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DO DOG CLUB DIRECTORS HAVE TOO MUCH POWER?

 

Parent breed clubs are charged with management of the Breed Standard, breed education, specialty shows, and promoting the breed but not all clubs serve the members. Comments invited!

 

October 15, 2019

Betty Ackerman, Guest Reporter

 

For a vindictive few, a dog club board title also gives the power to harm anyone they dislike or wish to remove from the ring. Here is a recent example of using the Parent Club Trial Board system as a way to embarrass, bully or just plain drive a competitor out of the sport.

 

Katie Edwards has bred quality Danes for 45 years – producing 35 champions while averaging less than one litter per year. She was a member of the Great Dane Club of America for 19 years and helped start three affiliate clubs.

 

One day Rayna Orgill, President of a local club (and member of the Parent Club), called one of Katie’s puppy owners who was a novice in the show world.

 

Rayna told the owner she heard that Katie had abused Tammy’s pup while at the Portland shows, and did she (Tammy) take the pup to the vet? The pup had come home just fine but Tammy figured if this is the way show people treated each other then she wanted no part of it and predictably, she withdrew her dog from the ring.

 

Is it a coincidence that Tammy’s dog was consistently beating a certain club member’s dog?

 

Disgusted that the club Prez would not apologize for Tammy’s shoddy treatment, Katie Edwards dropped out of the local club that she worked so hard to start. But then… a cadre of competitors started a campaign to get Katie and her dogs out of the show ring.

 

One day a couple named Dave and Launi invited themselves over to Katie’s home, supposedly to discuss the future of a bitch Katie had sold them as a pup and stayed on as co-owner. Katie could not meet them anywhere because she was house-bound taking care of her mother who was in her 90’s, on hospice care, dying of congestive heart failure.

 

The couple arrived, demanded Katie sign off on the bitch, giving all breeding rights over to them. They had already set up a breeding for the bitch and said no one was going to tell them who to breed her to. They stated they had “heard” Katie had shown a spayed bitch years ago and if she didn’t meet their demands they would ruin her.

 

Katie’s mother and her mother’s aide were getting scared so Katie signed off on the bitch to get them to leave. As Dave was leaving, he thanked Katie for being calm because “this could have gotten ugly.

 

Katie filed a police report since extortion is a felony. Shortly after that Dave left a threatening phone call on Katie’s cell phone stating that he “knew people,” that she was “stupid” and ended with “this is your last warning.” But it didn’t end there. The Burdge’s then proceeded to file numerous complaints to 5 other kennel clubs claiming Katie had thrown a ringside temper tantrum at a dog show. Note they didn’t file these complaints on or at the day of the show.

 

Other people wrote in stating they were present and no such thing happened, therefore the Mt. Rainier Working Dog Club, Olympic Kennel Club and the Great Dane Club of Washington dropped the whole thing. The AKC however turned the complaint over to their Compliance Department. Compliance demanded her veterinary records, which (defendant) Katie Edwards turned over to them.

 

The AKC objected to a spay certificate not being signed by the veterinarian. AKC was provided proof this vet never signs them (in fact most don’t.) The AKC then proceeded to attempt to obtain Katie’s veterinary records without her permission. The veterinarian, irritated with multiple intrusions to his practice, stepped behind an attorney and refused to deal with either side.

 

In the State of Washington it is illegal to interfere negatively with a client/business relationship.

 

Dave and Launi Burdge apparently teamed up with the Great Dane Club of America Vice President Jamie Harshfield who then sponsored them into the GDC of America. The Burdge’s then filed ANOTHER complaint against Katie Edwards regarding supposedly showing a spayed bitch. Vice President Harshfield (who herself had sponsored the complainant!) participated in the meetings that appointed a Trial Board.

 

The Great Dane Club of America had Burdge’s complaint for 2 ? months but notified Katie of it only 8 working days before a telephone hearing on the matter. Katie had laryngitis so badly she could not participate, only listen in. The Parent Club demanded access to Katie’s veterinary records or, in short, they would find her guilty. They were informed the vet was angry at the intrusions and wanted nothing to do with them – they didn’t care. In fact the board also wanted evidence regarding a different bitch that Dave and Launi told them had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia even though hernia repair has been a legal operation for 25 years. Either they didn’t know that or it was merely more harassment.

 

The VP and Trial Board Chairman O'Sullivan state they obtained damaging information regarding the case but refused to give it to Katie or her attorney. Before anything was even resolved, O’Sullivan started sending letters and emails out to the entire Great Dane Club Of America membership world-wide with false information that put Katie in a negative light. He also put long letters in the club bulletins doing the same.

 

Great Dane Club of America By-Laws {Ref #1} state only one letter is mandated for an expulsion hearing and that is to notify the membership of the date, time and place of a membership vote regarding this. Nothing in the By-Laws allows any other kind of information dissemination. The rest of the Trial Board has been asked but refuses to state if they even viewed this “evidence” before they followed O’Sullivan’s advice to recommend a vote to throw Katie out of the club for life.

 

NOTE: Expulsion eliminates Katie from filing any complaints of her own. No evidence was provided to Katie or her attorney.

 

Katie was notified that she could come speak in her own behalf at an expulsion hearing scheduled many states (and a long plane ride away) at a dog show in the Midwest near where several board members lived. The club was fully aware of Katie’s mother’s health and that Katie was her mother’s caretaker and could not leave.

 

At the expulsion hearing, one breeder tried to speak on Katie’s behalf. Here is her statement verbatim from her letter to Katie: “When we all met at the Illini show, NO ONE there (except the board) knew that Katie had supplied the information requested from the GDCA. I was NOT allowed to show it. Everyone at that meeting only knew the information that was provided by Neil. What (Katie) had supplied to the GDCA from the vet … was NOT disclosed, so basically people were voting on a situation they only had information on that the GDCA had provided, nothing about what YOU (Katie) HAD SUPPLIED.

 

When the vote was over and I was able to meet with a few of the members and show them the papers you had given me, they had no idea this information had been given to the board by you. I believe the voting results would have been hugely different if those at the meeting knew the entire situation.

 

Katie’s mother died 2 days after the hearing. 19 people voted at this hearing – the vote for expulsion passed by slightly over one vote. It is still unclear if any Board members voted at this meeting.

 

One Great Dane Club Of America board member was asked what the Trial Board showed them for proof. Answer was “The GDC of A Board was not shown anything (by the Trial Board)” which, if true, sounds like the GDCA tried to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the way the Trial Board handled the investigation.

 

But it didn’t end there. It was to be reviewed by the Parent Club “Ethics Committee.” Oh good! Finally this whole situation will be looked into right? NOT. Apparently, members who are aware this was a witch hunt and in defiance of the Board of Directors, were still putting Katie’s name down to judge the National as she had been a popular breed judge and twice before had been on the short list to judge the National.

 

The Great Dane Club Board’s new Ethics Committee’s first recommendation was to make ineligible “any person subject to the proceedings of a trial board or other matter pertaining to conduct review, at the time of balloting and election of judges.” This was clearly a witch hunt but it also set a dangerous precedent for future handling of complaints. A once-popular judge’s reputation was damaged beyond repair.

 

What about your dog club? Check your by-Laws. Are they so loose that the powers that be can throw someone out without presenting evidence or letting them speak in their own behalf? If this could happen to a judge held in high esteem it can happen to anyone.

 

Has your Breed or Kennel Club ever suffered a similar situation? If “YES” you are invited to COMMENT, email the Editor@TheDogPress.com with a brief description.

 

Reference Information: #1 Great Dane Club of America By-Laws

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