The year 2003/4 was, for the Kennel Club, yet another year of change and progress.
Registrations and transfers were up, service levels were maintained, the finances of the Club were strengthened, the membership base was widened and the range of activities and spheres of influence of the Club were expanded.
It is its vast range of activity which makes the Kennel Club today so different from what it was in the early days. This makes the organisation stronger and better able to serve the needs of dog owners, dog breeders and the dog, in the modern world. Fortunately it also makes the role of Chairman all the more stimulating and interesting!
I make no apology for repeating, time and time again, the broad objective which the Club has set itself, namely "To raise the relevance of the Kennel Club in the eyes of the public at large, dog owners and those who take part in canine activities so as to be better able ‘to promote in every way the general improvement of dogs’".
This is not an easy task to achieve without change. The world around us changes and we must adapt with it. But change of course does not always go down well with everyone in an institution as old as the Kennel Club. The trick, if it can be achieved, is to make things move forward without ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’. There are many traditions at the Kennel Club which we are right to preserve and indeed will preserve. There are others which we should and will jettison. Let us hope that we are successful in judging which should be placed in the former and which in the latter category.
There are perhaps two main defining issues which have happened in the last year which will go down in the long term history of the Club – and the two are linked. One will be noted and the other is unlikely to be. The first is the successful move last year to allow Associates of at least five years standing to apply for membership without having to be proposed and seconded by existing members. Effectively this means that the Kennel Club is no longer a ‘by invitation only’ institution.
I am happy to say that since the change was introduced, a number of such Associates have been admitted to membership. The second, which is linked to this change, is that the strength of our influence with government, politicians and civil servants, has grown noticeably. We are now being consulted regularly, voluntarily and in some cases automatically by many organisations and individuals about canine matters; and that is as it should be. These two things go hand in hand, and our credibility grows both as a result of our own efforts and as a result of our new and more open structure which earns the respect of the broader outside world.
For the future there is still much work to be done in gaining a greater respect for the world of dogs and dog breeders. Two areas where we have not yet had enough effect are firstly amongst the ranks of the veterinary profession and secondly in the eyes of the national media. There are plans to work on both of these aspects. However, I have to admit that I think our chances of influencing the former are greater than those of bringing on board the national press which constantly seems to want only to find scandal to report. It seldom seems to look at the broader picture or see all of the benefits that dogs and dog owners bring to this world. Of course the freedom of the press is an important principle but it brings with it some responsibilities as well. Sometimes I am reminded of and am sympathetic to the quote by Tom Stoppard – "I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand!"
Talking of which I cannot let the year go by without mentioning the departure of Peter and Joyce Mann. As I said in a recent issue of the Kennel Gazette "I wish to thank Peter Mann personally for all that he has done for the Kennel Club in the past twenty plus years and to say that I hope that he and Joyce will have many healthy and successful years of retirement ahead of them. They should know not only how many people are saddened by their departure but also how many respect them for the decisive and responsible way in which they have acted, during what must have been a very difficult period for them."
The support I have had from the General Committee and Sub-Committees all of whom give of their time freely and without recompense, is greatly appreciated. The Kennel Club Staff too is exceptional and we are lucky to have at the top of the tree our Chief Executive Rosemary Smart whose calming influence, quiet efficiency and robust determination all make her such a strong leader. Last but not least I want to thank Bill Hardaway for his wise counsel as Vice Chairman. He has never failed, throughout the year, to support and guide in his usual calm yet firm way.
Final thanks should go to members and all of those who have helped the Kennel Club with its objectives. Please continue to lend us your support so that we can together ensure a bright and positive future for all dogs.
Chairman of the Kennel Club
Chief Executive’s report
I am very pleased to report on another successful and challenging year, during which much has been achieved and the breadth of the Club’s activity and influence further expanded.
One of the year’s highlights must surely be the opening of the Gallery and the opportunities that it will bring to us over the coming years in our effort to encourage more members and visitors into the Club. With satisfaction I can confirm that the Gallery was completed within the time schedule and budget. This is quite an achievement and a credit to all involved in its planning and execution.
