Sleepy Salzburg goes to the dogs by Andrew Brace
As a non-member obviously l did not attend the Kennel Club annual general meeting (AGM) but have enough reliable colleagues and friends who did that l feel I have a pretty good picture of what went on. The reaction of most of the people to whom I have spoken is that this was a choreographed meeting where one of the main items on the agenda was deliberately sidelined.
While other important matters were on the agenda, my main interests for obvious reasons were the proposals that related to the Crufts veterinary checks that rocked the dog world. My friends tell me that the mood of the meeting was tangible in that early in the day it was obvious that the vast majority of those present were not in favour of the veterinary checks that are being carried out in their present form.
In truth, no one really expected to hear a full-blown apology for the heavy-handed way in which the new veterinary checks were implemented at Crufts, but some token of remorse would have been well received on behalf of the exhibitors and judges who were so humiliated on that fateful day. I suppose that really was too much to expect.
It seemed to many that the introduction of the filibuster of an unscheduled Assured Breeder Scheme commercial was merely a ploy to pad things out so that the topic of the veterinary checks was given as little time as possible at the end of a meeting that had a definite closing time, and after many people had left.
I have to say I find it unbelievable that so many members either fail to return after lunch, or leave before the meeting has finished. Surely everyone assumed this was going to be a lengthy meeting and could have planned their travel schedules accordingly? I cannot believe that some General Committee members were absent before the meeting ended.
I am told that the only reason the vote went in favour of the veterinary checks staying in their present form was that none of the proposals offered an alternative. With hindsight, it would have been interesting to see how things would have fallen had such an alternative – such as the basic vetting of all dogs before being exhibited – been included.
Now we come to one of the most revealing aspects of the meeting. Former chairman Ronnie Irving and current chairman Steve Dean apparently went into scaremonger mode when they told the meeting that outside forces were keeping a close eye on showing and breeding, suggesting perhaps that this could bring about the end of dog shows. That strikes me as pretty powerful stuff; the possible demise of our sport. So if the veterinary checks were of such importance that they prompted such stirring remarks from those at the top why on earth were they relegated to the very end of an extremely long day?
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have several new General Committee members and enough of the old brigade who were clearly relieved when chairman Steve Dean assured the meeting that the veterinary checks are to be subject to a process review. Let’s hope the General Committee ensures that the feelings of the meeting are acted upon – soon.
Those exhibitors in the highly persecuted breeds handle the veterinary checks differently and each individual’s chosen course of action should be respected. Many of my acquaintances believe that unless they present their dogs confidently to the vets when they win best of breed they will never get off the high-profile list. Consequently, while they wholly disapprove of the current checks, they feel obliged to co-operate for the good of their breed.
At this early stage of the unpopular veterinary checks the breeds involved have been given no indication of exactly what will be required of their breed before it is taken off the list of 15. This is not acceptable. When people go along with the KC’s requests they should at least know what results they need to achieve. They need to be told now what percentage of dogs need to pass the veterinary check and over what period of time. The breeds involved must be given this information now and not a few years down the line – Clarges Street is both adept and experienced at moving goal posts when it suits.
At this point in time would kennel clubs around the world not be well advised to forget their petty differences and pull together in an attempt to ensure our sport survives? Rather than worrying that some overseas judges may have only judged 101 dogs of a breed instead of 125 when invited to award CCs, should we not be focusing on defending our breeds, our breeders and our exhibitors against the dark forces that would see an end to dog shows and purebred dogs? After all, the KC happily empowers a vet who has never attended so much as a hands-on assessment to award best of breed at our major shows so there is a certain incongruity here.
The impasse between Clarges Street and the FCI on the question of judges’ approval persists but could so easily be resolved with a little understanding and humility. In Salzburg l was astounded how much contempt people from the FCI countries have for our governing body right now. So many people approached me to express their dismay at the arrogance they feel is shown by the KC on so many different subjects.
I have said before that l can quite understand that the KC does not want to find itself in a situation where it has to automatically approve someone from one of the emerging FCI countries who is not as experienced in a breed as they would like, but have repeatedly pointed out that no one would be in that position unless they were first invited. Ronnie lrving never seemed to have as much faith in our show committees as I do, but I genuinely believe that no self-respecting club in the UK would invite a judge to award CCs without first researching their background and being satisfied that they were up to the job.
