Siberian Huskies – what should they look like?

Posted August 24, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge – Benjamin Disraeli

There has been a fascinating thread on the Facebook page of the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain. And I am delighted to say it been almost entirely polite and positive. It began when an owner posted a question which intrigued me. She said: ‘Hello. I am new to all of this and I’ve recently been told that both my dogs are more working type than show type. Does anybody on here have workers as well as show dogs? Ever since I was young I have always watched Crufts and wanted to show dogs. I go to ring craft with both dogs and we are doing well but I went to our first show last weekend and noticed the other dogs were different body types and it has upset me to the point where I keep thinking I do not have as much chance as they are not the right dogs for showing.’ (I have edited the post slightly). I think this is where Facebook shows itself at its best and the thread has been very supportive of of the exhibitor with many offers to meet at shows and help her – precisely what I would hope all breed clubs and exhibitors would do.

We too quickly forget what the breed was originally established to do

I was intrigued because the thread throws up once again the differences which develop over time within a breed: differences which gradually divide it as breeders follow through on their own ideas about what the breed should look like – unfortunately often forgetting what the breed was established to do. We see it in German Shepherd Dogs, Border Collies and many Gundogs (and other breeds too), often causing rifts between all-breed judges and between specialists who all too often take one side or another, interpreting the breed standard in a way that fits their personal perception of their breed. Because most specialists will have a commitment to one or the other ‘types’ their placings over time will inevitably tend to increase divergence. In theory, all-breed judges should be looking for something mid-way between the extremes although unfortunately, as many lack confidence, there is a tendency for them to go for the showy, more glamorous and usually larger, heavier type (or even just those being shown by people they know, of course). Where all-breed judges really understand the breed this might help redress the balance but given the above it merely adds to the confusion.
The reasons for the divergences will be different in most breeds although as far as gundogs are concerned there is a consistent tendency for breeders of show dogs to concentrate more on expression, substance or coat rather than the structure or musculature required for the field. In other instances, GSDs being an excellent example, an obsession develops with what is required in the country of origin (often based on a misunderstanding and distortion of soundness and structure (see my previous articles on this subject at http://www.davidcavill.wordpress.com) so the changes are embedded in other countries too. I have judged GSDs in India and the experience was disappointing.
I suggested these were the reasons why there is a distinct divergence in Siberian Huskies. My explanation was oversimplified, as was quickly (and rightly) pointed out by specialists on the thread, but nevertheless I believe there is a great deal to be said for this theory.

I wrote, ‘I am sure many people appreciate your dilemma, Sophie, and the problem you have come across is endemic in a number of breeds. As far as Siberians are concerned there is at least a relatively simple explanation and it is all to do with the work which they do – although not everyone will agree with me. Huskies were originally bred to guard and help move ‘stuff’ about for their owners who lived largely in lands where snow and ice comprise most of the environment. They needed to be strong, hardy and have stamina but over the years the needs of their owners divided them into two generalised types: those similar to the heavier Eskimo Dog, Greenland Dog and Alaskan Malamute which were used to pull heavy loads (the Alaskan Malamute has been described as the ‘carthorse of the Arctic’) and those more suited to carrying lighter loads over long distances. Competitions such as the Iditarod popularised a lighter dog but it still had to have excellent musculature and immense stamina. So far so good. However, when the breed was introduced into a more ‘normal’ environment there was still an understandable and admirable ambition among owners to work their dogs but the snow and ice opportunities were few and far between. To solve the problem, wheeled carts were introduced which provided such opportunities but the demands of the modern world and the number of people who wanted to be involved meant that races needed to be relatively short if the various categories were to be accommodated. To win, speed was more important than stamina and so breeders, again understandably, began to select and breed dogs which were ‘racers’ which could cover the ground faster. The consequence was a lighter, finer type. They are still Siberian Huskies and there are many judges who prefer them: it just takes time for you to become familiar with what each judge believes to be correct.

My own view, as one who has been judging the breed since it was first recognised by the Kennel Club, and as many Siberian owners will tell you, is for what I consider to be the type which would best work in their original environment. That does not make me ‘right’ it is, after all, just my opinion and others will select different examples of the breed. Good luck: becoming successful in the world of dogs takes time but I promise you that it is worth it. You will make many friends, some enemies but it will always be interesting and exciting.’

As you can imagine the response has been very varied, some supportive, some clearly stating that I did not understand the breed while others have sent private messages of support saying that they would be uncomfortable doing so publicly for they feared being bullied. I think this last is a great shame because the conversation/s on the thread which took place over three days was, although spirited, always civilised.

Understanding the unique character and structure of the Spitz breeds

Some have suggested that as I am not a breed specialist I have no right to become so deeply involved in this discussion. I do not agree: in my view breeds benefit from receiving a considered outside perspective, especially when they find themselves grappling with these particular dilemmas. In any case I do have some knowledge other than just judging the breed and attending seminars. I was lucky because when the breed first came into the UK, I was show manager of the Nordic Show, helping to run the ‘Spitz Spectacular’ at Ascot and writing my first book, All About the Spitz Breeds (still available for a few pence on the Internet even though it is very much out of date) so I was already doing research with the help of such committed Spitz breeds breeders as Jenetta Parkyns (Alaskan Malamutes and Eskimo Dogs), Jean Sharp (Bale) and Mike Stockman, (Keeshonds), Len Hammond (Schipperkes), Averil Cawthera senior (Pomeranians), Betty Moody (Samoyeds), the mother and daughter duo, Liz and Sally Leitch with their partner Ali Coops) among many others, all of whom had wonderful archives and helped me to begin to understand the unique character and structure of this most attractive group. Consequently, although not a specialist I believe I have enough experience and knowledge to comment constructively.

Unfortunately, words are very often not as descriptive as they might be and several contributors, because of my initial remarks, made the assumption that I was in favour of the rather heavy, often showy types which often do well under all-breed judges in the UK. This is not the case (as my judging record clearly demonstrates) and I referred those involved in the conversation to Sally Leich’s brilliant article (originally circulated to all those on the Siberian Husky Judges List as a ‘briefing note’) which was reprinted in both Our Dogs and Dog World back in 2014. You can read it by clicking on the ‘Download’ button at http://www.huskyrides.co.uk/#/articles-links/4586787382.
I suggest for further reading The Siberian Husky, A Guide to Soundness and Type (1975 and updated in 1990) and the 25th Anniversary Yearbook published in 2002/3, all published by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain.

