As this is written, readers have started receiving the September issue of Dogs in Review, and I have already had a few comments on the article “AKC Judges: Facts and Figures.” It’s not light reading, but I hope those who are affected by the current judges’ situation — which means virtually anyone involved in purebred dogs — will take the trouble to digest the contents.
It really is important to know the facts if we’re going to be able to deal with what can only be described as a crisis in the AKC Judges department. As one reader writes, “What an eye opener … I have not seen such facts gathered together in an article before. We’re all aware of the graying of the sport — nowhere is that more apparent than in our judges.”
As mentioned in the article, AKC Board of Directors Chairman Ron Menaker appointed an ad hoc Judges Approval Committee to study the situation and recommend changes where required. The Committee is chaired by Dr. Robert D. Smith and also consists of Darrell Hayes, James S. Corbett, Dr. Thomas M. Davies, Robert S. Forsyth, Rosalind Kraus Kramer, Edd E. Bivin and James W. Smith.
The Committee submitted its proposal to the AKC at about the same time the September issue of Dogs in Review went to print, and the Board of Directors — reportedly against the wishes of the Committee — put the proposal on the AKC website, soliciting input from the fancy for a limited period of time.
Since the Committee’s work and my own research did not in any way overlap, it’s interesting to find that many of the conclusions are similar. In fact, the Committee’s recommendations are in some respects more far-reaching and drastic than what I suggested.
Overall, there is suggestion that there needs to be a much stronger emphasis on individual merit instead of “ticking off the boxes,” with greater focus on what the Committee terms as “appreciation for canine knowledge, through lifetime experience and continuing education.”
Here are some of the specifics the Committee has suggested, in brief:
- In the initial application, the specific requirements have to be indicated the same as before (including stewarding, “special events” judging, open book tests, breeding and exhibiting experience, etc.). Qualified fanciers may, however, be approved on their first application for a maximum number of breeds equivalent to the largest group, or a complete group.
- In later applications (for additional breeds) the specific requirements would not have to be indicated, and a letter outlining the applicant’s preparations would replace the application forms.
- An approved judge would be able to apply for up to one half the number of breeds in the largest group on any application for additional breeds.
- The term “provisional” (as in “provisional judges,” “provisional assignment”) would be replaced by the term “permit.”
- Three permit assignments for each new breed would be required instead of the current five provisional assignments. All three assignments must be observed by three different AKC field reps.
- Based on recommendations from the fancy (field reps, judges, breeders, parent clubs, show chairmen and/or professional handlers), individuals who have “demonstrated exceptional competence, dedication and passion” could be invited to apply for up to one group or its equivalent.
- Parent clubs would be able to make yearly recommendations for up to three eligible individuals to be approved as permit judges for their breed.
- Any eligible individual may be approved to judge a National or Parent Club specialty by invitation. (It will be remembered that such an allowance was made in the past, but then as an exception applying to professional handlers only.)
- The process to remove breed approval for judges who have demonstrated a lack of knowledge would be expedited. Three evaluations of “Marginal” or two of “Does Not Meet” from field reps places judges on probation for affected breeds.
- The Visiting Judges Policy that applies to judges from foreign countries would be restructured. Visiting judges may be approved to judge up to eight all-breed assignments per year, providing they are approved for all individual breeds involved. Visiting judges may also apply to become AKC judges under a visiting judges’ approval process.
What the AKC Board and Delegates determine will be announced shortly.
AKC Reps to Continue
Whether the number of Executive Field Representatives currently employed by AKC will be sufficient to observe provisional (or “permit”) judges in the future is a question which has caused some alarm. Many provisional judges pay their own expenses to fulfill assignments in order to become regularly approved. If AKC does not provide AKC reps to observe these judges, yet insists on observation as a condition for regular approval, the provisional judges have reason for concern.
A direct question to the AKC Judging Operations department resulted in a response to the effect that the alleged problem of field representative observations is “greatly overstated.” A provisional judge may contact Judging Operations if there should be a concern late in the approval process. Provisional assignments would generally count even if a member of the Executive Field Staff were not in attendance at a show.
Bo Bengtson is founder, past publisher and editor-at-large for Dogs in Review, as well as an AKC and FCI approved judge. He has been involved in most aspects of the dog sport for more than 50 years.