2020 Candidates for the AKC Board of Directors
There are six Delegates running for the AKC’s Board of Directors to be voted on at the upcoming March meeting: Dr. Tom Davies for the Class of 2021, and Mr. Carl Ashby, Mr. Jeffrey Ball, Dr. Carmen Battaglia, Dr. Michael Knight and Ms. Karolynne McAteer for the Class of 2024.
As has been the custom for the past 35 years, Dog News has posed a series of questions to all the candidates. We thank the candidates who responded for taking the time to enlighten the fancy on their visions for leading the AKC’s governing body of the sport into the future.
Dr. Davies chose not to answer the questions of Mrs. Poindexter. This is an unfortunate decision as far as these pages are concerned. Hopefully you will take into consideration this fact when deciding for whom to vote. Dr. Davies is the only candidate running for the one year seat, which under AKC’s Constitution means he is automatically voted in. What a travesty on his part to not let the Fancy know where he stands and on AKC for permitting this to happen.
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia
Delegate-German Shepherd Dog Club of America
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia served on the AKC Board of Directors for multiple terms, chaired countless committees and was liaison to the Parent Club, Bylaw, Companion Event, Health and Herding/Earthdog Delegate committees. He is a PAC Board member and also chairs the AKC Dog Detection Task Force whose mission is to increase the supply of explosive detection dogs.
A breeder of German Shepherds, he has bred and managed many top dogs and finished several himself.
Battaglia’s work in breeding and research has led to a number of informative books and articles. He authored: Genetics: Breeding Better Dogs, Breeding Better Dogs, (fifth printing), The Proper Care of German Shepherds and Breeding Dogs to Win. He has published more than 70 articles and his findings and reports have appeared in the AVMA Veterinary Journal, Journal of Veterinary Behavioral Science, AKC Gazette, Canine Chronicle, Dog News, and many leading journals in Canada, Hungary, South Africa, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Ireland.
He has appeared on Animal Planet several times, is a sought-after speaker on breeding dogs and served as chairman for AKC’s Committee for the Future, several Board Committees and the study group on vicious-dog legislation which produced model legislation for dog ordinance laws in several states.
As President of AKC CAR, now Reunite, he expanded the mission to assist in recovery and response when disasters occur. He judges the herding and working Groups, and some sporting breeds. He remains an active Breeder of Merit and Multiple Group, Best-in-Show judge.
Carl C. Ashby
Kerry Blue Terrier Club, Inc.
Carl C. Ashby is President of Ann Crittenden, Inc. He retired from AT&T as President, AT&T Custom Manufacturing Services a $200 million business unit of AT&T which he founded. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, a Master’s in Business Administration, and a certification in Strategic Planning from MIT.
Carl and his wife Jaimie became involved with purebred dogs in Obedience and then Conformation. They have enjoyed success in conformation with homebred Best in Show Kerry Blues and numerous Specialty wins. They continue an active breeding program and owner handle their Kerry’s at Specialty shows around the country finishing 3 Kerry Blues in 2019 and currently have a new litter.
His past service as a Delegate to AKC includes:
• Member- AKC Board of Directors
• Vice Chairman of AKC
• AKC Canine Health Foundation Board of Directors and Executive Committee
• Vice Chair of AKC Reunite
• Chair-AKC Political Action Committee
• Founding Member-AKC Detection Dog Task Force
• Member of the All-Breed and Perspective Committees
• Current Member -Board of Managers for AKC Link.
• Current member of Delegate Advocacy and Advancement Committee
At the Club level his service includes:
• Member, Treasurer, Cluster Chair, and Show Chair-Carolina Kennel Club
• Member and past Show Chair-Forsyth Kennel Club
• Founding member and Treasurer-Carolina Terrier Association
• Life Member, Treasurer, and Kerry Fest Chair-United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club
• Chair-USKBTC Charitable Funds
In addition to his dog related involvement he has served his Community:
• Chair-Leadership Greensboro
• Chair-Other Voices Diversity Initiative
• Chair-Arts Greensboro
• Chair-Arts Greensboro Arts Fund Drive
• Chair-Piedmont Triad Leadership Network
• Chair-National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)
• Member-Board of Trustees NC A&T University
Jeffrey David Ball
Delegate-Ramapo Kennel Club
Selected by AKC Nomination Committee for Class of 2024
In business, I have experience with large non-profit organizations. I have dealt with negotiations, mediation, arbitrations, legislation, elections, constitution/by-laws and grassroots organizing. I know with this knowledge and experience, I can add solid decision-making, creative thinking and different perspectives to the Board. I can assist reorganizing, building relations with legislators and most importantly, helping reestablish AKC’s reputation as the lead organization in the public/fancies eyes as the canine experts.
In the canine world, I have been a member of a club that has struggled, reorganized and is now doing well. A show chairperson who has seen entries decline and knows how it hurts a club. As president of the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs, I have functioned at different levels and overseen every aspect of the organization, allowing me to understand what clubs need to survive and succeed. Just a few additional canine things I am involved in;
• President of a Specialty Club
• Instruct show-handling classes
• Show in Conformation
• Breed Great Danes
• Canine Therapy work
• Evaluator of Therapy Dogs/AKC Canine Good Citizenship Awards
• Canine Ambassador
• NJ Certified Animal Control Officer/Cruelty Investigator
• Deputy in Bergen County Animal Response Team, which uses a Reunite Trailer.
