Commitment to safety to celebrate the beauty and function of dogs and experience the sport.
Welcome back to Orlando. The Board and the Staff are thrilled to have us all together in person again. We appreciate, as always, everyone’s commitment to keeping our gathering safe and productive so that we can celebrate the beauty and function of our dogs and experience the excitement of our Sports.
There was a movie back in 1989 called Field of Dreams. In it, the main character hears a voice coming from a cornfield that says, “If you build it, they will come.” In our cornfield back in 2001, a voice said the same thing… of course our voice was heard by Ron Menaker. Ron is a genius who shoots at something that no one else can see and hits it. Well, he built it and, indeed, we came. This weekend we will be celebrating the 21st Anniversary of our AKC National Championship with over 5000 entries and events in many areas of our sports. From J.R. in 2001 to Bourbon in 2020, from Orlando to Tampa to Long Beach and back to Orlando, we will get to watch this year’s AKC National Championship winner crowned in dogdom’s greatest event.
A cornerstone of our public education message is that purebred dogs don’t just “look the part,” but that they also “act the part” too. In a few short weeks on January 2nd this weekend’s winners will be showcased on ABC television and AKC.tv. It is our goal to show the public why our purebred dogs look the way they do and the role in our lives that they are meant to play. We have heard the expression, “I am not a doctor, I just play one on TV.” When it comes to purpose bred and working dogs, to paraphrase that saying, they don’t just play one on TV. Our standards delineate purpose – whether working in the field, pasture, at our side or anywhere else, purebred dogs have always had a job to do.
With that guiding principle in mind, this year The American Kennel Club ramped up efforts to build alliances and leadership in the area of dogs in direct service to mankind. This includes working K9s in police departments and governmental agencies throughout our great nation.
Thanks to the vision of the AKC Board, and specifically that of Chris Sweetwood, we announced our official association with the United States Police Canine Association. You may remember the incredible demonstrations at the Javits Center Meet the Breeds event by the USPCA and the NYPD K9 Unit members in 2019. Soon after, AKC Reunite, through the AKC/CAR Support and Relief Fund, established the AKC Adopt a K9 Cop Program. This program brings together AKC Clubs, AKC Reunite and other donors to raise money for police departments to purchase working dogs. To date there have been 70 grants awarded. This program is ongoing and is an important way for communities to participate in building and preserving the human/canine bond.
To bring the heroic work of police canines and their handlers into the spotlight, AKC and the USPCA created the AKC/USPCA K9 Detection Dog Challenge, which premiered on ESPN2 less than three weeks ago. The intricate work of narcotics and explosive detection was on display at the PNC arena in Raleigh, with twenty handlers and their dogs from around the countr y competing. Top honors went to a straight flush of women handlers representing agencies from Raleigh, New York City and other locations. This outcome recalls something John Lennon once said, which I’ll paraphrase, “As usual there is a great woman behind every great dog.”
A key purpose of this program, with its significant AKC branding and the authenticity of its competition was to engage the public and instill in viewers’ minds that the AKC is always at the center of all content about dogs. Recall, also that the Awards for Canine Excellence, known as the ACE Awards, celebrate uniformed ser vice dogs among the other categories that improve our lives in extraordinar y ways. The ACE Awards, which are under written by the AKC Humane Fund, were the subject of another ESPN2 program which aired a couple of weeks ago.
AKC has long provided registration ser vices for active police dogs, and we are now indicating them in our database with a “Public Service” flag and recording information about their current handlers and the public agencies that own the dogs. This is laying the groundwork for future ser vices for these dogs, including potential recognition of titles and awards. Also on the horizon is leadership in the area of ser vice dogs that are individually trained to perform tasks for people living with disabilities.
Of course, TV coverage for AKC and more titles are not the only reason why we are becoming active in the area of public service dogs. Working canines relate directly to AKC’s mission. You all know well that AKC is committed to breeding for type and for function. The specialized function and skills of certain working dogs are growing more important precisely at a time when these dogs are becoming scarce.
National security is one of our country’s top priorities, and yet the US is facing a shortage of explosive detection dogs. Today, the US government and security agencies obtain about 85% of their dogs from overseas breeders. To address and help resolve this issue, the AKC Board of Directors has established the Detection Dog Task Force – a core group consisting of AKC Board and Staff members, including Carmen Battaglia, Chris Sweetwood, Doug Ljungren and Sheila Goffe, with the goal to leverage AKC’s expertise to increase the availability of US bred and trained explosive detection dogs who will protect our nation from terrorist threats and other dangers to society.
The Government Relations department is working with agencies to encourage the procurement of home-bred dogs. Breeder Education is working on a program known as Patriotic Puppy, which incentivizes US breeders to produce high quality puppies for future detection work. Exciting outcomes so far include two US Customs contracts calling for American-bred dogs, three annual detection dog conferences, and a growing roster of Patriotic Puppy breeders from 23 states. The Adopt a K9 Cop campaign, the US Detection Dog Task Force and the Patriotic Puppy Program are prime examples of the things we can do as Americans and as AKC breeders to help keep our communities and our country safe.
It’s this time of the year that we reflect and take stock of the past, present and future. It comes down to this: Safety, good health and the ability to enjoy our purebred dogs in friendship and in peace are among the things that matter most. Maya Angelou said, “We need much less than we think we need.” All we really need is our dog community, our clubs and each other. As we head into the holiday season and the end of our year of competition, all of us at AKC hope that you remain safe, healthy and surrounded by friends, family and all the dogs that are part of your lives. Enjoy every bit of the weekend ahead.
I will leave you with a quote from writer Louis Sabin. “No matter how little money you have, nor how few possessions, having a dog will make you rich.” Happy holidays.
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