The Club’s strategic direction is clear and we have worked hard to evaluate our position within the world of dogs today, and have tried to determine how we can best achieve our objectives and give dog breeders, exhibitors and owners what they want, enabling them to pursue their hobbies and to find ways of enhancing the sheer enjoyment of life with dogs.
To achieve our objectives we must continue to run a sound pro-active business. We must strive to create new sources of revenue and exercise control over overheads. The profit generated is vitally reinvested back to dogs through educational, charitable, welfare, governance and promotional activities. We must deliver good service levels and customer support and provide quality products. We must understand our activities both in terms of the data we hold and the needs of present day dog owners and, primarily, we must keep at the forefront of our minds the driving force behind our existence - "the general improvement of dogs". All decisions we make must be with that in mind.
Business performance has been encouraging with both registrations and transfers showing an increase over the previous year and pedigrees, Petlog, Crufts, Discover Dogs and the Healthcare Insurance programme all performing ahead of budget.
The organisation works very much as a team, with considerable importance placed on the integration between staff in the London and Aylesbury offices. The implementation of our strategy requires depth of knowledge and therefore our investment in staff training is considerable. In certain specialist areas the "learning curve" for new employees is in the region of eighteen months.
In my report last year, I cited the review of our employment package as a high staff priority in 2003 as we are well aware that the retention of knowledgeable specialists is vital. This has been achieved in part and we have reviewed similar employment sectors and analysed all aspects of the benefits package we offer. For the first time, a staff survey was conducted, the objective of which was to obtain views on all aspects of our business and environment. The results of the survey have been evaluated and will form a key part in staff performance reviews during the coming year.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to Senior Managers for building and developing such strong and committed teams, to members of the General Committee and Sub-Committees with whom we work so closely and who give so much of their time and, in particular, to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, Ronnie Irving and Bill Hardaway, with whom it is a pleasure to work.
Review of the Year
In 2003 the General Committee reviewed the strategic objectives established during the previous year. It was agreed that the objectives were still relevant and fundamental to the direction of the Club within the broad perspective of social, political, specialist and welfare considerations.
An additional objective was introduced to underline the commitment to an open form of governance and consultation. That is "encouraging more people to provide input into the Kennel Club’s decision making process".
The objectives for the coming period are:
"To raise the relevance of the Kennel Club in the eyes of the public at large, dog owners and those who take part in canine activities so as to be better able ‘to promote in every way the general improvement of dogs’".
This objective to be achieved through:
o Ensuring that the Kennel Club is the first port of call on all canine matters.
o Popularising canine activities focusing on the retention of existing customers and the attraction of new.
o Achieving a widening of the Kennel Club membership base.
o Encouraging more people to provide input into the Kennel Club’s decision
Accordingly, major initiatives continue to be undertaken, including:
o The launch of the Accredited Breeder Scheme, which will encourage the breeding of healthy, well adjusted puppies, which in turn will provide potential puppy buyers with an assurance that the breeder has undertaken to follow good breeding practices.
o The maintenance of excellent service levels for our customers and the development of new products and services.
o The development of a Health Survey Questionnaire on a nationwide level, to identify important health conditions and direct research funding.
o The development of work with legislative bodies, the government and groups concerned with canine matters.
o Extensive research to identify trends in registrations and show entries for vulnerable breeds, those that have been identified as attracting 300 or less Kennel Club registrations per year, in order to address the decline.
o The encouragement of responsible dog ownership via initiatives such as the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, the Safe and Sound Scheme, Young Kennel Club and mailing of newsletters to vets, local government and registered Clubs and Societies.
o The continuation of follow up actions from the Canine Events Conference – intended to help arrest the decline in canine events.
o Continued investment in the training of judges and stewards.
o Further widening of the Club’s membership base through enabling Kennel Club Associates to apply for Membership.
Health and Welfare
The newly reorganised department has had a busy year with, in addition to its normal workload, many requests for presentations to breed clubs and similar interest groups.
It is planned to extend these presentations to engage general practitioner vets making them more aware of the Kennel Club’s continuing efforts to improve the health of dogs generally.