I understand the issues and concerns of the AKC, clubs and delegates and know with my experience, I can help find solutions to address them. I have the commitment and passion to help grow and protect the sport as well as hold to our mission statement.
Dr. Michael Knight
Delegate-Texas Kennel Club
I am the Delegate and Show Chairman for the Texas Kennel Club and Second Vice-President of the Poodle Club of America.
I have actively shown dogs for 42 years. I have served in numerous leadership positions within the Lone Star Poodle Club, the Texas Kennel Club, and the Poodle Club of America.
As a founding member of the Lone Star State Classic Cluster, I am pleased our cluster has continued to grow, including our specialty show day which currently has 36 specialty shows.
Professionally, I own and manage a staffing firm. We are currently celebrating our 30th year in business. The staffing industry has evolved significantly, especially the last 10 years, teaching me the value and importance of complete transparency between our clients and applicants. This taught me how to manage growth and adapt to change in the current marketplace.
In my personal life outside of dog sports, I endeavor to do considerable fundraising for local children’s charities that provides necessary medical treatment.
I believe my professional experience, civic leadership, and participation in the sport of purebred dogs, has prepared me to take on the challenges and hard work of an AKC Board position.
With the encouragement and support of my fellow AKC Delegates, club members, and friends, I am asking for your support to serve on the AKC Board of Directors. I believe my work, goals, and objectives will make a difference on the Board and hope you will help me accomplish this mission.
Delegate from the Irish Setter Club of America (ISCA)
Current member of the AKC Board of Directors
I am the Delegate from the Irish Setter Club of America (ISCA) and am running for a second term on the AKC Board of Directors.
I am a child of purebred dogs (Irish Setters), and have never been without one. In 1970 I took over guiding the breeding program at Red Barn, and have been a very active participant in conformation, Hunt Tests and Field Trials.
Born in Boston, raised in Bermuda, and returned to Boston for my higher education. When I returned to Bermuda after College, I went to work for the CBS Affiliate Station, ZBM. There is something special about being at a small station – you generally get to experience a bit of everything. When CBS NY came calling and offered me a transfer to CBS NY it took about five seconds to say YES. It was here that my focus on communications began. I took advanced courses in broadcast journalism, and it seems that since that move in 1971 I have NEVER STOPPED TALKING.
At ISCA, I have been their delegate for the past decade, and sit on their board of directors and on the board of the ISCA Foundation, which funds all of our health initiatives. I focus on fundraising for the foundation. I am a four-time national specialty chair, co-chair of several Field Trial/Hunting events for our breed, and was a part of the team that organized our first “walking weekend” which encompassed the first AKC Gun Dog Championships for Irish Setters.
Jumping forward to today, for the past four years it has been my honor to serve as a member of the AKC Board of Directors. I believe I am a very strong voice in the board room, and would like to continue participating in the current initiatives for the future of the AKC and purebred dogs. When I ran four years ago, my discussion was “taking it to the street.” I still believe this is the most important area of need for our ongoing success. Our outreach to the general public, and the successful conclusion of engaging them again! This is where growth will come from. There are many discussions in the board room about growth, and I would like to continue to be a part of them and to be a part of the change that lies ahead.
I am a Director of the Moore County Kennel Club (MCKC), in Pinehurst, NC and their show chair. We are a small club, with a beautiful two-day show, and a Friday for specialties. This club and its leadership is fully committed to our community and we do know the difference between being successful and just barely scraping by. I have recently spoken about what we do to make our dog show itself successful, and our involvement in our community on a very regular basis. It’s quite a laundry list, but we are committed to thriving, and being relevant.
Since joining the AKC Board, I have joined the Board of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, with an emphasis on communication. I also have joined the board of the PAC; the PAC is one of the most important missions inside our overall mission. If we don’t successfully protect what we love, we will surely lose it. My emphasis is again, communications.
I sit on Chairman Bill Feeney’s Ad Hoc Committee on DNA. When the scientific work is completed, estimated as June 30, 2020, my role will be to assist in communicating the messaging and results of this new tool in a breeder’s toolbox. And hopefully to carry this message to the general public, that good health is a cornerstone in acquiring an AKC purebred pup.
Outside of my AKC responsibilities, I am Director of Communications for Assisi Animal Health. We are a science-based company, with peer-reviewed, rigorously researched products.
And finally, there has to be something to be said for longevity. To have a vision for the future, that has a mountain of involvement behind it. I hope you will allow me to continue to be a voice.
1. What issues and concerns motivate you to want to serve on the Board and how will your service benefit AKC?
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia: There is work on the board that I would like to continue: Let’s begin with four of those items:
(a). The conformation sport and the decline in entries is a growing concern. My extensive study and report to the Board about the conformation sport was followed by four more detailed reports that resulted in two meetings of the Board and many actions. My reports analyzed data for all of the breeds in the stud book and pointed out that the conformation sport had declining entries for 15 consecutive years. In 2019 the decline stopped but there needs to be considerable improvement to help the clubs. My study reported other factors that are impacting the sport: 50% of the stud book, or 100 breeds, are now a low entry breed; only 41 % of the pups born are being registered; clubs continue to suffer from the greying effect, a lack of volunteers and families attending their events and a shrinking of their gene pools. This has also concerned the delegates who have initiated an Ad Hoc committee called “Sustainability” which is holding quarterly meetings.