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Kennel Club Judges Education Programme 1999

Posted May 14, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

David Cavill offers a section by section guide to the Kennel Club Judges’ Working Party extensive plans for shows and judges over the next two years. This article first appeared in Our Dogs on December 10th & 17th 1999

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working Party. Almost by definition, much of The Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by The Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that they have had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

Background
Looking through cuttings from the canine press in the nineties there is no doubt that there were calls for change from every quarter. There was little agreement on what, precisely, those changes should be but The Kennel Club was the subject of increasing criticism and the focus was on the quality of judging and general concerns by almost everyone (other than the compilers) about judging lists. At the same time there was increasing dissatisfaction with the open show scene. Privately, The Kennel Club accepted that the licensing of open shows had been too liberal. Not only were there too many shows but the number of classes had increased to the extent that in many breeds there were more classes than the number of dogs available to enter them. The Judges’ Sub-committee was concerned that the experience of judges being put forward to give challenge certificates was limited and, despite changing the criteria, there were still serious problems. It was becoming increasingly clear that judges were being passed for tickets who had little knowledge either of conformation and movement or of The Kennel Club’s regulations and once passed, could go on to become non-specialists at every level – without there being any formal assessment of their competence. They may have had knowledge of breed characteristics but dogs being presented at group level at championship shows often gave group judges considerable cause for concern.

The Judges’ Working Party was set up to address some of these problems. From the beginning it was recognised that:

  1. a) the task would be extremely difficult
  2. b) short-term solutions were not likely to be effective
  3. c) whatever decisions were made they would only satisfy a proportion of participants
  4. d) it would be important to be able to review and change decisions if there was evidence that they were not working
  5. e) time would be necessary to ensure that future ideas were built on solid foundations
  6. f) a proper strategy for change would have to be agreed and implemented.
  7. g) the widest consultation would be necessary to ensure that changes could be seen to have the support of those they would effect.

The difficulties were summarised by Ronnie Irving when he said “Everyone, including the JWP and The Kennel Club, wants a simple and fair system and structure. The problem is that if we are to be fair the regulations will necessarily be complicated; while if we want to keep it simple then, given the range of regulations to be covered, we will find it difficult to treat every one equally and fairly. What we must do is to develop a playing field with a minimum slope in any direction”

First steps
The basic premise was not just to address the specific problems which had been identified but to create a structure which would ensure that in the long term, the world of showdogs in the UK could be seen to give every dog and every exhibitor a fair chance of success based on the quality of the dog. This requires a reasonable level of competition (little has been achieved from a first place in a class of one) and judges who are knowledgeable and unbiased.

It was always envisaged that the project would develop over a period of years and that some aspects needed to be put in place before others could be addressed. It was decided that the basic problems of the status of the open show and the development of judgeÕs lists should have the first priority. At the same time, work began on best practice recommendations for the three stages of judges training which were considered vital – show regulations and ring management, conformation and movement and the characteristics of individual breeds. It was felt that in most breeds, it should be more difficult to be passed to give tickets as a specialist and for the first few non-specialist appointments but should become progressively easier to be passed for further breeds as experience increased.

The JWP began by designing questionnaires to be distributed to all breed clubs. Full details of the JWP remit were published in the canine press and everyone was invited to put forward their views. Almost 4,000 questionnaires were distributed and over 40% were returned. Kennel Club staff carefully collated them and the conclusions were considered by the JWP before work commenced. On average there have been ten meetings of the JWP each year and in the meantime, both Kennel Club staff and members of the working party have put in many hours on every aspect of the proposals. It was agreed that members of the JWP should make themselves available to all those involved through a series of open meetings, not just to explain the thinking behind the project but to listen to the views of everyone and bring them back for discussion. As a result a number of decisions were changed, but most of the initial ideas were progressed so that a reasonable length of time could be allowed to evaluate the results of the changes. For the future, the changes implemented will be kept under review and, given the agreement of the general committee, the JWP will continue with the reforms in line with the original requirements and in the light of continuing input from the show community.

Changes affecting the exhibitor

  • Restriction of size of shows by applying a surcharge to classes over 200
  • Establishment of supported entry shows
  • Regulation to ensure variety classes (including groups and Best in Show) are judged by someone who is already passed to award challenge certificates
  • Limit on the number of classes which can be judged by anyone not supported by the breed
  • Changes to the structure of the Junior Warrant award

The long-term objective is that entries in breed classes at open shows, where they are currently very low, will see significant increases. It was felt that simply to restrict show society licences by, say, only allowing one show a year would penalise those societies which were running two successful shows and still allow those shows which did not have the full support of exhibitors to hold an event.

There was a great deal of discussion about the best way in which one could assess whether a show was or was not successful and it was decided that the key element was the number of entries received. It was finally agreed that a class average of three was reasonable. If a show could not command those sorts of numbers from its exhibitors then it would be better off holding a Limited Show.

There was no doubt in the minds of the JWP that many societies were putting on classes for which there was no demand so shows were limited to 200 classes unless the society was sure enough of its entry to put on more and pay the appropriate surcharge. At the same time, the principle of supported shows was established. As a result, clubs of the smaller breeds (i.e.: the ones most likely to be affected by the change) are encouraged to select those shows which their members would want to support. This would enable show managements to put on the extra classes with confidence.

The JWP was also concerned that a number of show secretaries were using their positions to give and receive judging appointments. To ensure that more judges were appointed who had the support of the breed it was decided to restrict the number of classes which could be judged by those who did not have the positive support of a breed club. These restrictions, to three classes (five for the most popular breeds- those in Stud Book Band E), would still enable potential non-specialists to gain experience but help clubs and exhibitors to focus on those shows and judges which the breed felt were capable of properly judging the breed. Faced with reasonable sized classes exhibitors would also have a better chance of assessing the quality of the judge.

Another change adopted as part of the strategy to improve the status of the open show was a change in the structure of the Junior Warrant award. By insisting that a proportion of points had to be obtained at open shows those quality dogs capable of gaining the award would have to be exhibited at open shows. The award was also given increased status in that it is now more difficult to achieve. A certain number of dogs have to be present before the points can be awarded or specific awards must be achieved. Exhibitors are prevented from ‘chasing’ points by the clause which ensures a rest period between qualifying classes.

Changes affecting General Show Societies

  • Shows to be held within area of society name
  • Loss of license for succeeding year if average number of dogs per class is lower than three – KC suggests changing show status to Limited Show
  • Requirement to ensure judges are on breed club judges list if judging four or more classes (six for breeds in Stud Book band E)
  • Surcharge for classes over 200
  • Development of supported classes for smaller breeds
  • Restriction on the section of judges
  • Responsibility for training

Larger shows have led to difficulties finding suitable venues and so societies have often moved their shows many miles from their ‘home’ area, often to venues that are used by many other shows. Originally, general societies were set up to provide training and show services in their home area and The Kennel Club has felt for some time that it is in the best interests of dogs and the services that local general societies provide if clubs really reflect the needs of their home base. This view was clearly supported in the responses to the questionnaires that were received by the JWP – largely by societies close to popular venues who felt that distant clubs were poaching ‘their’ exhibitors. It was therefore decided that, as one of the objectives of the JWP was to reduce the size of those shows which did not have the support of exhibitors, it should be possible for them to find suitable venues closer to the home base. Although 25 miles has been suggested as a suitable radius from a society’s home town or area, there are many clubs which could be much closer and some which would find it impossible to comply. The Kennel Club has been particularly flexible over this requirement and few shows have found this to be a serious problem.

