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Great Dane exhibitors receive five year ban

The Kennel Club -v- Mrs Eva Bratton
The Kennel Club -v- Mr Peter McElhone

Paul L Keevil reports

A Great Dane breeder, aged 72, and exhibitor who defied a Kennel Club directive that “no more that one dog must be entered and taken to any KC Licensed Show” was the subject of a Rule A42 disciplinary hearing held at The Kennel Club in London on Wednesday of last week.

The complaint was upheld and Mrs Eva Bratton (Tovayne) of Stanley, Co Durham was warned, censured and banned by the KC for five years from exhibiting at, taking part in, attending or having any connection with any KC licensed event.

At the same hearing, Mrs Bratton’s “handler”, Mr Peter McElhone, (a gentleman of similar age), of Ferryhill, Co Durham was subject to an identical charge and suffered the same penalties

In attendance at the KC hearing, in addition to the five members of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee, were, Mrs Linda Branwhite, the KC Disciplinary co-ordinator and Mr Phil Buckley, also from the KC, acting as an observer and members of the Canine Press. The Kennel Club’s case was presented once again by Mr Martin Evans, whilst both Mrs Bratton and Mr McElhone were absent.

In order to understand the reasons behind this hearing and the penalties imposed, it is necessary to go back to a series of incidents dating from 27th September 1998 involving allegations that Great Danes, apparently under Mrs Bratton’s control, at four shows had been responsible for attacks, or near attacks on other dogs and/or people.

The alleged incidents occurred at the following shows: North East of England Working Breeds Society Open Show (27th September 1998), Spennymoor & District Canine Society Open Show (17th April 1999), Rydale & Pickering Lyth Agricultural Society Open Show (27th July 1999) Pennine Great Dane Club Championship Show (7th August 1999)


Breach

As a result of the incidents reported to the Kennel Club, which allegedly had occurred at these four shows, the matter was brought to the attention of the General Committee of the KC, who dealt specifically with an alleged biting incident that occurred on April 17th 1999.

These were discussed at their meeting held on January 11th 2000 and the following day a letter signed by Roger French, the KC’s Chief Executive was sent to Mrs Bratton. The General Committee had imposed a £100 fine on Mrs Bratton for breach of regulation F.9b (failure to exercise proper control of a dog). The letter expressed “considerable concern and alarm” at the recent reports and suggested that “the time has come for you to consider serious alternative arrangements as a matter of urgency to ensure that your dogs are kept under control”. The letter further went on to suggest that Mrs Bratton perhaps consider finding a handler who could assist her at shows. The letter finishes with a request for a reply by the end of January with Mrs Bratton’s “constructive proposals” as to how she was to resolve the problem. In her reply to the KC, Mrs Bratton explained that she had shown dogs for 47 years and in the previous two years, had undergone knee and spinal surgery, which has not been successful and had left her only able to walk with the aid of crutches. She had also suggested that she would arrange for another person to possibly assist her at shows.

Then on April 4th 2000 another reported incident occurred at the Ch Show of the South-Western Great Dane Club whilst Mr McElhone was unloading Great Danes belonging to Mrs Bratton from a vehicle in the venue car park. It was reported that two dogs began to fight among themselves and whilst parting the dogs, two persons were bitten. These were Mr McElhone and Mr S Trevayne, a stall holder at the show, who went to assist. Both were treated on the showground and were offered hospital treatment, which was refused.

On April 24th another incident occurred which was reported to the KC, this time at the North and South Shields Open Show at Wallsend Leisure Centre, when Avril Knox alleged that she had been “attacked by one of Mrs Bratton’s dogs” and bitten on the neck. It was alleged that some Great Danes owned by Mrs Bratton were tied to the benching when they had suddenly rushed forward, pulling the benching with them and blocking the aisle. It was whilst Ms Knox was attempting to push back the benching that she stated that she was bitten on the neck by a female harlequin dane. Mrs Bratton had also been accompanied to this show by Mr McElhone. As a result of this incident being reported to the KC, a temporary ban was placed on “Tovayne el Vodka”, which is usual KC practice following a reported biting incident.