(b). Three years ago the board ask me to chair the AKC Dog Detection Task Force. Our mission was to help increase the supply of explosive detection dogs needed to protect the country, raise awareness levels, engage the dog community and help develop a domestic breeding program so the US will no longer be dependent on European breeders for the dogs needed to protect our borders and our infrastructure.
We began by visiting breeders, clubs, vendors, federal and state agencies and many research organizations. We have hosted three annual meetings of the stakeholders, recruited 140 breeders and developed a “Patriotic Puppy” program for those who would help by raising one puppy. We are working with the national police organizations and many research institutions to find better ways to breed and train these dogs. AKC breeders will benefit from much of this work which now is shared with all breeders on the AKC website. We are off to a good start, but there is much more to do.
(c). Government relations. Many improvements have been made and several pieces of legislation have been influenced. Substantial progress has occurred in fighting anti-dog legislation cases. The addition of state and local newsletters that spell out the issue and provide phone numbers and email addresses of those who vote on these issues has helped clubs at the local level. I would like to help do more.
(d). Juniors. My study involved more than 1,300 juniors and focused on understanding why they are attracted to the sport, their recruitment, retention and gender differences. This study will be published in a Veterinary Journal later this year. It is a good start with information that will help clubs, but there is more to be done and I would like to finish it and work with the Juniors program.
These are just a few of the reasons I would like to serve on the board.
Carl C. Ashby: There are three area of concern that motivated me to run for the Board. They are:
• engagement of the dog owning public through registrations, events, advocacy
• the weakened state of our Club network and impact on AKC’s mission
• the significant decline of the conformation sport
All of these are impacting AKC’s ability to achieve its mission to dogs and specifically purebred dogs. I have written extensively on all three of these issues… not only discussing the problem but providing ideas on possible solutions. In the questions below I will address each of these areas.
My election will mean these issues will be kept “top of mind” in the Board room. My previous Board experience, coupled with a demonstrated ability to work across divergent points of view, will result in addressing these concerns. I would be a Director who is committed to doing everything possible to assure AKC is the voice of all dogs in America and is responsibly investing in its Mission as never before.
Jeffrey David Ball: I am motivated to serve on the Board due to concerns over threats to our sport, especially those that could cause it to no longer exist. Public perception, participation, club survival, and legislation all fall into that category. In some aspects, they all tie together: if the public does not have a positive perception of the AKC and purebred dogs, there could be negative legislation, less participants in the sport, and club will not be able to survive. These are all causes of our decline in sport participation and clubs.
AKC used to be the “premier” canine organization and the public once held the AKC and purebred dogs in high esteem. However, AKC’s reputation has been damaged not necessarily by what it has done wrong, but by other organizations and its failure to keep up with the times. Forms of communication, messaging, and education have shifted since AKC’s peak, and younger generations have different desires for their pets. How often have you heard that mix breeds are healthier? How many advertisements do you see about rescue or shelters as compared to the advantage of pure breeds? Have you seen HSUS/ASPCA ads claiming that you can save a dog’s life for a dollar a day? Those ads play on human emotions. Have you had your kids or grandkids come home with educational material from school that has pet information on it or fundraising events? If so, do they have AKC or HSUS/Local Shelters on them?
HSUS and Animal Rights have been pushing laws and regulations that could make it illegal to breed in many states. Their goal is not just eliminate commercially licensed breeders, but the hobby breeder as well. They are also pushing towns/counties to make it illegal to hold “animal events” on publicly owned property. If those types of legislative efforts pass, where does it leave our sport? The answer is that it would be more difficult to produce puppies and we would have very limited space to hold shows. This makes legislation a major threat to us.
My Board service will be dedicated to assisting clubs, public education and public relations in order to reconnect with and gain the public support; this is AKC’s pathway to regaining its position as the premier canine organization, securing the future of our current breeders and clubs and preventing negative legislation that will take our rights away. As President of the New Jersey Federation of Dogs Clubs, I am proud to say that by working with our Board members, Delegates, and clubs, we have made strides in accomplishing that goal in New Jersey. We still have a long way to go, but the grassroots approach we have taken is working and I would bring that to the AKC.
Karolynne McAteer: I want to continue to serve on the AKC board so I may be in the conversation in areas I helped start (AKC.TV), continue to participate in the decision-making process on the board of CHF (emphasis on communications); on the PAC (emphasis on Communications) and complete my service to the Ad Hoc Whitepaper on DNA as it relates to messaging to our fancy and the general public. I sit on the all-breed club committee, they are at a major point in their discussion between small club and large club. I am on the board of a small club and am their show chair, so I’d surely like to be a voice in that discussion But most importantly, I’d like to be a part of the necessary change I see ahead and to use my longevity in the sport as a resource. Pretty much I have seen it all. I am a child of purebred dogs, and have seen in my 50 years of breeding Irish Setters, the winds of change, and appropriate course corrections made to accommodate it. There is more correcting to do; indeed it is already well in the works. When I ran four years ago I talked about “taking it to the streets.” I still believe that is where our success lies. Certainly the growth of “Meet the Breeds” initiative might turn out to be one of the most powerful offerings we have in engaging and delighting the general public. And I want Matches to come back! My strength is communications; I would like to be a part of the messaging we use to bring AKC back to the role of the Leader. And to put a purebred dog at the foot of everyone’s bed. There has been one there my whole life.
