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Lowchen exhibitor banned from judging
The KC v Mr Peter Scarth - Rule A42 hearing

AT A Kennel Club rule A42 tribunal held last week in the boardroom at Clarges Street a prominent breeder was found to have behaved discreditably or prejudicially to the interests of the canine world after he kicked his top winning Lowchen dog after it had urinated over his foot and trousers.

The incident happened at Leeds City CA Championship Show held at Harewood last July on one of the hottest days of the year. Mr Peter Scarth (Bigglesmere) of Morley near Leeds was at the ringside by the grooming area waiting to show under judge Mr Terry Burgess in Open Dog when Bigglesmere Renaissance (Rio) cocked his leg over his foot and trousers. It was Mr Scarth's reaction which led to the hearing.

The complaint, which was first reported to the Kennel Club one week after the show, had been sufficiently pursued by both parties to involve the use of barristers, one to press the case on behalf of the Kennel Club and one to act on Mr Scarth's behalf.

Representing the Kennel Club was Mr Robert Dalling who called as his first witness Mrs Samantha Keys whose letter to the Kennel Club of August 7th last year outlined her disgust of what she saw by the ringside that day. The force of the 'hard kick' was 'upsetting' and she said she was 'shocked' by what she saw. She told the tribunal that she was about four metres away from the incident and demonstrated the force of kick for all to see.

Second witness called was Mr Adam Davidson who had four dogs entered at the show on the day. He was alerted after he heard shouting and saw Mr Scarth yanking on the dog's lead before he said he saw him give the dog an 'aggressive kick' in the rib cage area. During further questioning Mr Davidson said he had spoken to Mr Scarth on the day about the incident - a fact later denied by Mr Scarth's barrister Mr Tim Dracass in cross-examination. Mr Dracass went on to suggest to Mr Davidson that far from this being a complaint over the alleged incident that it was fuelled by a dispute between Mr Scarth and his partner Mr Michael Gaunt over the return of a puppy which had been given to Mr Adam Davidson and Mr Michael Carter.

This was denied but the fact remained, said Mr Dracass, that Rio went into the ring about ten minutes later and won the Dog CC. How could a dog, which had been the subject of a severe kick, do so well in the show ring later asked Mr Dracass in his summary.

Mr Michael Carter was the last witness for the Kennel Club and he confirmed the comments of all who had preceded him but said that because of his position in the grooming area he had heard the shouting but did not see a kick delivered to the dog in question.

In a summary to the panel of his involvement in dogs Mr Scarth said he had been in the Lowchen breed since 1989, had been involved in working trials prior to that from the late 1960s and had been a tireless worker researching Lowchen pedigrees back over the last 40 years since the breed was introduced to the UK. 'Success breeds jealousy,' said Mr Scarth and since he had so much success in the ring other exhibitors were envious of him.

He also mentioned that he had compiled a breed champions' book. Referring to the incident of the returned puppy from Mr Davidson and Mr Carter he said that both he and his friend, Mrs Jayne Armstrong who collected the dog, were concerned at its condition and that was why they refused to let it go back into their joint ownership. Mr Scarth also mentioned a breed specific internet chat group which he believed had been the source of a lot of the accusations made against him.
At this point a member of the committee asked him: 'Why are we discussing whether you did or didn't kick this dog? Are you suggesting that this is a total fabrication?’

'Yes,' replied Mr Scarth.

With the hands of the brass-faced clock in the boardroom well past midday, the sun clearly over the yard arm, it was time for a break and the chairman called time and the committee reconvened at 2.15pm.

In the afternoon session it was time for Mr Tim Dracass to represent the views of Mr Peter Scarth against whom the case was outlined by the Kennel Club's brief in the morning.

The first witness, Miss Jackie Sanderson, said she had witnessed the incident whilst standing with Mr Scarth but all she heard Mr Scarth say was 'bad boy' in a loud voice after it had urinated on his leg. Similarly Shona Grieve said that there had been no kick and pointed out that the Lowchen was a sensitive breed and that the dog would not have performed in the ring had it been subjected to such a severe kick.

Mr Scarth's partner, Mr Michael Gaunt, confirmed their long association with Lowchen and said that on the day in question he was by the ringside and that all he had been aware of was raised voices in the grooming area just prior to the Open Dog class. He also confirmed the sequence of events and dates surrounding the return of the puppy from Mr Davidson and Mr Carter in August last year.

Appearing lastly on behalf of Mr Scarth was Zoe Richardson who said she also saw 'no evidence whatsoever' of a kick delivered to Rio. She said it was a brief incident and in written evidence said that the dog went on to 'show his heart out' to win the Dog CC. 'At no time did Peter kick his dog or mistreat (sic) him in any way,' wrote Ms Richardson.

Unanswered questions

In his summing up on behalf of the Kennel Club Mr Robert Dalling said that it was clear that 'something' had occurred on that day last July otherwise why would so many witnesses be there on their behalf? Mr Tim Dracass speaking for Mr Scarth presented a three page document for the panel to digest. He pointed out that given that there must have been dozens of people around the ring on the day why did only two people actually witness Mr Scarth kick Rio? Why was the judge in the ring also oblivious to the alleged incident? Why was Rio so successful in the show ring after being kicked so hard?

Mr Dracass also pointed out the delay in making the initial complaint - why wasn't it made on the day of the show? He also drew attention to the history of tension between the parties involved: 'He (Mr Scarth) finds himself a target for those who are envious of his achievements,' said Mr Dracass.

In his closing remarks Mr Dracass said the Kennel Club's case was little more than a 'concoction and conspiracy,' that there had been no evidence that Rio had been affected by any severe kick and that the allegation was so serious that if found to be true it would affect his client’s standing in the world of pedigree dogs. For these reasons, said Mr Dracass, the whole complaint should be found 'not proved and dismissed accordingly.'

After considering the case the four members of the Disciplinary Sub-Committee found the case against Mr Scarth upheld in that he 'harshly handled' his Lowchen at the show.

The chairman of the committee asked the Kennel Club's Linda Branwhite had there been any other disciplinary matters about the plaintiff of which they should be aware? It was revealed to the committee and the counsels that in November 2007 a letter of complaint had been received by the Kennel Club concerning his 'ill temper at a show' which had been dealt with under Kennel Club rule T11 and that no further action had been taken.

The KC verdict said: 'The committee would explain that it is satisfied that Mr Scarth kicked the dog but not necessarily with the severity which it has been suggested today.

'This was nevertheless conduct in which someone in your position should not be capable of or been seen to be indulging. Someone with your credentials in terms of your experience and success over a considerable number of years needs to serve as a role model for all exhibitors.
'All that being said the committee imposes the following penalties:

1 To warn him as to his future conduct Rule A42 j1
2 To censure him Rule A42 j2
3 To fine him £150 Rule A42 j3

'The committee is not proposing any disqualifications other than you are to be disqualified from judging appointments already scheduled and/or which are currently subject for approval - that being so we do direct that you be disqualified from judging at any event licensed by the Club for a period of two years.'

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This would appear to be a problem of breeders trying to get another breeder kicked out, this breed would not show had it been kicked not that day or for a long time after, it is a breed that hold on to any fright for a long time and would not show on the day.

Pia Kirke