In early August the KC then received a letter from a firm of Solicitors, Giles, Hunter, Power, who had been instructed by Mrs Bratton following the temporary ban placed on her “champion Great Dane” (sic). The letter specifically referred to the returning of her entries for her other dogs from the Pennine Great Dane Club and suggested that possibly her human rights were being infringed by the actions of the KC and the PGDC. The letter was dated August 1st (the human rights act was not due to come into force until October 2nd). In the letter the solicitors state that “Our client is a 71 year old lady in extremely ill health whose one pleasure in life is to show her dogs.”

As a result of this solicitors letter, the KC set up and ad-hoc committee, taken from General Committee members to conduct and report back to the full General Committee. The sub-committee were asked to appoint an agreed canine behavioural expert to visit Mrs Bratton to assess the disposition of the dogs and Mrs Bratton’s ability to control them. In addition the KC placed an immediate (as at September 6th 2000) temporary suspension on all dogs owned by Mrs Bratton (under KC Rule B12.b(4)), rendering the dogs ineligible to attend or enter a KC licensed event or an unlicensed event recognised by the KC. Subsequently a behaviour evaluation was carried out by Celia Bourne of the Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour, who is also a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She assessed all of Mrs Bratton’s dogs on November 2nd 2000 and a seven page report was sent to the KC to be considered on November 6th 2000. The comprehensive report was consider fully by the General Committee at their meeting of November 28th 2000. The following day, Roger French again wrote to Mrs Bourne fully explaining the present situation. He stated that the Sub-Committee did not find sufficient grounds from the findings of the behaviour tests and report to warrant an immediate permanent ban on exhibiting any of Mrs Bratton’s Great Danes. The General Committee therefore lifted the temporary suspension imposed on Mrs Bratton’ dogs, subject to two conditions. These were:

1) “No more that one dog must be entered and taken to any Kennel Club licensed Show”

2) “The dog must be properly controlled by a competent handler (other than your self) at all times whilst at the licensed venue, including it’s environs, car and caravan parks and approaches.”

Mrs Bratton responded in writing in early December, with a request that she be allowed to take, not one, but two dogs to shows in future. The matter was once again placed before the General Committee at their meeting on January 9th 2001 and the following day, Kathryn Symns the KC Shows, Trials and Awards Executive replied, confirming that the general Committee had agreed to amend their original directive to allow Mrs Bratton to now take two dogs to shows, instead of just one.

It then emerged that three of Mrs Bratton’s Great Danes had had transfer of ownership to Mr McElhone applied for. In December 2000 Tovayne el Tzigano, a harlequin dog and Tovayne Elyzarina, a harlequin bitch had an application for transfer of ownership submitted to the KC.

This was followed in March 2001 by Zuleika el Tovayne, the dam of both the previously mentioned dogs.

The next development in the ever deepening saga came on May 7th 2001 at the Sunderland & District Canine Society Open Show, held at Peterlee Leisure Centre, Co Durham. Mrs Bratton and Mr McElhone had apparently brought four Great Danes with them to the show in a Transit type van. Inside the hall, two of the dogs identified as Tovayne el Tzigano and Ravendane Sharpe were tethered to hooks in the wall, when Mrs Bratton put down some bones for the dogs, to quote one witness “all hell broke loose” and the two dogs started a serious fight. Mr McElhone, in an attempt to stop the fight, took one of Mrs Bratton’s crutches and proceeded to beat the dogs repeatedly on the head. The fight continued and Mr Bratton then collapsed, before the fight was stopped by other exhibitors, some of whom sustained injuries.


Hospital

As Mr McElhone was unconscious, an exhibitor placed him in the recovery position and an ambulance was called and took him to hospital. The police also arrived at the hall having picked up the call on the police radio. The matter was reported to The Kennel Club by the society and witness statements were obtained from Mrs Mary Templer, Mr S J Robinson, (who was to judge danes at the show), Jean Bloomfield, Mr K Golphin, Ms C Woodgate-Ball, Mr Michael McGee, Mrs C Westwood and Mrs G Griffiths, all of which gave very similar reports of the incident.

On the 30th June 2001, yet another incident occurred involving Mrs Bratton, Mr McElhone and their Great Danes, this time the event was the Midland & West of England Great Dane Club ‘Puppy Event’ held at Shirland Village Hall nr Alfreton.

