IRVING’s impressions Continued FROM page 14
years to emphasise and remind judges that a dog should be penalised if it is ‘suffering from any visible condition which adversely affects its health or welfare’. The rules also even allow show organisers to exclude dogs in that category from the show. TKC’s Code of Best Practise for Judges says amongst other things: “Judges must, in assessing dogs, penalise any features or exaggerations which they consider would be detrimental to the soundness, health or well being of the dog.” High on the published list of FCI objectives are the words “The FCI considers health, temperament and behaviour as the most important matters in dogs and their Breed Standards.” Then, under FCI Rules breeders are reminded that they should “keep the breed standard as the guideline for breed specific features and that any exaggerations should be avoided.” Under the FCI ‘Judges Code of Commitment to Welfare’ a judge: “has to be aware that under all circumstances his judgment has to take into account that extreme features which can cause health, behavior or movement problems have to be severely punished.”
Turning then to the breed standards - the introductory paragraph to every breed standard under TKC’s Rules states amongst other things: “Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues.” Then in the faults section of every UK breed standard the following words are included: “Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.” Similar statements are made in most FCI breed standards. These then are the efforts made in most countries to make absolutely certain that all judges are under pressure not to allow any exaggerations in the dogs winning under them. What is the AKC doing in this regard? 66 Dog News
AKC AND BREED STANDARDS
I am of course aware that the AKC is not legally in a strong position to change breed standards in a way that would help avoid exaggeration and help breed health. The power to do that apparently lies with the breed clubs. The original published objects of the AKC in its 1884 constitution did include the management of breed standards and stated: “The object of this Association shall be to secure uniformity in rules governing Bench Shows and Field Trials, the revision of standards, the decision of such appeals as may be taken from the decisions of the managers of Bench Shows and Field Trials held by members of this Association.” By as early as 1887 however the reference to breed standards was dropped and replaced instead with words which referred to: “the improvement of any breed of dogs.” Then ten years later in 1897 even that object was removed and reference was changed to refer only to “the proper conduct of person interested in the exhibition, breeding or sale of dogs.” So apparently the AKC long ago gave up any specific reference in its constitution to breed standards or to canine health. Now however its constitution under Article III says “Objects of the Club - The objects of the Club shall be to advance canine health and well-being.” Then also, the present AKC mission statement says: “The AKC and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.” So the AKC does, according to its constitution and its mission statement, now have a duty to advance canine health and well being.
LACK OF GUIDANCE
The question I would ask is: “Is the AKC doing enough in dealing with breed standards and judges to guard against the accusation that it is burying its head in the sand when it comes to over exaggeration of certain features in certain breeds?” There are two areas where I believe it could have far greater influence if it chose to do so. One is in the area of breed standards. Though it may not be legally able to force breed clubs to change their standards it could and should do far more in its guidelines for the writing of breed
standards. It could encourage a far greater degree of attention to be paid to avoiding exaggerations and concentrating of using the show ring to improve visible issues that can affect a dog’s wellbeing. The AKC’s ‘Guidelines for Writing Breed Standards’ does not, as far as I can see, make any reference at all to breed health or to exaggerations. The section entitled “Points to consider in writing breed standards” could be used in an attempt to steer breed clubs in the right direction. It states “The purpose of a standard is to be a guide for breeders and judges. As such, it is important to keep in mind those features that make the breed unique, those qualities the breed must possess to do the job for which it was created. A standard should emphasize what is important in the breed.” Surely there is an opportunity here for the AKC to add to the list of things which should be ‘kept in mind’, words to the effect that: “When writing breed standards breed clubs should avoid clauses which might encourage conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.” At least by inserting those words the AKC would be able to argue that it had discharged its duty to “advance canine health and well being.”
AKC AND JUDGES
What about the AKC’s attempts to influence judges to take care of canine health? Are they doing enough? Some will doubtless argue that judges ought automatically to be taking account of this whenever they take to the centre of the ring. And I have some sympathy with that point of view. But wouldn’t it help – or at least be good for the reputation of the AKC – if it made some reference to preserving and even improving canine health and to avoiding breed exaggeration when it gives instructions to its judges. The word health only appears twice in the current AKC “Rules, Policies and Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges.” Once when the AKC Mission statement as above is repeated - and once to say that: “No lights or other equipment that are distracting or would affect the performance, health or welfare of the dogs, exhibitors and/or the judges will be allowed.”!! Even the word “sound” only appears twice and on both occasions it refers to soundness of judging – not soundness of the dogs!
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
All of that is surely not good enough. In my view it definitely ought to be remedied by the AKC. Judges, no matter how experienced, ought undoubtedly to be told – or if not told then at least reminded – that their main duty or at least one of their main duties is to penalise any features or exaggerations which could be considered as detrimental to the soundness, health or well being of the dog. In my view if the AKC doesn’t pick up these issues soon and start to run with them, it is going to leave itself very vulnerable to external criticism – not just from animal rights types but from the average John Q Public as well.
Dog News The Digest of American Dogs Volume 29, Issue 48 November 29, 2013