High Profile or not high profile? To Be or not to be?

We recently mentioned at our meeting in Coventry that Clive Fray, would be putting forward his views on the process of getting off the High Profile Breeds list that the Kennel Club put in place. Clive notes that the Kennel Club has already issued a guidance document about the removal criteria on its web site and this was, we know, circulated to a number of breed health coordinators. This, says Clive, is a positive thing that we should applaud and it shows some form of commitment and allows us to have some idea of the Kennel Club thought process.

So that was the good news, but the document itself is a superficial overview amounting to just a couple of pages of A4.  Clarification of some key points would certainly be helpful.  There is a basis for the future but the emphasis of future progress seems to rest firmly with the breed clubs/councils.  Clive notes that an involvement of all “exhibitors, judges and serious breeders will be vital to achieving a successful conclusion”.

Clive Fray, pictured at Three Counties in 2012
Clive Fray, pictured at Three Counties in 2012

We have no doubt about that at all, and it is certainly something that the Canine Alliance will continue to press for at every opportunity – this is, for most people, our hobby and yet more often than not ordinary enthusiasts (the ones who put the cash in the coffers) are excluded and issued with arbitrary decisions from Clarges Street, notably the crass manner in which the veterinary checks were introduced at Crufts.  There are too many in the inner circle who appear distanced from the realities of dog showing and breeding to the bulk of us still kept on the outside.

What is really troubling for us all at the moment is the lack of clarity about the way forward.  Does the KC have some firm, clear and irrefutable criteria for a breed to be removed from the high profile breed list?  Why was one breed removed from the list, whilst others remained?  What was the thinking behind those decisions?  Will we ever know or be told?

The Canine Alliance has always promoted the idea of sharing health information across all breeds and recognises that there are some databases out there that purport to provide this information.  We suspect, in fairness to them, that there is considerable work to be done before statistical validity and reliability is such that the evidence can not be questioned.  Clive argues that the 14 High Profile breeds should take this up as far as their own breeds are concerned and work together to share ideas on best practice and how to move forward.  To some extent, that discussion already takes place, but it is very much an arbitrary thing.

Sadly, too, most decisions that we have seen coming out of Clarges Street since the introduction of veterinary tests have been equally arbitrary as far as the hobbyist is concerned.  Do we really have any leadership coming from the Kennel Club, or do we wait for the next low budget television programme before we see more policy directives that can actually make a real difference, rather than trying to smooth things over in a superficial manner.

Returning to Clive’s highly relevant contribution, he suggests (as someone with experience of project management) that we all need what he is calling a “rigorous, unambiguous baseline” to use as a starting point.  The ‘Guidance’ issued by the KC is a starting point, but that is probably the best way of describing it.

It seems that we have seen so many goal posts moved in the past 12 months.  Breeds that failed veterinary checks at Crufts and which had been classified as High Profile are all passing the tests (and good thing too).  But have the breeds in question really improved so dramatically in such a short time?  Does this not surely just confirm that the Kennel Club messed up and got it wrong?

It seems that we have seen so many goal posts moved in the past 12 months.  Claiming to have improved breeds that failed the veterinary checks at Crufts last year, and which are all passing (and a good thing too) in such a short period of time, surely just confirms that the Kennel Club messed up and got it wrong.  These notes, ironically, are being drafted a day after the death was announced of Sir David Frost, who so famously interviewed disgraced President Richard Nixon;  even the former President apologised for the errors he made.  Perhaps one or two in Clarges Street, rather than claiming to have improved breeds over night with a few press releases, could accept that it is time to apologise, start again and involve everyone in the future of our hobby.  If they do not open the KC up to a much wider membership and influence from those who it affects, then there will be little progress for the world of Dog Showing.  Who knows, maybe there is a master plan in situ to replace Crufts with Scrufts and Heelwork to Music – who needs pedigree dogs after all?  Does the Kennel Club really care for the future of Pedigree dogs, or is the constant stream of press releases about Scrufts and the rise of labradoodles, cockapoos or whatever name is given to cross breeds that people seem to be intent of developing.  Where are the health checks for these “breeds” and who is monitoring them?  We think you will probably know the answer to that rhetorical question!

We would encourage as many people as possible to have a look at the full article that Clive has written and which is available by going to the following link on this site: Getting Off the High Profile Lists, by Clive Fray.  We would also like a full discussion to take place both within the CA membership, but more broadly with the Kennel Club and those of us who are involved in showing and breeding of pedigree dogs.

The Kennel Club must now realise that the membership of the Canine Alliance does have a broad base with a depth of knowledge and access to breed experts that would be the envy of many organisations.  It is surely time for the Kennel Club to start to talk more expansively with the CA members, exhibitors, as well as with breed clubs.  It is time for co-operation, not domination.

It has been very pleasing to see, at long last, a stream of condemnation against the puppy farms and puppy mills that do so much damage and which we all agree should be steamrollered out of existence.  We have no truck with puppy farms and consider them to be an obscenity.  And yet what is the KC solution to this?  Oh yes, guess what….the Assured Breeders Scheme.  Buy your puppy only from an Assured Breeder, says the Kennel Club.  Mmmm!!  Those KC members who attended the AGM post Crufts debacle will have nightmares of the orchestrated presentation about…..the ABS.   We need to be convinced about its effectiveness as a scheme and, furthermore, find it not a little distasteful that the Kennel Club should use the horrors of Puppy Farmers to market the ABS.  A scheme that many people consider to be another good idea, badly implemented.

Let’s start the process of opening up the discussions to include us all – forego the idea that only KC members or top judges can make a difference, go for a full open membership and let’s get the world of pedigree dogs back on track.

The Steering Group of the CA will be meeting soon to organise the final details of the AGM for the new company, so CA members will get the opportunity to stand for election to take things forward.

Tony Taylor