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Shortly before Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired, I showed the film to Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today. I asked her: "Do you think this will bring down the Kennel Club?"
Beverley has been in dogs for a long time. Her family bred Bearded Collies and at one point Beverley herself showed and even judged. She also once worked for the Kennel Club. In other words, she knew this faction of the crazy canine world as well as anyone - and certainly better than I did at the time.
Beverley thought about it. And then said: "No," she said. "I don't think so."
And she was right. It didn't.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed holed the good ship Kennel Club, but did not sink it. The old girl listed and swayed but stayed afloat.
What followed were some ad hoc repairs, a paint-job, a glossy new brochure, slicker PR, a few extra quid thrown towards good causes, and it set sail again.
Now, even I can congratulate the Kennel Club for some reforms. At the recent Dog Health Workshop in Dortmund, KC Chairman Steve Dean said to me: "Some of the other Kennel Clubs here make us look quite good, don't they?" and I agreed. They do.
But for all the talk of health at the Dortmund workshop, it was all within-the-box stuff - how to slow the rate of inbreeding; not reverse it by opening up the stud books for those breeds that need it.
Remove the veneer and the Kennel Club is still same old vessel with the same old hands on the tiller; men in fusty tweed and women in a nice practical wool-mix with delusions of being blue-chip but who in reality have always travelled steerage. (The Kennel Club never was on a par with the Jockey Club - perhaps because, in the sport of Kings, trotting round a ring is the precursor to the main event, not the sole purpose of it.)
And today, the critics are not just from without but increasingly, and divisively, from within. Even the previously loyal dog show press now dares ask questions that would have been unthinkable a few years back - last month causing KC Chairman Steve Dean to jump ship from Dog World to write his column for the more obsequious Our Dogs.
I've continued to chip away too - often, these days, accused of curmudgeonly obsessiveness. In fact, I would love nothing more than to walk away. It pays me nothing and costs me dearly in time. But - for better or worse - there's no one else out there doing what I do.
And I do it because I can't shake the panic that the dogs aren't safe.
So the KC has continued to sail a stormy sea. Pedigree Dogs Exposed and the fall-out over inbreeding and phenotypic excess may no longer be headline news other than here and on social media, but it has left the Kennel Club very vulnerable. It was only a matter of time before it was rocked by another tsunami.
And so it came to pass at this year's Crufts with the allegation that Jagger the Irish Setter was poisoned on the show's benches by a jealous rival. Weeks on from Crufts, I am still getting calls from the Press wanting juicy quotes on the wicked lengths dog-show people go to win. This week it was a writer for Vanity Fair utterly convinced that there has been a Kennel Club cover-up (not helped of course by the dog's owners refusing to accept that their dog probably picked up some baited meat meant for foxes or rats near his home in Belgium).
I pointed out the problems with the conspiracy theory - as I have to the dozens of media calls I've had on this. Jagger died more than 24 hours after he'd left Cruft's and the laced meat in his stomach was undigested, suggesting the dog ingested it long after he left the show. The toxicology report, too, found a fast-acting poison - too fast for Jagger to have been perfectly OK up to shortly before he collapsed. I also pointed out that no one would be faster to cry foul than me. The Vanity Fair journalist was clearly unimpressed. "Is there anyone else you would suggest I talk to then?"
There was a lot of other bad press surrounding this year's Crufts, too. Thousands signed a petition to have the Scottish Terrier stripped of his Best in Show handling because of the perceived (if not actual) cruelty inherent in the way the dog's handler lifted him by his tail and jaw. There were claims of other poisonings, too. Then there was the social media shit-storm prompted by pictures of an obedience competitor apparently beating up a Border Collie in the car park.
No matter that all the claims turned out to be dubious, baseless or unprovable. No matter that the Kennel Club did a pretty good PR job in an impossible situation.
And now, today's Mail on Sunday prints a piece by columnist Liz Jones which is as damaging as anything we've seen printed in the mainstream media before; far more poisonous in terms of its spread than the vermin-bait that killed Jagger.
Note too the shift from what we've seen before. Gone is the mildly-humorous Best-in-Show-type piss-take about frou-frou Poodles, handlers in garish suits or long-haired blonde woman who look like their Salukis. Dog-showing isn't funny any more. It's something bad.
And, again, no matter that the Secretary of the show Jones attended disputes the writer's version of events (see here) or that the author has zoned in on non-issues and extrapolated stupidly regarding the preferableness of rescue dogs
Because here's the rub. Every new scandal - real or imagined - inflicts further, deep-down reputational damage to the Kennel Club and dog-showing.
How do I feel about this? In truth, I'd rather the KC/show world was beaten up for the real issues. I have a strong sense of fairness and some of the recent press has been unfair.
But if the upshot is that dog-showing continues to lose favour, call me happy. I hate the damage that the show-ring has done to dogs and the mainly superficial reform we've seen so far is never going to repair it. If dog shows cannot be re-invented in such a way as to truly reward health and function, then they should be condemned to history; as inappropriate, fundamentally distasteful and pointless as human beauty pageants.
I think, deep-down, the Kennel Club knows this, but it is in a tough place: on the one hand trying to appease claims from the dog fancy in the US that it has pandered to animal rights activists; on the other being drawn towards a more modern agenda by the Scandinavian KCs, campaigners, science and good common sense.
My recent blog about the KC becoming more inclusive of crossbreeds/mutts was an April Fool but I have little doubt that it's true. A more all-embracing Kennel Club is an obvious step. It needs a turn of the generations though. There are still too many backward-thinkers in a position of power at the KC hindering true reform.
Can you imagine a future where there is no discrimination between purebred and crossbreed? Where the KC records pedigree info for all dogs, building into an amazing international resource like ancestry.com? Where the stud books are open and the emphasis is on conservation? Where dog shows, should they exist, are places to show off fitness and function as well as good looks?
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