The requirement for a reasonable average number of dogs per class has caused some societies to feel discriminated against. In fact, only a very small number of clubs has been unable to fulfil this demand – leading some to think that the average was actually set too low! In the first year of the scheme The Kennel Club has, in many cases, negotiated either a sensible reduction in classes or a conversion to a limited show for most of them. It is difficult to understand the reasoning of those who find this demand unacceptable when they must be disappointed that their efforts are not appreciated and where the alternative, a limited show or regular ring training classes, might be much more acceptable.

The demand that those judges officiating at more than three classes (five for breeds in Stud Book band E) should be on a breed club judging list, initially appears to be very demanding on open show secretaries but, of course, the onus is on the judge to ensure that they are on an appropriate list. All that is required is a small amendment to the contract.

General societies also need to be aware that anyone judging varieties, groups or best in show at open shows must already have been passed to award challenge certificates in at least one breed, in the same way as anyone officiating for such classes at championship shows must have been passed to do a group at championship show level.

Raising the standard of judging is not easy and, in the future, as judges awarding tickets will have had to completed the approved training programme, this is one way of ensuring that at least the basic knowledge required has been acquired.

It is also no secret that these measures have been introduced to help prevent the ‘swapping’ of judging appointments between secretaries and committee members of general open show societies. No longer will it be possible for a person who has not enjoyed success in his/her own breed to award CCs. How widespread the practice has been is difficult to assess but much of what might have been is now prevented.

The question of the surcharge on classes over 200 has led to considerable concern. The rationale behind the move was to ensure that societies gave serious thought to the classes that they intended to schedule. The lack of restrictions on the number of classes led to many societies scheduling breeds where there was very little likelihood of a worthy entry. The JWP would certainly want to encourage shows to schedule smaller breeds so the concept of the supported entry show was introduced to ensure that the classes and the judge had the support of the breed concerned. The scheme does require more commitment from both canine societies and breed clubs but the approach is already proving effective for the surcharge is small when compared with the increase in entry that many shows have achieved with supported classes.

On the recommendations of The Judges’ Working Party, The Kennel Club has agreed that as well as experience of showing, judging and stewarding, judges training should comprise three elements:

  • understanding rules, regulations and judging procedure
  • understanding construction, conformation and movement
  • understanding individual breeds

After July 2001, no one will be considered for approval to award challenge certificates unless they have completed an approved programme of training. The third element of the training structure is the responsibility of the breed clubs but general canine societies and other training organisations may organise training days for the first two elements using Kennel Club Accredited Trainers. Accredited trainers are listed each month in the Kennel Gazette. They have been appointed by The Kennel Club and are accredited for one year at a time. They are expected to provide feedback to the KC and meet formally once a year to be kept up to date with the ongoing work of the JWP.

Changes affecting Breed Clubs

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working party. Almost by definition much of the Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by the Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that it has had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

  • New criteria for the compilation of Judges’ Lists
  • Introduction of supported entry shows
  • Responsibility for training judges
  • Responsibility for assessing judges

Many breed clubs have found the demands being made on their organisation resulting from the recommendations of the JWP very difficult. A great deal of guidance has been provided by The Kennel Club and the relevant guidelines on club judging lists and breed training programmes are included as appendices.

It was clear from the outset that the compilation of lists was one of the most complex problems faced by the world of dogs. There were some lists which were constructed fairly – but it has to be acknowledged that the majority were unsatisfactory in that they were too short, too long, included judges who were recognised as not being very good or excluded judges who were known to be competent. The working party decided that the first requirement was that the compilation of lists should be as transparent as possible. To this end they set out a series of requirements for those that should be involved in nominating judges. If a club committee did not have at least 75% of its members authorised to award challenge certificates the club must now establish a sub-committee to nominated judges for the list that did fulfil the criteria.

Criteria
Clubs are also expected to establish reasonable and transparent minimum criteria for inclusion on lists so potential judges could clearly see what was required of them. Initially, many clubs submitted lists with their annual returns that did not fulfil the requirements of The Kennel Club – and these were returned, with suggestions, for the way in which they could be improved. For instance, the criteria set out for many breeds was set at too high a level and the criteria for judges who were already passed to give tickets were anomalous and often included demands which, by definition, they had already fulfilled – the stewarding qualification is a case in point

After July 2000, (as some clubs have to actually change their club rules to fulfil the requirements) those lists which are not structured in accordance with the guidance initiated by the Kennel Club, will not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee during its discussions on first time CC approval!

However, it has been made clear that the criteria are for guidance – they are not set in stone. A potential judge who more than fulfils the requirements does not have to be placed on a list and a talented judge who the properly constituted committee can trust to judge well may be added, even if they do not fulfil the criteria.

It was also suggested that those breeds that did not have breed councils could consider establishing joint lists or combined lists. At the same time, although there could be no question of canvassing for appointments, it was announced that potential judges could indicate their interest in joining a breed judges’ list.

The breed club secretary’s work has increased substantially as a result of these changes. Apart from the extra work involved in compiling the lists, those judges who are included need to be notified and a much wider circulation to open show societies is envisaged. That being said, there is no doubt that many societies have risen to the challenge but sadly there is a small percentage of secretaries which do not bother to reply to letters even though SAEs are enclosed.

The essential elements of The Kennel Club’s approach has been to break down the training of judges into three sections, the third of which -training judges in the understanding of breed characteristics – is firmly in the hands of the breed clubs. After July 2001, new judges who have not attended the relevant training programmes will not even be considered by the judges’ sub-committee to award challenge certificates and KC Questionnaires are currently being amended to make this clear.

Outline
The Judges’ Working Party has made some specific recommendations as to breed training and the outline should be carefully studied by those breed club committees responsible for training. The JWP feels that the same committee that compiles the breed judges lists should be responsible for training, as they will tend to be comprised of the most experienced people within the breed.

The creation of a formal structure for breed club lists has given breed clubs and council’s considerable power and responsibility in the selection of judges as well as a preferred route bringing judges forward. The JWP recognised from the beginning that the best way of ensuring that judges had the full confidence of the breed before awarding challenge certificates was for the breed club to train them. The A2 system list gives breed clubs that opportunity through the completion of assessments by three assessors. The club may then submit the name to the Judges’ Sub-Committee for approval prior to an appointment being offered. It is very unlikely that judges on A2 lists will be turned down when they are offered an appointment. Assessors are selected by the breed club or council carrying out the assessment from those considered to be suitable evaluators (see below). However, there was no doubt that this significant change could not be accomplished overnight so the JWP suggested that all judges awarding challenge certificates for the first time (unless they come through from an A2 list) should be evaluated by an experienced judge nominated by the breed.

The Kennel Club accepted this method of assessment while clubs developed their own syllabuses and procedures for moving judges from B lists to A2 lists. Of course, The Kennel Club is responsible for who may and who may not award CCs and the Judges Sub-Committee and ultimately the General Committee will still have the final authority.

