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German Shepherd club speaks out against
IKC show interference

THE GERMAN SHEPHERD Association Ireland has spoken out about the ‘interference’ by the Irish kennel Club in the running of the Association’s annual Sieger show earlier this year, which led to the IKC being censured by the Irish Competition Authority.

As reported in last week’s issue, the IKC objected to GSA Ireland staging the show along more European – and FCI - lines, with Schutzhund displays taking place - all very much against the proscribed IKC line. The GSA made a complaint to the Competitions Authority, which in turn took statements from both organisations, then made a ruling at the end of June, censuring the IKC for interfering in the running of the show.

Although the IKC did not agree that they had in fact acted in a manner contrary to the Act they gave a number of undertakings to the authority. These undertakings were given to "ensure future behaviour would be in compliance with the Act".

According to the ruling on the CA’s website, the IKC has undertaken to refrain from:
a) Actively deterring, monetarily penalising or otherwise disciplining its members from joining, participating in events that are sponsored by entities that are actual or potential competitors of the IKC Ltd within the Republic of Ireland.

b) Actively deterring, monetarily penalising or otherwise disciplining persons who serve as judges for IKC Ltd sanctioned events from or for serving as judges for events that are sponsored by entities that are actual or potential competitors of the IKC Ltd within the Republic of Ireland.

After OUR DOGS had gone to press last week, a spokesperson for the IKC contacted the newspaper and stated that they had no further comment to make on the matter, but referred OUR DOGS to the undertaking they had given in the CA’s ruling as reproduced on the website.

OUR DOGS subsequently asked a number of questions of GAS Ireland about the background to the dispute and about their future plans following the ruling. GSA Ireland’s Activities and Events Co-ordinator Bobby
Behan responded on behalf of the Association, having been officially mandated to do so, and we are pleased to reproduce their answers, together with our questions in full.

1) Could you explain the 'Germanic' influences of the GSA Ireland Sieger show and whether these are related more to FCI or IKC ideology?

‘I am not certain it would be accurate to describe the GSA activity influences as "Germanic". Our objective as an organisation is to promote the breeding, training and keeping of correct, healthy, trainable German Shepherd dogs. We would be influenced by any system that helps achieve this aim. In addition as full members of the World Union of German Shepherd Dogs, WUSV, we have made commitments and have obligations to the greater GSD community.

‘We believe the current IKC system is in fact detrimental to the workability of German Shepherds and many, including myself would argue that our breed as a working breed has deteriorated in recent times. We certainly do not lay the blame for this exclusively at the feet of the IKC, but they have done nothing positive to make positive change. We believe that the core business of the IKC should be the promotion of a breed we can be proud of; they have the facilities and the resources, resources provided by the owners and breeders. We believe they have failed in this regard.

‘One of the policies we wanted implemented was that the breed show would be just part of the picture and that the dogs achieving honours would have to be at a minimum structurally good representatives, have a training qualification, be identifiable and be healthy. They are after all going to be the dogs that will be selected for the breeding programme of many breeders.

‘The IKC had a problem with this – they were and are of the view that we (the GSD fraternity) must always exhibit our dogs using the same criteria as for all other breeds – we do not agree. If this is IKC ideology, this is where the main difference lies.

‘We decided to run our own show, using the beginnings of a criterion for top grading that are the norm outside of Ireland and the U.K. We called it the Irish Sieger show – a term that is familiar and acceptable to serious GSD enthusiasts and to differentiate it from for the IKC "Championship" term. The winner of the Adult class in the male and female class is our Sieger, our Champion for that year.’

2) When did you become aware that the IKC objected to your show? Were specific points of contention raised with GSA Ireland?

‘When we scheduled our show, early January 2002 we got a huge and very positive response. We had unsolicited requests for schedules from all over Ireland and the U.K. We then started to receive phone calls and emails. We were being advised that some person or persons had made an objection to our show and that the IKC had advised that anyone participating in any capacity would be sanctioned. I personally made contact with the General Secretary of the IKC, Mr Tony O’Neill. He confirmed that a complaint had been received and that the IKC had advised callers "as they saw appropriate". He would not be more specific than this. I asked him to confirm in writing. We received a letter dated January 23rd 2002 advising that anyone associated with or participating in our show "would be disciplined, including expulsion".

