|Steve Dean is the new Chairman of the Kennel Club.|
Art by Kevin Brockbank, for the August 2011 issue of Dogs Today.
It's Time To Stop Praying
at the Church of the Kennel Club.
I have a low tolerance for whiners and professional victims, and it comes out two ways in the world of dogs.
The most common way is in a kind of “compassion fatigue” for people who do not do serious research when it comes to buying dog.
If you bought a dog at a pet store or from an ad out of the back of a newspaper, and everything did not work out for you, please do not come complaining to me!
Ditto if you are the kind of person who got a Boston terrier or an English bulldog that cannot breathe, a dachshund with a back problem, or a show line German shepherd that walks like a drunk exiting a bar after midnight.
What part of “read a book,” “be a consumer,” and “this is an important decision” did you not understand?
On the other end of the stick, are the folks breeding and selling diseased and defective dogs with fabricated histories and contrived standards.
The world is no longer saluting your nonsense? Boo hoo! Let me pour you a big pot of pity and never mind the dogs!
Where Do Dogs Come From?
The good news is that the world is not chock full of fools.
In the U.S., more than half of all dogs are mixed breeds of some kind, and almost none of these are overly extreme in appearance or deeply inbred genetically.
Of the 47 percent of American dogs that are purebred, only 25 percent are registered with the American Kennel Club — the rest are not registered at all, are registered with a breed-specific registry, or hold paper from some other registry.
To put it another way, 87 percent of American dogs are not registered with the AKC
In the United Kingdom, two-thirds of all dogs are said to be purebred, but this number is a bit deceptive as the number two and number three breeds, in terms of popularity, are the Jack Russell terrier and the border collie.
These two “breeds” are really types, bred for function rather than for show. The owners of these dogs have never been too finicky about closing the gate on their respective gene pools.
If the dog works like a Jack Russell terrier or a border collie, and looks like one, then it’s pure enough. Oh, you have a piece of paper? Excellent, but I am not sure the fox or the sheep much care!
If you add the border collie and the Jack Russell terrier to the “not bred within a closed registry” tally, the non-pedigree population of dogs in the U.K comes within striking distance of what we see in the United States.
What about dogs bred within the closed registry systems of the Kennel Club?
The story here is mixed.
Some breeds, such as beagles, are quite healthy. Others are burdened by genetic problems, such as skin allergies, which may cause a lifetime of misery. Many have decent, if somewhat shortened, lives up until a few weeks or months prior to their death due to cancer, liver, or kidney disease. Quite a large number of Kennel Club dogs live to ripe old age with grey muzzle and rheumy eyes. In truth, most Kennel Club dogs are reasonably healthy, and only about two dozen breeds are so wrecked as to require a caution flag under any and all circumstances. What’s amazing is that these broken breeds still sell!
Failed Consumers Buy Defective Corporate Products
To be clear, there’s no shortage of crap breeds being produced by the Kennel Club. On this score I pull no punches. If you are buying a Pekingese, a pug, a cavalier, a Dogue De Bordeaux, an English bulldog or any of about two dozen other breeds I can rattle off in short order, you are simply a fool the same as someone buying a model of car famous for shoddy workmanship and dodgy design. You would never buy a car based solely on a dealer’s brochure, would you?
Yet people buy dogs all the time after doing little more than reading a Kennel Club sales brochure or an all-breed picture book, somehow oblivious to the fact that Kennel Club breeds are simply corporate products manufactured under license and with approved (if defective) standards.
It is sad, but true, that most folks spend more time planning their vacations than they do reading up on the health, training, temperament and exercise needs of a dog they hope to spend the next 15 years with.
And yet how often do we give these shoddy consumers a pass when they get a dog that is diseased, defective or unsuitable?
Why? Has extending sympathy to such people helped the dogs? Not from what I can tell; in fact, quite the opposite. Too often these same people turn around and simply buy another dog of the same breed.
Is there a better definition of insanity than doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result? If so, I have not heard it!
The time has come for a new approach – a kind of tough love. The simple truth is that stupid consumers and willful ignorants are not victims, they are participants in systematic canine abuse.
We are supposed to pity poor Harriet because she bought a Pekingese that cannot breath and now has to pay for expensive soft palette surgery for her dog? How about if we shun her instead?
Pedophiles and Puppies
In fact, how about if we treat everyone who owns a Kennel Club dog a bit like someone who announces they are Catholic?
You are Catholic, eh?
There is a pause. Both sides know what is being thought; now the only question is whether it will actually be said.
“What are your thoughts on the pedophilia?” you might ask. “Have you thought about changing churches, especially now that you have children?
How rude, some may say.
You think it rude to ask how -- in a world where there are a thousand ways to salute God -- someone would choose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a church hierarchy that winks at child buggery and has shied away from naming the problem and finding solutions for hundreds of years?
I guess we differ there!
But is it any different in the world of dogs?
When pressed about the physical abuse and pain heaped on dogs by extreme standards, and the systematic inbreeding of dogs within a closed registry system, the Kennel Club is quick to blame “the Victorians.” There is little they can do to change things quickly, they explain. It will take time. Reform will be slow. But good news; they have created an advisory committee of show dog breeders to point the way forward!
Right. And the Vatican has also put the question of what to do about pederasty to a group of celibate old men who think it perfectly fine to wear dresses to the office.
What? You are making a parallel between the Kennel Club and the Vatican? That’s outrageous!
Really? Which side have I offended?
And, of course the parallels go on.
When asked about pedophilia, the Catholic Church routinely claims such problems are quite localized. Yes, Saint Anthony’s church had “that problem,” but the Church is in “this world” and “not immune” from “such things.”
Now we know the truth: child buggery in the Catholic Church is a global problem and has gone on for centuries.
In fact, it has been so chronic and systematic that the Vatican has had a “pedophile referee” at the Vatican for decades.
That man is now the Pope.
But again, is any of this different from what we see at the Kennel Club?
The problems associated with extreme exaggeration or “selection for defect” are not new and neither are the diseases and illnesses associated with inbreeding.
These problems are not confined to one breed or one country, but cut across many breeds and many countries.
And who is the new Pope at the Kennel Club? What faces are we to see in the College of Cardinals choosing the way forward for the Church of the Kennel Club?
Why, none other than an unbroken phalanx of show dog breeders!
Vote With Your Feet… and Your Wallet
Do I think change is possible?
In fact, I know change is possible for both the Kennel Club and the Catholic Church.
But neither side will see the light until they have first felt the heat.
Things will not change until the pews are bare and the collection plates are empty.
A victim? I think not. A participant!
_ _ _ A version of this piece appears in the August issue of Dogs Today