Selecting those suitable to be evaluators is obviously difficult but it was finally decided that when a new candidate was approved to award CCs, the breed council or area breed club would be sent a list of the fifteen most experienced judges in the breed. The breed club is then asked to select one of them to carry out the evaluation. Taking the fifteen people who have judged most often (and at least once in the previous five years) does not always present breed clubs with enough choice. If this is the case, then The Kennel Club will provide a further five and also consider any other names put forward by the breed club. If there is still no one suitable the Judges Sub-Committee will appoint someone, usually a group judge who on occasions might not award CCs to the breed in question. Evaluators are expected to keep both their appointment and their report confidential

Changes affecting judges

  • Changes in approach to breed clubs
  • New criteria for inclusion on Judges’ Lists
  • Range of experience required before being passed to award challenge certificates
  • Range of records to be kept

Over the last twenty years or so, many breed clubs have developed sets of criteria to ensure that judges of their breed have measurable knowledge and experience before being admitted to judging lists. Some of these have been excellent but because they were developed in isolation, there was a tendency for them not to be uniform. The two major problems were that the criteria were too difficult to achieve, especially for experienced non-specialists and/or that it was more important who you knew than what you knew! There was also (and remains) a culture which, rightly, disapproved to canvassing for judging appointments but this also meant that breed clubs could not have some talented and experienced judges brought to their attention.

The JWP therefore suggested that one of the changes in procedure should be that judges could formally approach breed councils and clubs with a request that their names might be considered for the judges’ list. Many clubs have responded by publishing extensive questionnaires to help their committees (or sub-committees) to be able to reach valid conclusions and in most instances, this system is working well.

The club concerned is under no obligation to place applicants on the list. Some judges feel that if they fulfil the criteria their inclusion should be automatic but this is not the case. However, they may ask why they have not been included and, in my view, the demand on breeds that the method of compiling judges’ lists should be ‘transparent’ entitles them to an answer. Breed clubs and councils must publish their criteria for compiling judges’ lists and these are checked by The Kennel Club to ensure that they are ‘reasonable’. The first attempts by most clubs were not very successful but by July 2000 it is expected that all will be acceptable. After this date, any lists that have not been approved by The KC will be deemed invalid and will probably not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee who will then make its decision on the facts before it

Potential
Although the status of breed judges’ lists has been raised, potential judges not on a breed lists may still be asked by shows that have been allocated challenge certificates to officiate as the JSC will treat each application its merits. However, it is hoped that over the next few years judges and breed clubs and councils will work towards an active and valid A2 list and it this list which potential judges should have ‘in their sights’. To gain admittance to the A2 list, a potential first time judge must fulfil the requirements of the breed and The Kennel Club. These are:

  • To have passed the Rules, Regulations and Procedure examination set by a KC approved trainer
  • To have attended a seminar on structure, conformation and movement taken by a KC approved trainer
  • To have stewarded at least 12 times (if not have previously been approved to award CCs)
  • To have attended a breed seminar conducted in accordance with the JWP best practice advice and sponsored by a registered breed club.
  • To have judged the breed (the number of occasions and the number of dogs being determined, in the final analysis, by the Judges Sub-committee although the breed criteria will provide a guide

Other experience is also valuable. Judging other breeds (particularly similar breeds) successful exhibition of the breeds or other breeds, successful breeding of the breed or other breeds, certificates or diplomas which indicate study of judging and of dogs in general are all taken into account.

It is essential that judges maintain complete records of their experience. This has always been necessary and although the specific details required have changed in recent years, the JWP recommendations do not change the requirements for those already passed to award CCs except for the provision of an attendance certificate at an approved breed seminar for a new breed.

For new judges coming forward to award CCs for the first time after July 2000 they will need to provide details of the shows, their dates, breed/s, number of classes, and number of dogs actually judged and include evidence of passing the rules and regulations examination, the certificate of attendance at a conformation and movement seminar, a certificate of attendance at an approved breed seminar and details of their stewarding experience.

The Judges’ Department instigates a number of spot checks on questionnaires so it is vital that all the evidence is physically available for inspection if necessary. Computer printouts are fine as backup but originals of catalogues, judging books and certificates should all be retained.

The Judges’ Working Party is already working on ways in which those who want to develop a career in judging dogs can be helped to gain the right sort of experience. A Kennel Club video on conformation and movement had been produced and educational programmes in conjunction with national group societies are being developed for the more experienced judges to help them to progress at a faster rate.

Summary
This summary is designed to give an overview of the recommendations and changes incorporated as a result of the suggestions made by the JWP and should be read in conjunction with the two Kennel Club papers. Guidance for the Development of Judging Lists and Guidance for Running Breed Seminars. Full details can be obtained from the Judges’ Department at the kennel Club who will also provide detailed interpretation where required. There is still a great deal of work to be done, for the rapidly changing elements of showing dogs mean that further modifications to the recommendations of the JWP will continue to be reviewed and alterations made as required.

It is hoped that over the next ten to fifteen years exhibitors should be able to develop greater confidence in judges. In the long term this should ensure that both judging and dogs will be more consistent and acceptable.

 

Dogs worrying livestock – an under reported problem

Posted April 16, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

 

Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory – Miguel de Cervantes

I believe that most small/hobby breeders of pedigree dogs are sensible and responsible.  They look after their dogs and bitches properly, they think carefully about mating, whelp puppies thoughtfully and bring them up to be strong, healthy and socially well adjusted.  Different breeds may have significant differences physically and have a range of temperaments but their fundamental needs are the same.  I am sure the same is true in the way most breeders care for and prepare the owners to which their puppies are entrusted.  They will provide good advice on feeding, exercise, training and rest and indicate that they are available to help on any aspect of their puppy’s health and welfare as well as, if there are serious problems, being prepared to take the puppy back into their ownership and find an alternative home.

Back in the 1970s Angela and I wrote an eight page booklet for new owners which summarised the care required for a Finished Spitz puppy.  It was pretty basic but it was brilliantly rewritten some years ago by Angela and Hannah Thompson and now runs to 36 pages. (https://issuu.com/davidcavill/docs/toveri_finnish_spitz_puppy_pack_1823b3d6cad064 ).  But despite all the care we have taken we missed an important factor so I find we need to add a new paragraph of advice as a result of a special, invitation only, meeting I attended of the All Party Group for the Animal Welfare (APGAW) at the House of Commons a couple of weeks back.  I was invited as Chairman of the Pet Education, Training and Behaviour Council (www.PETbc.org.uk) and administrator of the National Register of Dog Trainers and Behaviourists (www.itraindogs.uk) for it was suggested that members of both organisations might have a contribution to make.

The meeting focused on the damage caused by dogs to livestock – especially sheep but including cattle and, more recently, camelids such as Alpaca and Llama which are becoming popular within the UK (I blame The Archers but there is no doubt that they are attractive beautiful animals so the increase in their numbers is understandable).

I circulated members of both organisations on the basis that although most dog trainers and behaviourists focus on basic domestic problems such as barking, possessiveness, destructiveness and the like.  There would be many who had relevant experience to offer.  I had a very good response but as you would expect, suggested solutions tended towards proper and sensible training during puppyhood rather than throwing up anything radical.

