The Kennel Club-v-Ms S J Gudgin
A female exhibitor, who had shown her Hungarian Vizsla bitch in the Junior class at this year’s Bath Ch Show found herself facing a £150 fine and a one year ban, following a Rule A42 hearing at The Kennel Club last week. The complaint was brought by the KC following allegations of "harsh handling", which included, dragging her bitch on its back from the ring, roughly handling and finally punching her with her fist at least four times.
Ms S J Gudgin of Reservoir Road, Gloucester did not attend the hearing, but did submit a lengthy statement in her defence along with other written evidence, all of which was read out at the hearing. The Kennel Club case was presented once again by Mr Martin Evans, Counsel to The Kennel Club, who has presented such cases for the KC on a number of occasions in the past. Also in attendance, in addition to witnesses and the seven members of the Disciplinary Sub Committee, were Mr Alan Richards, (observer from Mr Evans chambers), Mrs Linda Branwhite, the KC Disciplinary co-ordinator and members of the Canine Press.
Mr Evans opened the case for the KC by outlining the events which led up to the complaint being made. On Saturday May 29th 2004, Hungarian Vizslas were being exhibited at the show. Ms Gudgin was exhibiting a bitch in the Junior Bitch class (Vizslanya Kalaudia) and her "harsh handling" had been witnessed by three separate witnesses. There were three aspects to the complaint, dragging, roughly handling and finally punching the dog. Mr Evans submitted that any of those types of treatments, if proved at the hearing would amount to "behaving discreditably and prejudicially to the interests of the canine world".
Mr Evans went on to explain that at the end of the Junior Bitch, Ms Gudgin was seen by witnesses, to drag her dog out of the ring, at one point the dog was dragged or yanked so forcibly that it effectively fell over and was then dragged out of the ring, not even on its feet.
Once at the side of the ring, witnesses saw Ms Gudgin on three or four occasions, punch her dog. so upsetting was the behaviour that had been witnessed, that it was immediately brought to the attention of the Chairman of the Hungarian Vizsla Club, who in turn immediately went and spoke to the exhibitor. Mr Evans then went on to explain there was the most comprehensive conflict in the accounts given by witnesses to the incident and Ms Gudgin and her witnesses who had submitted written statements to the hearing in their absence.
Ms Gudgin's statement would state that the witnesses were entirely wrong, what they saw was not harsh handling at all, it was an excitable dog being properly led out of the ring and then what the witnesses saw, according to Ms Gudgin was not punching of the dog, it was hand signals, used as part of l continued on page 6
clicker training,which Ms Gudgin practices with all her dogs.
What the witnesses saw, stated Ms Gudgin’s letter was not a punch, but the showing of a closed fist in front of the bitch to indicate that it should sit, then a closed fist with one finger pointing, indicating that the dog should lay down. Mr Evans then pointed out that the complaint was made straight away, this was not a case where witnesses had seen something, mulled it over, thought about it, then come to a conclusion. The witnesses Mr Evans would be calling were witnesses to the incident who were sufficiently concerned immediately to make a report.
Mr Evan’s first witness was Mrs Carol Fitch of Luton, Bedfordshire, who had made the original complaint to the Show Secretary. She had been watching the class, which she had an interest in as there was a bitch in the class, which had been sired by one of her dogs. Mrs Fitch said that whilst watching the class, she had noticed that Ms Gudgin had been getting rather agitated during the class, she was unplaced and as she was leaving the ring, she was about half way out of the ring, she pulled her dog rather hard and it fell down on the ground, where upon Mr Gudgin proceeded to drag it out of the ring on it's back and finally punch it four times on the side of the bitch’s body.
Ms Gudgin was completely unknown to the witness, Mrs Fitch never having seen her before. The witness stated that she was only about six feet away from the punching incident and had a clear and unobstructed view of the whole incident. The dog was so frightened that it was cowering and scrabbling frantically to try and hide under a chair at the side of the ring.
Mrs Fitch then saw the exhibitor trying to stand the bitch in a sort of show pose. At this point the witness walked away and pointed out what she had just seen to the Chairman of the Hungarian Vizsla Breed Club. Whilst she was explaining what she had seen, the Hungarian Vizsla Club Welfare Officer was also present and both went to speak to the exhibitor. After speaking to Miss Gudgin, the Chairman then returned to the wittiness and asked her to repeat exactly what she had seen.
Both then returned to the exhibitor, Ms Gudgin and in the course of the conversation, Ms Gudgin denied all the allegations. When it was pointed out that another exhibitor had also witnessed the incident, but it was again denied.
