Last month, I was optimistic about the future of dog shows and other canine events. This month I’d like to be equally optimistic about dogs generally, and mention some of the ways in which the Kennel Club is not only trying, but also succeeding, in making progress to improve the general climate in society at large - for dogs, dog owners, breeders and exhibitors alike.
We all know that there is an anti-dog lobby in this country, but sometimes we overestimate it. One of the problems is that in every walk of life these days - not only in dogs - government and ‘officialdom’ seem to want to ‘interfere’ and tell us how to behave.
Dangerous dogs legislation, the European Convention, animal welfare legislation, planning restrictions and all sorts of other generally well-meaning initiatives, seem to threaten the way that we as dog owners conduct ourselves. We should never forget, however, that there is still, out there, a very strong but often silent group of people who are great supporters of the dog - namely the dog owning public. Not all of those owners have links with the Kennel Club, but all must be regarded as potential supporters. The Kennel Club recognises this and, more and more, takes up the cudgels on behalf of ALL dogs and ALL dog owners. What those of us who compete at events with our dogs must always remember, is that our hobby will only be strong and make progress, if dogs generally fit easily and comfortably into the society in which we live.
The KC Good Citizen Dog Scheme goes from strength to strength and is now recognised as the largest dog training venture in this country. The latest addition is the Puppy Foundation Course. At Crufts the new Safe and Sound Scheme was launched. This ensures that children, particularly those who have had no previous contact with dogs, know how to behave when dogs are around.
We are now espousing far more dog training and canine behaviourists than ever before. This is being done through the newly launched KC Accreditation Scheme, set up to form a united membership body for all categories of dog instructors, mainly to help others to appreciate dogs in society.
On the PR front, the Kennel Club works by advertising in media such as Yellow Pages, Exchange and Mart etc, to encourage all puppy buyers to buy from breeders, to register, to identify and to insure their dogs, and to act as responsible dog owners. We are meeting MPs on a regular basis to fly the flag for dog breeders and we also have frequent contact with government ministers, civil servants and the veterinary profession, to explain to them all the helpful actions being taken by the world of dogs so as to make dog ownership a positive experience and a meaningful contribution to life in this country.
Another constructive feature is the continuing work of the Kennel Club’s European Convention team, co-operating with breeders and breed clubs to ensure that we deal internally with breeding and welfare issues. Hopefully this will prevent us having some of the more draconian measures outlined in the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, forced upon us. The KC Executive team recently made a very well received presentation to the entire DEFRA Animal Welfare Bill group. More and more, Government comes to us to ask our opinion on matters canine, whereas previously we were constantly ‘on the back foot’ struggling to have the voice of dog breeders and enthusiasts heard.
On the international front too, though it has to be said that the FCI has been slow to react on these issues, our links with the Scandinavian countries, the Benelux countries and now France, are beginning to pay benefits. We and the Societé Central Canine (the French Kennel Club) have called a meeting of all EU countries later this year, to find common ground to ensure that whatever legislation emerges from the EU, it will be better informed and will take the dog owner‚s point of view into account.
All in all, there is a tremendous amount of positive work going on in many areas, to ensure that the dog is well regarded by the public at large. We the dog breeders, exhibitors, competitors and owners, can all play our part both as individuals and through our clubs and societies. Apathy is not an option for any of us these days. Just for a change, let us all put aside quibbles and moans about shows, judges, clubs and committees and start to think more broadly - about where dogs fit into the community in which we live. I’m sure that’s the course of action which, for all of us as dog enthusiasts, will be the most productive way forward.
Ronnie Irving, K C Chairman