'Crufts' obedience winner banned for kicking dog
by Paul Keevil
A WOMAN who won at Crufts in obedience in 1995, was banned by The Kennel Club for six months following a Rule A42 disciplinary hearing held in London on Wednesday last week.
It was alleged that Mrs M Edser of Wirral, Cheshire, (who was described at the hearing as a highly respected, talented and compassionate trainer and judge), had kicked the Border Collie Ruskaith Quaint Image, owned by fellow exhibitor Mrs Jo Patilla from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in the face at the Frecheville, Sheffield & District Canine Society Show on July 29th last year. The complainant, Mrs Patilla, was also provisionally awarded £1,500 costs from the other party, representing the legal costs in bringing the case before The Kennel Club.
The hearing once again, did not take place in the usual venue of the KC boardroom; due the internal refurbishment taking place at Clarges Street, another venue was required. The hearing took place at The Lansdowne Club, just a few minutes walk away. In attendance, in addition to the six members of the Disciplinary Sub Committee and witnesses, were Mrs Linda Branwhite, the KC Disciplinary co-ordinator and Miss Simone Cooper, also from the KC, Liz Hartley and Kevin Thorpe, from the KCs solicitors, acting as observers and members of the Canine Press.
Both parties were legally represented, with Sandy Briggs-Watson being council for the Complainant, Mrs Jo Patilla and Miss Panagiotopoulou acting as council for the respondent, Mrs M Edser. Also in attendance was Mrs Edsers solicitor. The case opened at 10.40am with Mrs Briggs-Watson outlining the details of the complaint put before the sub-committee. However a challenge was then submitted to the sub-committee by Miss Panagiotopoulou on behalf of her client on the grounds of jurisdiction as the incident happened in the car park of the venue and the fact that the dog involved in the alleged kicking incident was entered as a not for competition dog in error.
KC Rule G.20.C.18 which deals specifically with NFC dogs was quoted and a copy of the shows original schedule produced. Rule G.24 was then brought to the sub-committees attention which concerns animals allowed in the show and it was suggested that Ruskaith Quaint Image did not comply with these regulations. A 10 minute recess followed allowing the sub-committee to take advice on the matter. On returning, the Chairman, Mr Bernard Hall drew the hearings attention to KC rule A42 (b) which states The General Committee shall have the power to enquire into and deal with any complaint of the nature referred to in Rule A42 (a) made against any person who has submitted to the jurisdiction of the Club. It was therefore ruled that the hearing would proceed.
The complaint centred around an alleged incident which had occurred in the car park of the show. Mrs Patilla had with her, her dog, Pixie (Ruskaith Quaint Image) at her side, on a leash, whilst sitting with a group of friends in an informal circle. This group was approached by Mrs Edser, who was in the company of Mrs Estherby and Mrs Edsers dog, who was roaming free. Mrs Edser engaged in conversation with the group, during which time Mrs Edsers dog approached Pixie. Pixie warned off Mrs Edsers dog at which point Mrs Patilla checked Pixie with the leash, there having been not contact between the two dogs, and Mrs Edsers dog wandered off around the car park. It was then alleged that Mrs Edser then moved across, closer to Pixie and kicked Pixie in the face with her right foot. Mrs Patilla indicated her disapproval and Mrs Edser left to complete her C Stays.
As a result of this incident, both parties lodged complaints with the KC and Mrs Edsers complaint was dealt with by the KC in October of last year when no action was taken. Mrs Briggs-Watson then outlined her understanding of Mrs Edsers version of the incident, which was that Pixie had attacked her dog, went to attack her dog again and she put her foot in the way and Pixie ran into it.
The complainant, Mrs Jo Patilla was the first to give evidence. She stated that at about 2.15pm, she and a group of friends were sitting in the venue car park and she had Pixie sitting next to her on her left side, on a short lead. It was at this point that the group was approached by Mrs Edser and Mrs Estherby. Mrs Patilla then stated that she had heard Mrs Edser say This looks like a witches circle, who are you slagging off now? Mrs Patilla replied that they were just discussing how to motivate Pixie for shows. At this point Mrs Edsers dog, who was off the lead, approached Pixie, who warned it him off, no contact was made and no harm was done. She placed Pixie in the down position again, whilst Mrs Edsers dog wandered off.
