Yesterday, Kennel Club Chairman Steve Dean was booted out after four years in office. His crime? Professor Dean had tried to steer the Kennel Club into the 21st century. The natives, however, are determined to remain in the 19th.
Dean believed strongly that if the KC is to be taken seriously in the modern age; if it is to enhance its stature after a difficult few years, it should be more inclusive... to be about all dogs, not just purebred dogs.
“This has been our stated mission for many years now, and yet some members clearly believe we should narrow the focus of our efforts to purely the registered purebred dog," he wrote in the June issue of the Kennel Club Journal
This, said Dean, was an "isolationist approach" which would not allow the KC to speak authoritatively on canine issues "unless members are content to limit our remit to speaking only about health and inherited diseases in the pedigree breeds.
“The world of pedigree dogs has a vast array of experience and knowledge that can be used across the spectrum of dog ownership. The practical skills we bring to the table on breeding, genetics, training, socialisation and husbandry are extensive and form an important part of the public debate on dog ownership.
The KC, he felt "should stand up for all dogs whatever their origins."
But this stance has enraged the diehard show-head purists who simply don't want the KC to have anything to do with mutts. Hell, they even want breeders who produce purebred dogs in non-standard colours to be chucked off the Assured Breeder Scheme.
The KC's recent AGM was marked by a lot of anti-crossbreed, anti-outcrossing, pro-purebred rhetoric. Dinosaur judge Jean Lanning proposed (and won) a motion to review the KC's acceptance/promotion of crossbreeds. She also criticised the acceptance of imported dogs which may contain "alien" blood, and suggested that recent concern about purebred dog health was a veterinary plot.
As reported in DogWorld
[Lanning] feels that there are many thousands of dogs who on the whole lead pretty healthy lives if they come from good breeders, but she “finds it sad that a very small elite section of the veterinary profession appear to many of us to be far away in remote ivory towers, often advocating that some of our most cherished pure breeds should be crossed out to a different breed.”
She instanced horses from the Spanish School of Riding and the Chillingham cattle which have been bred for centuries without fresh blood, and mentioned the plight of the wild cat, whose demise is threatened by interbreeding with the feral cat.
At the same meeting, breeder Pat Brigden raised concern that an outcrossed Irish Red + White Setter had qualified for next year's Crufts, clearly reflecting the concerns of many in the room. Brigden is a staunch opponent of the Irish Setter/Irish Red + White Setter outcross programme which is endorsed by the Irish Kennel Club. She has, apparently, warned about solid red dogs popping up unexpectedly in future generations of IRWS (something that's genetically impossible).
Here, btw, is sneak peek of the second-generation IRWS that's qualified for next year's Cruft's - one of two outcrossed IRWS to do so in fact. As you can see, he's a very nice, very typical young IRWS. More importantly, this dog and the other outcrossed progeny offer genetic salvation to a breed that is now horribly inbred and has an unsustainable effective population size.
|Dalriach William Wallace - 9mths, second-generation IRWS outcross|
But to some people this dog is impure... tainted... a mongrel (irrespective of the fact that there are loads
of solid red dogs in IRWS pedigrees because, of course, they all used to be the same breed). And, boy, there are way more of these Luddites than I feared. A few days ago, this comment appeared on one of my posts about the LUA Dalmatians (if you remember, dogs that descend from a single Pointer cross in the 1970s, seventeen generations ago).
I'll NEVER adopt a Dalmatian who has the LUA Dalmatians in them. They aren't Dalmatians they are crosses! Hence the word "out cross". The breeders are so high and mighty about them too, when it's wrong. Yes breeds have out crosses from 100s of years ago, but not as recently as this. It's wrong. If you want a pointer get a pointer, don't mess around with a wonderful breed.
I try not to swear much here... but really, how fucking thick can they be?
Today, I tend to move in dog circles populated by bright, educated and energetic people who are doing their utmost to marry science with good stockmanship skills in order to breed better dogs, whether purebred or not. Clearly, I have been labouring under the illusion that they are representative of the wider breeder community.
Check out this editorial
in last week's DogWorld:
Clearly a great many breeders of ‘pure’ bred dogs feel the KC has gone a step too far in its emphasis on ALL dogs.
