On Wednesday 9th July the first in a series of Kennel Club Regional Question Times took place at Spadesbourne Suite, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
This new initiative has evolved from discussions through the Canine Events Conference and through listening to comments and suggestions from exhibitors, competitors and others involved in the world of dogs. Over 80 people travelled to this Regional Question Time event, representing all areas and disciplines - exhibitors, breeders, Club Secretaries, obedience and agility enthusiasts were all in attendance, representing a broad spectrum of the sport and hobby.
The Kennel Club panel consisted of Ronnie Irving, KC Chairman (and chair of the panel), Peter Mann, Crufts Chairman, Rosemary Smart, KC Chief Executive, Caroline Kisko, KC Secretary, Kathryn Symns, KC Assistant Secretary and Phil Buckley, the KCs External Affairs Manager.
Firstly, the Kennel Club Chairman welcomed those present and introduced the panel. After a presentation on What the Kennel Club is all about in 2003, - and a short refreshment break - a lively Open Forum discussion ensued where both pre-submitted questions, and others conceived on the evening were discussed, having been put to the panel.
Topics that were covered included:
Crufts Judges and Judges in general - including the recently announced 75 year age rule, puppy farming and the Welsh Assembly initiative, funds for Breed Rescue, CC allocation, the assessment and evaluation of judges, agility, and the feasibility of regional show centres and KC endorsements. Other issues raised included Breed Standards, the possible review of KC Rules and Regulations and Premier Open Shows - to name but a few!
It was noted that the majority of questions were show orientated, therefore the extensive knowledge of Kathryn Symns on Show Regulations and the Year Book was very much in demand!
The evenings proceedings should have been concluded by 9.30pm, but at everyones agreement, the Question Time finished at 10.00pm, with a promise from the KC that those questions not answered on the evening - due to lack of time - would be replied to in the Kennel Gazette (September and October). The next Regional Question Time will be held on Thursday 23rd October at Bowburn Community Hall, Bowburn, County Durham. Ticket availability will be advertised in OUR DOGS.
Q: What does the panel think of the idea that if a judge is on the B list of four separate breeds in the same group, they should be able to judge AV and AVNSC classes within that group and not as present only if awarding CCs?
A: The judging regulations were introduced to ensure that those persons invited to judge such classes had a reasonable and quantifiable amount of judging experience over a minimum period of time. The proposal would seem to be an unusual one as it is rare for a judge of long-standing to be on four different and separate breed B lists without being approved to award CCs.
Q: Are there any laid down criteria to follow for open shows, relating to how many Groups can be missed out (only AV classes) of a schedule, but can still be called an open show? When deciding on Premier Open Show status do you have to have a certain number of breeds and classes?
A: The requirement is that at least one AV Not Separately Classified Class is scheduled at an Open Show to ensure that any breed of dog on the full KC Register has at least one class for which it is eligible. Custom and practice is for show societies running shows on the group basis to schedule AVNSC class or classes for each group, but this is not a requirement under the regulations. The Premier Open Show application form requires information about the society and its shows; the Committee would expect a society to schedule a well-balanced classification and not to schedule just the numerically strong breeds.
Q: In light of your stated fact that participation in dog showing is decreasing would the Kennel Club consider reducing show fees? To apply for a licence for a breed club championship show is £100 and with the hire of halls increasing many clubs are finding these fees burdensome.
A: We are of course aware that the costs of putting on dog shows are increasing all the time, so are the costs of attending shows and we are obviously sympathetic to the questioner. Unfortunately likewise, even with the best of housekeeping, Kennel Club costs also increase over time. It is unlikely that the Kennel Club would therefore be able to reduce the cost of show licences. As you will see from the accounts of the Club issued at the Question Time Meeting, the cost of running the Shows Trials and Awards Department along with all the attendant governance activities such as maintaining the Stud Book etc, is by no means covered by the income from licences etc. It is very much subsidised by other parts of the Kennel Club.