2. How do the AKC’s current priorities and activities reflect those cited in its Mission Statement, or conversely, how would you propose to change the AKC’s current activities and priorities to reflect its Mission Statement?
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia: The AKC mission statement focuses on upholding the integrity of the Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. It includes advancing canine health and protecting the rights of all dog owners. It also supports the AKC Archives which aims to appraise, preserve and make records available to its Member Clubs and Parent Clubs. The mission statement also focuses on the activities that have made AKC a great organization. Some areas that need attention are the venues with declining entries (conformation and obedience). AKC needs to examine the fundamental purpose for hosting conformation shows. For example, only at a National or regional specialty show can breeders gather to see and discuss the results of breedings, the offspring and the sires and dams that produced them (breeding stock). Emphasis at shows has shifted to group and BIS wins. The average breeder struggles to finish a dog, and in many breeds the 10-year report sent each breed by AKC shows how the breed is suffering from this.
The average show entry has declined to 885 entries per show. Even though AKC offers 35 different kinds of competition, growth in entries comes from venues that are fun, that do not place emphasis on winning and do not require a handler. To address some of the problems in the Conformation Sport, I would suggest that the problem be viewed as a three-legged stool and address them separately. 1. The first would be breed size, diversity, loss of breeders, the willingness of breeders to breed and the decline in the number of pups being registered. 2. The club. There is a greying effort, low meeting attendance, hard to find volunteers and the loss of family memberships. 3. The sport. Affordable sites, judge selections, loss of vendors, time management. This sport is an all-day tiring event. When a show begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. as some do, no one stays to see who wins. Using the notion of a three legged stool divides this very complicated problem into manageable pieces that can be shared among several subcommittees. The division of labor allows people to serve on committees where they have the most knowledge and experience. Each group can work to develop strategies, action plans, best practices and goals.
Carl C. Ashby: In 2009 AKC was reeling from the recession and the impact if had on AKC’s revenue. We endured a period of layoffs and cost cutting. We have worked our way out of that situation today and are generating cashflow of about $8,000,000 per year. We are not using this surplus to further our Mission rather “banking” it.
Over the last 15 years we have watched our core measures of “mission” success decline or remain neutral.
• Conversion of blue slips to actual dog registrations has not risen leaving millions of AKC dogs outside of the AKC family
• participation in our legacy events of field trials and especially conformation has significantly declined impacting our sports, the reason to breed to a standard, and our Clubs financial health.
• our Clubs are at a tipping point in their ability to carry out the mission of AKC at the local level
We must put our yearly cashflow to work for our mission to elevate AKC as never before.
I do NOT support reckless spending. I do support strategic spending that will engage the public, rebuild our weakened Club structure, and revive our legacy sports. Done right we will pay for these initiatives with increased revenue.
Jeffrey David Ball: I take our mission statement to heart; it is who we are and always should be. AKC excels at upholding the integrity of registry, the sport of purebred dogs, and breeding. AKC Canine Health, Breeders of Merit and the H.E.A.R.T program are just a few examples that demonstrate these strengths. The part of our mission statement that the public needs to better understand and truly believe is that AKC is dedicated to improving the lives of canines and their families, all the while promoting responsible ownership. AKC Educational programs and AKC Reunite are programs that advance these aspects of the mission statement.
Some may argue that AKC should expand its mission statement to include more opportunities for financial gain. I understand we need to generate new income since registration and show entries are down, but we need to be very selective on how we do that; AKC should never become just another big corporation. Retailing AKC merchandise or products is one thing, but getting into grooming or doggie day care could compromise vital and strategic partnerships with other dog professionals. As such, we should avoid interfering with businesses who could be strong collaborators and allies; for example, support from these other professions would encourage the public to view AKC in a more positive manner. If those professions are looking over their shoulder, worrying that AKC might try to co-opt their businesses, they are not going to help or support us. Others canine professionals such as trainers, dog food companies, show superintendents, dog magazines could all wonder if they are next and waver in their support for AKC.
We need to remain true to our mission statement.
Dr. Michael Knight: The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.
AKC offers many programs and competitive events that most people are not aware exist. Conformation is the most widely known as people have seen Westminster, AKC/Royal Canine Dog Show, the National Dog Show and others on TV but we also have Obedience, Rally, Agility, Tracking, Field Trials, Hunt test, Coursing – CAT & Fast CAT, Earth dog, Scent Work as well as Family dog: CGC & AKC Star Puppy, Responsible Owners, Well-mannered Dogs AKC Community Canine, Advanced CGC, Trick Dog, AKC Therapy dog, AKC Fit Dog, AKC Temperament Test. All of these options offer something for almost everyone.
