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Poll shows the way forward

The Welsh Kennel Club dinner last weekend was the venue once more for the Kennel Club Chairman’s ‘state of the union’ address, given this year against a difficult backdrop over the last twelve months. Chairman Ronnie Irving hardly needed to remind dog folk that it was nearly 12 months to the day that a bombshell TV programme was due to be aired, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.

However, as our leader points out in this week’s issue, the ‘union’ is in good heart as we have all largely stood up to the many challenges that have been made since August 2008.

Many dog people still have to pinch themselves to take on board everything that has happened, including how public opinion seemed to be turned even against responsible breeders when so much hard work had been done over the years to wean people away from puppy farmers, or unscrupulous breeders.

As the Chairman said in his speech, this aspect twinned with the economic crisis meant for a very difficult year for the dog game in general, and make no mistake about it, this affects dog people, dog breeders, shows, trade stands and everyone associated with a sport and hobby that seemed to have happily existed for over 100 years without the hysteria that seems to have been whipped up since last August.

OUR DOGS have reprinted the full transcript of the speech inside (see p14) but it is worth underlining some of the key aspects. For example, prior to the Ofcom ruling on the Kennel Club complaint about the programme being properly revealed, it is interesting to note that the Kennel Club had reminded the BBC of the requirements in its charter to be ‘rigorously impartial’ in its reporting. As we hear on the grapevine of a follow-up programme, does the dog game have any hope of a second programme being any more even handed? We doubt it.

Good news

On the good news front, the Chairman reminded everyone of the very welcome support of Lord Kirkham and his DFS group for Crufts 2010 and the great news referred to in this paper last week that the Kennel Club had agreed to put £1.2 million into the Kennel Club Genetic Research Centre at the Animal Health Trust.

What was equally heartening was to hear of the customer response to the survey done at Crufts and then the results of the exhibitor’s survey which had brought in over 2,000 responses. Crufts got a great thumbs-up from the public, 68% of whom went to Crufts for a fun day out, and why not! We all enjoy our dogs and dogs and dog showing is actually meant to be a fun hobby. This fact is underlined by the results of the two surveys and perhaps the doom mongers out there need to wake up to the fact that dog people at large have a great two way relationship with their canines, and that there are not the hundreds of thousands of diseased dogs that we are led to believe by the RSPCA et al. Breeders want to breed happy, healthy dogs that enrich lives.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points highlighted by the Chairman was the results of a simple poll of exhibitors when asked about the five keys factors which influenced their choice of shows. Four of the five priorities were very much in the hands of show committees - judges, good organisation, feel-good factor of the show and cost of attending. In fifth place was the cost of entry which many may have put higher up the list.

Ronnie Irving also quoted some interesting stats regarding the drop in entries which in some cases has not been as bad as feared and more recently have evened out, actually quoting a rise for WKC. City of Birmingham is another show to be on par with last year with only 13 dogs less, so it can be done.

The key point for many committees is how they market their shows and events and perhaps shows like East of England that welcomed dog lovers in all forms may be forerunners. Certainly country fairs attract a lot of dogs and their owners and things seem to work well. Again, City of Birmingham has grasped the nettle by working with seven societies in a novel way for two shows for these breeds in one day.

The dog game can and must come through any troubled waters and has shown a great resilience in the face of adversity in the last 12 months, don’t stop now must be the message!

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