Two education programmes will be undertaken which will complement other initiatives such as the newly created Veterinary Newsletter. The first will be to participate in the veterinary curriculum at UK Veterinary Schools; the second will be to introduce the Kennel Club’s health initiatives to practising vets through their ongoing training (CPD - Continuing Professional Development).
Accredited Breeder Scheme
The scheme was launched to breeders at Crufts 2004 and will be launched to the puppy-buying public later in the year. The background research for this scheme has been extensive. All breed club secretaries of those breeds where more than 100 dogs have been screened under the existing KC/BVA Hip Scheme, were contacted to ascertain whether Accredited Breeders in their breed should be required to hip score all of their potential breeding stock.
This recently established scheme gives the Kennel Club access to a greatly improved DNA profiling facility. This new system will be based on an internationally agreed set of DNA markers that has been ratified by the International Society for Animal Genetics, the organisation that established similar international systems for the cow and the horse.
Shortly, all of those breeders who have already had a DNA Profiling Certificate issued
for one of their dogs will be invited to resubmit a sample for the same dog if it is still alive. These will be tested, free of charge, to validate the new system.
KC/BSAVA Scientific Committee
The Committee met four times during 2003 and continues to correspond with and advise breed clubs, regarding any aspect of identification and control of inherited disease. It has devoted considerable time to developing the Health Survey Questionnaire, funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. A nationwide survey of UK purebred dogs is now taking place, to identify important health conditions, which will help to identify important breed specific problems and direct future research. Major items of discussion have been Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response testing for deafness, a possible link between helicobacter and bloat in the Irish Setter, protein-losing enteropathy, protein-losing nephropathy and Addison’s disease in the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, cardiomyopathy in the Boxer, auto-immune deficiency in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and maternally-derived immunity in new-born puppies.
KC/BVA Health Schemes
The three joint schemes, for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and inherited eye disease, continue to operate and generate in excess of 20,000 results per year. In February the Club hosted a meeting of an international group to discuss progress toward the establishment of an International Certificate of Eye Examination, and a further meeting will be held in France in 2005. Extensive literature has been prepared, aimed at supporting those breeders who use the KC/BVA Eye Scheme. It will also include descriptions of the major inherited conditions that affect the eye and provide appropriate breeding advice.
Display boards describing the Genetics of the Dog were completed and erected in the John MacDougall Visitors’ Centre at the Animal Health Trust in 2003. The material displayed covers: how genes work, dominant and recessive mutations, inherited disease in the dog, coat colour determination in the Labrador, the canine genome project, canine cloning, the role of the Kennel Club in canine health, the development of the Golden Retriever and how dogs help man.
A new Kennel Club website was created towards the end of 2003 which covers the genetics of the dog. The site covers the fundamental aspects of genes, what they are, how they work and how they are inherited. Based on the inheritance of coat colour in the Labrador Retriever, the genetics laboratory allows visitors to breed virtual litters of Labradors and in so doing better understand the inheritance of coat colour and the role of chromosomes. This virtual breeding concept is further expanded to include the inheritance of disease. The site will not only be a great learning tool to anyone interested in genetics and how genes work, it will also be of great value to GCSE students studying the genetic aspects of their syllabus, while those with an interest in dogs can learn more about the dog and how to breed healthy pedigree dogs.
Official Kennel Club DNA Testing Schemes
The General Committee accepted two new official DNA testing schemes in 2003. The first is for von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) in the Dobermann, the second is for copper toxicosis in the Bedlington Terrier.
KC/BSAVA/PFMA Breeders’ Symposium
The KC/BSAVA/PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association) Breeders’ Symposium was held at the University of Hertford in February 2004. Topics covered included: skin conditions, orthopaedic conditions, zoonotic and exotic diseases and canine behaviour. A second symposium is proposed for November 2004 in the North of England.
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust
During 2003 the Kennel Club donated more than £200,000 to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust (Registered Charity No. 327802). The Trust, which operates independently of the Kennel Club has as its objectives the promotion of:
o The advancement of education and science by furthering research into canine diseases and hereditary disorders of dogs.
o The quality of life of human beings by promoting dogs as therapeutic and practical aids to humans.
o The relief of suffering of dogs in need of care and attention.
