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Background, Rule, and Letters


Should the AKC GROOMING RULE against altering and foreign substances be rescinded or enforced? We covered AKC rules in Rules Enforced and Rules Ignored.


September 24, 2009

TheDogPress Staff


We asked readers to vote YES or NO to the question on enforcing the rule on grooming, altering coat, and foreign substances.  By a 4 to 1 majority, you said enforce the rule. We’ve selected a sampling of interesting comments but first; the AKC rule:  Entering/exhibiting altered dog (temporary alteration) Mitigated Reprimand/$500; Standard 6 mo suspension/$1000; Aggravated 1 yr suspension/$2500


Santiago Pinto was published in the June 2009 AKC Gazette as “Suspended of AKC Privileges” pending appeal.  We asked if it is unusual for a person suspended by a bench committee to continue exhibiting for the remainder of the show or while the person goes through the “appeal” process.  No one could find an AKC rule covering that situation but as pointed out by one reader, if a handler could not continue to show while their case was on appeal, it would be a hardship to other clients.


Several readers also asked about handler Mary Wild (story here) wondering if AKC suspended her based on irrefutable evidence of having caused the death of seven dogs?  If so, it has not been published as of this date so can she continue to potentially risk other dogs while appealing and/or waiting for her court appearance?  We interviewed Andrew Green about his 30 day suspension for cursing a lady judge.  It wasn’t published until after “time served” so what does that mean?  There are many unanswered questions regarding grooming rule violations and suspensions but here’s what some of you said about grooming practices today.


Pinto Case: Recently at Langley KC, the handler Santiago Pinto used a product called “black magic” on a dog while showing in the best of breed ring at a National Specialty. This product dyes the hair on the dog black temporarily. He did this in front of several other exhibitors and spectators. Two ladies brought this to the clubs attention and a bench show hearing was filed. I myself witnessed this as Mr. Pinto was at the inside corner of the ring and I was at the same outside corner of the ring taking pictures.


I was a witness at the bench show hearing. Mr. Pinto admitted to the bench show hearing that he did this and he was found guilty of exhibiting an altered dog. So what was his penalty? He did not receive the “standard” penalty recommended by AKC of 6 months suspension and a $1000 fine. He received NO suspension and a $500 fine. He  continued to handle dogs for the remaining 3 days of the circuit. Was the dog's win stripped? Of course not. Even though rules state dogs cannot be altered and Mr. Pinto admitted to altering the dog.   Sandra Goose Allen said she would have put her up anyway so the Best of Opposite Sex win stands and nothing was done to the owner of the dog who was there watching! I was told that he accepted responsibility for his actions and absolved his client of any wrongdoing. It appears that if one confesses to breaking rules, that makes it okay. Janet Maas


Santiago Pinto did not receive "no suspension."  In fact, he is in the middle of serving a 6-month suspension.  As to whether it's unusual to wait until the end of the weekend to begin serving the sentence, I can't say.  But as the owner of another dog he occasionally handles, I will say it would have been extremely unfair to his other clients if the suspension had begun immediately.  I stand by my statements, communicated directly to an Australian Terrier Club of America member, that they really seem out for blood on this guy.  Everybody knows that pro handlers temporarily alter their dogs' appearance in all kinds of ways (e.g. chalk, dye, hair extensions for poodles, etc..  I wish they didn't, why not enforce the rule against everybody? Santiago's mistake was to get excited, rush to get a dog into the ring on short notice, and to assume that a rule that is rarely enforced is never enforced.  I'm not saying no punishment, just that 6 months of no income is WAY strong enough, rather than inadequate as the ATCA member suggests.  Santiago Pinto did NOT receive preferential treatment! His offence was putting chalk on a terrier...This is something that almost all terrier handlers do, he was just careless enough to get caught. He admitted it, apologized, and still received a 6 month suspension. Patty Harbison


Dog shows were NOT originally set up to be 'Beauty contests'.  They were started so Breeders can see what other Breeders had to offer, now it has become a business to win win win, maybe if we go back to why we show dogs in the first place, much of the controversy surrounding shows now-a-days would disappear.  Julie Seaton


As a judge, since I am not always able to discern when, or if, an exhibit’s color or appearance has been artificially changed (unless the changes were made by an inexperienced exhibitor or a groomer of modest ability) I’d prefer to not be obliged to pass judgment on whether or not an illegal change has been made.  Wm. D. (Sandy) Gunn


Let's start enforcing the rule.  Hair spray can be felt - wiglets can be detected.  Let's get back to why the dog's breed was developed, and how well that particular dog meets the breed standard.  Ann Jensen is the best dog paper out.  Real Facts and true stories.  Very interesting and informative.  Keep up the good work and I vote YES, rescind the rule.  Ruth Prehn