After about three quarters of a minute, Mrs Edser then walked closer to Pixie and gave her a full kick to the face with her right foot. Mrs Patilla then rose to her feet, said to Mrs Edser, that she was not to kick her dog and that she intended to report the matter. That concluded Mrs Patillas evidence and she was now cross examined by Miss Panagiotopoulou for her client, Mrs Edser. Mrs Patilla told the hearing that on the day she had five dogs entered for the show, including Pixie who was NFC. She was sitting with a group of acquaintances, which included Joan White, Yvonne Carpenter, Ian Davis, Mrs Sanders and Audrey Wilkinson., who were sitting in a rough circle. Miss Panagiotopoulou, suggested that Pixie had a suspect temperament and this was denied. The discussion of the group centred around motivating Pixie at shows and Mrs Patilla said that she was considering entering Pixie on a Sylvia Bishop course, because Pixie was a stubborn dog. When approached by Mrs Edsers dog she admitted that her dog had a grumble at it, but no contact was made and he dodged out of the way and just wandered off. After about 45 seconds, Mrs Edser than kicked Pixie in the face, causing her to yelp out. There was no blood, but her gum was very red. Further questions followed regarding the written complaint and Miss Panagiotopoulou sought to highlight discrepancies between the original report and the evidence being given. It was then explained that after the incident Mrs Patilla was approached by Mrs Estherby and Mrs Heather Gray approached her and said We dont report people, we discuss these things in a quiet corner. Mrs Patilla then stated that she was going to put the matter in the incident book and had no intention of withdrawing the statement.
In answer to questions from the committee, Mrs Patilla stated that Pixie was about four years old and she had had her from a young puppy. She explained that Sylvia Bishop had been mentioned in the hearing was a well known trainer who had written books and produced training videos and was a well known judge. Mr Keith Young asked how long she had been in dogs, to which the answer was about 20 years in obedience.
The second witness called was Mrs Joan White of Beeston, Nottingham, who had been in the circle on that day in question, sitting next to Mr and Mrs Patilla and had witnessed the entire incident. Her version of events substantiated the evidence given by the complainant. She said that she had been totally shocked by the incident, she could not believe what had happened. You just dont go round kicking peoples dogs, do you? She had made a statement to the show secretary regarding the incident, but because she had forgotten her glasses this had been written by the secretary on her behalf and she had signed it. Is it not the case that Mrs Edser simply put her foot up to prevent a further attack? asked Miss Panagiotopoulou. No that is not the case, it was an outright kick, a big heavy kick. With the conclusion of this witnesss evidence the hearing broke for lunch.
After lunch, the third witness of the hearing was Yvonne Carpenter of Pontefract, another person who had been in the circle of friends on the day and had been sitting diagonally opposite Mrs Patilla when the alleged incident occurred. She had also given a witness statement to the show secretary on the day and once again, her version of events was very similar to that of Mrs Patilla and the first witness. She was followed by Mr Ian Davis of Warrington, who was another person sitting in the car park when the incident occurred. He had not seen the initial grumble but on hearing some noise looked up from the book he was reading and did witness the alleged kicking incident. He described the kick as being firmly into the face and jaw of Pixie and he had seen the bitchs head move back with the force of the blow. He was totally shocked by the incident and was sickened by the impact and likened the kick to that of a footballer kicking a ball. The fourth witness of the hearing was Linda Saunders of Sheffield, who had not been in Mrs Patillas group but had been two-three cars further down, but had had an unobstructed view of the incident. She did not know anybody in the group, but was so shocked to see the dog being kicked that she had offered her name as a witness to the incident. This witness concluded the case for the complainant.
There followed a five minute recess before Mrs Edser started her evidence in defence of the complaint. She told the hearing that she had been training dogs for 20 years. She had had three dogs at Crufts, had won Crufts in 1995 and been taking part in competitive obedience for 20 years. She goes round the country giving training courses, she had been invited over to Europe to do training courses and she also deals in pet rescue. She described her occupation as being a professional dog trainer and had been a partner in a kennels and cattery since 1988. She described the temperment of her dog as being Superb, the best I have ever owned.
