The Bedlington Lawsuit
Exclusive Interview with Joan Weiskopf, Peremi Bedlingtons
Dateline June 5, 2002
Federal lawsuit charges AKC complicit in co-ownership registration forgery and theft. Is the American Kennel Club trying to clean up or cover up registrations and pedigree fraud?
All other publications have been silent on this proverbial “hot potato.” No matter which hand we hold it in; purebred dog breeders are going to get burned.
AKC mishandled the Bedlington Terrier complaint, and then refused to reverse or rectify based on Ms. Weiskopf’s victory in the NY Supreme Court. The ramifications of “the Bedlington case” cannot be overlooked by any cognizant person. TheDogPress.com is compelled to present the case that has already precipitated rule changes that will continue to affect our dealings with each other and with AKC. Co-ownership policies are still changing and in fact, the AKC Board opened the door for hardship exemptions for innocent buyers – and for people caught up in a situation like Joan’s.
SETS PRECEDENT more than any co-ownership case in AKC history. The right and the wrong of it will be decided by the courts but we can all learn from Weiskopf's agonizing experience. Many of the AKC principals have changed, records have been lost (or sealed) and the wheels of justice grind slowly but Joan lives with heartache every day. The story is still unfolding and as the facts come out, it will be easy to understand why it has been suppressed.
CORRUPTION of the stud book is not uncommon. There was a similar situation when an AKC judge refused to be shut up when the Shetland Sheepdog registry was so badly corrupted. Her persistence on behalf of the gene bank brought about much needed clean up and change. This editor has first-hand knowledge of two similar situations in Akitas wherein the blue slips were not canceled and the guilty parties were allowed to continue on with registration privileges.
DETERMINED? There have been others but perhaps none so strong as Joan Weiskopf who is twenty-six million dollars “determined” to expose the hypocrisy and favoritism that seems to worsen with each passing year.
JOAN SAYS “My sole interest in this is to let others know they are not alone. Each one of these dogs matters. Each piece of a pedigree is sacred. In the case of less popular breeds each piece not only matters but is critical to the breed. The registry is worth saving, although now I am not sure it is possible given its present condition. There were more than 5 blue slips for the 5 littermates issued at various points in this ordeal. As a sobering question one might ask, have any ever been canceled?”
AKC SILENT, Bob Slay (AKC V.P. Compliance Operations) and Daisy Okas (AKC Communications) were invited to present reassurance or clarifying information. They have at this time, “no comment” but as the case develops, we trust that AKC's legal counsel will take the gags off. The courts will decide the issue but every breeder wants to know that their ownerships are not in jeopardy.
THE FIRM representing Ms. Weiskopf is Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, one of the most prestigious on the east coast. The case is file 00-CV-471 (NG) United States District Court Eastern District of New York and it alleges 6 causes of action that include A.) Oppressive exercise of monopolistic power, B.) Tortuous interference with potential economic damage, C.) Economic oppression/violation of express rules, and D.) Selective enforcement of rules.
THE CASE IS PREDICATED on the fact that the AKC is NOT a private social group that can exercise rules and policies at will. They are the recognized gate-keepers of an industry without whose "Seal of Approval" one suffers economic disadvantage. There was a Federal Court Ruling (Kansas) to this effect in the J.R. Maike case. For those who have been in the sport long enough to remember the Billy Lyles case, he is alleged to have sued AKC for failure to renew his handler’s license. As always in these matters, lips and records were sealed but the obvious result was that AKC promptly and with much fanfare, quit licensing handlers. Shortly thereafter, the Professional Handlers Association (PHA) was born.
PEREMI BEDLINGTONS is a highly respected name in the breed but the bitch that precipitated the lawsuit is Ch. Nimbleby Persephone CD, known to her many admirers as Mimi. She was on the cover of the AKC Gazette in July 1994. Mimi was also featured in an article on obedience and training while Joan was VP, Show Chair, and Training Director of Port Chester Obedience. Mimi was top producing dam last year and Joan has all of her finished offspring.
JOAN EXPLAINS “The trouble started when the co-owner signed Mimi out of co-ownership and into her sole ownership without my knowledge. I found out when I went to register the first litter of puppies in June 1994. Even after years of incomplete discovery, it is still not perfectly clear how the documents followed in succession so as to accomplish a correct paper trail. It is clear that forgery was committed as per the AKC’s charges. Errors that took place internally were admitted to but never rectified. The internal memos to Board members in attempts to report on the situation were one-sided and sorely lacking in completeness of fact."
DOES ANYONE NOT KNOW of instances where dogs have been falsely registered with forged signatures? TheDogPress has prior documentation wherein the AKC investigator expressed amazement that the signatures on two litter applications and the blue slips “are not even remotely the same signature! There wasn’t even an attempt to make them all look alike, it appears they were all signed by different people!” The outcome? The registrations on the progeny were “flagged” but the person who forged the owner’s signature on two litters from a spayed bitch still has AKC registration privileges and can simply transfer all of those dogs over to another registry…
ALSO DOCUMENTED, a buyer registered a litter in Mexico out of a puppy too young to have produced a litter, then returned the bitch to the breeder as “unsuitable.” The breeder found out that her bloodline was being sold for exorbitant prices south of the border and filed complaints with both the AKC and the FCMAC (Federacion Canofila Mexicana). The Mexican registry faced “magnifico” lawsuits by one of the most politically powerful families in all of Mexico. Thelma von Thaden, then President of FCMAC saw it through despite the risk. The unbelievable but factual result? According to Ms. Von Thaden the wealthy owner lost his privileges in Mexico but even though AKC had been kept well informed, the American Kennel Club refused to revoke registration privileges on the grounds there was “no reciprocity” with Mexico! The convicted forger subsequently bought several other AKC dogs and continued to freely exhibit at major shows in the U.S.
NAME WITHHELD BY AKC? There are many such stories so we can appreciate Joan Weiskopf’s frustration. She says “I tried my best in the beginning to be a lady and do things quietly. I did not run my mouth. The AKC did more to expose this than I did. If you look on page 107 of the November 2000 Gazette, you will see me mentioned by name with regard to this case. The information given is flawed, but it is mentioned on the Secretary's page. There had previously been an article in Dog News but I was not mentioned by name.”
QUESTIONS! Is it really about who you are? Will AKC ever step up to the plate like the FCMAC? Will there be change under Ron Menaker’s leadership? How good is your co-ownership contract? Do you think AKC will protect your legal rights? What recourse do you have if you find yourself on the wrong side of an ownership dispute? What if, as recently happened, a handler steals your dog, and conspires with a co-owner or previous owner to forge your name to transfer ownership? What good does it do to go to court? Will AKC honor a legal decision or dig in its heels as happened in the Bedlington case?
Is AKC trying to clean up or cover false registration? Pedigree fraud is long-standing problem that unwinds everything we believe about the genetics of purebred dogs.
The “Bedlington Case” will answer many of those questions. Part Two unfolds with Federal Court, forgery, AKC errors, etc.
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