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Dr Peter Larkin is expelled by South African Bull Terrier Club

The South African Bull Terrier Club (SABTC) has taken the unprecedented step of expelling Dr Peter Larkin for writing, and publishing an article in the (English) Bull Terrier Bulletin that the committee of the SABTC considers to be "harmful, prejudicial and injurious to the objects, interest, good order and the character of the Club." The committee did not question the accuracy of the article’s content, but nevertheless objected to its critical content.

The article in question was published in the Summer edition of the Bull Terrier Bulletin, No. 171.

While largely concerned with describing the differences between the selection of Trophy competitors in South Africa and England (in England competitors are chosen by a selection committee, in South Africa by qualification), and the method of choosing judges, which he considered over-complicated in South Africa as opposed to, frequently, a matter of desperation in England, the article was critical of the administration of the show itself.

Dr Larkin considered that the organisers had over-concentrated on the ‘style’ of the show to the detriment of its content. He quoted, as an example, that the dogs were expected to climb a ramp on their entry into the ring, and claimed that "Bull Terriers don’t do ramps". The article included the results of the show, with some ‘ringside commentary’- Dr Larkin is one of the most experienced Bull Terrier judges in the world and for many years contributed to OUR DOGS with his Veterinary Matters column.

An offer to mediate by the President of the Kennel Union of Southern Africa was ignored by the chairman of SABTC.

Dr Larkin appealed over his explusion. The appeal hearing was chaired by the chairman of SABTC, Mr Deon Schoeman, aided by Advocate C I Martin who described himself as "the committee’s legal council" (sic). Mr Schoeman refused Dr Larkin’s request for an independent chairman. The chairman opened the proceedings by having a charge sheet read. The charge sheet was not offered to Dr Larkin. The chairman then informed Dr Larkin that he would be given a limited time to present his defence.

Much of Dr Larkin’s initial defence concerned procedural irregularities on the part of the committee – they had taken the decision to expel Dr Larkin without all the committee being present, they had refused to permit Dr Larkin access to documents that he considered relevant to the case (on the grounds that as he had been expelled from the Club he was no longer entitled to see Club documents).

Dr Larkin claimed that he was, in any case, entitled under the Constitution of South Africa to freedom of opinion and freedom of speech, including freedom of expression. The chairman, on the frequently interjected advice of his legal adviser, refused to consider any irregularities on the grounds that they were legal matters, outwith the competence of the chairman, and that constitution freedom of speech was "a matter for the Constitutional Court".

Regarding the article itself, Dr Larkin’s claim that it was accurate, if uncomplimentary, was not contested in the committee’s charge sheet, their only explanation, of their case. Dr Larkin lost his appeal.

The President of SABTC, Mr Louw Brits, in a widely circulated letter, has declared:- "In the light of the damaging nature of the said article the South African Bull Terrier Club has taken the drastic step of cancelling all future judging appointments by the club with Dr Larkin, and has the support of the other eight Bull Terrier clubs in the country on the issue, who have indicated to follow suit.

I am further aware of the fact that disciplinary action is in progress against Dr Larkin whom now also runs the risk of losing his membership with the South African Bull Terrier Club and possibly others as well. It has even been said is some influential circles that Dr Larkin would not in future have the opportunity to touch another Bull Terrier in South Africa, and should he be invited by any club to judge any show, a concerted effort will be made to withhold any Bull Terrier from entering."