A very high profile meeting

The meeting itself was fascinating and was attended by several MPs and members of the House of Lords (Angela Smith, Rebecca Pow, Neil Parish, James Davies, Bill Wiggins, Damien Hinds, David Hanson and, from the House of Lords, Lord de Maulay,  Lord Trees, Baroness Mallalieu and Baroness Masham), Chairman of the Canine and Sector group, Professor Steve Dean, along with several police officers with experience of the problem and, of course, representatives from concerned organisations such as the Kennel Club, the Ramblers Association, Sheepwatch, the National Sheep Association, Dogs Trust and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home among many others.  I have to admit that I had not realised quite how serious the problem was but all those present were quickly brought up to speed.

For instance, in Wales alone, from where the most reliable statistics have been gathered, 15,000 sheep were killed by dogs in 2016.  And this is just the start.  Sheep are extremely sensitive and if the ewe is pregnant it will often abort any lambs they are carrying.  There is also evidence to suggest that many die several days later from trauma.  And it is not just about dog bites: in Sussex two years ago, 116 sheep died in one attack without a single bite because they crushed each other to death in fear.  There is more: it is not just a question of animal welfare because although you would be right that this is secondary, each sheep’s carcass is worth on average £75.  That is £1.3 million in one year just for Wales.

The meeting was called to discuss ways in which the problem can be alleviated.  There are laws and regulations in place but the main problem is that the attacks happen when no one is around and when no shepherd or farmer is present. It is extremely difficult to catch the dog and even if that is achieved, identifying it and its owner is often impossible.  Terena, Plowright has set up an organisation called Sheepwatch UK as she has become so concerned.  She collects statistics and has found that under reporting of attacks is widespread because farmers have lost faith in the ability of the police to bring anyone to account.  And it is not just the sheep which are at risk: 49 dogs were shot last year and we have to remember that in the circumstances, dogs out of control and if they are running free along roads they can and do cause accidents in which they and others may be maimed or killed.

The real culprits

There was a great deal of discussion during the meeting about the importance of dogs being well-trained, being kept on leads around livestock and farmers being allowed to reroute footpaths so that fields within which sheep are grazing are avoided but in fact, only a very small proportion of attacks occur when the owner is present.  Most owners are very responsible and are almost always very apologetic if their dog slips its lead and chases sheep and are devastated if sheep are harmed. So who are the real culprits?

What became quite clear from the discussion is that most attacks occur along what are described as ‘urban fringes’ which gives a clue as to the source of the problem and perhaps a solution.  There is a great deal of evidence that when dogs are provided with a shelter or kennel within their fenced gardens and are allowed to roam freely and safely while their owners are away from home, there are many who find ways to escape by digging or jumping.  If they escape in towns they are usually picked up by dog wardens or the general public quite quickly, but on the edges of towns close to the countryside, adventure beckons and we cannot blame dogs if they are unable to resist such opportunities.  It may be that owners do not even realise that this is happening and, if they do, especially if they feel the dogs are safely running across local fields, do little about it.  But we know that dogs can travel for miles – and will do so if there is a chance to fulfil their normal behaviour of chasing and bringing down livestock.

As a result of the meeting a small working group of politicians have agreed to meet experienced police forces to fully understand the gaps and problems with the current law; meet the land operators/users who are doing work to tackle the problems or experimenting with schemes to reduce attacks (these include National Parks, local authority representatives, Ramblers Association and so on) and share and collate what has been successful to enable APGAW to establish best practice.  The proposal is to then invite the Minister responsible at The Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to a meeting with all key stakeholders in September when the National Police Report on the most up-to-date statistics is available.

In the meantime, there is something that we can do.  As breeders of pedigree dogs we may only have an input into the lives and owners of about one third of all puppies sold but it would be a start if, when we sell puppies, along with all the other advice which we give, we emphasise to new owners the problems their dogs can cause if they can roam, particularly if they live in a village or ‘urban fringe’ area.

Our Puppy Pack is about to be updated!

 

Regulating the Animal Care Sector – a first step

Posted February 6, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The problem

  • Current data about almost every aspect of the animal care industry is incomplete and almost entirely speculative
  • Communicating with those involved in professionally caring for, breeding and selling is exceedingly difficult
  • Collecting accurate information is virtually impossible because those that respond to surveys tend to be self-selected and often have a personal or ‘lobby group’ agenda
  • ‘Stakeholders’ often have competing interests and objectives so that their observations, suggestions and proposed solutions tend to confuse rather than clarify

There have long been calls for the pet animal industry to be regulated and this has almost always been suggested through some form of licensing.  By its very nature licensing is:

  • Administratively complex
  • Time-consuming
  • Often unevenly applied
  • Expensive

A radical solution

The establishment of a simple registration scheme (the Pet Animal Care Professionals Register) for all those who professionally care for or trade in pet animals (excluding Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Nurses who already have their own register) and supported by the Canine and Feline Sector group and fully representative trade organisations such as the Pet Industry Federation, the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association and the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.

It would apply to all who actually handle pet animals – as individuals not businesses. It must:

  • Be simple
  • Be inexpensive (cash neutral – funded by a small annual payment for information on services provided by the registrant in addition to their basic information. This is a model which has been tested and which works)
  • Be searchable and accessible (to authorities and general public)
  • Be clear that registrants have knowledge of animal care responsibilities (through signing that they have read and understood the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and perhaps a ‘general’ code of practice for the sector)
  • Enable direct communication with those registered via email or SMS
  • Generate a Unique Registration Number (URN) to be used in all advertising and websites related to pets, on all invoices and any other transaction (contracts, pedigrees, data sheets, business cards, name badges and the like)
  • Require penalties from those who do not comply

Categories would include, among others:

  • Those selling puppies and dogs either directly from or through rescue or trading kennels
  • Groomers
  • Those running or employed in boarding kennels, catteries and day care centres
  • Breeders
  • Dog trainers and canine behaviourists (including those training support dogs for the less able)
  • Home boarders
  • Dog walkers
  • Pet transporters
  • Pet shop owners and employees
  • Pet sitters
  • Police, armed forces and security dog handlers
  • Hobbyists who trade animals
  • Veterinary receptionists and assistants
  • Others such as those involved in training trafficking/search dogs

The information required of Registrants would be:

  • Name
  • Qualification (where applicable)
  • Address (option or partial or limited address available to public)
  • Telephone number
  • Mobile telephone number
  • Email address
  • Role (pet shop assistant, proprietor of boarding kennel/pet shop (or other business or sole trader)/breeder/ dog handler /dog trader/exotics trader/small mammal trader/dog trainer/dog walker, veterinary receptionist/ etc.)
  • There would be opportunities for a registrant to add further details about their service for a small annual fee

To be effective this initiative will require secondary legislation attached to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 setting up the scheme and making it mandatory to register.  It would be administered by an independent not-for-profit organisation which would tender for the contract.  There is precedent for this type of register as demonstrated by the Animal Medicines Training Registration Authority (AMTRA http://www.amtra.org.uk)

David Cavill FRSA

Likely Frequently Asked Questions

How would you ensure that everyone registered?