I recently had dinner with someone I consider a good friend who also happens to be president of his national kennel club. He told me that if he was in a position to do so he would ban all UK judges from officiating in FCI countries until Clarges Street recognised FCI’s judges. He is not alone. And please don’t think this would just affect the all-rounders who previously appeared on the ‘top 16’ list; it would mean that no British breed specialists would ever be allowed to judge at FCI international shows. This would be a great shame for so many breeds where they still appreciate and value judges from the mother country.
Thanks to our own governing body’s stubbornness, the reputation and profile of the British all-rounder hangs in the balance. It is a problem we could well do without. And make no mistake about it, there are plenty of judges in the FCI countries who would happily take up the invitations.
My trip to Salzburg for the World Show was a fleeting one. I flew in on Friday and left on Sunday. My original contract was to judge Miniature Pinschers and Chinese Crested bitches but when the FCI ‘special arrangement’ for the top 16 UK judges being able to award CACIBs, regardless of whether or not they had actually awarded challenge certificates at home, was rescinded obviously I was unable to judge the Min Pins. After explaining the situation to the Austrian Kennel Club I suggested they may wish to cancel the invitation, but they seemed quite happy for me to go just for the Cresteds. There were 74 bitches for me to judge and quality was very pleasing.
Salzburg is known primarily to the outside world for two reasons – it is the birthplace of Mozart and provided the backdrop for The Sound of Music and many visitors take the opportunity to see much of the city on the ‘Sound of Music tour bus’. It is a quiet and relaxing kind of place and obviously didn’t know what had hit it when exhibitors for the World Dog Show arrived in their thousands. There were considerable traffic problems getting into the show and some exhibitors spoke of three-hour journeys to travel as many kilometres.
Many breed specialty shows were being held in tandem so most exhibitors managed to take in at least two events when they were in Austria.
The hairless and powderpuff bitches were judged separately, each coat receiving a CAC but then meeting to compete for the CACIB. For me the standout winner was the winner of the open hairless class, Solino’s Rive Gauche, and when we were taking photos afterwards her handler informed me that she had been my group winner in Switzerland when I judged at St Gallen last year. I usually have very good recall of dogs but must admit to not recognising her. She had come from Siberia! In any event I loved her size, shape, soundness, showmanship and skin and she was not overly furnished. Monique van Brempt judged the males and BOB where I felt the bitch was rather unlucky.
Commentator in the big ring was Tamas Jakkel and I understand that he and his Hungarian Kennel Club colleagues are relieved that the government have agreed to postpone any action against them until after next year’s World Show.
On Saturday evening there was a gala dinner held at the very impressive ‘Residenz’ that was once the Archbishop’s palace. There I bumped into many British judges who had been brought out to judge at the specialty shows.
On Sunday morning the Kennel Club chairman kindly drove out to my hotel to pay me as there had been a problem getting expenses at the show and dropped me off at the airport. I wished I could have stayed longer to see more of Salzburg but I needed a few days at home before setting off for Ecuador.
I,agree with a lot Andrew writes.
Ireland, insists,judges who judge at championship shows in Ireland have to award challenge certificates ,if they come from mainland Britain.
This, despite many of their shows are like open shows,when it comes to entries.
I,know many English judges,who are not yet passed to award challenge certificates,who have judged hundreds,of their breed.
Compare that with F.C.I. judges,some of whom.haven't even judged 100 of a breed before awarding F.C.I. top awards.
The British Kennel Club and the F.C.I. Kennel Clubs,need a total review of how championship show judges are passed to award their championship awards as many good judges are being overlooked.
Spotty Muldoon, 07/06/2012
A commentator on the Diamond Jubilee said that it was a mark of the Queen's excellence that she had managed the decline of Britain with such dignity. I thought that rather harsh, but on reflection, true. Perhaps dignity is a quality the doggy folk should be bringing to the decline of our sport? As numbers fall, as these, so-called, outside forces seek to scrutinise our activities and as "our" KC does too little too late, maybe it is time to bow out with dignity? Just a thought.