Those of us who enjoy the avocation of owning, breeding and showing purebred dogs may never again hear a more pressing message than this: we must stand together and not allow internal battles to divide us, or we are destined to lose our war against animal rights extremists. If we stand united, we can fight anything; if we allow arguments to divide us from our kennel clubs and our peers in the sport of dogs, we will not be strong enough to stand against those who want to take away our right to breed and show dogs.

The words we must keep at the forefront of our minds were used by American revolutionary Patrick Henry, in a speech given in 1799: “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” Henry was talking about nothing short of the existence of the United States of America, but the words are just as applicable today to the place in which we find ourselves when situations, such as the one at Crufts this past weekend, occur.

As many readers know, the Kennel Club in England imposed a new rule for a few specific shows in the U.K. requiring that certain breeds – those they’ve determined have health issues that need to be monitored and corrected – be examined and “passed” by a veterinarian before being allowed to compete at the Group level. The first time the rule was implemented, of course, was at Crufts 2012, and we understand that the uproar caused by six dogs not being allowed to go on to the Group is being “heard ‘round the world.”

Judging just from the responses posted on Best In Show Daily, to say that this has brought out raw emotion in fanciers is to put it mildly. The dismay and anger aimed at the Kennel Club are understandable. We sympathize with the defensive responses from people involved with the breeds in question. It seems that the way the examinations were conducted and the veterinarians appointed to perform them had little to do with the reality of the health concerns for the breeds in question.

The Kennel Club must be called on to develop a legitimate method for conducting these examinations. But the point of this article is not to argue that; rather it is to remind everyone that we must respond to these problems reasonably and calmly so that together we can confront the issues that face our dogs and our sport to find sensible, workable solutions.

The strategy of “divide and conquer,” sometimes also called “divide and rule,” has been used throughout history, when one power would systematically break an opposing power into smaller groups that would then be easier to conquer. PETA is a very powerful and wealthy organization with a carefully planned long-term strategy, not only to end hobby breeding and the showing of dogs, but to end pet ownership as we know it.

PETA and the other extreme animal rights groups want sensible people like you and me to argue over things like what happened at Crufts this past weekend. They want us to refuse to go back to Crufts, to refuse to support the Kennel Club in England, and then eventually the American Kennel Club as well. They want us to threaten to go off on our own, thinking that each of us can breed dogs and keep dogs the way we want to breed and keep them.

We must not succumb to this tactic. We have to stay in the fight…this is not a call to do anything less than that.

But let’s work together to get the message out that we know that many of our breeds are facing genetic disease and disorders that threaten their well-being. Instead of being defensive, let’s vow to approach people who don’t understand the problems in our breeds in a reasonable way, to let them know that, above all, we live with and love our dogs and want them to be healthy. Let’s vow to continue, personally and through our parent clubs, to fund research and support genetic testing that will one day help eradicate these problems. Let’s vow to face these issues head on and be the first to honestly say that we’re doing everything we can to solve them. Let’s vow to do all of the necessary health testing that will allow us to breed only the healthiest dogs to other healthy dogs. Let’s vow to be part of the solution by helping to educate the public about what we’re doing to make the world better for all dogs.

Further, let’s work together to support our kennel clubs, to make them stronger, so that together we can fight the animal rights extremists. Let’s offer reasonable methods by which the Kennel Club in England can implement its “high profile breeds” examinations using orthopedic specialists, veterinary ophthalmologists, specialists who have experience and knowledge regarding upper airway syndrome, and other veterinarians who can genuinely make a statement that the dogs they are examining are free from – or, if necessary, continue to suffer from – these conditions that we want to eradicate in our breeds.

I know – we all know – that it will not be as easy as this sounds. The point here is that we can’t allow ourselves to be divided. The kennel clubs and our fellow breeders are not the enemy. Division is the enemy of our future success. Let’s vow to work together to fight those who want to take our beloved dogs away from us.

Like the commitment required of the revolutionaries in the young United States of America more than 200 years ago, the existence of our world of showing dogs will ultimately hang on our commitment to not allow disagreements to divide us.

English Dog World magazine reported the following on its website on Tuesday:

“DOG SHOW exhibitors and breeders unhappy with the way the Kennel Club’s health checks on the 15 so-called high-profile breeds were handled at Crufts will attend a meeting in the Midlands on Thursday evening.

“As the result of a Facebook campaign called ‘Exhibitors Voice and Choice,’ launched on Sunday night, a meeting has been arranged to let exhibitors sound off about what happened at Crufts when six breeds were banned from competing for the group after failing the newly-introduced veterinary checks after winning best of breed.

“The meeting is set to take place from 6 pm on Thursday in the Britannia Suite at the National Motorcycle Museum located close to the NEC where Crufts took place. The announcement on the Facebook group says the meeting will ‘discuss the implications of the health checks carried out at Crufts and arrive at some conclusions which would be forwarded to the KC.’

“Andrew Brace says of the group: ‘Everyone who is passionate about our sport is requested to attend – regardless of what breed you have. This affects everyone.’

“Emotions on the Facebook group are running high, with some commentators particularly upset that some of the UK’s most experienced and well-respected judges had their decisions overturned.”