Monday, January 16, 2017

The AKC Cannot Face the Obvious

Ron Menaker, Chairman of the American Kennel Club, writes in the September 2016 AKC Gazette that dog shows are in decline.

[T]he trends over the past ten years show us that Conformation is in a tenuous position. “The graying of the Sport” has become something of a buzzword in recent years, but we know that the issue is far more complex than the simple fact of an aging population. As a community, we need to take a close look at what is happening within Conformation, and work together to find solutions. I would like to take this opportunity to show you where things stand today and describe the work that is being done to address the matter head on. And, just as importantly, I would like to ask you to think about how you can help as well.

The numbers show a pretty clear picture.

All-breed and conformation entries have been falling over the past ten years.

Fewer conformation championships have been earned.

Every year, fewer dogs are exhibited in conformation.

Why is this happening?

Yes, we’re getting older. At least some of us are! Our constituents have told us about other reasons too. Concerns about judging, perceptions of professionalization of the sport and busier lives with more choices are some of the challenges we face.

Other factors certainly include cultural pressures and their resulting canine legislation. We all know that the animal rights movement has waged a war against breeding and purebred dogs for decades now. Zoning laws keep some of us from owning as many dogs as we would like to maintain our breeding programs. The Internet age has created a proliferation of platforms that play host to “keyboard warriors” engaged in all manner of debate, often anonymous and not constructive.

Fundamentally, the American public’s understanding of conformation is limited to what they see on television two or three times a year. Recent focus groups revealed that we have a long way to go when it comes to educating the average dog owner.

AKC registrations have been in free-fall for 30 years, and dog shows have been in decline for nearly two decades despite the AKC adding new events and new breeds with the fever of the damned.

The AKC has tried to "partner" with price-gouging veterinarians and dubious pet insurance companies, and they have tried to market everything from "activity trackers" to plush toys and random boxes of useless pet store crap sold on a monthly subscription basis.

What they have NOT tried is producing better dogs by opening up the registries, jettisoning breeds centered on defect and deformity, requiring health tests and certifications, and requiring field performance test for working dogs.

What they have not tried is banning professional handlers who use their personal friendships (and more) to get judges to place their dogs in front of those with less cash to throw at the problems.

The AKC still believes it can build its business on selling defective products to ribbon-chasers and pretenders.

And, of course, their choices are not to blame.  Instead, it's the mysterious "animal rights movement," of which I have never met a single member while in the field hunting, or at a restaurant eating a steak, or at a grocery store buying chicken.

Never mind that we have hunting magazines on every news rack, and five or six hunting shows on cable television, and fast food meat palaces on every corner, somehow the "animal rights" folks are to blame for the  AKC's decline.

Right.  And the band played Waltzing Matilda as the Titanic sank beneath the waves.

Never mind that there are more dogs in America today than any any time in U.S. history.

Never mind that Americans are spending more money on dogs than ever before

The AKC is pretty sure it's not them in bad odor,.  I mean, how could it be?

Does anyone in American know more about dogs than the AKC?

Not if you ask them!   And the band played Waltzing Matilda as the Titanic sank beneath the waves.


Donald McCaig said...

Dear Patrick,

It's hard to remember that before the Dog Wars (1989-91), should an article appear critical of the AKC, the AKC BOD chair or Westminster rich fuck would call the mag's publisher and demand the writer be fired.

People were scared shitless of the AKC The whispered mantra was "They can put you out of dogs!!!"

The Dog mags wouldn't publish any criticism wand the Dog Writers Association were gormless syncophants. Mark Derr's Atlantic articles were the honorable exception.

Everybody knew dog shows were a bad way to design a pet dog and dog people knew they produced monsters - but nobody dared talk about it.

In one or two ways, the world is a better place today.

Donald McCaig

PBurns said...


One of the reasons I can say what I do is that I CANNOT be "put out of dogs" by the AKC.

Believe it or not, back when I had hair, I showed a dog or two in the AKC, so I have actually seen the powdering, stripping, and payments to handlers and the pizzle-holding of judges.

