|Julie Evans, with Fiona on her knee, pleads with the Kennel Club...|
The truth is a little more nuanced. Without doubt, the Kennel Club deserves applause for registering Fiona. It really was a good thing - brave too, given the breed club opposition and Fiona's acceptance has allowed Fiona to be shown in the UK. So it is disappointing to learn that, at the time of Fiona's registration, the KC placed a five-year restriction on the issuing of an export pedigree for Fiona's progeny, thus preventing the pups going to Europe where demand for the LUA gene is considerable. (I assume it was standard practice in such cases, but have asked the KC for clarification.)
Fiona was registered in January 2011 under the Kennel Club's asterisk system - denoting that there is "something unusual" (as the Kennel Club describes it) about her. Fiona herself is marked with 3 asterisks; her progeny with two; their offspring with one asterisk and, eventually, Fiona's great-grandchildren will be asterisk-free making them indistinguishable from any other KC registered dog.
Of course, it's all a bit of a madness given that the outcross to the Pointer that makes Fiona "unusual" was all of 13 generations ago, but that's how the system worked at the time. I should point out, too, that breeder Julie Evans, who has just had a gorgeous litter of pups from Fiona, has always known this.
However, the LUA Dalmatians - after a 30 year battle in the US - have now been accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club. In fact, Fiona (who will be returning to her owner in the States in the spring) is now herself registered with the AKC. And because the AKC has a reciprocal arrangement with the KC, if Fiona was imported to the UK and had pups now, there would be no export restrictions (and no asterisks). Julie, then, would be able to sell her pups freely to Europe where they could be registered as full Dalmatians by other Kennel Clubs.
The same goes for any other AKC-registered LUA Dalmatian - they can now be imported into the UK (and any other country with a reciprocal agreement) and immediately accepted with full KC honours. In fact, KC rules have changed, too, since the KC registered Fiona last January and two further LUA Dalmatians, Sally and Merlin, are not subject to the same export restriction.
So a few weeks ago, Julie Evans asked the Kennel Club to remove the export restriction so that Fiona's precious low-uric-acid gene, brought into the breed via a single outcross to an English Pointer in the 1970s, can benefit the breed in Europe, too.
And the Kennel Club said... "No".
Julie Evans rang them on a day we were filming with her, so I can confirm that she patiently argued her case regarding the health benefit to other Dalmatians. "This is what is all about.. getting that gene out there," she told Breeder Manager Sue Swainson who advised that there was no provision in the KC rule book to allow this.
Finally, at the end of a five minute conversation Julie pointed out that their decision now put her at an unfair disadvantage, compared to other LUA Dal breeders, in terms of her ability to sell her puppies. "I am being prevented from making use of a free market. I cannot export my puppies, but everywhere else in the world can," she said, pleading with them to reconsider. Sue Swainson said she would get back to her.
A few days later Julie received this email from the Kennel Club:
"From its consultation with the Dalmatian breed clubs - when you first applied to register Fiona - the KC became aware that a number of people in the breed were vehemently opposed to the registration believing that the venture was commercial. As you know, the KCs decision to allow the registration was based on its commitment to consider the registration of dogs from out crossing and inter variety matings if it was felt that to do so may present potential health and welfare benefits. On this basis Fiona was registered despite the amount of discord within the breed.
"It is still the case that the KC is of the view that the decision was taken for the right reasons and we are therefore disappointed to see that you put your current argument to us in business terms – I believe you said to me that you were ’being prevented from making use of a free market’.
"I accept that this will not be the answer you are looking for but the Committee will not consider removing the asterisks."
This really is breathtakingly rude.
Are only breeders that lose money to be deemed worthy now?
And why is the KC giving credence to low-lying gossip from breed purists who were desperate to stop the spotted mongrel hordes sullying their precious Dalmatians?
We recently spent two days with Julie at her home on the west coast of Wales and, believe me, the only thing she was rolling in was mud.
Once KC heels have got stuck in, they rarely budge, but this is one bit of KC crazy that needs to be reconsidered - as does the information on Fiona's KC pedigree. The only name on it is Fiona's. No parents or grandparents or great-grandparents are listed despite that information being available. The reason? Because alongside the full AKC Dalmatians in her pedigree are LUA Dalmatians that are not considered "pure". This for some mad reason prevents even the AKC-registered Dals in her pedigree from being included.
Surely either the KC is a registry or not? ("The Kennel Club registers all dogs" claims Clare Balding in the KC film.) Could it not include these dogs on Fiona's official pedigree even if they had to be marked in some way to denote their ancestry?
In truth, apart from the three LUA Dals now registered in the UK, very little new blood has been allowed into existing breeds. There was the bringing in of some packhound Bloodhounds a few years back; a few Bull Terrier x Miniature Bull Terrier matings to alleviate the smaller version of the breed of the Primary Lens Luxation endemic in the smaller version of breed; and a few intervariety matings in Belgian Shepherds.
The KC now says it will welcome applications from breeders wanting to bring in new blood and that is terrific, truly. But I believe it needs to be much more proactive on this issue - in other words, not just wait until forward-thinking breeders approach them, but to initiate discussion with Clubs of breeds that are in particular trouble genetically.
Sensible discussion on this only, please, as it's an important issue.
NB: I will not be publishing any anonymous comments from anyone claiming that Julie Evans is only in it for the money - unless, that is, they provide categorical proof.
* edited 20/1/11: correction regarding the asterisk system' correction re the restrictions on Fiona and the other two LUA Dals imported into the UK