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A benchmark weekend or not?

Confusion continues to surroundsthe recent AGM of the Cavalier Club with suggestions that members had voted out potentially helpful amendments to the clubs Code of Ethics (COE). Different versions of how the meeting unfolded have now emerged with a number of members writing to OUR DOGS giving their version of events.

One letter in this week’s letters page states that saying that: “Far from wishing to thwart plans to tackle syringomyelia (SM) we, like the vast majority of members present at the meeting, are very concerned about this issue and are eager to take effective action. We fully support MRI scanning for all breeding stock.”

However, a frustrated Club Chairman Mrs Lesley Jupp issued the following statement on the club home page on their web site on March 24th, headed A BENCH MARK WEEKEND, which read:
‘Before the AGM last Sunday, Simon Swift, Cardiologist, gave a talk to members to inform us of the present situation, current research and to update us on the new BVA/KC heart testing scheme that involves a number of breeds including cavaliers.

‘His talk was attended by about 25 members, including the committee, out of a current total UK membership of 1050. At the end of his talk Simon had difficulty in leaving the room for the throng of other members waiting outside for the AGM, chatting and drinking coffee, whiling away the time until his talk was over. So much for breeders’ interest in, and concern for heart problems within the breed.

‘The AGM then followed, attended by 63 members. The agenda contained a proposal from the committee that the Code of Ethics should include the recommended breeding guidelines for SM. These are not mandatory rules, merely recommendations, and would have been in line with Hearts and Eyes breeding guidelines, which have been in place for some years.

‘These proposals seemed to me to be innocuous and reasonable. However, the proposal was substantially defeated by the meeting. This was a triumph by the members present over neurologists and geneticists, and of course, over the committee. It would seem that cavalier club members continue to progress, like lemmings, towards mandatory breeding regulations that will surely come, as surely as night follows day. There are many members who are still not prepared to health check their breeding stock, and of those who do, it would appear that many would not hesitate to breed from affected animals. I have tried my utmost to defend and support the breed and the club. This weekend was proof, if proof is needed, that there is no point in deluding myself, or others, that self-regulation is possible.’


It now transpires that a number of members did not agree with that view and have also suggested that such basic things as the layout of the room prevented them from getting into the room to attend the talk by Simon Swift. Our Dogs was told: ‘The layout of the conference room had been changed from our previous meetings held at that venue, so on this occasion no-one could quietly take a seat at the back once Simon Swift had started his presentation because he was standing right in front of the entrance door to the room. When the presentation ended these members entered the room and Dr Swift was standing talking to one of our members. He only left the room when the AGM was called to order, so to suggest that Simon had difficulty in leaving the room, is misleading,’

Other concerns

Other concerns voiced by the membership included the lack paperwork on the day apparently because not enough had been printed by the club; some members complained that they had no Agenda, Appendix C details, or annual Financial report and that later on the order of the Agenda was altered half way through the meeting, 'to make things flow better' but this allegedly also lead to confusion.

Some complained that they could not hear what was going on at the front, as people refused to use the microphone provided.

The most important point of the meeting of course, and for the breed in general, is to have an agreed and improved code of ethics and a route forward following some very difficult months following the BBC programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which spent much of its time focussing on the breed, and the club show last year.

This theme was picked up by a member who presented another proposal regarding Health Representatives from each Club to amalgamate into one strong health Committee, which appeared to be a very popular; OUR DOGS was told that a committee member then counteracted that proposal with a ready prepared statement. Members then queried why discussion was being allowed on this proposal, when no discussion had been allowed on the important COE change proposal earlier. A member with many years of service on a regional Club committee tried to ask a question on the COE proposal but his raised hand was overlooked. However, the members felt he should be heard. He reminded attendees that he had worked over a number of years to get all the Cavalier Clubs to agree on a common COE, and that by adding this new clause to one Club’s COE we would be missing an opportunity to have all 10 CKCS Clubs with a common COE to better manage this issue.

Far from members being obstructive, it was, according to another member, strongly felt amongst the membership that the COE had been rushed through, and full discussion was demanded from the floor. Following what has been described by one member as ‘a chaotic few minutes’ it was proposed from the floor that this should be discussed thoroughly at a Liaison meeting next month, with a view to ALL 10 Clubs adopting this clause and including it in their COE. Subject to KC approval. OUR DOGS understand that this is what the members voted for by a large majority.
OUR DOGS also spoke to club Chairman Lesley Jupp who said; ‘we already have breed guidelines for hearts and eyes (cataracts) and simply wanted to add recommendations into the COE in line with hearts and eyes. New members get these guidelines in their welcome packs and they are based on guidelines for SM issued after our International Conference at the Royal Veterinary College in 2006. As for the talk, all members were sent details in advance at the same time as the notice for the AGM.”

Letters from members also appear in this week’s OUR DOGS on the letters page and online.
OUR DOGS also received the following from the Cavalier Club:“ Current breeding guidelines for reducing the incidence of syringomyelia were agreed by neurological specialists at the CKCSC International Conference in November 2006. These guidelines were later distributed to all members in 2007 and to all new members who have subsequently joined the Club. Additionally, these new guidelines were added to the club website on 25 January 2007, superseding the previous Club guidelines of August 2005.

‘The AGM agenda and copies of the proposals were posted to all members approximately three weeks prior to the meeting. Spare copies of the agenda were available at the door. Additional copies of Mrs Newnes’ proposal and the syringomyelia breeding guidelines, to be considered at the meeting, were placed on seats within the room.

‘More people attended the AGM than was anticipated. In the event that a member had not brought all the relevant paperwork previously sent to them by post, and copies were not on their seat, they merely had to ask the Secretary for spare copies that were available. The Health Report was moved forward, at the discretion of the Chairman of the meeting, and with the approval of those present. The intention was to inform members on health issues, in advance of discussion on the proposal concerning syringomyelia guidelines.”

OUR DOGS will follow developments in the breed where it seems everyone wants to get to a position of breeding happy, heathy Cavaliers but it may be that further meetings showing co-operation on all sides need to take place.

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