~ Unaligned News For The Dog Fancy ~
Adhering To The Highest Journalistic Standards
AKC HISTORY - AND FUTURE
Have AKC Dog Shows
changed from a breeder’s venue to a political playground for handlers and the
elite? TheDogPress needs your feedback for 28,000 subscribers.
July 2019 Update | TheDogPress Club News
Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-in-Chief
The American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 by a small group of wealthy men to compare and improve breeding stock. In order to do so, they had to keep track of wins and pedigrees. That led to formation of the AKC, conceived as a "club of clubs" to formalize budding competitions across the country. It was a great and noble beginning.
Prior to WW
II, the sport of breeding and exhibiting purebred dogs
was defined by the comfortable rich with time on
their hands. As Americans prospered, more families could afford to keep dogs as
pets rather than for utilitarian reasons. By the fifties, AKC
shows had become a gathering ground where common folk could socialize and show off their pets.
By the sixties purpose-bred
dogs were becoming a historical footnote
Dogs were still judged on
functional ability but esthetic beauty became paramount as women moved from the whelping room into
the show ring. Women's rights became fashionable along with new
stylized grooming techniques. Dog Shows had not only arrived,
they became a family sport and women began to take dogs all the way to top honors.
AKC Dog shows in the
seventies and eighties
Americans became urbanized, worked shorter hours
and had more disposable income. Gone were the days
of 300-dog shows where an owner handled dog could win the Group. Junior
Handler classes were AKC recognized in 1971. By the end of the 70s celebrities
and movie stars became associated with
purebred dogs and the dog fancy was "in."
AKC began licensing
handlers, giving them a big boost of political power with judges.
Professional handlers dominated the "specials rings" and judges dinners
became the "in" place to be after the show.
Puppy mills were
gestating, about to be born as Vietnam vets received federal funding and
began raising dogs. Dogs and
everything connected with them became a bountiful money crop.
An unimagined future was in the offing. Rare breeds
were formalized by organizations such as ARBA, the American Rare Breeds
Association. Roadside signs proclaiming "AKC Puppies For
Sale" had yet to reek of commercialism.
By the nineties politics and
PHA handlers controlled the sport
Entries were averaging over a thousand dogs. Billy Lyles sued
the AKC for refusing to renew his handler's license. As a
result AKC licensed handlers became history but the PHA (Professional Handlers
quickly took control of the show ring, arranging judging assignments
through their respective dog show clubs. Politics had always
existed but "getting hired" became a way of doing
Honest show breeders advised exhibitors to get a handler because
it would take a decade of education and learning to "network" with
judges before they could win as owner-handlers.
The military and college internet grew
and in 1998 TheDogPlace.org launched as the world's first dog-site. (ref #1). The United Kennel Club (UKC) was unchallenged in hunt and field events and
the American Kennel Club was the king of conformation. Peripheral registries had yet to
be defined, much less considered as alternatives.
Looking to the
future, the non-profit American Kennel Club led the way to profit
for all. Kennel Clubs (local dog show events) followed suit. What was once free or considered part of a
show or service was now for sale. Everything from parking
spaces to points verification came with a price tag.
registrations, pedigrees and show records became a part of
history as the AKC finally became computerized - and costs went up.
Top Ten Winners lists created an explosion of advertising based on win
records. Dog show magazines flourished with color ads promoting top
Whereas in the past most exhibitors were breeders, an increasing
number of buyers only wanted to show, in many cases because expenses
became a write-off for the wealthy.
And then there was
the new millennium of Dog Sports!
The year 2000
brought/wrought changes that came with blinding speed. In a February column, AKC judge
Sari Teitjen astutely noted "AKC support of and commercial
alliances with the commercial pet industry... has led to an erosion
in confidence..." and a "declining interest in AKC registration..."
Even Wayne Cavanaugh, AKC VP, was critical of AKC's failure to define its positions and the value of registrations
as its primary product.
Indeed, AKC's obligation to the
purebred dog became blurred by commercialism. That said, the
American Kennel Club countered the animal rights
rhetoric that "shelter mutts are healthier" by stressing that a well
bred purebred dog is created by
breeders who understand and apply genetics. The animal rights groups were
forced to change tactics.
TheDogPress.com launched in 2008 and for the first time in
history, the Ivory Tower was held widely accountable. Previously whispered
secrets became public knowledge.
When Designer Dogs hit the
market TheDogPress.com countered careless breeding by promoting the well-bred purebred
and exposing AKC's deals with the puppy mills.
In 2015 the AKC Canine Health Foundation joined the PR campaign to promote
the value of purebred dogs. The stagnant OFA (Orthopedic
Foundation For Animals) moved forward under new leadership (dog man
Eddie Duzik), furthering the concept
of health and genetic testing. The public began to understand the
importance of genetic quality created by a purebred dog breeder who
loved dogs more than money.
21st century dog must not become a crop; a
product hawked by an AKC that has forgotten its avowed Mission.
The purebred dog of the future must be marketed by breeders who
truly understand its value.
For most of us
"A boy and his dog" is a part of American history, not because of AKC
or any other registry. The family dog was a precious part of
childhood for both city and farm kids, and whether purebred or
mongrel, it was a DOG, not a product.
define the future of the American Kennel Club
took for granted what we now must fight to preserve. As handlers, trainers, veterinarians, breeders,
dog writers, do we accept the mass production and marketing of the purebred dog or
should we choose
another profession? We can not profess to love dogs and accept that dogs mean only $$$$$ to others. Would you sell out your best
friend for a business deal? Would you betray your heritage for another "endorsement" fee? Would you?
The 2020 AKC Board Elections
will be upon
us again in May. How will your Delegate vote? Do you have a
commitment from the candidates to put the American Kennel Club's 1884 Mission first, before profit,
production, and puppy mill income?
Are we too
little too late? Do you still believe in the AKC's glorious
history and will you step up to protect the future of the purebred
dog? Does your dog club hold
its Delegate accountable to the wishes of the majority of members?
EMAIL THE EDITOR with your responses to the above questions!
ref #1 TheDogPlace.org
Canine Health ref #2 Lina Basquette TheJudgesPlace.com
revised from the
author's 2005 ShowSight Magazine column
Copyright © TheDogPress.com 1221511606