The AKC Realignment Proposal and Smith Judges Approval Process
Potential changes to the AKC's judges approval system and new Group designations have the dog world buzzing
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
The American Kennel Club is currently in the place where changes must be made before those of us who are aware of how important the organization is are left with nothing. I sincerely believe those who head up the various facets of the AKC are attempting to take the steps they believe to be best to avoid that catastrophe.
I also believe that on the surface what must be done to preserve the AKC may at times appear to be in conflict with what the diehards of the sport (the breeder coterie) feel is in their best interests for survival.
We must be realistic. The sport of purebred dogs was once a breeders’ game. Governmental, economic and social pressures have worked against that remaining so. The number of bona fide breeders (this excludes someone who has owned a dog and bred it a time or two) has shrunk cataclysmically in the last quarter century.
Today’s sport is an exhibitor’s game. What primarily draws new participants to the sport is the fun and competitive aspects of showing and campaigning dogs — to win. To remain a viable institution the AKC must maintain a delicate balance that will attract those who, for whatever their reasons, want to participate without alienating those who have long made up purebred dogs’ core.
Few who are purely of an exhibitor’s bent will see the sport in exactly the same manner in which the breeder will see it. What the breeder chooses to preserve and protect may not be what those who see purebred dogs as a pastime or purely competitive event are concerned with.
There is no question that the sport cannot continue to exist as it was established and has continued through the centuries without the breeder. On the other hand the question must be asked: if the sport were to shrink to the minimally existing breeder group, could it possibly survive? And therein lie the AKC’s and the sport of purebred dogs’ contemporary dilemma.
The American dog fancy has been presented with two major proposals in the past few months: Group realignment and the judges approval process. Amended details of the latter can be located on the AKC website. Both are important to the present and both have far-reaching consequences. Both affect the long-standing support of the sport of purebred dogs and changes in both areas could impact how they may or may not help attract new members.
Realistically Group realignment has to be accomplished at some point. The number of breeds currently approved and those lying in wait in the Miscellaneous and FSS Groups of the AKC indicate anything less will eventually make our current Group alignments impossibly unwieldy.
Arguments based upon why we need these new breeds in the first place hold no water. Why we need any one breed more than another is a moot question. Because a breed has not been exhibited before in the US is hardly a valid reason for not accepting it now. Lest we forget, with barely a handful of exceptions every breed recognized by the AKC today was once new to America. Plain and simple, with the ever-declining registrations of our currently accepted breeds, the income from the registrations of these new breeds and the participation of their owners is consequential.
Only a few years ago the Havanese was all but unheard of in AKC circles. But it’s hard to deny the breed’s impact on today’s show entries. Personally speaking I, probably more than anyone, remember the day when the considered opinion was that there was no need for the Bichon Frisé. It was considered a breed that was never going to “make it” here in North America. Any legitimate breed of dog has as much right to its presence at our dog shows as say the Cocker Spaniel or the Beagle. Who is to say one breed has a greater right to be here than another?
The realignment plan currently proposed is without a doubt the most comprehensive, well thought-out plan of the many that have appeared over the last half-century. It makes sense, and in many cases, it offers high-quality breeds that have been historically ignored equal opportunity for consideration — this a very serious shortcoming in our present judging system. It does, however, take the willingness of our current judges to recognize the fact that just because only a few of the many recognized breeds do win in Variety Group competition, there are many more that deserve to be considered.
Is the suggested realignment perfect? In a word, no. The committee that submitted it does not present it as carved in stone and in fact leaves it to the AKC board of directors to determine in the end which breeds the proposed 11 Groups will ultimately include.
There are individual breed supporters throughout the sport calling “foul” because of where their breed may be placed. But here again the original proposal is open for discussion. It has to be recognized that anything other than what the average dog fancier is accustomed to is never going to be entirely acceptable. The diehard dog fancier of the day recognizes the need for and does want change, but typically and just as assuredly he does not want “that!”
A major consideration
I have been opposed to Group realignment in the past, but I find this proposal ultimately workable and I do see a realistic and eventual need for it to occur. The only important question remaining that must be asked is if now is the correct time to deal with the massive expense that may well incur.
In paperwork alone the changes that will have to be implemented are enormous. I see it as an expense the sport does not need at this time. I do, however, believe that minor flaws of the realignment proposal can easily be ironed out and massive immediate expense avoided if an incremental plan for implementation is put into effect.
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