For decades they have coped with the club having a separate list for dogs not on the pedigree register, so they can compete in some of the working disciplines. More recently, they have accepted the club setting up yet another register, for ‘companion dogs’. They accepted the KC getting involved in Scruffts, a ‘competition’ for mongrels, and making it a centrepiece of Discover Dogs, and even going so far as to giving it a high-profile ‘final’ in Crufts’ main ring. They have accepted – often with some reluctance – the KC allowing outcrosses in certain breeds.
But now their patience seems to have been exhausted. What was the final straw? Was it just a build-up of resentment, or is it the fact that the Assured Breeder Scheme, which the KC is so keen for leading breeders to support, is also able to encompass those who produce non-pedigree dogs?
Most can cope with the fact that charities like Guide Dogs, which produce crossbreeds for specific good reasons, can be members, but beyond that it is perhaps a step too far for many.
And thus it has proved. And so it's out with the old... and in with the older. The Kennel Club has been reclaimed by those who believe in purity at all costs and want the KC to be only about pedigree dogs.
The new Chairman is Simon Coryndon Luxmoore - also Chief Exec of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is - allegedly - a bit of a thug, albeit a reasonably well-bred one. He went to Millfield - a public school best known for attracting those with more prowess on the sporting field than in the classroom.
Somewhat confusingly, he was known until recently as Simon Luxmoore Ball. We duffed up his half-brother, Nigel Luxmoore-Ball, in Pedigree Dogs Exposed
for breeding a horribly-overdone Basset.
In recent years, Luxmoore has dropped the Ball (and him a sportsman!) although his wife still prefers the double-barrel.
Luxmoore is a Siberian Husky man - as is KC Secretary Caroline Kisko. In Sibe circles he is known as Damian to Kisko's Mrs Baylock (the nanny of the anti-Christ child). The pair co-authored (with Luxmoore's first wife, Sheila, and Caroline's husband, Chris Kisko) a well-regarded book on the Siberian Husky. Indeed, some suggest that this is a an unholy coup hatched up betwixt Luxmoore and Kisko who wasn't happy that Dean was appointed Chair last time round.
Certainly, at the Dog Health Workshop in Dortmund earlier this year, it was Steve Dean who seemed to be embracing reform while Mrs Kisko remained largely impassive. We shared a workshop and in an often lively discussion about ways to improve dog health, Kisko did not speak. She is a daughter of Mike Stockman, a former Chairman of Crufts, likely rather more steeped in KC culture than veterinary surgeon Dean - although Stockman, too, was a vet.
In the absence of much of an alternative, I guess I've been fairly supportive of the KC recently, feeling that inching reform is better than none and pleased that the KC had seemed to be adopting a more inclusive approach. Dean made it clear to me in Dortmund that he saw this as the KC's future (thus no doubt marking his card further... how dare
he speak to the enemy!)
So my first response to what would appear to be a retrograde step was horror. But, actually, on reflection... let them at it. Let them bury themselves in their increasingly irrelevant, isolationist pit while the rest of us embrace the real world. Let them continue to trot their dogs round in meaningless circles in pursuit of meaningless ribbons. Let them continue to throw increasingly ineffective potshots at crossbreeds while show entries and purebred registrations continue to decline. And let them think (because this, apparently is the ticket) that better PR - rather than better breeding - will get pedigree dogs out of the hole they're in.
My mate Ryan O'Meara (K9 Media)
sums it up perfectly:
"No bad thing. A bit like FIFA. When the choice was between an incumbent who's overseen decades of corruption or a Jordanian prince, one may assume reform could be on the way if the lesser of two evils won - a false hope. As it is, with an organisation so rooted in its insularity they picked the greater of two evils and thus the organisation continues to eat itself. In the long run, this is best. Write them off, witness their demise and continue to promote an alternative view.
"Both FIFA and the Kennel Club would rather the rest of the world just went away and left them to get on with things in private. The problem is, they also want respect, kudos and credibility despite trampling all over such values in a very public way. The fact that Blatter has (clearly) been forced to jump changes little. He was well supported. The people who supported him despite his overseeing abject failure and embarrassment are still there and they still see their organisation through a prism that is completely out of touch with the majority of the real world.
"As a football fan, I wanted with all my heart for our own representatives to not just talk a good talk but walk it. I wanted them to remove themselves from the process, take a stand and watch others follow. I want the same for the Kennel Club. Those who are tainted by association need to think outside of the confines of an organisation that has repeatedly proven itself to want to paint an image of reform but whose deeds speak to a quite different way of thinking."