|Exhibitor ‘horrified’ at KC disqualifications
A renowned Australian Cattle Dog breeder has been left 'horrified' by the Kennel Club after her appeal against the disqualification of her dog from all its awards due to a 'lack of consistency and numerous quantity of errors' in its entries failed.
Norma Digby's appeal against the decision taken on her dog, Banana Bender Benjamin Buford Blue (Imp Ita), (Ben) which was Top Dog in its Breed in 2016, was unsuccessful. She hired animal lawyer Barry Peachey to fight the case for her. He then looked in detail at material that the KC's Breed Shows Team member Ciara Walsh had sent to Ms Digby in February outlining the KC's case against Ms Digby.
The dog in question was bred in Italy by Paolo and Simona Coletta. In 2016, after obtaining an Authority to Compete (ATC) from the KC, they entered the dog for Crufts in that year. As an excellent specimen of the breed the dog was successful and won 2nd in Open Dog and Reserve Dog CC.
Prior to Crufts the Colettas had discussed with Ms Digby about selling the dog to her. They agreed to leave the dog with her after Crufts 2016 on a trial basis, during which time she would show the dog on their behalf.
After the Driffield show on the 29th September Ms Digby bought the dog and registered it as her property with the KC shortly afterwards.
It was at this point that a mysterious third party sent in a letter of complaint. Mr Peachey is concerned because this letter has not been disclosed by the KC and the identity of the complainant is unknown.
As a result Ms Digby received a letter from Kathy Moore, Breed Shows Team Specialist, on the 9th June 2017, informing her that the Committee had decided to disqualify the dog from all his awards due to the 'lack of consistency and numerous quantity of errors' in the entries. According to the letter from Ms Walsh there is also the option of a fine in these cases.
To begin with Ms Walsh refers to Mr P. Coletta as the sole breeder when the dog was bred by both Paolo and Simona. It then alleges that the entry for Crufts 2016 was listed as 'Mr P and Mr M Coletta & Cusan'. Ms Digby knew nothing about this as the entry for Crufts was made by the Colettas. There is no M Coletta, but this is thought to refer to a Massimo Cusan who is connected with the Banana Bender Kennels. Ms Digby argues she cannot be held responsible for this entry and that it is quite wrong for Ms Walsh to suggest otherwise.
The letter from Ms Walsh makes numerous allegations about inconsistencies in entries at a number of dog shows. For instance, it makes an accusation that at the Birmingham Dog Show in May 2016 that the ownership details were listed as 'Mr P. and Mrs S Coletta' and that the breeder details were given as Mr K. & Mrs N. Digby.
Mr Peachey states this is, 'false in both respects.' He goes on to say, 'The owners are given as 'P & S Coletta' and the breeder is given as 'Owner'. So completely false is this allegation by Ciara Walsh that it cannot be an innocent mistake. Wherever she got this information from, it was not the entry form.'
Each allegation made by Ms Walsh is answered in similar fashion and Mr Peachey surmises that the allegations against Ms Digby have either been, 'mendaciously constructed out of 'thin air' or have been garnered from other undisclosed sources.' He stated that Ms Walsh's contribution, 'lack credibility.'
He also pointed out that the success of the dog was due to its own merits and the awards achieved without 'subterfuge or dishonesty.'
Mr Peachey argued that the decision should be set aside as, in his view, they were based on evidence that was 'simply incorrect' and that the actions of Ms Walsh should be called into question.
The Kennel Club decided to ignore his arguments. In a letter to Mr Peachey dated 19 September the KC say, 'We write to advise you that the Kennel Club Board reviewed your client's appeal against the disqualification of various awards for the above named dog. The Kennel Club did not accept there were grounds for appeal and therefore did not uphold your client's appeal.
'The Kennel Club registration for the above dog has at all times been in the name of P Coletta.' They also added, 'You (sic) overstated allegations concerning a Kennel Club employee were neither helpful or appreciated.'
This means that Ms Digby's dog has had its awards taken from it because she put in an extra 'S' on to an entry form.
