Opening Space

PETA, AKC and Other Registries, Novices and Permanent Showgrounds…

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Sometimes there’s so much to say it’s difficult to know where to start, but first I need to let off some steam...

In the past I have been one of the few active dog show people to feel at least some sympathy for PETA, the People for (so-called) Ethical Treatment of Animals. It’s not a popular thing to say in dog circles, but they are right when they oppose inhumane treatment of factory animals, cruel trapping methods and other conditions which most of us are too squeamish to deal with. Let’s face it, if we had to look closely at what goes on in the meat industry most of us would become vegetarians… but we don’t want to, so we shut our eyes.

However, PETA’s recent promo video just goes too far. It shows a little girl and her parents all excited about buying a puppy, expecting some wise words from an older man who looks like some kind of authority. Well, this man throws a plastic body bag up on the table and tells the family that this is the dog that had to be killed because they bought a dog from a breeder instead of getting one from the pound…

It is a tragedy that neither PETA nor the mainstream press acknowledge that there are responsible breeders who make sure that their puppies live in good, permanent homes, and who help with breed rescue for dogs that have ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. Puppies from responsible breeders do not end up in the pound, and if everyone got their puppy from such breeders we would eventually not have any strays at all.

Why can’t PETA see that if they want what’s best for dogs they should encourage responsible breeders? That’s of course the crux — PETA really would prefer that nobody has any dogs at all. It’s frightening that such a freak organization manages to attract so many unthinking celebrities and attract so much publicity… and this activity completely negates whatever good they may do in other areas.

Why isn’t the AKC more pro-active when it comes to defending our interests as pet owners? AKC will never be able to attract the number of wealthy donors that e.g. PETA does, but if those of us who love dogs and enjoy breeding, showing and judging don’t stand up for our sport there could eventually be nothing left for us to be involved in.

Televised dog shows are great, especially if they incorporate the “responsible breeding” message, but these programs mainly preach to the converted. We need print media ads in national magazines, we need TV spots that the mainstream public will see, and we need a much higher profile for our sport and activities. To achieve this we need to pool resources and cooperate with organizations with similar interests.

Case in point: why did AKC not participate in the 2007 U.S. Canine Registries Conference? Could AKC not deal with the fact that among the other organizations taking part were the United Kennel Club, the American Dog Breeders Association, the American Dog Owners Association, the National Canine Association and some old, respectable breed registries? If AKC cannot  cooperate with organizations with similar goals, then what hope is there for us?

We keep saying that we need new blood in our sport, but how are we going to convince people to get involved when there’s nowhere for them to learn the ropes? In the old days there were matches, and there are still occasional handling classes for beginning exhibitors, but most people now have to learn on the spot, in the ring. An AKC show is a very unforgiving environment for a novice handler, and every time I see some red-faced newcomer stumble out of the ring after placing last in their class, obviously embarrassed after having made every mistake in the book, I wonder if we lost yet another recruit.

The same is true for judges, except forget the red faces: everyone is very sure that they are capable of judging anything on four legs. Still, don’t you think it would help the quality of judging if judges were allowed to make early mistakes not at AKC point shows but in somewhat more forgiving circumstances? There aren’t nearly enough matches or sweepstakes for this. It would be great if we could have training shows — for puppies, for new exhibitors and for future judges as well.

A recent judging trip to Mexico (see “World in Review” in this issue) proved that their national kennel club is way ahead of AKC in at least one vital area: they own their own showground with space for judging around 1,000 dogs per day and parking next to their club offices in Mexico City.

Today, when dog shows get kicked around from one showground to another, it’s more important than ever for clubs to investigate the possibility of owning the ground they host shows on. With the amount of money floating around in our sport it’s surprising that almost no dog club has purchased their own permanent showground. If AKC can’t afford to buy grounds for a big, national dog show, aren’t there enough private investors to develop suitable land in different parts of the country?

Ending on a positive note… the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach was generally considered a huge success. We’re happy to bring you in-depth coverage in this issue.

Have fun with your dogs!

                                                                            Bo Bengtson, Editor-at-Large


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