Supporting what we already provide is very important, but we need to remain open to all ideas that might appeal to the younger generation as well. We need to aggressively advertise all of the activities currently offered by the AKC for the pet owner and their beloved pets. We could also offer Dual layer registry: a Basic and an Advanced registration addresses the integrity of registry as well as promotes purpose bred dog. Our registry is only as good as the information required for registration.
Karolynne McAteer: It is good to remember that the AKC is 135 years old. Its Mission, as stated, is still what is adhered to, and revered for that matter. But how we continue to promote that mission takes many different paths. Our dedication to breeders and health is at the core. Promotion of the mission is key, but engagement has to come from breeders, and support has to come from the AKC. Today’s environment for breeders includes the aging population, battling social media, AR, local zoning laws, state-wide laws and indeed the family unit. In days “gone by” someone was always home! Usually the mother was at home, could raise a litter, and have a snack ready when Joe and Pamela walked in the door after school. Today that is not the case. To support a family, both parents are out of the house, and the kids have 20 different sports events after school. Not an easy environment to raise a litter if you are a casual breeder. AKC has 3 key elements that make us different from all others: 1) buying from a breeder, and I believe this is our strongest story of what makes us different. A breeder to guide you along life’s journey with your pup. 2) AKC CHF which is constantly and consistently dealing with health issues for dogs in general, and breed specific health testing. 3) Anticipated temperament, with generations of evidence to back you up (ATT TEST.) Numbers are on the rise in registrations and in events, certainly reflecting that things are working, but when you look at where the numbers are coming from, they are far from those events of 135 years ago: Agility, Trick Dog, CGC, CAT and Fast CAT and on and on. But it is working. And think about PAC. This is one of the biggest gifts to breeders, THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO BREED. However, when I look at the clubs and individual breeders, support for the PAC lacks involvement by breeders, or their understanding of what this means for our future. So, let’s support them and not lose what we love! But at AKC our role is to protect and serve our breeders, in both the traditional and modern atmosphere. And to do it we definitely need to think both inside and outside the box. But in the most rigorously researched approach.
3. How can the AKC grow and best support its core constituency, namely those who breed and show dogs?
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia: Many breeders began their careers when the breeder who sold them their pup introduced them to a local fun match, brought them to a club meeting and encouraged them to attend club functions and activities. Today, clubs hold their shows at cluster events which are miles away from their home base. Most clubs have stopped holding a fun match, taking away the opportunity for the new dog owners to learn how to show a puppy. Because the conformation show involves a long day, scheduling needs to be addressed. I would like to suggest as a start: better time management during the day, the need for mentors for new owners and breeders, a place for new people to practice. Breeder seminars need to be expanded.
Carl C. Ashby: Engagement of the dog owning public is key to growing participation in our sport. Here are some ideas on how we can better support our breeders and exhibitors:
• AKC must be bold and support responsible breeders. Our website, social media, AKC TV must visibly support responsible breeders in its narrative. It must stress the preservation of our breeds and important role responsible breeder play. Look at akc.org today…nowhere on the home page is breeding celebrated or are there direct links on how to breed dogs. We must support our breeders and our public messaging must make breeding acceptable.
• Less than 30% of those active in conformation belong to all breed dog clubs. All breed Clubs are the backbone of our conformation events and there members are aging. Times have changed with “belonging” to things less important, but our sport depends on these Clubs and their members. Assuring they survive isn’t a talking point it is essential and flexible policies are required. AKC must adapt to this new reality and assure our five thousand club network survives.
• Retention of new conformation exhibitors is essential (the average newbie drops out in 5 shows.) Conformation is the only AKC sport without an “on ramp” to learn, potentially have success, and prepare for increased levels of competition. This is especially important for conformation where judging is “subjective.” Developing an event which allows learning and success is a critical component of making conformation more attractive to new exhibitors.
Jeffrey David Ball: We need to collectively make a change. Whether that change be short or long-term in policies, we need to be able to address any issue reasonably and quickly. Our first objective needs to be assisting our clubs in any way possible. We cannot continue to lose clubs and must stabilize them. By doing so, it will be the first step toward building internal buy-in. We need to be inclusive to all our clubs and canine fancy, giving them ownership of AKC. The clubs and fancy need to understand and believe that AKC is them, not a corporate office; AKC is the place to turn when they need help, direction or leadership. We also need to understand that AKC may make tough, and sometimes unpopular, decisions aimed to increase stability and accountability at all levels. Avoiding an issue or being unresponsive does not help; it often makes the problem bigger. For clubs and the fancy to accept ownership of AKC, they need to understand AKC is there to support, direct, and communicate with them.
Once our organization is in order, we can do even more to change the public’s perception of us, which will increase our ability to tackle legislative issues and facilitate overall growth.
We need to bring back the public perception that being a part of AKC is a privilege and honor.