The scheme would demand that anyone who receives income or kind for caring for an animal not belonging to them or who trades an animal must have a Unique Registration Number which indicates they are registered.  That URN should appear on all advertisements, receipts, pedigree forms, data sheets, websites and even name badges of those working in pet shops in kennels and grooming parlours, so that the general public become used to seeing it.  Newspapers, magazines and websites such as Gumtree are all positive in wanting to avoid unlicensed/illegal sales of puppies and they would be prepared to ensure that a URN was published along with any advert and, as the database would be publicly accessible, checking that it was valid would be simple and easy.  Once the scheme was established it would quickly be apparent if a person was not registered so that such people, sole traders and businesses would be avoided.  Nothing is perfect: as with any legislation, whether it is avoiding tax or dropping litter, there will be people who will deliberately avoid registration but this is a system which will encourage registration as it will be free and carries with it no administration or responsibility other than already enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and other animal related legislation.

How can such a scheme be cost neutral?

Similar schemes have already been piloted within the animal care industry.   Registrants are given the opportunity for a small fee (£15 a year) to extend their registration to cover the services they provide which could attract more clients.  Given that the guestimate of the number of people who would be required to register could be as many as 400,000 then there would be enough money from this source to cover the scheme’s costs.

Search for ‘find a dog trainer’ or find a ‘dog groomer’ on Google or go direct to www.itraindogs.uk or www.igroomdogs.uk for examples of how the scheme might work and might look.

How this will improve pet animal welfare?

It will not do so directly but the knock-on effects should certainly encourage all those involved to behave more responsibly simply because they become accountable, accessible and recognisable.  For the first time it will mean that government, local authorities and, possibly, not-for-profit supporting organisations would have direct access to every person with a professional responsibility for pet animals.  They could each, individually, be made aware of changes in legislation, the importance of Continuing Professional Development (and CPD opportunities) and be updated with best practice on a regular basis.  Such a steady ‘drip, drip’ approach has been shown to be far more effective in persuading people to behave responsibly than complex regulation, advertising campaigns and leafleting.

What would be the penalties for non-compliance?

There would be two (the exact amounts and the way they were applied to be discussed): the first for not being registered at a time when a paying transaction involving the care of animals takes place and a second for registering details which were incorrect or fraudulent.  There would be little need for external monitoring: it is likely that registrants would quickly report those who were trading without a URN and fines could be imposed by the Register and added to other income.

Who would run the scheme?

There are many not-for-profit organisations outside the world of animal care that would be very capable of running such a scheme.  My own preference would be for a crowd funded (or even stakeholder funded organisation or consortium from within the industry) to set up the Pet Animal Care Professional Register and administer the initiative.  I would happy to demonstrate the way in which some similar schemes work and how simple and inexpensive they are.  Even at full stretch, just one full-time employee with an office and access to the Internet would be required once the database and website was set up.

Dog Training – the basics are not rocket science

Posted December 12, 2016 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Being deeply knowledgeable on one subject narrows one’s focus and increases confidence, but it also blurs dissenting views until they are no longer visible, thereby transforming data collection into bias confirmation and morphing self-deception into self-assurance-  Michael Shermer (American science writer and founder of the Sceptics Society)

Along with others far more experienced than me, I have been writing about the importance of training dogs properly for many years because the evidence is that proper socialisation and training, if implemented, would reduce the incidence of dog bites dramatically. But there is no doubt that we have not been shouting loud enough.  Those who may appear to be very knowledgeable about canine psychology and behaviour sometimes deliberately distort, misapply or simply misunderstand its implications and, furthermore, are prepared to swallow misleading and disingenuous ideas from those who are perceived to be leaders or researchers in the field.  Training a dog to become what the Kennel Club has established as a ‘good citizen’ becomes secondary to the application of fancy theories.  I am sorry that this article may be teaching you about sucking eggs but I would ask that you try to spread the word among your friends in dogs who may not be so experienced.

I opened a magazine last week which is published by specialists in canine and animal care to find that their training adviser was peddling (among other inaccurate and biased information) a totally pointless and useless technique in answer to a question about a dog which had got into the habit of biting ankles.  This lady apparently holds a BSc (Hons) in canine behaviour and training and is also a full member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild: she should know better.  Someone has brainwashed her or she is completely self-deluded.  The first sentence works and is accurate when she says ‘nipping and play biting are a natural part of the puppy’s development’ but it is all down downhill from there.  She is partly right in that she says you need to distract the puppy and it is from this point that she shows a serious misinterpretation of canine psychology.

Most puppies and dogs not specifically bred to be aggressive want to please.  They are sensitive to humans (once again I advocate the excellent book, Genius Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods – an excellent Christmas present for anyone who has not read it) and quickly respond to treats, tickles and cuddles.  Incidentally, recent research indicates that most dogs, in fact, prefer tickles and cuddles to treats so you might remember that over the Christmas and New Year period when the temptation to give your dog is a little extra is most difficult to overcome.  That aside what this lady next says is ‘you need to channel your puppy’s behaviour into an alternative activity such playing with a toys’.  Think about it: the puppy is nipping an ankle, chewing an electric cable or barking for no reason – all perfectly natural and, for the dog, pleasurable behaviours.  What is this lady suggesting?  Provide an alternatively ‘more pleasurable’ activity.  Given the way that dogs learn the puppy’s response is quite naturally, ‘If I nip, chew or bark or do anything else that my owner does not want, I get attention, I get to play, I get rewarded – let’s do it some more!’

If the owner has consulted a trainer who takes this approach which, of course, does not work, they explain that this is a really difficult problem which only somebody with a BSc (Hons) degree and membership of posh organisations can solve.  It is good business: the trainer gets more one-to-one training sessions for their ‘usual fee’.

This lady goes on to suggest that the way to discourage unwanted behaviour is to adopt a ‘zero tolerance approach’.  This sounds good but involves not reacting in any way to the unwanted behaviour: she says, ‘Do not develop or shout of flap ankles but stop playing and withdraw attention for a few seconds’,  i.e allow the dog to continue the unwanted behaviour which, of course, it will do because it is natural and it enjoys it.  She goes on to say, ‘If your puppy continues, try to keep calm, move away slowly and the split-second she is calm offer the toy and resume the game’.  I am not suggesting that this approach cannot work but it is time-consuming (perhaps deliberately – see the sentence regarding ‘fees’ above) and is certainly the hard way.

Positive Reinforcement is the right way to train dogs

Now the principle of what is called positive reinforcement is perfectly sound and, in fact, this is the way all dogs should be taught to do things.  If you watch the great trainers such as Mary Ray, who uses positive reinforcement to give their dog instructions via quiet commands, subtle movements and clicks of their fingers, you can quickly appreciate the immense flexibility of the canine mind and a dog’s ability to remember and demonstrate a long string of commands under immense stress from music, lights and audience.  These building blocks of behaviour are carefully constructed by providing the dog with enjoyable things to do and rewarding and reinforcing the activity effectively.