‘We then received a letter from the SV in Germany. They advised they had received representation from the IKC and they wanted certain assurances before releasing our requested judge. This was a very complicated legalistic document, our interpreter described it a similar to a letter you would get from a government department or a solicitor. The SV wanted assurances that our event was in fact legal; they wanted an undertaking that the Judge if released would not be officiating at any event in conflict with Irish law and would have no conflict with the Irish authorities! I believe it was not unreasonable for us to deduce from this letter that some suggestion or implication was made that we were involved in some form of illegality. I again contacted the IKC and asked for a copy of the letter they had written to the SV, they refused to forward a copy.

‘We were of course in a position to assure the SV as required and the judge was released as requested.

‘The IKC was at all times very evasive to direct questions and refused at all times to put anything other than the original letter in writing. We know of many individuals who were told that they would be banned from future IKC events and would not be allowed to register puppies if they participated in our show.

3) It was reported that the IKC suggested 'consequences' if judges or exhibitors attended the show. Do you have any evidence to this effect, individuals concerned (including IKC officials) etc.?

‘This point /question is covered as above. In addition the IKC wrote to the Chairman of the GSDCNI (The German Shepherd Dog Club of Northern Ireland- a club affiliated to the KC) advising him to advise his members that "it would not be in their interest to support our show" The vast majority did not.’

4) Were any negotiations on the matter entered into between IKC and GSA Ireland?
‘Other than my contacts with the IKC, there were no discussions. I offered our availability to discuss the situation and made our non-confrontational position clear. We were and are not interested in conflict with any organisation. As with previous GSA attempts to achieve progress and common ground, our attempts were ignored.’

5) How and when was it decided to involve the Irish Competition Authority?

‘On receipt of the letter of the 23rd Jan from the IKC it was clear that our show was going to be detrimentally affected. GSA was always of the opinion we had the right to host our events without interference, we had a similar experience when the IKC attempted to ban our members who participated in Schutzhund, however there were a considerable number of potential exhibitors who were intimidated and we felt it was necessary to test the situation and get official clarification. This process took considerably longer and was considerably more demanding than we had anticipated.’

6) Did the IKC contest the matter? Were officers from each organisation called to give evidence?

‘All of GSA submissions were forwarded in writing. As an amateur body, this form of submission was more suitable to us; we were of course available to visit the Competition Authority as required. The authority was very happy with our level of cooperation and all requests for information, statements etc were responded within 24 hours of receipt. The IKC did meet with the Authority; we are unaware of the number of occasions or what the process was. We are also made aware by the Authority that other interested bodies (individuals and corporate) had made submissions and statements. We do not know who these individuals or bodies are. The authority is very guarded in it’s information. We know the IKC disputed our assertion that they had in fact interfered with our show to its detriment.

7) What are GSA Ireland's future plans and intentions following the ruling by the CA in your favour?

‘We will continue to develop a system that we believe is of benefit to German Shepherd dogs and German Shepherd enthusiasts. We have in place a plan for the future, including the Sieger show with requirements to have an acceptable hip score, DNA and a working qualification to make a V (excellent) grade. The show is just one part of the picture but it dovetails perfectly with the other process and procedures of our Organisation. We are now in a position to offer a registration facility, including the issue of a verifiable, and presentable set of documentation. This is of great interest to our members.

‘We are of course available to meet and discuss these plans with any organisation that wish to participate in a positive and meaningful manner. We have written to the IKC advising of this position since the Authority ruling and await their response- they have acknowledged receipt of our letter.’

Bobby Behan, on behalf of GSA Ireland made the following statement on the whole matter.
‘We are very pleased with the outcome of our complaint to the Irish Competition Authority. We were always of the opinion that we did in fact have this right; this opinion is now officially vindicated.

‘We hope this long and negatively distracting process can be a platform for progress and the future. We hope it will be the stimulus for the Irish Kennel Club Ltd to see a point of view that is perhaps not entirely in line with theirs but that they will now at least be prepared to investigate and discuss it’s merits.

‘German Shepherd people are in the main, intelligent, educated and articulate people and well aware of their rights. GSA Ireland is happy to represent their interests and the interests of the German Shepherd dog breed.’

OUR DOGS will be pleased to offer the right of reply to the Irish Kennel Club on this matter, should it wish to respond in kind.

Raising the standards of German Shepherd Dogs
in the UK by David Payne - see next week’s issue