Bo Bengtson At Large: A World War of Kennel Clubs
I don’t pretend to more than an average ability to foresee the future, so why does it seem so clear to me, but apparently not to anybody else, that the American involvement in the Chinese dog scene is likely to end up hurting both AKC judges and regular dog breeders in the United States?
Does this sound far fetched? Do you think what happens in a far-off country in Asia — which doesn’t even have much of an independent dog sport yet — won’t affect you? Well, hear me out, and then tell me where I’m wrong. I would, in fact, very much like to be wrong this time.
The problem is, in a nutshell, that as China’s economy continues to grow, this is likely to become a very big dog country. A growing middle class is already on the verge of discovering the charms of purebred dogs. This trend is likely to continue at an increased pace in the future, causing ripple effects around the world, all the way into your backyard (or kennel).
As yet only a tiny fraction of the reported 30 million pet dogs in China are registered, so it’s clear there’s a ripe plum ready for the picking by any dog organization that succeeds in making registered purebred dogs as popular as they already are in many other countries. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that several Chinese kennel clubs are already vying for national dominance. Among the most important are the China Kennel Union, a contract partner of FCI since 2006, and the National General Kennel Club, which signed a contract with AKC in 2007, giving it exclusive rights to recording services provided by AKC Global Services in China.
The question here isn’t so much the internal relationship between these clubs — which is, naturally, contentious — as the fact that international interests are at stake that may affect AKC, and, therefore, those of us who are involved in AKC activities.
You are familiar with AKC, of course, but you need to know a little about the FCI as well. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, headquartered in Belgium, is the world organization that governs international dog show activities in most of the world. Currently FCI has the national kennel clubs of 84 countries as members or “contract partners,” and most of the international dog game in Europe, Latin America and Asia is governed by its rules. The major kennel clubs in the English-speaking part of the world (most importantly the UK, US and Canada) are not members of the FCI, although there are mutual agreements to recognize one another’s registrations, judges, etc.
The crux is a line in the FCI statutes which states that “The FCI accepts only one national canine organization per country.” The China Kennel Union has indicated its desire to become a full FCI member, but cannot reach that status unless FCI recognizes it as the sole national kennel organization of China. If that happens, FCI would unquestionably request AKC to stop helping CKU’s rival, the National General Kennel Club, to register, microchip and exhibit purebred dogs in direct competition with “their” club. AKC, in turn, would not be happy about that. No doubt the income from the Global Services is useful to AKC in its current financial state, but at least as important is the fact that AKC is supporting its Chinese partner’s valiant efforts to introduce animal welfare laws in China.
If you managed to wade through the acronym-heavy paragraph above, you may begin to see the point: as China is becoming an increasingly desirable prize for both FCI and AKC, the risk for a conflict between them will increase exponentially. Currently, things couldn’t be friendlier, as the heavy FCI involvement in Eukanuba’s World Challenge during the AKC National Championship in Long Beach proves. (NGKC, in spite of its close relationship with AKC, did not have a representative in the Challenge; CKU did.)
Ideally, of course, the Chinese should be allowed to have as many kennel clubs as they like: it’s presumptuous for a foreign power to interfere, especially in a country with 1.33 billion people. However, if CKU keeps pushing FCI to accept it as the only recognized national Chinese kennel club, FCI may start putting pressure on AKC to give up its involvement in China.
If it comes to a showdown between these two canine superpowers, my money is on the FCI, and I’m not alone: an insider AKC source (who prefers to remain anonymous) told me AKC wouldn’t stand a chance. If AKC does not concede willingly, the FCI could easily ban AKC judges from all its shows worldwide, not accept imports of AKC-registered dogs, not permit breedings to AKC sires, etc. — basically isolate us from the rest of the world.
If you think that sounds unrealistic, talk to the Canadians. When the FCI for various reasons was displeased with them, those were exactly the measures taken, with unhappy and long-lasting results for our northern neighbors. Would you be upset if that fascinating overseas judging assignment you had waited for so long was canceled because of an internal AKC/FCI power struggle? Or if that foreign stud dog you planned to use, or a puppy you wanted to ship overseas, couldn’t be registered?
In the best of worlds there’s diplomacy and compromise, but a balance of power usually helps. I have mentioned this before, but dare I suggest once again that an American-British-Canadian-Australian-New Zealand alliance could wield some clout and achieve a canine world equilibrium?
Of course, this being China, there’s also the risk that their government could solve the problem in one stroke by making dog shows and registrations a state business, leaving disagreements between the various dog people completely redundant.
If that happens I’ll admit my assumptions are wrong, but only then.
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