Time to ask some serious questions by Andrew Brace
Having left UK Toydog I drove over to the Sports Connexion where the Schnauzer Club of Great Britain was holding its championship show. Johan Juslin had flown in the previous day from Finland to judge the Giants and Schnauzers while the Miniatures had been entered for the opinion of Caroline Wareing. Di and Carl Johnson were interested ringsiders; they have always had a fondness for the Schnauzer breeds and two once-young couples who were very much protégés of Di’s – the Kralls and the Wareings – went on to great success with the Schnauzer breeds after having served a lengthy apprenticeship in Great Danes.
I had been asked to judge best in show, best puppy and best veteran and the appointment proved to be one of those that involved quite clear-cut decisions. For BIS I felt that the Giant male, Ch Draxpark Big Shot, was a standout. He really is all Schnauzer, combines substance with quality, had excellent balance and outline and a proper jacket. On the move he was sound and free and went with some power. Reserve to him was the black and silver Miniature bitch, Ch Nortonchase Kiss In The Dark at Minivale, as smart as paint when set up; she too has a really clean outline but couldn’t quite match the movement and coat of the big boy.
Best puppy was, I felt, an easy win for the ten months old pepper and salt Miniature male, Yakuza Crossfire, who I am sure has a great future ahead of him. He was really impressive on the table and is a great little showman. Reserve best puppy was the much rawer Giant bitch, Foxwood Too Hot To Handle, who has potential but needs a lot of time.
The special award for best veteran was another comfortable victory for the Schnauzer male, Ch Tamberg Chayote Kid, in really great shape as he approaches his 11th birthday and he can outmove many of the younger dogs in his breed. It was a very pleasant afternoon, far from taxing, with some really excellent dogs in contention.
As the repercussions of the veterinary examinations at Crufts continue to rattle on, there are several fundamental points that have been totally overlooked and need to be examined very closely.
In the first instance, should we be asking the Kennel Club chairman to publicly confirm that all judges at KC licensed shows should still be judging breeds against the current published breed Standard? It might seem superfluous or frivolous but I think it must be asked and answered to establish an important first base.
It is a question not posed lightly, but the vet’s remarks to the Basset Hound’s handler at Crufts suggested that dogs should be examined ‘as dogs’ rather than examples of their individual breeds.
If judges ARE expected to judge to the KC’s breed Standards then should they not expect the full support of the KC when they do? If the breed Standards are to be ignored, or compromised, in favour of some veterinary-inspired generic canine then let the KC admit the fact. Then we will know exactly what we are dealing with.
Ever since Crufts the rooms have been packed with elephants with so many people pussyfooting around core issues.
It is my belief that all who are serious about breeding and exhibiting dogs want their dogs to be as healthy as possible, but they still want them to remain faithful to their breed Standard and their heritage. Animal rights extremists have seen the dog show world as an easy target, a quantifiable collective that can be easily ridiculed and injured. It is much easier for TV producers with a specific agenda to attack the world of dog shows and dog breeding via the KC than expose a much greater ill, that being the thousands of purebred dogs that are produced in substandard circumstances and brought into this world with zero consideration to their health and well being. That would be far too great a challenge.
The recently formed Canine Alliance has been wrongly accused of being a reactionary group who are just opposed to health testing. The facts – and they are all out there if people just took the time to read and study – are that the Alliance considers in the strongest terms that the method in which the veterinary checks were carried out at Crufts were flawed at so many levels, and proven to be. However rather than being opposed to health testing the Alliance wants ALL dogs that are either exhibited or bred from to have some kind of health certification before they are shown or mated. However that would result in the KC suffering a considerable loss of revenue as you can guarantee that the commercial breeders whose prime motive is profit will neither microchip nor health-test their breeding stock. Consequently they will no longer be able to pass off their puppies as ‘KC registered’.
This is what should be tackled, rather than distributing fancy DVDs asking for affiliate memberships from people who will have zero input and voting powers. And until such time as the KC membership is more representative of the average dog breeder and exhibitor, it will never be able to speak for them.
I was astounded to receive an email last week from a very good friend of mine in the US. It read, "You know me pretty well and you will agree it takes a LOT to shock me!
"I just went to the post office and there was a large envelope addressed to my late friend, who has been dead for over two-and-a-half years, from your Kennel Club. It contains two CDs, lots of promotional literature selling things and a letter inviting people to become affiliate members. Right now the chances are greater of my joining PETA! Does the KC realise just how Americans feel towards them right now?
"I saw the video last night when they interviewed the lady with the Clumber and it brought tears to my eyes. If it were not for great Pekingese breeders in Britain we would not have had the likes of Chik T’sun, Dragon, Breathless, Jeffrey, Malachy etc. My heart goes out to all breeders in Britain. Has your Kennel Club never heard of the Boston tea party? Please let me know what I can do to help. I am sure many Americans would love to help too. Your Canine Alliance committee will affect the sport worldwide.”
The other thing that seems to have been totally ignored in favour of appearing politically correct is the basic principle of the whole judging system.
Over the years the KC has developed a stricter and broader based, more demanding apprenticeship for the judges it eventually approves to award its challenge certificates. By inference, does not approval to do so mean that the governing body feels that these people are competent and capable of deciding which dogs are sufficiently outstanding – and healthy – as to be worthy of the title of champion?
How then can it possibly ridicule all of a judge’s qualifications on the stroke of a pen from one veterinary surgeon who has never judged a dog in his or her life? This is exactly what it is doing when the vet’s opinion cancels the breed judge’s BOB award. And then, to me the most insane aspect of the whole system, the BOB winner is allowed to keep the challenge certificate! This is a farce. If the KC feels that strongly about giving the vets greater judicial powers than the judges, then it should cancel the CC as well and have the guts to put its money where its mouth is.
Not that many years ago a DOG WORLD columnist suggested that we would soon see the day when vets were effectively judging our shows, and it has happened, just a little more quickly than expected.
Yes – healthy dogs are vitally important, just as is their wellbeing and safety – but we need to wake up to the fact that there are forces at work that would happily see some of our breeds become extinct. Is this what we really want? You may think this is alarmist thinking, so just cast your mind back to some institutions you felt would be there forever but are now just distant memories.
There will have been many happy people around the world when the news broke that the Crufts BOB winning Bulldog, Ch Mellowmood One In A Million, had topped the Canine Supporters’ Contest of Champions. She was refused her rightful place in the group at Crufts on the say-so of a vet, where she would have brought nothing but credit to the most British of breeds. This win could never have undone the damage, humiliation and embarrassment that Crufts caused, but served as some kind of poetic justice when four overseas judges acknowledged one of Britain’s best.