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Mr. Peter Gaeta on Judging & 2006 Additional Approval Criteria


Background - The Issue - See Part One


Peter Gaeta, former field representative, was appointed AKC Director Of Judging Operations in 2005.  He is committed to improving and maintaining the best judging system in the world, a judging approval system which formally began in 1982.


We have not always met with such total and courteous cooperation when contacting AKC for information.  Mr. Gaeta raises the bar for communications expertise between AKC and the fancy.


TDP: Mr. Gaeta, would you briefly address the more stringent requirements in the new policy as regards encouragement for knowledgeable breeder-applicants or people who plan to apply for a Group?


PAG: First I would like to address a misunderstanding that has grown out of our first conversation. The new policy is an insertion that does apply to a first application only. However, the prior approval process remains available after 12 years in a breed. This insertion in no way changes the existing approval policy; it is an addition to that policy.


Until this recent insertion into the approval process, a whole Group was not available on a single application. This new policy applies only on the first application a qualified prospective judge makes. Thereafter, applications are limited according to the existing approval policy. Presently, the breed by breed requirements on an initial application are far easier to satisfy than the requirements for a whole Group under this new policy.


An applicant is required to have participated in conformation with a breed for a minimum of 12 years, bred five litters and produced four champions. In addition she/he must have judged six sanctioned matches (with Specialty matches, Specialty Sweepstakes and Futurities counting as two), and ring stewarded six times. If an applicant cannot meet the “12-5-4” requirements, they can qualify with 15 years in a breed and scoring 60 points from a very liberal list of conformation related activities and a minimum of 15 points in breeding, owning or handling.


Thereafter, qualifying for additional breeds involves satisfying four of the following enriching components: Owning/exhibiting; attending specialties; attending seminars or institutes; judging matches, sweepstakes or futurities; working with mentors; doing in-ring observations. The approval for additional breeds is much easier than qualifying for initial breeds.


After the first application, and until a judge reaches her/his fourth application for additional breeds, each application is limited to the number of breeds already approved up to a maximum of 13. Thereafter, the limit is 13 breeds. While a judge must wait one year between each application, the progression toward approval for each breed in a Group (and thereby the Group itself) is basically dictated by the number of breeds an applicant qualifies for on the first application and the provisional process. After the second application it is not unusual to see judges cycle through every 18 months or so.


In short, the conventional approval process is more liberal, and, in fact is a faster track than the new insertion that allows for a whole Group on the first application. An applicant with 50 years experience could have been applying for breeds for 38 years on a more friendly criterion.


TDP: Regarding the lead sentence on “policy for approving up to a Group on the first application” you have explained that applies only to a Group in which one is not approved for each breed and that a person can work their way through a group, breed by breed, and thereby become automatically approved to judge that Group. Would that not be unduly expensive, time-consuming, and discriminatory if a person chose to finish a career or raise a family before pursuing a judging career? Wouldn’t they be a senior citizen before qualifying under the new system!


PAG: As I wrote above, the new insertion is only available to applicants on their first ever application.


If a fancier did not get involved in dogs until the early twenties, she/he could be approved for breed(s) by their mid thirties. Thereafter it is simple arithmetic. The first Group could easily be approved by the mid forties. Thereafter, for a good judge, progress would be at about eight breeds each year and a half. Some go even faster.


TDP: Peter Green’s Group approval is more than deserved - he certainly qualifies under “50 years in the conformation aspect of breeding and exhibiting dogs” and has easily met the requirement to “judge and award Championship points in at least two AKC recognized foreign registries.” As an elder breeder with ties abroad, he might have met these two criteria but most breeders could not. The perception is that he would not have been able to qualify had he been only a breeder. How do you see it?


PAG: All things being equal (i.e. they started at the same time), that “elder breeder” could have applied for first breeds 38 years ago. I know of judges who got their first breed nearly 30 years ago and now have four and five Groups.


TDP: The criteria states an applicant “must have (bred or) finished at least six exhibits in 75% of the breeds in that Group.” The two words I’ve inserted in parenthesis would clarify the intention of that sentence if indeed it was not meant to favor handlers. However, it continues “and at least two exhibits in the balance of the breeds in that Group.” Two questions here: How can that apply to the kind of breeder or judge one hopes the AKC seeks? Even if the two words (bred or) were inserted, would it not still favor only handlers or commercial breeders dealing in multiple breeds?