But positive reinforcement is irrelevant if you want to train a dog not to do something.  The opposite of positive reinforcement, as I am sure you will know, is ‘negative’ reinforcement.  Highfalutin’, ivory tower trainers and canine behaviourists will be able to explain to you what happens in a dogs mind when they are pursuing a pleasurable activity and although that is interesting in itself, the practical processes and techniques of good canine citizenship are not rocket science.  And it is not about cruelty, pack discipline, alpha roles and the like but about common sense and providing a less pleasurable experience when a dog is doing something you do not want it to do.  Please emphasise to anyone with whom you come into contact and is trying to train their puppy, that any negative reinforcement has to be at the time the behaviour is being exhibited: there is no point otherwise for the dog will simply remember that you are providing a non-pleasurable experience for no reason.  The result will be suspicion, caution and distrust.

The alternative to unwanted behaviour must be less pleasurable

So when a dog or puppy is exhibiting unwanted behaviour: going too close to the edge of a cliff, beginning to nibble at an electric cable or nipping someone’s ankles, the response has to be something that he or she finds less pleasurable than the activity.  In the nest, the puppy’s dam will give a low growl to stop unwanted behaviour and if it continues will give a sharp nip to the offender.  It learns quickly and stops the behaviour.  As a human you can give a very loud, sharp ‘No’, clap your hands or even give the low ‘growl’ yourself.  All three work equally well.

Another unwanted behaviour is when a puppy or dog jumps up at you or a guest in welcome.  The natural reflex is to give the dog a stroke and say how pleased you are to see him.  This rewards the behaviour so your dog is encouraged to do it: and the more it does it the more the behaviour becomes habitual and the more difficult it is to stop it.  But you can stop it: each time it happens just move one foot forward and place your toe gently on one of its back feet.  You do not have to hurt the dog: you are not punishing it – it is simply to put him off balance so that he drops back onto his four paws.  Then you stroke and praise him so that a new habit is established: that is of coming up to you to say ‘hello’ and waiting for you to drop down and give him a stroke.

Why can’t these simple processes be understood by otherwise intelligent people?  Perhaps one qualification to be a dog trainer or canine behaviourist is that they should have actually bred a litter so they have had a chance to observe the way in which the dam disciplines her puppies.

Some better ideas but still a nod to self-deception

The lady in question is a little more sensible regarding the problem of fireworks.  I am personally against chemical intervention using drugs (or what are disingenuous called ‘calming remedies’) because I think training which allows the dog to be assured and self-confident is a better alternative, but there is a place under some special circumstances for drug-related therapies under the careful and understanding supervision of an experienced veterinary surgeon.

But she also throws in the idea of ‘homoeopathic’ remedies and I find this disturbing.  Currently, all the research tells us that homeopathy does not have any scientific basis although taking into account the placebo effect which can be beneficial for many humans; the concept is not entirely relevant.  But it is entirely irrelevant for dogs as they have only a very limited sense of non-stimulated anticipation.  They can and are certainly affected by ‘tender loving care’ when they are ill, upset or anxious and this is by far the best approach: dosing with an unproven (and I almost certainly expensive) medication can make no difference at all.

KC Membership Consultation – initial thoughts

Posted December 4, 2016 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

The primary function of democracy is not to ensure that people get what they want: it is to ensure that they accept what they get.  And they are much like less likely to accept it if they feel their interests are not well represented – Jeremy O’Grady, Editor of UK magazine, The Week

I have had it on the highest authority that over the last few years, whenever the Kennel Club has spoken to focus groups or carried out surveys, the number of times the issue of widening the membership has been raised is minimal. I have to accept that this is the KC’s experience and despite my own writings and those of other columnists over many years, it may be there really is no appetite among grassroots canine activity enthusiasts to challenge the status quo.  But I would make two points.

The first is that the vast majority, the 1,250 or so members of the KC are not only seen as being separate and distant from the real world inhabited by most of those involved in showing, agility and the rest but are perceived to have perhaps inadvertently, placed psychological barriers against application in addition to the complications and time involved – not to mention the costs.  For most there is little point in even discussing the issue.

The second is that it is a matter of principle: in the 21st Century any organisation which aspires to be representative should actually be representative.  It is true that many members hold influential positions within the world of dogs, many give freely of their time and contribute a great deal financially but the fact that their enthusiasm and hard work keeps the boat afloat is not in itself enough.

Trawling through the back issues of Our Dogs as I sometimes do, this is a thread that has been running through edition after in edition for decades.  And I am the first to accept and celebrate that much has been done in the 50 years in which I have been involved in dogs.  Clarges Street can be proud of the impact which it has made in improving the health and welfare of dogs and much other canine related reforms and innovations.  For me, although there are always matters of opinion as to the best way forward for the promotion of pedigree dogs and in maintaining their popularity, the one real elephant within our world has always been the elitism which, rightly or wrongly, deliberately or otherwise, emanates from Clarges Street.  This is not personal: individual members do not see themselves as elitist but the perception persists that although there is a great deal of welcome transparency the KC remains a ‘club’ which is little different to the other much less visible cabals which exist at so many levels throughout our world.

I sincerely hope that with the publication of the recent article in the December 2016 Kennel Gazette members will allow this perception to finally be put to one side.  The new proposals, which are based very much on what I and other commentators have been saying for many years, are to be commended and I sincerely hope they will be accepted by the membership when a formal proposal is put forward as a future Annual or Special General Meeting.

A different perspective

Having said that, may I ask you to consider an equally valid but slightly different perspective on these proposals?

The suggestion of Town and Country membership (I think these are terms which are more usual and certainly more egalitarian than ‘full’ and ‘general’), and household membership are sensible but minor: the key proposal is that all members will be equal in paying £60 a year (£50 if paid by Direct Debit) for membership of the Kennel Club with full voting rights for Country members after a three-year period.  Some many feel that this delay is unnecessary but it is not uncommon: for instance, a similar sensible protectionist principle is embedded in the Rules for Southern Counties Canine Association for exactly the same reason that it is being suggested by the Kennel Club i.e. because anyone can join the Association without being proposed and seconded.

Others may suggest that the fee is on the high side (and I would agree) but the amount is irrelevant: it is the principle that is important.  Country members,  understandably, will not receive some of the ‘perks’ of Town members but as all have voting rights and the differences are entirely a matter of financial contribution to separate external services, the move towards acceptable democracy will have been made.

There are other minor distinctions between Town and Country members but they pale into insignificance besides the suggestion that Country members may apply for membership rather than to need a proposer and seconder and that they would not need to undergo the current inspection which some see as an unnecessary and somewhat dated practice which harks back to the 19th century.

Value for money

Those who wish to take advantage of the facilities which are available in London will be expected to pay an additional £100 for that privilege.  While I have always felt that the £150 total membership fee is far too high this has never been anything to do with ‘value for money’: the facilities, the restaurant and the services provided for members are exceptional and having been a member of London clubs and visited many others, I can assure you that the vast majority are far more expensive.  No, for me, it has always been about the cost of the vote for those who are not members but are nevertheless entitled to have their direct ‘say’ should they so wish.  Although there are many ways in which grassroots participants can have their say through the canine press, through the KC Breed Liaison Councils, the Question Times and writing direct to the Chairman, the voting process, although all too often flawed, is fundamental to democratic societies and institutions.