Dr. Michael Knight: We need to do a better job of listening to our constituency and helping them solve their problems as breeders and exhibitors. Train our younger and/or newly interested people in our fancy and get them active with our Club’s. Ask them to join and help with our canine events. We need to offer programs and training about how to put on a canine event. AKC might consider having a department specifically created to answer the questions of our constituency. It can be challenging to find the correct person to speak to within the AKC about an issue. Direct contact information could be sent out every year to make communication easier. Our constituency is shrinking partly due to aging, which is unavoidable in all sports. Supporting our constituency is a must, but adding to it is how we survive and grow. Many Clubs have a rule where a member cannot show a dog if they are a member of that Club. Some exhibitors will not join a Club because they cannot show their dogs. We need to encourage everyone to take that weekend off as an exhibitor, be a Club member and help put on that’s Club’s event. I feel we are doing a lot for our owner/handlers. Breeders should be our focus now. Shows could offer larger saving on bred-by entries. Our Canine magazines could offer substantial savings on ads from breeders. AKC Market Place could offer litter announcement ads at a lesser cost.
Karolynne McAteer: Well, I believe our core constituency is no longer just breeding “show dogs.” Our core constituency is, and will always be, breeders. Most importantly, those who adhere to health, type, have solid temperaments and produce dogs that could do the job for which they have been purposefully bred. Certainly not all pointing breeds have to point, but they need to be built to do so, same with all herding, hounds and on and on. Whether they are given the opportunity to do their job (and I hope they are so instinct and interest stays strong) they need to reflect their stated purpose. The AKC helps our core constituency in numerous ways, and is most definitely building on that now. Televised dog shows, AKC.TV, Meet the Breeds (now growing) and with the previously mentioned CHF, PAC/GR. We need to get our messaging out there, and to address what we are, who we are for those that never knew, and LEAN on what makes us different. This includes reminding those currently outside our fancy, that we are the largest rescue organization in the world, and we are a group that takes care of their own!! I’d probably like to lead a challenge of “go walk through your shelter and see how many pure bred dogs you see.” After all, pet responsibility is not a target of purebred dogs, it is a target for all dogs because lack of this responsibility is what is filling shelters, NOT committed breeders. Don’t get me started here, it is what keeps me awake at night. WHEN and WHO started the “rescue rollout” and how did it get such control. I mean it has to be more than sad songs and sadder photos. It’s MONEY. Ugh! AKC has a great marketing and PR department. I know they have new ideas at the ready. True, we will not have a theme song, but the powerful messaging is ahead. (This remark is the benefit of sitting on the board.) And…it will take some money!
4. How can the AKC persuade the dog-loving public to choose a purebred for its family companion and make itself relevant to people who believe rescues and shelters are the preferred source for obtaining a dog?
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia: AKC has tried many approaches to this question. It has to start with the breeder. They are the entry point to the new owner and family. The breeder is also involved with recommendations about breeding, spay/neuter contracts and the Limited Registrations which now are at an all-time high, over 100,000 per year. Too many breeders only sell pups on spay/neuter contracts or on a limited registration. The buying public must wonder why breeders of purebred dogs want to limit their use. Many are convinced they can save a life by getting a shelter dog. The Animal Rights groups have used good messaging and undefined labels to drive their messages to the public. Terms like: “puppy mill, vicious dogs, dangerous dogs, responsible breeders, raising the bar and doing the right thing”. TV promotions and Public Service Announcements have successfully impacted the dog-loving public. I think a review of all of our messages would be a good start. The standard should be…. are they compelling, do they call for action and resonate with the public? AKC does a lot a wonderful things to support dogs, their health and welfare. We need to do and say things that are compelling. That effort needs to include several departments of the AKC and the clubs.
Carl C. Ashby: Engagement is the key. The number of dogs in shelters is steadily declining. In parts of the country finding a shelter dog can be challenging. Finding something other than a pit or pit mix in the south is virtually impossible. AKC needs to consider the following actions:
• There must be a common thread/consistent message about the “why” of purebred dogs with the general public across all the ways AKC communicates
• Assure our social media outlets are aligned with their targeted audience. The post that works for the Facebook user is not a post that is as effective with Instagram users, etc.
• AKCTV must be more strategic in its overall messaging. Pictures tell the story and we must use AKC TV in proactive ways to elevate AKC’s mission.
• Registrations results in engagement on many levels and “conversion” must take center stage
a. a registered dog brings their owners into the AKC family.
b. these families could become active in events and ultimately responsible, preservation breeders.
c. less than 42% of registerable dogs are registered. This means over 650,000 dogs each year have NO relationship with AKC. This must change.
d. we have been told that 9 million dogs must be replaced yearly. AKC breeders are meeting only 13% of this demand. Engagement will potentially grow the base of responsible breeders…an essential step if we are be relevant
To my knowledge AKC has not engaged an outside public relations firm in years. We need outside help to assist in developing messaging and to assist our excellent inside staff to significantly increase our role as the voice of dogs. We have the financial resources to invest in our Mission and the time is NOW to do so.
Jeffrey David Ball: Right now, mixed breeds dogs are more popular than the purebred dogs in the USA. One statistic states that 53 percent of dogs owned by Americans are mixed breeds. Previously, however, people were proud to own a purebred. In order to persuade the public to choose purebred dogs and to be relevant to families with rescues, AKC must regain control of the narrative about dogs in the United States. AKC can do this by updating its educational and outreach strategies.