PAG: Under the present system, having bred four champions (and meeting the balance of the criteria) qualifies a breeder applicant on the 12-5-4 Method. Having bred two champions (and meeting the balance of the criteria) qualifies a breeder applicant on the 60 Point Method. It would seem that the new insertion actually favors breeders over handlers.


TDP: Upon having time to reflect on the overall perception of the new requirement and discuss it with the AKC Board, if the new requirements do favor handlers over breeder applicants, will AKC have another look at the policy?


PAG: The process does not in any way appear to favor handlers considering all of the possibilities available to breeders on an ongoing basis. On the other hand, handlers are not eligible to be approved to judge until they retire from handling. Judges are not allowed to handle anything they do not own or co-own.


TDP: How long do you estimate it might take a breeder-judge to work their way through all the breeds in a group and thus, become eligible to judge a Group?


PAG: If a breeder started with one breed, she/he could be approved for all breeds in the smallest Group in five applications. In six applications every Group is arithmetically within reach. That would put Group status within reach in about eight years. Starting with two or three breeds on the first application could shorten the process by a year. Thereafter, the applicant could get eight or more breeds on each application and conceivably be approved for a new Group every five or six years depending on how quickly provisional assignments were completed.


TDP: Doing quick math, that equates to roughly 50 years?


PAG: I assume you mean to become an all-breed judge. Let’s see, one group in eight years and say six years for each additional group is 36 more. That total is 44 years. Add that to whatever starting age you wish to project.


Now, let me ask a rhetorical question: do you truly believe very many of even our most qualified judges ought to be all-breed judges? Most might want to be, but then lose interest in pursuing the rigorous educational requirements we all want them to meet. By the time most judges are approved for three or four Groups they are approved for nearly all of the breeds they have a passion and a feel for, and they are judging as frequently as they want to. They do not have time for further education.


TDP: Well, since you put it that way…. You are right on target and it is less a rhetorical question than an astute observation.  A shortage of breeder-judge applicants is a fear, partly because of what you just said, partly because people lack motivation and physical ability after the age of retirement. If a Group applicant can “document” 50 years, we can safely assume that person must be over 65 years of age, so even if the other criteria are met, the new rules present complex barriers which can only be detrimental to the sport. Do you see any validity to this concern? Or that they might not have long to serve the sport by the time they became qualified to do all breeds?


PAG: Why would a breeder wait until age 65 to apply for breeds? Actually, an exceptional judge who is in frequent demand can cycle through most Groups in about three years once they have a couple of Groups. I generally reference what is the norm. The exceptional judge, however, could become an all breed judge in just over 30 years. Now, another question: do we want other than exceptional judges approved for all breeds?


TDP: Well of course we want only exceptional judges to become all breed judges. Still, it seems doubtful that retiring All-Breed and Multi-Group judges can be expeditiously replaced, especially with the growing number of shows. Additionally, the economic impact on clubs could be significant because finding an available Group judge would become increasingly difficult and expensive. How would AKC solve these long-term problems?


PAG: Long term problems are not anticipated, as the present approval policy provides greater numbers of judges each year.


TDP: With no disrespect to Handlers who are paid to win, breed type can become secondary in the quest for showmanship and extremes of type meant to draw the judges’ eye. Could breeding for the handler-judge actually defeat the purpose of judging, that being the preservation of breed type, i.e. purebreds?


PAG: You answer your own question. In the first place, to understand extremes of type presupposes the understanding of type. Secondly, handlers may be able to more easily distinguish between “ideal” and “extreme” than breeders who are more emotionally connected to what they have to work with.


TDP: Most agree on one thing: AKC must quit worrying about fairness, political correctness, avoiding legal action over denials, and go back to putting first those who painstakingly create top quality exhibits, with no diminishing of gratitude and respect for the huge contribution made by pro handlers.  Would you speak to that concern?


PAG: In a perfect world, I cannot imagine anyone who truly cares about these highly specialized creatures that man has either totally engineered or who have evolved on their own to live so closely as to become integral family members would disagree with the way you put it.


TDP: Well said Mr. Gaeta! TheDogPress and over 6,000 subscribers appreciate the time you have taken to address these concerns. We hope most if not all, have been put to rest and we can all move on to new shows, new judges, and a bright future for all. Thank you.


Background - The Issue - See Part One EST 2002 © Feb. 2006



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