The couple arrived at the venue in their van, this time with five Great Danes. Mrs Bratton selected a patch of grass about 75 yards from the car park. She had tethered two Danes, whilst Mr McElhone, remained at the van. Mr McElhone then proceeded to release a dane, which ran, free towards Mrs Bratton. This was followed by a second then a third dog released from the van and left to free run to Mrs Bratton and the other dogs.

Almost inevitably a fight broke out between two of the dogs, which then carried on into a large bank of stinging nettles. Mrs Bratton this time utilised the crutch to attempt the beat the dogs apart, whilst Mr McElhone attempted to pull the dogs apart by the collar. A number of other exhibitors, reported to be as many as six then came to the assistance and stopped the fight which had been described by one witness as ‘A Blood Bath’.

It became apparent that veterinary treatment was necessary for at least one of the dogs. Another exhibitor, identified only as ‘Fred’ then took the injured dog along with a Mrs Bishton to the vet on call. Neither Mrs Bratton nor Mr McElhone went with the dog to the vets, but both stayed on to continue to show the remaining animals. Once again, the Kennel Club received several written statements about the reported incident, these were from Mrs Colton (Hon Sec), Mr Archer (Show manager), Joanne Nicholson, Marilyn Smethurst, Mrs Toomey, Audrey Sheppard and Alaine Flower.

This last incident was the straw which broke the camel’s back and on August 15th, Mrs Linda Branwhite, Disciplinary Administrator of the KC wrote to both Mrs Bratton and Mr McElhone advising them that a complaint had been issued by The Kennel Club, under their Rule A42 that they behaved discreditably or prejudicially to the interests of the canine world. The complaint had for parts thus:

1) The transferring of the registrations of three Great Danes to the name of Mr P McElhone.

2) That they took four Great Danes to the Sunderland and District Canine Open Show on may 7th 2001.

3) That they took four or more Great Danes to the Midland and west of England Great Dane Club Puppy Event/Match on June 30th 2001.

4) Whilst at said events, failed to exercise proper or sufficient control of the said Great Danes.

With the above being in deliberate disregard of the Directive of the General Committee of the Kennel Club of 29th November 2000.

This completed the submission from Mr Evans on behalf of The Kennel Club and following a limited number of questions from the sub-committee the meeting adjourned at approximately 12:15pm to consider their decision. Following a recess, the meeting was reassembled to be told that the complaints against Mrs Bratton and Mr McElhone had both been upheld and that both parties were to be warned, censured and suspended from showing and shows.

The full transcript of the sub-committee’s decision is as follows:

The Disciplinary Sub-Committee find that Mrs Eva Bratton (and Mr Peter McElhone) behaved discreditably or prejudicially to the interests of the canine world in that they failed to exercise proper and sufficient control of Great Danes exhibited at the Sunderland and District Canine Society Open Show on 7th may 2001 and the Midland and West of England Great Dane Club Puppy Match on 30th June 2001.


Concerned

Written evidence from numerous witnesses convinced the Sub-Committee that Mrs Bratton (and Mr McElhone) were unable to exercise proper care and control over the Great Danes in their charge at the two shoes (in addition the Sub-Committee were particularly concerned by the physical means employed by Mr McElhone in attempting to bring the dogs under control whilst they were fighting.)

The Committee imposes the following penalties:

1. To warn them as to their future conduct [(A42 j (1)]

2. To Censure them [(A42 j (2)]

3. To suspend them from exhibiting at, taking part in, attending and/or having any connection with any event licensed by the Club. If any person suspended or disqualified under this Sub-paragraph shall attend any canine event whilst suspended or disqualified the General Committee shall have the power to increase the period of suspension and/or disqualification. [A4 2j (4)]

The suspension and disqualification’s are for a period of Five (5) years from 23rd January 2002.

The Committee following the impositions of these penalties, would draw the attention of the Respondent/s to the effect of Rule A42 Sub-sections l and n.

The Disciplinary Sub-Committee was made up of Mr Bernard Hall as Chairman, Miss Jean Lanning, Mr John Banbury, Mrs Irene Terry and Mr Keith A W Young