The public formerly turned to the AKC to gain information about dogs, but they are now learning from different outlets. While exhibitor and visitor attendance are way down at our Match and Point shows, I recently attended a vibrant Barkfest near my house. Barkfest and similar events are dog events run by individuals or an organization that invite any dog-related industry to attend and promote themselves. I have to say, it was an amazing event for a small town. They had nearly one hundred and fifty vendors, the very same vendors that no longer come to AKC shows. There were also multiple rescue organizations, ASPCA, HSUS, police demo teams, obedience and agility demos, trainers, boarding facilities, groomers, politicians and—most importantly—a couple thousand people. I did not see one thing about AKC or their affiliates. People are no longer learning about dogs from the most knowledgeable group: the American Kennel Club.
In addition to public events, people are gaining information about dogs from social media. In general, the public loves animals so there are always dog-related stories posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. People pay attention to them because they are at their fingertips on their smart phones and iPads. With a constant flood of stories on social media, sensational stories--those with controversy, drama, or heroics--make people sit up and pay attention. Unsurprisingly, the general public is more likely to scroll past a story about the number two show dog in the country that has all its health checks being campaigned and instead read about a Rescue Group that saved and re-homed 10 puppies from a backyard breeder.
While purebred fancy has not kept up with these changes in dog education and outreach, we can shift strategies in order to have an impact on today’s dog owners. We have generations of young people learning more about dogs from rescue groups, animal rights groups or even unscrupulous breeders who claim falsehoods about mixed breeds being healthier than our pure breeds. We have made strides in the past few years, and we can do more by promoting AKC Reunite or Canine Health Foundation to the public, for example. If you ask the public who helps dogs more, the response will probably be HSUS. We need to change this narrative.
Dr. Michael Knight: AKC needs to be the go to source for everything canine. Through education and marketing, AKC needs to take a more pro-active approach regarding public education and awareness pertaining to all things regarding the purebred dog. AKC should hire PR celebrities to help promote the AKC by doing interviews on National Television, have an increased presence on Social Media, sponsor Banner Ads on the internet, enact push notification based on people internet searches, billboard ads, print magazine and more.
Using Poodle Club of America has an example; we offer recommended health testing that should be completed on both parents, prior to being bred. These tests vary depending on which variety of Poodles they have. We ask that Poodle breeders make every attempt to breed healthy litters. OFA (CERF) Eye, Heart Certification (auscultation and echocardiography), VWD, Neonatal Encephalopathy, Degenerative Myelopathy, Canine Herpes Virus and Dwarfism are many of the test suggestions. When a prospective puppy buyer contacts me, I always suggest that they ask for copies of proper health testing from the breeder. This testing can also be shared with the new puppy owner’s vet, which begins a sound foundation health file for the new puppy. Most breeds have their own health concerns relevant to that breed.
Mixed breed dogs do not have a health testing history. I feel the reason people adopt a mixed breed or go the local pet shelter is because they feel that they are not promoting another litter being created. In Dallas, TX for example, our Animal Shelters are primarily filled with mixed breeds and have very few purebred dogs. The purebred dog and breeder are not the problem. Actual statistics should be used and presented to the public through well-placed ads and media advertisements. AKC could promote the value of health testing in the purebred dog that cannot be found in mixed breeds. There is more security in knowing what you are buying in a puppy out of health tested purebred parents.
Karolynne McAteer: The dog-loving public is our target. It is what I call “taking it to the streets.” As mentioned in prior questions above, I wonder if the public in general realizes the number of breed-specific initiatives there are inside Parent Clubs. Rescue is one of them. I don’t think the general public understands what a parent club is. I wonder about a campaign that says, “your rescued poodle has more than two parents, it has 1,200 parents encompassing the members and breeders of the Poodle Club of America. Call us for information on rescuing a purebred dog!” And dare I say we need to be nice. I have stood ringside and been fairly horrified by the response from someone holding a purebred dog, to the person wanting a purebred dog. So easy to say, “I am getting Buffalo ready for the group, why not go ringside and watch this group, and we can talk when I come out.” NOT I AM BUSY AND GO AWAY. So here’s a simple reminder that the general public are our target and perhaps our salvation.
5. How would you address concerns that there are too many conformation shows and not enough entries?
Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia: I would not assume there are too many shows. But if there are too many shows, which clubs will lose their show? what is the criteria? Who will explain it and how will the reduction be implemented?
It might be better to focus on the contributing factors (low entry breeds, low rates of registration, declining number of breeders, willingness of breeders to breed). My study about the conformation sport showed that this has been an on-going problem for more than ten years and that it is not likely to go away in the near future. Convincing breeders to breed and having their puppies registered would be a good start. The breeder is the best person to help a new owner join a club, attend events and training sessions and volunteer for club functions. For the beginner, the dog show is a big step. It has become a professional sport with no junior or amateur system that can help them learn how to show and compete. A joint effort between AKC and the clubs is needed. Best practices need to be shared, along with hiring practices for judges and activities that appeal to the family.
Carl C. Ashby: The conformation event is the underpinning of breeding dogs to a standard. It is where breeders prove the merit of their breeding decisions and it is the showcase of purpose bred dogs.
We search for answers to how to rebuild this legacy sport looking for simple solutions…such as cut the number of shows. That will not stop the decline of conformation. There are simply fewer unique dogs being shown each year. That is the problem we must address and solve. Local shows are a strategic to achieving AKC’s mission and shows within reasonable driving distance are part of rebuilding the sport.
