Meet the Parents
AKC’s Meet the Breeds is arguably the best event it puts on, in that it gives the dog-loving public what it craves: approachable, well-bred, well-behaved, dogs of all breeds (including some that the public never gets to see), all in one location, where petting, hugging, and kissing <sorry, my lawyer self still cringes> are not only allowed, they’re encouraged.
No sitting through boring competition with inexplicable procedures and rules. No handlers worried about conformation coifs getting mussed. No owners too preoccupied with majors and crossing over, or packing up and driving home, to answer simple questions.
At Meet the Breeds, you can get down on the floor, talk baby talk, and take selfies with that Pumi all you want. And connect with its breeder, learn what it’s like to live with one, and make a determination whether it might fit into your lifestyle someday.
In other words, Meet the Breeds is the purebred dog public relations dream.
If AKC did nothing but host Meet the Breeds every day for a year, it would arguably not have to do much else. Provide the breed parent clubs and breed experts with a venue and an opportunity to educate the public about their breeds and responsible dog ownership.
That’s not likely to happen, but AKC announced after the event that it has partnered with “GF Sports” to take Meet the Breeds to three additional cities in 2020, including Philadelphia and Nashville. GF Sports is a live events and sports media entertainment company created by New York-based private equity firm GF Capital Management & Advisors, LLC. No details of the deal were disclosed.
Clearly, both parties see a significant opportunity in expanding Meet the Breeds—what each described as an “educational event” in the joint press release announcing the arrangement. “This venture marks an exciting new chapter for the AKC Meet The Breeds®,” said Dennis Sprung, President and CEO of the American Kennel Club. “We are excited to work with GF Sports to bring this educational extravaganza to different cities and continuing to educate people about finding the right breed to fit their lifestyle, as well as ways to be responsible about pet ownership. We thank our National Breed clubs, their knowledgeable volunteers and quality dogs.”
Those comments marked the AKC’s second acknowledgment in the days following Meet the Breeds of the significance and critical contributions of the event volunteers. AKC also did so in a glowing post shared on its website. But those two nods to the volunteers came after the event. In press prior to the event, AKC did not draw attention to the fact that the dogs present are voluntarily brought to the event by their breeders and owners at their own expense, that the breed booths are created, set up, and manned by volunteers, and that those volunteers represent the parent clubs for each breed.
For any Meet the Breeds joint venture to be successful, those parent clubs are again going to have to step up and provide dogs and volunteers for multiple, upcoming events. Without those dogs and those volunteers, candidly, there is no Meet the Breeds. So how does AKC assure its new joint venture partner that it can deliver sufficient dogs and volunteers in the future?
After Meet the Breeds, posts on social media from participants noted how challenging the two days in New York are for the volunteers. Putting together a booth, and manning it with the number of people and dogs sufficient to give everyone adequate breaks and rest over the course of the two days is a time consuming and expensive undertaking. Some clubs underwrite the volunteers’ expenses, but others don’t have those resources—much less enough breed representatives. The stipend provided by the AKC to the volunteers doesn’t come close to covering the transportation, meal, parking, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred to bring dogs into the city for the event.
Why are member clubs, much less individual volunteers, expected to bear any of the costs of facilitating what is a money-making venture for AKC, when they are already providing their time, their expertise, and most importantly, their dogs? Why aren’t the parent club delegates pushing back and asking the Board for transparency about the event’s finances? And now that AKC has a partner to produce (and presumably finance) Meet the Breeds, isn’t it time for the parent clubs to insist upon a share of the profits from an event that, absent their participation, wouldn’t even exist?