On the afternoon in question she had been walking in the car park, when Audrey Wilkinson called over Oh here is Mo, she likes to be bitten.. It was this remark which had attracted their attention towards the group. It was then alleged that Miss Wilkinson had then said The dog is going to Sylvia Bishop, because it is lethal with dogs and people., to which she replied, Well Sylvia wont want to be bitten either, which she took to mean that the dog was very dangerous. At this point her dog approached Pixie, wagging his tail, to say hello. Mrs Edser then describe in her own words what she alleged happened next. In my 20 years in dog obedience I have never seen a dog move so quickly, in my life. It flew a yard in distance, I couldnt even tell if it made contact or not, because of the speed, and then it flew back to where it was lying. She stated that her dog jumped in the air backwards and started shaking his head and wandered away behind a car. She was standing about a couple of feet from Mrs Patilla. She called out to her dog, to see if he was all right, but was shocked that Mrs Patilla had done nothing, but just carried on with her conversation. Her dog then jumped up at her and she saw out the corner of her eye, Mrs Patillas dog tense and raise And I thought he is going to come again, I side stepped and went - Dont and unfortunately made contact with the dog, under the chin. I was about to say, Joy I am sorry, I didnt mean to catch the dog and Mrs Patilla stood up and said Dont f***ing kick my dog, or Ill f***ing kick you. The incident upset Mrs Patilla and Mrs Estherby guided her away from the incident and persuaded her to compete in the C stays. After this Mrs Gray and Mrs Estherby had approached Mrs Patilla to see if she would speak to her, but she would not. On advice, she made counter complaint against Mrs Patilla a couple of weeks later, but the Kennel Club had written back and had state that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
In cross examination, Mrs Briggs-Watson asked if Mrs Edser was familiar with KC rules regarding keeping dogs on leads within the confines of the show, she said she was. She then suggested that she had made up her story because she had realised how much trouble she was in and the reason she had made counter complaint was because she had realised what she had done and again the trouble she could be in.
The next witness was Allison Estherby of Stockport, who has known Mrs Edser for about 12 years. She had been with Mrs Edser on the day of the incident. She said that she had seen Mrs Patillas dog attack Mrs Edsers dog with lightning speed, so quick the incident had been over in seconds. Mrs Edser asked her dog Are you all right son?, after that Mrs Patillas dogs came back again, Mrs Edser put her foot out in defence and said dont. Mrs Edsers foot made contact with Pixie but it wasnt forceful in any way. Mrs Patilla reacted angrily saying something like, do that to my dog and I will kick your f***ing head in, I am going to have you. It was her suggestion that both move away and they were both very very upset. She then attempted to mediate with Mrs Gray, but Mrs. Patilla would have none of it.
A further two witnesses were called, both essentially being character witnesses, not having witnessed the incident personally. These were Heather Gray of Chorley, who described Mrs Edser as A phenomenal trainer. The final witness was Mrs K Raven, a professional animal trainer for 30 years, who trains animals for film and TV work. She described Mrs Edser as A very impressive trainer.
That concluded the case for both parties and both counsels then summed up their respective cases. Following a recess of about 30 minutes, on recalling the meeting it was announced that the complaint had been upheld. Mrs Branwhite of the KC then told the hearing of a further complaint which had been made against Mrs Edser from an incident which occurred at the Tower Dog Show on 26th July 1998 and resulted in a complaint of rough handling against her being upheld on 12th January 1999 and for this she was fined a total of £150. Following an appeal for mitigation by Miss Panagiotopoulou the sub-committee went into its final recess to consider what penalties to impose on Mrs Edser.
After a short break, the meeting was again recalled and the following penalties were announced:-
The Committee impose the following penalties:
1. To warn her as to her future conduct [(A42 j (1)]
2. To Censure her [(A42 j (2)]
3. To suspend her from exhibiting at, taking part in, attending and/or having any connection with any event licensed by the Club. If any person suspended or disqualified under this sub-paragraph shall attend any canine event whilst suspended or disqualified the General Committee shall have the power to increase the period of suspension and/or disqualification.[A4 2j (4)]
4. To disqualify her from judging at any event licensed by the Club. [A42 j (8)]
5. To impose upon her an order for costs incurred by the complainant in instituting and conducting these proceedings in the sum of £1,500 including VAT, subject to the complainant producing vouchers [A42 j (10)]
The suspension and disqualifications are for a period of six months from 31st January 2001.
The committee following the impositions of these penalties, would draw the attention of the Respondent/s to the effect of Rule A42 sub-sections l and n.
The Disciplinary Sub Committee was made up of Mr Bernard Hall as Chairman, Miss Jean Lanning, Mr Eric Smethurst, Mr John Banbury, Mrs Irene Terry and Mr Keith Young.