SHOCK! HORROR! Best describes the reaction of delegates to the French Kennel Clubs annual general meeting to the news that its very existence was threatened, and that immediate and drastic measures were required to save it. In his third year as President, Renaud Buche told representatives of breed and regional clubs of losses of a million francs a month since the start of the year, writes Harry Baxter.
For 30 years the Société Centrale Canine has maintained the register of dogs identified by tattoo, a responsibility placed upon it by the Ministry of Agriculture. In the past year, 100,000 dogs, lost or strayed, had been recovered by means of the register. Registration fees were a major part of the societys income. However, since the introduction of the chip as an alternative means of identification, and in less than a year, demands for tattoo certificates had fallen from close on 70,000 a month to little more than 30,000.
Though veterinary surgeons had not succeeded in imposing the chip as the sole means of identification, and owners and breeders still had the right to choose, nevertheless they had other means at their disposal - to order fewer and fewer tattoo certificates and to tattoo fewer and fewer dogs. Soon breeder-tattooists could be the only ones requesting the forms.
Meanwhile, the society has maintained its responsibility, with a staff of 54. Requests addressed to the Ministry of Agriculture for information concerning future responsibility for the register had met with no response. President Buche announced the launching of a redundancy plan affecting the registers staff.
There was more bad news. The loss of the Societys international championship show, 2001, moved from the Longchamp racecourse to Bourget, was much greater than anticipated, amounting to 580,000 Euros (£386,600). In part this was accounted for by termination payments to managerial staff employed for the show.
Numbed by astonishment, likened to their being anaesthetised, as Vos Chiens magazine put it, members nevertheless rallied to the President and voted, almost unanimously, to accept both the financial report and that of the President.
With the very existence of the society at stake, it may seem they had very little choice.