Q: With regards to the Show Scene, why not make the shows, so that a dog has to pass up the ladder - first at a limited show to enable entry at an open show, which in turn would allow entry at a championship show, this to be on a yearly basis? Entries would increase and a championship show would become more prestigious.
A: To answer a question with a question why should the Kennel Club force exhibitors to enter for competitions, which all the evidence available quite clearly indicates, they have no wish to do? There would doubtless be an outcry from exhibitors if this were to be introduced. The idea has been floated before and did not get support from the Liaison Councils and was mocked by the canine press. It would be far more productive if show societies could strive to make their product more attractive and encourage exhibitors to enter rather than the Kennel Club forcing exhibitors to attend by changing the show regulations. Another point has also emerged when previously discussing this issue. That is, it would mean that championship shows would not be able to have younger stock entered and many consider this to be a bad thing. Many people in the event of a qualifier being introduced, also think that allowing less experienced judges to decide on which dogs go forward to championship shows - would not be fair.
Q: Would the panel agree now, that it was a big mistake to impose a retrospective 4 per class entry on the open show societies? In January Evesham Canine Society held a 315 class open show. There were 764 dogs entered, creating an average entry of 3.71. There were approximately 350 exhibitors actually present enjoying a day out with their dogs. Can you tell me what was wrong with that?
A: There is nothing wrong with that. The Society can if it wishes continue to organise an open show which attracts this number of dogs, and can if it wishes, schedule a limited show or companion dog show if it wishes to continue to organise two shows each year. The only restriction is that the society cannot schedule a second open show until it can show that it can attract a higher average entry.
The current situation with the 2004 show diary under the new rules, is that societies are finding it much easier to book show dates, and due to fewer shows, are able to review classifications to schedule additional breeds and to potentially attract more entries. The full extent of the changes to the open show date policy cannot be analysed until the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, so the Kennel Club cannot agree with the statement at the beginning of the question.
Q: Why is a person who gave tickets in GSDs 10 years ago, who has never owned or judged a hound before - more qualified to judge the Hound Group at open shows than someone who has judged all hound breeds for 20 years but does not award CCs?
A: It is presumed this relates to Kennel Club Regulation F(1)21.b.(2). The short answer is that the problem lies with Open Show societies who should not in fact be appointing persons to judge groups who do not have some experience of the breeds they are to judge. This does not make good sense. It would be quite unreasonable for a GSD judge to be asked to judge the Hound Group at an Open Show. Show Societies should take a sensible course when selecting judges for their shows.
Prior to this Regulation being introduced there was no criteria at all for those appointed to judge "all breed" classes. At least the regulation goes some way to establishing that the person selected has had some considerable experience of judging.
Q: Most judges awarding CCs for the first time draw good entries. Therefore should the show society scheduling these judges treat assessors as officials, and provide admission and car park tickets, plus a catalogue - and dare I suggest it, even a free lunch?
A: The Kennel Club would have no objection to show societies providing the above facilities to assessors (evaluators actually), after all it is the show societies who nominated the judge in the first place.
It is suggested that breed clubs, when selecting the evaluator, contact the show society for the relevant passes so that they can be passed on to the evaluator.
Q: Reference Judges Working Party - is it time to have another review of the original and updated documents containing the various judging criteria? Surely it is time for another questionnaire to be widely distributed to indicate any concerns of show societies and individual exhibitors as I personally have not seen any feed-back apart from Liaison Councils. I believe the A lists should remain as they are but would like to see the B list disbanded completely. The system is unfair with the KC unable to police their own suggested format, which in turn is depriving the breed of young judges when too much emphasis is on numbers and dishonesty is rife. The standard of judging has not improved and stewarding has declined. More regulations cannot be imposed on the already stressed out secretaries of clubs/societies who flounder amongst the paperwork.
