wales has operated mentoring for its special awards event classes for a number of years. This too is under consideration by the KC.
The Dane Council feels that evaluation of judges should take place before they are approved to award CCs for the first time, at a club show with the placement of dogs also being evaluated in conjunction with the present evaluation requirements. Trainee judges in the ring, as at FCI shows, were also mentioned – must admit I thought this had been allowed by the KC some years back but very few seemed to take advantage of it.
The liaison council emphasised the importance of judging lists being kept up to date by breed clubs.
The KC confirmed its intention to make such information available in relation to judges approved to award CCs; as we know this has now happened.
Finally, the Border Terrier Club proposed that in making reciprocal arrangements for the approval of championship show judges with the FCI (or any other overseas kennel body), the General Committee should be asked to ensure that the level of practical experience required of overseas judges for approval to award CCs is equivalent to the level required of domestic UK judges.
Mr Luxmoore said that the JSC was currently working with the FCI regarding the mutual recognition of judges, and of course this has within the last week been finalised.
One thing emerges from all this, that there is still a lot of difference between the judges exhibitors are inflicted with and those the exhibitors would like to have. Surely it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for this to be sorted out?