She said, 'A 70 year old woman gets one initial wrong and is punished for it. I'm fuming. All the work over the last year is lost. All the money spent and the effort made is wasted.
'They have even taken the awards off him where the entry was right! I am disgusted at it. So do the Kennel Club make no mistakes! There is steam coming out of my ears. They are nitpicking for one initial. I'm as angry as hell over it.
'The mistakes in the catalogue were admitted by Higham Press in a letter to myself and to the KC. The whole thing stinks. There are loads of entries where people just put a surname with no initial.
'The Kennel Club have not even contacted the Colletas about this. Why do they target me? I am basically called a criminal. I made a mistake but others make mistakes and don't get chastised. I can't believe someone has done this to me.
'I feel so sorry for Ben. All that hard work is lost. No wonder the KC are losing entries at shows. It is a petty minded decision.
'Why is it that the KC have used a photo of Ben in the KC Illustrated Breeds book? They never asked my permission to use it. Also they have contacted the Colletas to ask if they can use a picture of one of their dogs for Discover Dogs.
'The dog was on an ATC number. It wasn't a registered dog in the UK until October. Five judges and two group judges have put that dog up and it won on its merits and not because I put the wrong initial on the entry.'
Barry Peachey told OUR DOGS, 'It's a complete stitch-up. If Norma had the money to go to the High Court I would take it there.
'It's obvious to anyone of normal intelligence she hasn't done anything wrong. It's outrageous. It doesn't remotely look like justice.
'I laid out in detail the mistakes that were made by Ciara Walsh and the Kennel Club just said that my comments about her were 'not appreciated'. They did not say my comments were wrong.
'Somebody's head should roll over this.'
Ms Digby said, 'I'm a 70 year old woman with skin cancer. This has been hanging over me for nine months. When Barry told me the appeal had failed I felt like giving up but I am not stopping. I'll be back out there campaigning at every show!'
The Kennel Club's reply to a request or an official response to this case was, 'All fines, disqualifications, penalties etc. are listed each month in the Kennel Club Journal.'
Wendy Broughton, who partners Ms Digby in the Yarraman kennels, told OUR DOGS: 'In 2016 Paolo and Simona Coletta, owners of Banana Bender Kennels in Italy, brought the Australian Cattledog, Int Ch. Banana Bender Benjamin Buford Blue, to the UK to compete at Crufts. Mrs Digby entered into a friendly arrangement to keep 'Ben' with a view to showing him and using him as a stud dog, with the option to buy him at a later date.
'Having only his name and ATC number Mrs Digby campaigned the dog for the rest of the year. Ben won 5 CCs and also group placements entirely on his merit. At Driffield show on 29th September she met with a friend of the Colettas and took collection of his transfer papers which were duly sent to the KC.
'In February 2017, Mrs Digby received a letter informing her that a complaint had been lodged querying ownership of the dog, and that the KC were removing all the titles from the dog. Mrs Digby, at a loss to understand what the problem was, contacted all the show secretaries for copies of her entry forms and sent them to the KC.
'It appears that on Ben's paperwork, only P Coletta is named as owner/breeder, and Mrs Digby had put P & S Coletta on the entries. This was an easy mistake to have made under the circumstances, especially as she had bought four dogs previously from the Colettas and they were all in the names of P & S Coletta.
'The KC spent NINE MONTHS deliberating on this heinous crime and have upheld their decision, apparently genuine mistakes are not acceptable!
'It should also be noted that the KC have not even bothered to contact the Colettas officially and inform them of their actions. They have however asked for their permission to use a photo of one of their dogs for display purposes. And perhaps the greatest irony, they have used a photo of Ben in their book Illustrated Dog!
'This is a minority breed in this country where the number of breeders can be counted on one hand. It is a sad reflection on the small minded, spiteful person who made the complaint, which is a form of bullying, and the KC have happily gone along with it.
'At the end of the day, Mrs Digby knows she took the best dog home.'