Nor am I scared of anything with two legs or four, in part because I do not engage in libel, and in part because I communicate to over 400 lawyers a day. Every one of them will tell you that "discovery is a bitch," no pun intended. The AKC has more to hide than I can expose. They know it, and I know it.

That said, I supposed it's important to say what I do NOT do: I do engage in attacks on individual breeders or judges. Mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, the infirmities of old age, drastic changes in fortune, and other oddities hit the dog world like every other, and I am not interested in beating up the crippled and the weak, whether they have money and status or not.

Does the AKC have Westminster judges who have hoarded, been nailed for serious animal abuse, etc.? You bet! Have they protected those people and swept the dead and abused dogs under the rug while papering over the problems? You bet.

But I'm not interested in pointing out individual cases of insanity and abuse. The story I tell, and that you tell, is one of SYSTEMIC and SYSTEMATIC insanity and abuse.

The AKC and its breeders did not start out to create misery. Instead, they slid into it along the way, rationalizing furiously in order to get a ribbon or claim some ephemeral badge of status, or to protect a flawed business plan or get-rich-quick scheme. For these people, it’s never been about the dogs; the dogs are simply a way to get status and work out their inner wrinkles as frustrated hair dressers, beauty pageant and cheerleader rejects, small town wanna-bes, etc.

In the end, both individual breeders and the AKC itself have lost the plot, and they have put up walls and mirrors to hide the fact that it's no longer "Dogs First," but blue ribbons and green cash first. I am reminded of the rich, divorced, Christian who quotes the Old Testament to justify gay bashing, while all the time ignoring what Jesus said about wealth, divorce, and love-thy-neighbor.

The simple story is that the AKC is a confidence game, and they know it. To allow outcrossing of Wolfhounds (to pick a breed) is to admit there are problems in the breed, and to instantly devalue the offspring that is not part of the outcross stream.

Opening up the registry is a massive “takings” problem for the AKC that could lead to lawsuits, and would certainly lead to a collapse in confidence. If the King depends on a certified blood line to hold court, what happens when it’s found out that the wisest ruler ever was the out-of-wedlock child of a scullery maid and gamekeeper? Woops! And yet, that's a common enough plot device. isn't it? The Prince and the Pauper story comes to mind...

The good news is that the AKC is swirling down the bowl even as the world of dogs continues to improve.

One reason for that is the Internet. Some year back, I wrote a piece on this blog noting that “The Internet May Yet Save the Dog”. See >>

I think that’s more true than ever before, and I am happy to say that you and I (and a few thousand others) have helped. There is no “priest class” that can threaten us, nor are their editors that can be bribed to take our jobs, or withhold the paper, printing, and postage. This blog takes no ads, accepts no free product, and keeps marching on and on, same as you do, and countless others who really do put Dogs First.

The AKC knows we are not anonymous. I'm in the book, and so are you and hundred others all saying the same thing. But, as I said, discovery is a bitch and the AKC has a lot to hide and they know it.

Amy Nexus said...

I've also been lucky to have worked with dogs, both AKC and non-AKC. I was involved with racing greys during the time where AKC grey owners were literally begging the AKC to allow them to cross with racing greys. It has been well established by now (thanks to blogs like this and the hard work of others) that folks were attempting to do this for the health of their dogs and breeding stock. Racing greys are absolutely NOT bred for looks, or certain colors or tail sets. AND their registries are just as carefully kept and (in some cases) documented going back farther than many AKC greyhound lines. The answer from the AKC was always no, which caused many responsible grey breeders to outcross anyway. That controversy and what happened with border collies caused many of us involved in purebred and working dogs, to just go our own way, We could see their true colors: in no way, shape, or form did the AKC truly care about the health of dog breeds. The dogs and their humans have been much better for the inevitable work/show split.

I didn't even find programs and articles like the BBC's "Pedigree dogs exposed" to be at all surprising, just a very sad but expected outcome for purebreds.