A: The policies introduced by the JWP are long-term solutions to very deep-seated issues. The results of the policies are bearing fruit in the acceptance of new CC judges. Judges themselves are finding the seminars of great benefit and feel confident when entering the ring, of their responsibilities and of correct judging procedures. The Kennel Club is in fact monitoring the judging list criteria, the Judges Sub-Committee last year completed a review of the A3 list numbers (hands on experience and years of experience) and subsequently wrote to a number of clubs requesting their criteria be lowered. The Committee will shortly be turning its attention to the B list criteria. As far as the comment regarding the "concentration on numbers" and "dishonesty" is concerned - if club members consider this to be true, these important matters should be raised with the clubs committee and/or at Club AGMs. Whilst the JWP might have introduced more administration for a club - it does not necessarily mean that only the club secretary has to deal with everything. Many clubs have formed judges consortiums which set the criteria for the breed and all clubs within that breed agree to abide by the list drawn up by the consortium thereby cutting out an immense duplication of effort. This is one way in which the administration can be kept to a minimum. The fundamental and undeniable principle accepted by the JWP was those judges who had the support of a breed generally, should be the judges who make most progress within that breed. Thus, the judging list proposals gave breed clubs an important say in how future judges for their breed are promoted, if club committees are not taking their responsibilities seriously then it is in the hands of the members not to re-elect them to office.
Q: I believe that breed judges should be assessed at breed club open shows not at championship shows because if a judge gets a poor assessment it puts doubt on their awards.
A: It was never the intention of the Judges Working Party when introducing the evaluation and assessment systems that the evaluation of first time CC judges at their first championship show would be in place for a long period of time. The assessment or the A2 judges list route has always been the preferred option. Through this process judges are assessed before their first CC appointment and the breed club can then nominate judges for its A2 list who it considers would be suitable CC judges. The Kennel Clubs Judges Sub-Committee will consider the judges questionnaire along with the three assessment forms. If approved this A2 list judge does not have to be evaluated on their first CC appointment.
Q: Open Shows - One reason that the open shows are losing exhibits, is the fact that in many cases the judges are not competent, this is Im sure the cause of falling numbers. When championship show judges also judged at open shows the entries were nearly always well supported.
A: There is an assumption in the question that entries were higher at open shows because CC judges were allowed to judge at these shows. The situation these days is that there are many reasons why there are just not the same amount of dogs being exhibited -compounded by the fact that open show entries in particular are on the decline.
In fact there is no Kennel Club Regulation which prevents a CC judge from judging the relevant breed at open shows. Although it should be appreciated that if they do it, this restricts the number of opportunities for others to gain valuable hands on experience.
Q: Why do we find judges awarding tickets in a breed every year, sometimes they award tickets to dogs in February then bitches in August, is this good practice?
A: The Kennel Club does not select the judges, the only criteria set by the Kennel Club as far as timescales are concerned, is that a person cannot judge the same breed within a 12 month period. This is to ensure that a reasonable number of judges are used for a breed and that the same person is not judging the same dogs over a very short period of time. This does not apply where classes for separate sexes are concerned - a judge may judge dogs and bitches within 12 months of each appointment. Under these circumstances the judge is not in fact judging the same "animals". It is suggested that the best way to manage this situation is for show societies to add a clause to their judging contract - if they wish - stating that the judge is not to judge the breed within a specific period before their own show.
Q: Why does the Kennel Club not offer an arbitration service?
A: In a way the Kennel Club does offer such a service. The Shows, Trials and Awards Department deals with an ever-increasing number of internal club disputes and the Health and Information Department deals with registration endorsement disputes. Both these departments act as "honest brokers" in relaying information and advice back and forth between those involved in the dispute. However if the Kennel Club were to offer a true and binding arbitration service careful consideration would need to be given to this role as opposed to the Kennel Clubs role as the governing body and its responsibility in this regard to uphold the rules and regulations. This is certainly an area which is worth exploring and we will undertake to do just that.