Do Field Reps Represent AKC Well?
Are these examples of “strong arm” tactics against Judges and Exhibitors representative of the sport in 2014 or has AKC educated its Field Reps?
Jan 2014 | TheDogPress
Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief
In July 2009, we reported that an American Kennel Club Field Representative hurled petty insults at a defenseless exhibitor, another Rep railed at one AKC judge while slandering another judge; and yet another Field Rep attempted to force a judge’s association into silent submission.
Can such incidents of Gestapo-like behavior by AKC Representatives still be “representative” of overall policy at corporate headquarters? We selected three examples of AKC Representatives using their position to ride rough-shod over the fancy but withheld names to prevent repercussions of the carefully authenticated first-hand reports.
In his post-judging interview after his final provisional, a very well-known fancier mentioned to the AKC Rep that he would be coordinating a Retrievers’ seminar for the Senior Conformation Judges’ Association. The AKC Field Representative became agitated and said what a terrible organization the SCJA was and that Wally Pede was “no good”, always fighting with AKC, etc. The provisional judge extracted himself from the conversation, received his judging approval and put the embarrassing incident out of his mind.
Later, he applied for more breeds and was unlucky enough to draw the same AKC Rep for the interview. She launched the conversation by saying that he had only received previous approval due to her computer’s malfunction, stating that had she been able to file a timely report, he would not have received approval.
The judge was shocked and upset, at a terrible disadvantage but forced to continue with the additional-breeds interview. He reported that the AKC Rep continued untoward comments throughout the interview process.
Upon completion, the Rep handed him the AKC disqualification forms and still nervous, he remarked that they were different from the forms he had received at a DJAA seminar. The AKC Rep immediately blew up again, attacking Lt. Col. Pede and the SCJA. She ceased her tirade only when a bystander who is also a judge, interjected that the DJAA was not the same as the SCJA.
The judge filed an official complaint regarding the AKC Representative’s personal prejudices and her slander of a highly regarded judge’s association. He is a member of SJCA (Senior Conformation Judges Assoc.), DJAA (Dog Judges Assoc. Of America), and the ADSJ (Assoc. Of Dog Show Judges) in addition to several other dog organizations. His statement that “personal prejudice or dislikes should never enter into an AKC Rep’s action” is shared by all reasonable people.
It's safe to say the first Judges Association in America is not a puppet group. The SCJA has in fact, been critical of the way in which AKC has violated the constitutional rights and demeaned the talent of its judges.
We contacted SCJA’s Executive Secretary Lt. Col. Wallace H. Pede for comment. The Colonel stated that he sent a personal letter to the AKC Board reminding them of past incidents involving judges’ interviews by the American Kennel Club Representative. In that letter, Col. Pede reiterated a particular instance wherein the same Rep was publicly abusive to him after a letter critical of the AKC Rep’s role in the judging approval process was sent to AKC at AKC request. Col. Pede, on behalf of the Senior Conformation Judges’ Association, subsequently requested an injunction against the offending Rep and asked that an independent committee be appointed to examine evidence of her repetitiously offensive behavior.
The last example involves a long-time exhibitor’s experience with an AKC Representative. Chatting pleasantly while setting up for a win photo, the owner of both the WB and RWB remarked that her RWB was actually the better specimen. The judge responded with insulting comments about the breed and the “deplorable mouths” in the breed to which the exhibitor took exception, citing the breed standard. This so angered the judge that she then refused to be photographed with “that bitch” (the one she had just awarded) and with great fanfare, dismissed the photographer. The exhibitor objected and the judge then ordered the exhibitor to remain in the center of the ring while she called for the AKC Rep.
Word quickly spread and by the time AKC's Field Rep arrived, a crowd of curious onlookers had gathered. He and the judge conferred in private while the hapless exhibitor was left standing at the photo table in the center of the ring. The Rep and the judge finally turned to brace the exhibitor as a hush fell over ringside.
The judge gave the Rep her version as the exhibitor stood mute. The Rep then turned to the exhibitor and seemingly for the benefit of ringside, informed her that she was on “thin ice” and could be “disqualified.” Astounded, the exhibitor attempted to defuse the situation by joking that neither she nor the dog had disqualifying faults. It didn’t work. The AKC Representative loudly asserted that the bitch had a disqualifying bite as the judge nodded agreement. The exhibitor stood firm, explaining that the AKC Breed Standard clearly stated scissors OR level bite is equally correct. The Rep said something under his breath to the judge who turned and whispered something in his ear. The Rep then shook his finger at the exhibitor and exclaimed “It is people like you that ruin a breed.” The exhibitor retorted that they should read the standard as they obviously knew nothing about her breed!
The Rep then threatened to call a bench committee and have her suspended. Shaking with anger, the exhibitor suggested he give it a try, reminding him that ringside was packed with witnesses. He looked around uncomfortably and then muttered “You’re not worth the trouble.”
With that crude remark, the exhibitor insisted that he call a bench committee, stipulating that she no longer had a problem with the judge who had by then, physically distanced herself from AKC's Representative. She reiterated that her comment to the judge should have been accepted as intended, friendly discourse between two dog people. The exhibitor calmly stated that she and the judge had both over-reacted but it was a minor “dog show thing” and was nothing compared to his unprofessional actions and threats. Stopping his attempted interruption, she told the Rep that his loudly voiced opinion of her breed and his personal insults were out of line and that she intended to bring his conduct before a Bench Committee.
The Rep turned to the increasingly uncomfortable judge and asked “are you satisfied with this? If you’re not ok with it, we’ll go ahead and call a committee?” The judge shrugged and said “oh just let it go” and with a wave of her hand, dismissed the fuming exhibitor who, understanding the moment, promptly left the ring. She and her husband of forty years, laughing at the fate he knew awaited that Rep, walked away as the crowd dispersed.
The exhibitor and the judge later agreed to disagree and sat amicably together at ringside during the Working Group. The Rep was nowhere to be seen but a long time friend and club member took opportunity to suggest that she let it go and not wanting to involve the judge further, the exhibitor agreed not to file a complaint. Not long after the public incident, the "Hurtful" AKC Rep went back to judging.
Apparently when a rotten apple starts to stink, exhibitors, handlers, and judges do have recourse.
Incidents such as these are not that uncommon due to a handful of ego-driven Reps who think they are immune to censure. Having known or been friends with Reps like Art Marsh, Connie Barton, and Bobby Barlow over the years, I can vouch that 99% of AKC representatives do an incredible balancing act, earning the trust and good will of the fancy while diligently serving the American Kennel Club.
Five years later, are there still some AKC jerks out there? Probably. Have some Reps abused their power? Perhaps, but only if others in the sport allow them to get by with it. The American Kennel Club wants good public relations, not public scandal.
Over the past few years, AKC has cut back on its field staff, we presume due to budget cuts. There have been complaints about so many shows with no official AKC presence but it appears the fancy is well served.
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