Conformation has not fundamentally changed in our history. To fix the issues facing conformation we must consider all aspects of our mission. Using our mission to guide us we will turn the corner on conformation. The areas of Engagement, Clubs, and legacy sports are intertwined. All three must be consider together to make real and lasting progress. The focus must be to:
• Engage more people in the conformation sport. There is a historical relationship between registrations and sport participation. Once these registrants are part of the AKC family we have the opportunity to build the exhibitor/breeder base.
• Use our public facing resources in an intentional way. We must be bold in projecting our message and not apologize for breeding healthy, predictable, happy dogs as preservation breeders.
• Invest in outside resources to augment our outstanding staff to make sure we have consistent, clear messaging.
• Assure our Clubs are strong as they critical to the AKC Mission. Clubs are the face of AKC and are the means, supported by AKC, to engaging new people in conformation.
• Critically look at conformation. We must find ways for new people to have some level of early success. This is critical both to the sport and preserving purebred dogs.
We must stabilize conformation and then grow it. It will take innovation, a willingness to change, taking prudent risks, and patience. Conformation didn’t decline overnight and it won’t recover overnight but failure to act now will make the hill to success even steeper.
Jeffrey David Ball: This matter needs to be closely examined and evaluated in order to determine appropriate courses of action. We need to remember that all regions of the country are different and should not be treated the same. One region may have more shows than necessary, which could hurt some clubs, but another region may flourish by adding shows. Stabilizing the status of our clubs is the most important thing, and then we can implement an evaluation to assess if reducing shows in a region would benefit clubs.
I recently conducted a survey of delegates and most did not feel that reducing shows would help. These are opinions rather than factual. The majority of the people who took this survey supported requirements that clubs help AKC educate the public, but admitted their club did not currently do enough outreach. Given that this was a general survey without getting into more details, I cannot draw larger conclusions, but it indicates a need to collect further information on these matters. This information will help determine the appropriate course of action and we must act quickly to implement them.
Dr. Michael Knight: Economically with our current level of exhibitors and entries it certainly may appear as though we have too many dog shows and in some locations that may be true. We have more shows in certain parts of the country than others. Managing our Poodle Club of America 44 Affiliate Clubs I have seen first hand that what works for one Club does not necessarily work for another. I feel we need to focus on the entry issue. By appealing to people wanting to buy a purebred dog and introducing them to all of the AKC programs, activities and competition events could increase our “ base”. Offering programs to junior high and high schools students about becoming a breeder and breeder owner handler could also increase interest in our sport. Getting our “ base” back is a different problem than developing a new “base”. Many of what we consider our “base” have simply aged to the point of not being able to attend or show any longer. We must focus on creating an interest and enthusiasm with new people and develop pathways into our youth. We need to make AKC and the Fancy intriguing, interesting and fun for our young people and new people who are searching for that new family addition from the canine world.
Karolynne McAteer: In truth there are very few more shows in total. Working off the past three years when so much has been happening and I have sat on the Board the past 4 years so will use those figures, in 2017 there were 1,446 in 2018 there were 1,444 shows and in 2019 there were 1,443. Group shows during these past three years numbered from 205-219. Interestingly, in October, Delegates were provided a list on some research in Sports and Events. In 2019, 16 clubs did not hold their usual event. Of the 16, six claimed membership and internal issues, and six stated site/date issues. Two stated problems with cluster partner and two did not reply. Today eight of those have definitely regrouped, and replied in the positive that they are back on track for their show in 2020. Probably more as of this month. It is hard to help internal strife, and it is a lot of work to find a new site, or date, or join a cluster, but these numbers reflect that it happens. And they had some help with tools from AKC.
I am the board liaison to All Breed Club Committee. They come with a significant agenda at every meeting, armed with the right questions and seem to have researched their issues before standing up and presenting. Boy are they a passionate group. The most common issues of big club vs small club (one size does not fit all) and why can’t I have a third show? or why can’t my remote territory be treated differently? are all VALID questions that have now been heard, and they deserve a great deal more attention at this time. There are tools at AKC and people out there to help, and there will be more news. A great deal of review currently going on. I am happy to hear all the questions and concerns, because as I have said, I am a Director and Show Chair of a small club with a two-day all breed show (MCKCNC), and a Friday dedicated to Specialties, and we so wish more breeds would come and join our Friday (a small hint here)!
Wanting more or wanting less has to come with a good bit of research done by the local club. It is important to recognize that just running another show, and doing it badly, doesn’t help anyone. It is a lot of organization for a small club, and one always worries about membership fatigue. Also…it your end game is to get more money into your club’s coffers, adding a show does NOT always do that. Take a very good look at exactly how much the expense is. You may well have better entries, but more expense.
Personally I don’t think there are too few shows, or too many shows. I think it’s all how the individual clubs make their decisions and how they organize their events. But as I said, a topic under significant discussion at this time.
I am basically a person who lives by logic. When I see problems I first think them out logically, check the negatives, and “chart out” a path forward. I have lived a fair amount of time (and no I am not telling how long) walking down a directed path that has been logically researched.
Thanks for the opportunity to answer these questions.