Thursday, March 29, 2012

UKC Gets on the Breed Health Bandwagon

The UK Kennel Club is very slowly getting on the bandwagon for breed health, and now the United Kennel Club (UKC) is following the "better health" push and will change some breed standards and stress health as a judging requirement.

As the UKC notes on a post on its web site this morning:

The United Kennel Club, Inc., is first and foremost a worldwide registry of purebred dogs, but we feel our moral duty to the canine world goes beyond maintaining data. We are alarmed by the paths of exaggeration that many breeds have taken, all of which directly affect the health, function and performance of those breeds. It is an elemental fact that these breed changes have developed unchecked as a result of fads and fancies, as well as a lack of accountability on the part of breeders, owners and judges.

UKC feels something must be done to address this problem, and we are willing to do our part, hoping the canine world will follow suit. Toward that end, we have decided to revise all of our breed standards to reflect that goal. Breed standards are viewed as a blueprint to which dogs are to be bred. UKC believes that breed standards are more than that, and we will be including directives to breeders, judges and owners.

All of our breed standards will now include the following introductory statement: “The goals and purposes of this breed standard include: to furnish guidelines for breeders who wish to maintain the quality of their breed and to improve it; to advance this breed to a state of similarity throughout the world; and to act as a guide for judges. Breeders and judges have the responsibility to avoid any conditions or exaggerations that are detrimental to the health, welfare and soundness of this breed, and must take the responsibility to see that these are not perpetuated. Any departure from the following should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.”

In addition, each breed standard will be updated to include problems specific to that breed in order to clarify the direction to be taken when they are encountered.

The UKC, of course, is the second largest dog registry in the US -- about half the size of the AKC, and centered on honest working dogs such as coonhhounds and field dogs, but it also runs its own dog shows and has all breeds, including such notable wrecks disappointments as the English Bulldog. 

The UKC is owned and managed by Wayne Cavanaugh, who used to work for the American Kennel Club and who owns an aged Border Terrier.  Oddly enough, the Border Terrier is the same breed owned by former UK Kennel Club Chairman  Ronnie Irving  and current UK Kennel Club chairman Steve Dean, and a breed I myself owned for 30 years (and which I also worked).   Almost one year ago now, I posted a brief history of the UKC asking whether the UKC would lead the charge for better health in the world of dogs:

The UKC is certainly better poised to lead in the world of dogs than the AKC is -- they are not quite as encumbered with the yoke of sniffing social pretensions as the AKC, and their members are more likely to value the work of dogs, and not just the ribbons. That said, leadership starts with action.

The good news is that the decision to engage in action sits squarely on the shoulders of one person, Wayne Cavanaugh, who owns the UKC (a for-profit company) outright. Cavanaugh is a former AKC Vice President and is said to be smart and charming. But he is also, without a doubt, a pretty good businessman. Would dropping English Bulldogs from the registry or promoting performance cross-breeds be a good business decision? Would deviating in any substantive way from AKC and Kennel Club breed standards and closed-registry tradition mean a steep and marked decline in UKC dual-registered dogs? You see, things are not simple and straight if you are running a business -- and all canine registries, whether they are for-profit or are "non-profit" are businesses.

So will the UKC lead? Time will tell, and we shall see.

And time has told. A first step is being taken. Let us all applaud, even as we note the enormous difference in response between the UKC and the AKC.   For the AKC's response see:  Dennis Sprung is Baghdad Bob of the AKC.

1 comment:

Stoutheartedhounds said...

The UKC certainly has its fair share of faults, but I applaud it for the action it is now taking regarding exaggerations in conformation.

Well done, UKC.