Musings On Westminster Dog Show
The Westminster Kennel Club crowning of “America’s Dog” is a shameless mockery of impartial judging by a sexist dog club, it's disturbing!
Lisa Dube Forman, Guest Columnist
If you read the dog show periodicals or engage in social media then you are aware that, currently, our dog society’s disposition can best be described as noxious and jaded. Having exchanged views with many long serving hobbyists, these adjectives reasonably summarize the dog community’s pervading mood of and for anything pertaining to the American Kennel Club.
There appears to be no end to the negative commentary on our passionate pursuits, such as the judging approval process, quality of judge's selections and disproportionate group competition. They include matters like the point system and the all-out crazed race for the Top Ten; the AKC Board of Directors reputation; a noted lack of enforcement against violators and wrongdoers, and what seems to be the exceedingly questionable future of the sport.
It is small wonder that enthusiasts and hobbyists are protesting vociferously these days but they would object even more if they were to realize an important fact about the WKC.
This august Westminster Kennel Club Board or Show Committee does not include women. Females are not allowed to be members of what the WKC calls “America’s Dog Show.”
How ironic that this revered institution claims such lofty, patriotic status while simultaneously denying our sport’s gender majority — women — membership in their club. Profound statistics from the 2002 Delegates Meeting Minutes reveal that 75 percent of AKC breeders and 72 percent of puppy buyers are women. Long ago, the American Kennel Club established that breeders, ergo women, are the backbone of the sport, but women are not welcome as members of several kennel clubs — only their hard earned cash.
In fact, Westminster Kennel Club is not the only kennel club in the United States that does not allow women members. The 2005 Delegate Meeting Minutes revealed there were 10 AKC member clubs that do not permit female membership.
How can such an affront towards women, our sport’s nucleus group, continue unchallenged? How has the media missed the fact that such sexist organizations are celebrated annually?
WKC professes to crown “America’s Dog” just so long as American women who comprise 50.8 percent of the population “know their place.” The Westminster Kennel Club is a gilded cage enclosing their male membership within the comfortable confines of antiquated conventions. Purposefully an Old Boys Club, they celebrate and preserve their gender bias practices. Insofar as women, well, women are only necessary and welcome when the club needs exhibitor participation.
Each time I watch this celebrated dog show my mind returns to the ‘behind the scenes’ sex inequality. Unfairness or bias does not appear to be limited to the organization’s constituency roll. A particular incident took place during WKC breed judging that reinforces the dog show community’s prevailing, cynical state of mind. No wonder fanciers are disgusted, throwing their hands up in exasperation. Do they believe no one notices actions of impropriety?
The ethical transgression transpired when a Judge presided over a Best of Breed assignment that included a dog this judge had very recently used at stud. The litter sired by this entry reportedly was whelped already. Destroying any sense of impartiality, the judge proceeded to award that stud dog Best of Breed over the competition. Even more, the judge then awarded Select Dog to yet another dog they previously used at stud! The basis of sportsmanlike competition is to adjudicate with neutrality, ethics, honesty, and common sense. Instead, this incident exposes a lack of common decency and disregard for the Rules, Policies and Guidelines for dog show judges.
The responsibility for entering dogs that are ineligible or could create a conflict of interest lies with the exhibitors, so says the AKC Rules & Policies Handbook for Conformation Judges. In fact, the Handbook states that awards won may be canceled, and exhibitors with repeat violations may receive reprimands or fines.
A conflict of interest exists when a judge is influenced by any relationship or factor other than the merit of the dogs. Situations such as this require a judge to excuse an exhibitor for cause, even if known only to them and they were obligated to recognize that a conflict of interest existed. One such memorable example occurred when AKC Judge Peter Green excused a handler from WKC Group Judging for this very reason. The dog had won Best Of his Breed and was justly entitled to enter the Terrier Group but this celebrated judge was duty-bound to adjudicate in a neutral manner, demonstrating fairness and generosity towards the other exhibitors and that he did.
Many exhibitors find examples of sexual inequality or breaches of judging fairness and rules unsurprising, due to widespread desensitization and weariness. A number of seasoned fanciers suggested that the AKC might deliberately overlook the situation because pitifully, there is a lack of faith in AKC propriety.
In truth, Old Boy's Clubs still exist today in what AKC coins a “family sport” and unabashed examples of indecorum abound. However, they are not benign as they have a perceptible influence on a sizable portion of enthusiasts who are notably disaffected. The “appearance of impropriety” in both judging and dog club sexism may be the greatest influential factor in the future health of AKC dog competitions.
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