174 KC Monopoly Broken
A KENNEL CLUB MONOPOLY BROKEN
For many years the Kennel Club's monopoly in the world of dogs has been questioned, resented and occasionally challenged by anxious individuals. For some this has been on the grounds of increased fees--it now costs £6 to register a litter, another £6 to change or transfer a name, £10 a year to maintain an affix (following £35 to register that affix) and £6 for a re-registration. A dog club has to pay £50 to register its title and £15 per year to maintain it, with a further fee for each show it runs. For others there is anger at the disinclination of the Kennel Club to act over behavioural problems and inherited physical diseases in dogs--the KC is quite prepared to register a pedigree dog which has killed a child and a stud dog which passes on crippling congenital defects. I believe that Derry Argue, the pointer and setter trainer-breeder, has asked the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to look at the restraint of trade ensuing from the monopoly exercised by the KC. Against this background in Britain, it is worth noting that an incident which could in time have repercussions here, has made history in Canada. On April the 3rd 1989 a new registry for purebred dogs, the Canine Federation of Canada was incorporated under their Animal Pedigree Act. The latter is the legislation which licenses the Canadian Kennel Club, until April 1989 in Canada the sole voice of the pedigree dog world there for over a century. The Livestock Pedigree Act, already on their statute book, permitted the formation of other registry bodies but the new legislation allows the withdrawal of breeds/breed clubs from existing bodies. In other words, competition is permitted. This effectively ends the monopolistic power of the Canadian Kennel Club which makes itself responsible for 148 breeds there. The Quebec-based Canine Federation of Canada, the new registry, has applied for authority to register 14 breeds, all minor or rare breeds from abroad. Approval for seven of them to be registered by the Canine Federation has been granted by the Canadian Minister for Agriculture. This hardly provides a power base nor the fee-based finances to rival the mighty, by comparison, Canadian KC. But should breeds currently registered with the latter body wish to transfer to the register of the Canine Federation, then the situation could change quite significantly. The Canadian KC however would not permit the showing of such breeds at shows sanctioned by them. Already the fur is flying! Predictably the Canadian KC is yelling for support and shouting about the need for one voice in their pedigree dog world. Whether this is out of self-interest, the interests of the dogs they were set up to serve or just fear of competition is not yet clear. They would be better advised to respect the law and work constructively with the new registry in the best long term interests of pure-bred dogs. But I doubt if such magnanimity will prevail. If the Canadian KC is anything like ours, it will squeal, make snide counter-attacks on all critical comments, however well-intentioned and duck all well-founded appeals for much-needed change, even those made on moral grounds. A typical example of such an absence of magnanimity occurred a few years ago when a well-reasoned article by June Lait in a national newspaper, rightly criticising our Kennel Club for neglecting areas of canine care, was answered by a quite disgraceful letter from the KC secretary, General Sinnatt. His words display the insufferable arrogance, the petty petulance and the singular small-mindedness such officials all too often display: "The Club is not prepared however to respond to the demands of self-appointed pressure groups or 'experts' whose efforts however altruistic, are liable to distort the issues involved." What a way for the secretary of a national institution to respond to democratic debate! He himself is of course a professional administrator not an "expert". In Canada, there are 70 associations covered by the Livestock Pedigree Act, involving beef cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and chinchillas as well as dogs. Under the new legislation, to add a new breed to its register, an existing association (such as their KC) must survey all its members in writing and receive a response of at least 25%, of which 2/3rds are in support and demonstrate that the majority of breeders of the breed concerned support the move. Is that not fairer than a "take it or leave it" monopoly situation? Three years ago, the German Shepherd Dog breeders were discussing breaking away from the KC after several disputes between the two parties. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that situation, it is surely reasonable for there to be in existence an alternative body to the Kennel Club to which dissident breed clubs can turn. This Canadian innovation has shown the way ahead for those involved with pedigree dogs in this country. In the gundog world there are many owners who have no wish to show their dogs but need to have their dogs registered and their field trials run under agreed rules. Yet, despite being founded by good gundog men, the KC is now run almost entirely for the show ring fraternity and, mainly through its unwillingness to adapt to contemporary threats to the well-being of dogs, has lost the respect of so many genuine dog-lovers and sportsmen. How can you command the respect of good men when you can happily continue to register for money psychopathic dogs or dogs transmitting inheritable diseases, whilst opposing the genuinely-motivated desire of animal welfare groups to have a desperately-needed national registration scheme? The Kennel Club also endorses the written blueprint for sporting dogs which ignores their working qualities and physical soundness. The characteristics of the pedigree gundog breeds as listed in the KC-approved breed standards does not for example require the five retriever breeds to possess the instinct to retrieve, the pointer and setter breeds to indicate game or most of the spaniel breeds to flush game. (Perhaps even worse is the total absence of the word speed from the breed characteristics of the greyhound!) What is the value of such a club to the sportsman? It simply amazes me that hard-headed shooting men go on tolerating the destruction of gundog breeds under KC patronage and continue to pay high fees to register kennel names and stock. Has not the time come for the BFSS and the BASC to work together in the best long-term interests of sporting dogs by establishing a separate registry for gundogs? The working sheepdog enjoys such support. The age of the computerised membership list means little extra cost is involved in utilising that computer for registration purposes. In such a way, congenital defects could, through the controlled registration of only clear stock, be bred out over the coming years. This is now a moral need rather than a purely administrative one. It is no longer ethically defensible for the breeding from genetically-flawed stock to be condoned by a body in charge of registration policy. No true sportsman can allow such a disgraceful situation to continue. No real dogman either can surely allow the future of his breed to be determined by dog-beauticians and canine hairdressers. Our world-famous gundog breeds were developed and bred for field excellence by great sportsmen, noble families and gifted master-breeders. We are proud to feature their stock on the pedigrees of our dogs. They would be ashamed of us, were they able to view the breeding of gundogs nowadays. The Canadian Animal Pedigree Act shows the way for us. A dedicated bunch of determined men can achieve change, preferably fronted by some notables and backed by a crusading dog-minded country magazine. It is a monopoly that has achieved the current nadir: 300 canine congenital diseases; 1,000 unwanted dogs destroyed daily; 54,000 road accidents caused by dogs annually; 10,000 head of livestock savaged last year; 84,000 dog-bites on humans each year; 20,000 dogs abandoned annually in London alone. And still the KC is against a national dog-registration scheme-- they perhaps understandably prefer the £2M annual income from their own scheme. Surely we can set up a scheme to look after our gundogs, based on cheaply-registered dogs, identified by a personal number tattoo, with carriers of congenital diseases or those with suspect temperament barred and therefore valueless. Come on, sporting fraternity, show some initiative! Your dogs loyally and instinctively look to you for guidance in the field, what are you doing for them away from the field? It is now time to justify their trust and confidence by establishing a thoroughly responsible parent body to safeguard their interests well into the next century. I'll even propose a motto for that new body: "forti et fideli nihil difficile".