The hurdle of ‘approval’ by the Board would remain and although I do not think this is necessary and I understand the reasoning, I would argue that this should be a formality (I am afraid this is not the case at present).  There are already rules in place to rescind membership should that be necessary on grounds of criminal conviction or misbehaviour within the world of dogs: it does not seem reasonable to make an assumption that people will not behave well and therefore retain barriers to membership.  Surely in this day and age we should be assuming that people will behave well: it would be much more sensible to make it easier demand a resignation or injection if it can be shown that the member disregarded the rules or behaved inappropriately.

Finally, the press release suggested that these proposals will attract great deal of feedback.  It will be interesting to see whether the assurances that I have been given over the years that the grassroots are not actually that much interested or even care about becoming members of the KC.  However, of one thing I am sure: there are likely to be approximately 1,250 people with a great deal to say.

RSPCA effectively challenges Breed Specific Legislation

Posted December 3, 2016 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Any committee is only as good as the most knowledgeable, determined and vigorous person on it. There must be somebody who provides the flame – Lady Bird Johnson

It was interesting to see on a recent Facebook page somebody bemoaning the fact that the ‘same old, same old’ subjects kept being recycled without anyone coming to a conclusion.  I am afraid it is the way of the world but it is not surprising because although any particular problem may seem simple, there can be many thousands of opinions as to how it might be solved – and with a complex problem the ‘solutions’ are close to infinite.  It is a reflection of the unique DNA which each of us carries: even people who are generally of ‘the same mind’ will often differ.  This is why we had tribal gatherings, senates, assemblies, moots, convocations and the like in the past and why we have committee meetings now.  My views on committees are well known (a smaller the better – and a committee of one is best) but I concede that conclusions based on my view are less likely to be acceptable to the majority (even though, again in my view, they are likely to be right!) than those which are the result of a broad-based (hopefully sensible) groups which recognises or represents a wider view.

It is why, since John Major introduced the concept in the early 1990s, governments insist that legislation should be based on ‘evidential need’ rather than because any government or Minister thinks that it is ‘a good idea’.  Part of the reason for this concept was that there were several instances (the Dangerous Dogs Act being one of them) where legislation had been introduced without sufficient forethought: a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to public and media demands after a series of serious dog biting incidents.  It is also the reason why there is now a requirement for government departments to review any legislation introduced after a five-year period with a public consultation to see whether it has been effective.

Those of us who were around at the time remember that the DDA actually had the support of most of the animal care related charities and lobby groups and it is an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences for it was quickly realised by everybody (outside government circles) that it was a car crash piece of legislation which cost a fortune to implement, did not achieve its objectives and increased stress on everyone involved from the dogs themselves, the owners of many perfectly well-behaved dogs, the police, local authorities and those charities whose veterinary surgeons were increasingly forced to put dogs down for no good reason.

A new RSPCA report sums up the position perfectly

The reason these thoughts have come into my mind is the recent publication by the RSPCA which reviews the Dangerous Dogs Act and the two subsequent, minor amendments.  Entitled ‘Breed Specific Legislation – a Dog’s Dinner’, the 30 page report sets out the history, the effectiveness (in this case ‘non-effectiveness’), and proposes a number of solutions and recommendations.  The UK legislation was a world first and the concept was soon followed by other countries although, as the report points out, it has been reversed by three European countries and many US administrations simply because it does not work and is extremely costly.  The introduction says: ‘25 years on, the RSPCA now believes it is paramount that the UK government launch an enquiry into the effectiveness of BSL, assess other options to improve human safety and welfare and ultimately repeal the breed specific part of the legislation.’  Having sat on several committees over the last 20 years trying to persuade successive governments to do exactly that there is no doubt in my mind that this sums up the situation perfectly.

Unfortunately, although the RSPCA says it would like to thank everyone who contributes to an assisted in this report there is no list of the names of committee that put it together: a shame because I personally would like to thank them and especially the person that provided the ‘flame’ in the quote from Lady Bird Johnson.  This is a report which, if you will forgive the pun, has a real ‘bite’ and includes an extraordinary two pages of detailed references which show quite clearly how much work has gone into it and that it is, indeed, evidence-based.  The wording of the conclusion could hardly be bettered: ‘The RSPCA strongly believes that the evidence presented in this report clearly shows that BSL has been ineffective in achieving its goals of protecting public safety and reducing the number of prohibiting types of dogs.  Since its introduction in 1991 a significant proportion of dogs involved in fatal incidents are not those prohibited by law and hospital admissions due to dog bites have increased substantially in the past decade despite the provisions.’

This is not for a moment to say that just repealing the Dangerous Dogs Act and its subsequent amendments is the answer.  It needs doing and it needs doing soon but it should also provide an opportunity to focus on implementing effective regulation and education to ensure that biting incidents reduce rather than increase them.  This is important because the whole objective of the DDA was to reduce the incidence of dog bites and an initial assessment of the act five years after it was introduced found that there had been ‘no significant reduction in dog bites’ and in fact, in the period between 2009 in 2015 the total number of hospital admission episodes for dog ‘bites and strikes’ increased from just under 6,000 to just over 7,000 each year.   As far as those who have died as a result of dog related incidents (there were 30 in all) two thirds involved dogs of breeds or types not prohibited.

A specific breed is not a good predicator of risk

Danny Mills, one of Europe’s foremost researchers into canine behaviour says in the report:  ‘Not only is a specific breed not a good predictor of risk, I would also argue that the promotion of breed as a risk through legislation like this may even be counter-productive as it gives the impression some breeds are completely safe and we know that the vast majority bites from come from breeds not listed’.  He continues: ‘We need responsible owners and responsible behaviour around dogs… This is a complex problem with social as well as biological dimensions which need to be considered if we really want to address the risk posed by dogs or people attracted to certain types of dogs.  From a biological perspective, until we have a validated genetic test, I would say solutions like BSL are themselves dangerous, because they might give a false sense of security and thus increase the risk’.  He goes on to indicate that a number of countries and regions outside the UK are now retracting such legislation in recognition of this.

Of course, whenever there is a media storm around an incident people begin to report dogs that they consider are of a ‘Pit Bull’ type and the number of seizures each year since 2006 has gone from almost none to over 1,500: each costs many thousands of pounds to progress.  The report highlights the number of dogs which are killed for no good reason and discusses the particularly difficult problem of puppies which may or may not grow up to fulfil the ‘definition’ of a banned breed.

The report draws our attention to the ways in which this problem has been tackled in other countries particularly in Canada and Australia and proposes ten recommendations with which not all will agree but nevertheless suggest possible solutions. One of these is that there should be a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of the several resources which are designed to help people and children stay safe around dogs.  This is a matter on which I have touched on many occasions.  Charities, lobby groups and non-governmental organisations such as the Kennel Club do much good work but they seldom work together because they are more interested in protecting their ‘brand’ they are in getting the message out.  This includes the RSPCA of course but I am hoping that as it becomes more influential, the Canine and Feline Sector Group which represents most of those organisations (including the RSPCA) will be able to resolve this sort of problem.

I congratulate the RSPCA which so far, under its new CEO, is focusing on its true objectives.  The subject of this report is one of them and it is well worth reading.  You can find it quickly by searching for RSPCA BSL dogs dinner.