During the year the Trust made awards in respect of each of its objectives totalling more than £212,000 and has in addition, committed to a further £203,000 over the next three years, subject to conditions to be fulfilled by the recipient organisations.
The Trust's accounts, which include the Trustees' Report, can be found on the Kennel Club website.
Canine Events Conference
The group continues to meet to consider and progress new ideas and a number of key initiatives came through in 2003.
The provision of PR support for General and Group Championship Shows to achieve a higher media profile. The renaming and restructuring of the Exemption Dog Show to the Companion Dog Show to encourage more pet dog owners to compete and thus bring them into the sport of dogs. Enabling registered societies to schedule Companion Dog Shows either separately or alongside their Open or Championship Shows allowing 50% of the profits to go to charity and 50% to the Society. The development of Premier Open Shows.
The group recognised the importance of direct customer contact at every level. The image of the Club is supported by new display units and marquees which have been well received as they provide a strong profile and a more friendly approach. The Roadshow will be present at a significant number of established shows, trials and new events during 2004.
Kennel Club annual report now online
The Kennel Club Annual Report is now available online at www.the-kennel-club.org.uk All dogs are important to the Kennel Club and through the Annual Report the Kennel Club demonstrates the ways it achieves its aims of promoting and protecting the dog’s role in society.
The Annual Report sets out the many different services the Kennel Club has been involved in throughout the past year highlighting the importance of registration with the Kennel Club.
Registering a dog provides not only opportunities to share and enjoy a variety of fulfilling activities with dogs, but also ensures that money is being put back into the canine world. It enables the Kennel Club to run many schemes for the good of dogs and also to be the voice for dogs on behalf of all owners.
If you are interested in seeing a copy of the Kennel Club Annual Report log on to: www.the-kennel-club.org.uk, where you can download this important report straight from the home page and find out how the Kennel Club is standing up for the rights of dogs.
Regional Question Time
The first Regional Question Time was held in June 2003 in Bromsgrove with 80 people attending and the second was held in October in Durham with 100 people attending. The panel consisted of a mix of senior committee members and staff. At both events, the atmosphere was relaxed and open, debate was lively at times with a good cross section of questions presented. The Kennel Gazette has featured many of the questions raised and the answers given. More Question Times are planned for 2004.
Registration Services and Healthcare Insurance
The Client Services team in Aylesbury has maintained excellent service levels across all areas of the business during another period of growth and increased customer demands.
More customer calls were handled in 2003 than in any previous year, with over 355,000 calls being answered. The team achieved several business awards during the year.
Pedigree puppy registrations increased in 2003 by 8.6% with transfers up by 12.9%. It is also encouraging to note that the ratio of transfers to registrations is up by 2.3 percentage points to 62.7%. Litter applications were handled on average in three days with transfers being handled in two days.
Business growth also occurred in a number of other areas including Kennel Name/Affix applications, Imports and Exports services and Enhanced Pedigrees, which have proved to be extremely popular.
The Kennel Club Healthcare Plan continues to grow rapidly and contributes significantly to our commercial income allowing the Kennel Club to continue to invest in the well-being of the dog.
In 2003 our insurance provider, PetPartners, launched two new plans under the brand names of Petlog and Crufts. These have highly competitive premiums with a level of benefits aimed at all dog owners wishing to plan for unexpected veterinary expense.
Companion Dog Club
Launched in 2001, the Companion Dog Club continues to prosper – providing membership with a whole host of benefits for both crossbreed and pedigree dogs and giving members the opportunity to participate in exclusive Companion Dog Club classes at many of the Companion Dog Shows taking place around the country.
The growth trend in Petlog registrations continued throughout 2003, with an increase of 11% on the previous year. October 2003 saw the introduction of a new element to Petlog Plus in the form of a range of Lost and Found services, providing improved support to those customers who have lost their pet. In particular the introduction of a SMS text messaging service which enables owners and dog wardens to obtain direct access to the system to notify of a lost pet and trigger an alert to agencies in the area to look out for it or, to interrogate the system by scanning and inputting the details of an animal which has been found.
To be concluded next week