"I have seen people get annoyed with their dogs, but nothing like that, she just seemed to have lost it, as it just wouldn't do as it was told, it wouldn't stand, it wouldn't move, and she just seemed to get more and more agitated the class was going onto the point where she just dragged it out of the ring". Mr Evans then asked if what the witness had seen could have just been a method of training using a closed fist for a command. "No - the dog was laying down, so why was her fist making contact with the dog."
In reply to questions from committee members Mrs Fitch explained that the entrance to the ring was at the far end away from the incident, that Ms Gudgin had no other dogs at the show, that she had used her right hand to strike the dog on the right hand side of it's body, the dog had made no noise and that there were about 50 to 60 people round the ring at the time of the incident watching the Junior Bitch class.
The next witness to be called was Mr Roy Eales of Pershore, Worcestershire. Mr Eales had also been attending the bath Ch Show and watching the Junior Bitch Class, as his wife was showing a young bitch in the class. Mr Eales evidence confirmed that of the first witness and he also stated that he had never seen Ms Gudgin before. He also confirmed that he had witnesses actual punching of the dog and not the static closed fist hand signals that Ms Gudgin had suggested in her defence.
Mr Evans then read out the three page letter from Ms Gudgin in her defence, in which she strongly denied the allegations of harsh handling. In the letter Ms Gudgin stated that she owns breeds exhibits and competes in obedience competitions. "I train my dogs using the psychologist Pavlov's process of learning methods that look at the concept of stimulus response learning and the concept of classical conditioning. This involves using food rewards, sound and hand signals and is better known as clicker training." She continued; "I have used this method of training for over 10 years because I believe it looks at the dog/human relationship from a totally different perspective by working with the dog and not against it through stimulation, motivation and play (using the dogs natural actions). For example, the "sit", "down" and the "stand" positions. Furthermore, clicker training, focuses on the desired action while ignoring the unwanted behaviour".
"I practice these activities in all different locations, so that the dog will understand in any situation or context what is being asked of it. I believe that a dog should be under control in public places and not causing a nuisance to other people by jumping up at them and dogs". Ms Gudgin then went on to write that she had walked briskly out of the ring with her dog trotting next to her getting excited. At no time, according to ms Gudgin, did she stumble or fall on her side or was she dragged. Once at her seat, Ms Gudgin stated that she proceeded to stand her bitch for a few seconds "so that the exercise could finish on a positive note", whilst Ms Gudgin remained seated.
As the bitch was still excited, Ms Gudgin stated that she asked her to sit using a hand signal of a clenched fist, doing this several times as she did not respond. Ms Gudgin then stated that she proceeded to do a "down" hand signal by pointing and moving her hand to the ground, the bitch finally laying down between Ms Gudgin and her companion, with part of her body under the chairs.
Ms Gudgin then stated that she was approached by the Hungarian Vizsla Club Chairman Mr G Fitch (husband of the complainant) and another officer of the club, who explained that a complaint had been made against her, to which she responded denying the allegations. Ms Gudgin then stated that she was approached once again by Mr and Mrs Fitch, with Mrs Fitch becoming verbally abusive and when the allegations were once again denied, she was accused by Mrs Fitch of being a liar as she had seen what had happened.
Further witness statements were submitted by Ms Gudgin, in support of her version of events, these came from Mrs V Chinn of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Simon Challis, Mrs K M Challis, both from Shepton Mallet and Mrs J Jones, from Pontypridd, South Wales.
Mr Evans then summed up very briefly the case on behalf of The Kennel Club. He pointed out that the respondent, Ms Gudgin or any of her witnesses who supported her were in attendance and asked that the subcommittee not hold that against the respondent or her witnesses.
Nevertheless the witnesses who were called by the KC and were in attendance were able to be questioned in person by both himself and the sub-committee, whilst written statements were only read out and there was no opportunity to ask questions there of.
The hearing then went into recess to consider it's judgement on the case and after a short break, the meeting again recalled and it was announced that the complaint had been upheld 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 Fine her the sum of £150 [a42 j (3)]
4 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)]
The suspension and disqualification's are for a period of one (1) year from 25th November 2004.
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.
Harsh handling of a dog is considered entirely inappropriate behaviour and the Committee takes a very serious view of such incidents.
The Disciplinary Sub Committee was made up of Mrs Irene Terry as Chairman, Miss Jean Lanning, Mr Steve Croxford, Mr John Banbury, Mr Bill King, Mr Stan Ford and Mr Wilson Young.