IF ANYTHING emerged from the Kennel Club’s annual meeting, it is that the Committee is not in tune with the members on the most basic of issues: what is the club actually for?
Is it just a generic canine welfare organisation, aimed at promoting and looking after all members of the canine species who happen to live in the UK?
Or, while supporting dogs in general, is it aimed principally at encouraging the selective breeding of what are more or less accurately described as ‘purebred’ dogs?
The committee has clearly felt that the best way forward for the sake of the club and for dogs and dog people is the former. It, or at least its most recent leaders, believe strongly that if its main focus is seen purely to be the ‘pure’ breeds, that will undermine the club’s influence with Government and the world outside our own.
Until now the members, even if grumbling privately and in the press and social media, have been content to go along with this. But now mounting resentment has exploded and a majority of members who voted supported Jean Lanning’s resolution for a working party to look into the whole question, even though both the Committee collectively, and the chairman individually, recommended they vote against.
Clearly a great many breeders of ‘pure’ bred dogs feel the KC has gone a step too far in its emphasis (in bold type) on ALL dogs.
For decades they have coped with the club having a separate list for dogs not on the pedigree register, so they can compete in some of the working disciplines. More recently, they have accepted the club setting up yet another register, for ‘companion dogs’. They accepted the KC getting involved in Scruffts, a ‘competition’ for mongrels, and making it a centrepiece of Discover Dogs, and even going so far as to giving it a high-profile ‘final’ in Crufts’ main ring. They have accepted – often with some reluctance – the KC allowing outcrosses in certain breeds.
But now their patience seems to have been exhausted. What was the final straw? Was it just a build-up of resentment, or is it the fact that the Assured Breeder Scheme, which the KC is so keen for leading breeders to support, is also able to encompass those who produce non-pedigree dogs?
Most can cope with the fact that charities like Guide Dogs, which produce crossbreeds for specific good reasons, can be members, but beyond that it is perhaps a step too far for many.
Whatever the final cause, the dam has now broken and the floods released. Will they take with them the chairman too? The next Committee meeting will surely be an interesting one… There is no direct way of determining whether he still commands the confidence of a majority of the membership but if he cannot do so within his own committee then it would clearly be curtains.
But those who would like to see him go might do well to consider whether a possible replacement exists who shares their views and attitudes. If not, then it might be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’....
This little detail aside, where do we go next? No one, we hope, would seriously suggest that the activity register, at least, ceases to exist. Miss Lanning suggests that this and the companion dog register come under a separate brand, leaving the accolade of ‘Kennel Club registration’ to the ‘pure’ bred dogs. Would that be sufficient? Many would feel that the ABS should be confined to those who breed solely dogs of breeds on the KC register.
These two moves would surely be a sensible start which would go a significant distance towards pacifying those who feel that pedigree dogs should still be regarded as special, while at the same time allowing the club to continue with that part of its work which really is for ‘all’ dogs.
THOSE members who didn’t, or were unable, to return to the annual meeting after the lunch break missed the most interesting part. In addition to Miss Lanning’s motion, the two proposed by John Symonds were also passed, thanks largely to the proxy votes.
The Committee, although not showing their disapproval in this case, hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic but the members clearly feel there is a case for looking again at both the committee structure and the effectiveness of the club’s communication strategy. Whether anything will come of the resulting working parties clearly depends on the Committee’s willingness to take note, but in any case interesting times lie ahead.
One aspect which certainly needs to be looked at, as Dr Symonds suggests, is the concentration of power within a small number of the Committee, some of whom, as trustees, are not in the slightest accountable to the membership.
Few expected, when proxy voting was introduced as an integral part of the new constitution, that the members would become so keen to challenge the status quo as has proved to be the case this year and last. Is this a foretaste of things to come? Certainly the Committee can no longer feel complacent. Ronnie Irving may feel that the members should leave the Committee to run things, but this attitude is beginning to feel distinctly outdated.
THE MEMBERS present for the earlier items on the agenda seemed to be asleep, or at least in a trance. They said not a word about the whole Gazette saga, explained in graphic detail by Ron Stewart, nor about the failure to secure the Hand venue, nor about the membership survey, the results of which, perhaps somewhat conveniently, hadn’t quite finished being analysed.
There was plenty of good news, too, on the Aylesbury office and on the visible progress in Clarges Street, for example.
Clearly members are much more willing to rebel behind the screen of a ballot paper. In a way it’s a pity that the issues are not thrashed out more in public in the debating chamber of the Curzon Cinema. Whatever, we still feel that there must be a more efficient format for this most important of days in the KC calendar.