The AGM – a contentious event By Sheila Atter

Created: 30/05/2012

SHORTLY after the reports started to filter through with regard to the Kennel Club AGM, someone commented to me that it seemed as though all the effort and enthusiasm that had gone into the formation of the Canine Alliance was wasted, as obviously the KC had taken absolutely no notice of the requests made by that body – or even acknowledged the Alliance’s existence.
I suspect that there are many others, both supporters of the Alliance as well as those who have either adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy or are strongly opposed to its formation, who feel the same way. Are they right? On the contrary, knowing that the KC’s usual response to something that it feels might upset the status quo is to completely ignore it for as long as possible, and then resort to delaying tactics in the hope that all concerned will eventually get bored and turn to other things, I rather think that the higher echelons of the KC are indeed very worried about the Canine Alliance and those it represents.
The KC is our governing body. While it is there to administer the regulatory and registration aspects of the pedigree dog world, the KC has a duty of care towards those who use its services. This should surely extend to ensuring that all these folk are treated with respect and their concerns acknowledged.
When questions are raised at grass roots level, these need to be taken seriously, investigated, and where necessary, acted upon. That this patently isn’t being done is nothing short of a disgrace.
Take, for example, the question of coat testing. After all the furore that ensued before the 2011 AGM and the debate that took place during the meeting, action was promised. Indeed, a meeting was organised and a good number of concerned exhibitors took time off work to travel to Stoneleigh on a weekday to offer their point of view. It was a positive move, and many felt heartened and optimistic that for once their opinion was being considered.
So, one year on, what is the outcome? Apparently the KC’s review of the situation is making ’good progress’, but still more research is needed. When further data is received, it will be put before the General Committee and then the members will receive a communication. No mention of further consultation with those most directly affected – the exhibitors.
This year’s AGM promised to be at least equally contentious, but once again the KC proved that if there is one thing the club is good at it is fudging the issue, and manipulating things so that the most difficult, from the General Committee’s point of view, items are left to the last and founder mainly through lack of time for discussion.
One brave soul called out as people were leaving to ask why controversial questions should be left to the end of the meeting – in fact it’s my understanding that some items were taken out of agenda order. Did no one question this from the floor?
And why, given that only a limited time was available for the meeting, did lunch take an hour and a half? Of course, silly me – the staff in the KC dining room couldn’t serve any faster, and isn’t lunch and the networking that goes with it the main reason why some members attend the AGM at all? Given that the meeting wasn’t held at the KC building, but at the Royal Institution, wouldn’t it have been more satisfactory to arrange a buffet luncheon there, so that the meeting could re-convene with a minimum of delay?
Travelling to London can be expensive, and the AGM is timed to allow members to take advantage of off-peak travel, so it isn’t surprising that some felt that they had to leave before the end of the meeting in order to start their journey home, but quite a number of members simply didn’t return after lunch including, I have seen it suggested, some of the committee members.
That is simply disgraceful – yes, we all have a life outside dogs and occasionally it does get in the way, but I would have thought that the busiest person, having managed to make the meeting in the first place, would ensure that their diary was cleared for the whole day, especially as they must have been aware that many people would have an opinion that they would like to air on the contentious subject of veterinary checks. Meanwhile those who did return had the opportunity to debate the issues, if not at length, at least to a certain extent.
It would be foolish to ignore some of the other proposals that came before the AGM. I’m pleased to see that the General Committee does propose to consider the question of the present registration process, as there is no doubt that this is one of the issues that concerns a lot of breeders. I also hope that, along with this will come a realisation that a KC-issued pedigree, sent as part of the registration process as a matter of course, and not as another expense for the breeder, is a matter of necessity in this day and age.
To use these proposals as yet another excuse to trot out publicity for the Assured Breeder Scheme was a complete waste of time in my opinion. Surely all members of the KC are fully aware of the scheme by now.
Michael Parkinson summed up the feelings of many breeders when he said: "The KC justified health checks (at shows) for reasons of only wanting to see healthy dogs, but at the same time it continues to register puppies of irresponsible breeders which could go blind or contract potential fatal diseases. These checks are attacking people who are doing their best for their breed. How can it be right to attack breeders while the KC continues to register potentially unhealthy puppies from unethical puppy farmers?”
At the end of the day, of course, it all comes down to money. I’m pleased that the KC feels that it was no embarrassment to seek an increase in fees, even though again it is the poor beleaguered breeder that will feel the pinch. An extra £2 for each puppy that is registered – that’s a tenner for a litter of five puppies. To suggest that this increase should be passed on to the purchaser is, I think, a little naďve, when so many breeders are actually struggling to find buyers at all. £10 might not sound much, but it’s a good whack towards eye-testing or microchipping or any of the other expenses that breeders have to factor into the equation already, while a few extra quid on the price might just turn a potential buyer to look towards an unregistered or non-health screened litter instead.
So where does this leave the Canine Alliance? Bowed down and deflated? No, I think not. On the contrary, the fact that veterinary checks have so obviously been watered down since Crufts must be due in no small part to the work done behind the scenes by the Alliance. There is still a long way to go, but the voice of the people will be heard.