Why, then, the requirement for tail and ear docking is not apparently considered an alteration under this rule.  To remove a dog's title for color touch up is unconscionable if at the same time you require tails and ears to be cropped in certain breeds.  Patricia McCann


I firmly believe that the rule against altering or using color should be kept and enforced.  I also believe that all breeds should be shown as natural as possible and that the groomers for show dogs should drastically reduce the grooming aids used.  Mary Carter


I think it is disgusting and cheating to change a dog's natural hair color. Even worse is the practice of adding false hair in the form of hair pieces to poodles' top knots. Then there are braces to change bad bites, leather glue to get and maintain the correct ear drop in a puppy, tattooing eyelids to get the correct dark color. What you see is NOT what you get when you buy a puppy from a Conformation Champion line. The fact is that with these rules not being enforced you have no idea of what the ultimate appearance of your puppy will be. With the complete indifference to following and enforcing the rule against changing the dog's appearance it is impossible to breed the best to the best, because you have no idea of how much altering has been done to the so called "best."  It's a very sad state of affairs and damaging to those who do follow the rules, because who knows whose dog has been altered artificially.  Ursula M. Walsh


I had a beautiful boxer bitch… dark brindle and her white came up the outside of the show side leg but was not on her body.  She was not over the third, but someone who had been in showing for many years came to me and said she could 'fix' the problem and proceeded to show me how!  I did not show my bitch for two weekends while her 'fix' washed off and I told her to never touch her again.  So, no don't change the rule!  She became a Am/C Ch and had 6 other titles including a BOB from the Am Bred class so apparently it didn't hurt her in conformation, did it?  Lois Buchanan


When I am looking at a dog I want to know that what shown in the ring is related to reality.  One doesn't want any more surprises in the whelping box than necessary.  Judi Wilson


Until there is random testing for product on coats by AKC how can this be enforced fairly?  Is hairspray and fake top knots OK in Poodles but not in other breeds?   It is obvious outside of those rings what goes on routinely.  It is the same rule for all breeds but rarely enforced.  I was told years ago it was a judges discretion whether to enforce, but how can they tell if the dog was dyed or not?  At least you know it is temporary if it came out of a can at ringside.  And what about all the fixed tails in Terriers, Goldens and German Shepherds, etc.  It is a very difficult rule to apply fairly.  And who said life would be fair anyway?  Linda Guihen


The whole "no altering of apperance" rule is treated like a joke by many exhibitors - terriers and poodles are dyed, missing eye rims are filled in, white dogs chalked, coated breeds have hairspray, gel etc, to make their coat stick out more... turning a blind eye to rule breakers contributes to the AKC's poor reputation.  I realize it would hurt the sales of dog grooming products and upset prominent breeders/handlers, but I think the AKC and its reps should police this more seriously. When a sheltie in the rain becomes a wet sticky gooey mess, it's obvious.  If the point is to pick the best breeding stock, covering up 'flaws' does not achieve this goal. No dog is perfect. Let them ALL show with their flaws. – Leanne


By altering a dog, prospective buyers of puppies are not getting an honest assessment or picture of the real dog.  If that judge would have awarded the dog the BOS with or without the product, why use it?  Gini Addamo


Just because there is a bit of larceny in each of us does not make it correct to not bring consequences to those who falsify their exhibits.  The rule should be more closely monitored and enforced with dogs that enter the ring full of chalk, spray, trimmed coats when the breed standard says "to be shown naturally" being excused along with their handlers.  Anne Copeland


What good is having a rule that is virtually never enforced?  If it were enforced most all the standard poodles would be ineligible to be shown and everyone knows it.  Same with the black Chow Chows.  Lynette White


The standard for my breed uses wording from the AKC rule against altering in the standard itself yet coats are altered by trimming off part of the color and color is altered with substances like magic marker and hair dye.  In presenting breed seminars to judges, our presenters address this issue by asking judges if they like to be made fools of by handlers violating not only AKC rules but the wording of the breed standard itself.   As long as judges reward altered dogs, and it is frequently very obvious that color has been changed, handlers will continue the practice.  Removing the rule would give them free reign to do even more altering.   Where would it stop?  With bites? Ear sets? Surgery to remove spots?  No boundaries; no limits. Karen Elvin EST 2002 © 14091611



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ALTERATIONS - AKC RULES AGAINST? Should the AKC rule be enforced against cosmetically changing a dog’s natural appearance? What about surgically?

GROOMING RULES WORK WHEN ENFORCED! Judges should excuse or disqualify for presentation cheating but only UKC tries to enforce the rules.


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