Kennel Clubs of the World: The Kennel Club (UK)

A new series, outlining the activities and constitution of national kennel clubs worldwide as a comparison to the American Kennel Club.

The Kennel ClubFounded: April 4, 1873 in London, making it the oldest national kennel club in the world. (AKC was founded in 1884.)

Background: Dog shows, which had started to be held in the mid-1800s, were initially organized as private, for-profit events and were largely unregulated. It was soon decided that a controlling body was necessary to handle and coordinate show regulations, classification, registrations, a stud book, etc. The first volume of the Kennel Club Stud Book contained records of shows from 1859 through 1873.

Shows: The Kennel Club licenses canine organizations, which undertake to hold shows according to Kennel Club rules. There are different types of shows; the largest and most important are the championship shows (all-breed, Group or breed club shows), where Challenge Certificates (three of which won under three different judges are required for a Champion title) may be awarded.

Only approximately 25 “general” all-breed championship shows are held each year, with entries at most varying from around 5,000 to over 20,000 dogs for the Kennel Club’s own show, Crufts. Only Belfast in Northern Ireland is considerably smaller with around 2,500 dogs entered. The newest championship show, Boston, offers CCs for only 21 breeds and had about 4,400 dogs entered at last year’s show.

Most of the single-Group shows achieve entries of 2,200-2,300 dogs. (This is very different from the US, where AKC annually licenses around 1,500 all-breed shows with championship points and an average entry of less than 1,000 dogs at each.)

The number of CCs allocated for each breed varies: popular breeds with high entry figures may compete for CCs at more shows than rare breeds. In other words, a breed whose entries drop may lose one or more sets of CCs, and when breed entries increase additional CCs may be made available.

The most obvious difference for a visitor used to AKC shows is that British shows do not offer a champion class. Champions continue to compete for the CCs with non-champions, making the UK champion title far more difficult to achieve than most others.

Another major difference is that dogs with cropped ears and docked tails are ineligible for competition under Kennel Club rules. Dogs with cropped ears have been banned by the Kennel Club from entry at shows since 1898.

Tail docking was banned legally in the UK in 2007, at which time cropping also actually became illegal. Until then cropping had not been banned formally by statute, only by the Kennel Club. Breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and Boxers, which were shown uncropped in the UK in the past, are now also shown undocked.

The entry fee at championship shows is approximately £25 ($35), which includes the provision of a bench for each dog. The provision of benching is compulsory at the large shows. Judges are expected to write critiques of the first two placements in each class; the critiques are published in the weekly dog press, Dog World and Our Dogs.

There are also approximately 1,500 open shows (without CCs) with entries from 100 to 2,000 dogs; 250 limited shows and 900 companion shows annually.

Registrations: The number of Kennel Club registrations in 2010 was 257,062. This is almost half of AKC’s total, although the human population of the UK is only about 20 percent of that in the US. This ratio is much higher than in the past, when the KC used to register only about 20 percent of the AKC’s total. Last year’s figures are not available yet; they will probably be down a bit in 2011.

The registration fee is £13 ($20) per puppy. All puppies registered are named. There is a further fee of £15 ($23) if or when the puppy is transferred to its new owner. You can also register your kennel name for £50 ($75, plus £20 per year in maintenance fee). Qualified breeders can join the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme for £15 (plus £10 annual renewal).

Most popular breeds according to the latest available data are, in descending order, Labrador Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Golden Retriever, West Highland White TerrierPug and Boxer.

Membership: As opposed to AKC, the Kennel Club allows individual memberships. The maximum number of members allowed is 1,500. (Currently only about 1,250 of those places are taken up.) The maximum number of members is double what it used to be. In the past you could only become a member if proposed and seconded by two existing members. Now you can, in certain circumstances, apply to become a member without being proposed. The annual membership fee is £160 (approx. $245).

There are three levels of individual involvement in the KC:

Members — with full voting rights at General Meetings of Members, including the right to vote in the election of General Committee (Board) Members, and the right to be a candidate for election to that Committee. This includes a small number of overseas members, including some from the US.

Associates — with no voting rights or eligibility to stand for election to the General Committee, but receive certain KC publications and rights to some representation on certain sub committees.

Affiliates — similar to Associates, but without the right to representation on subcommittees.

Once you have been an Associate for five years, or an Affiliate for two and an Associate for three years, you can apply for membership without a proposer or seconder.

All elections to membership have to be approved by the General Committee and need to have a two-thirds majority of that committee to succeed. In fact, by far the majority of those standing for membership are approved.

Judges: Because entries are large and can financially sustain specialist judges, about 80 percent of the judges who award CCs are single-breed judges. Currently only one person is approved to judge every breed, but there are many more judges who specialize in groups.

Through a network of accredited trainers the Kennel Club takes direct responsibility for the basic training and examination of beginner judges on “Rules and Judging Procedures” and for “Conformation and Movement.” Breed clubs are responsible for training on breed type, but their seminars must be organized strictly in line with a Kennel Club Code of Best Practice. Multi-breed judges are trained, developed and assessed through individual Groups; again, the seminars, hands-on judging tests and evaluations are closely supervised by the Kennel Club.

The approval of judges for CCs is carried out by the Kennel Club. No judge is permanently “licensed,” except breed by breed and for one time only. Each CC assignment has to be separately approved. Breed clubs are asked for their opinion on first-time judges. The amount of hands-on judging experience required for breeds differs according to their popularity, with some breeds requiring 300-400 dogs to be judged at open shows, others only 50, prior to approval to award CCs.

Governance: The Management of the Kennel Club is in the hands of the General Committee, which consists of 24 members plus three trustees. The 24 General Committee members are elected by members at the Annual General Meeting; eight are elected each year for a period of three years.

Trustees tend to be senior General Committee members and are elected by the General Committee. There are no term limits, but committee members all have to retire at age 75. The chairman and vice chairman are elected annually by the General Committee from among their number. Again, there are no term limits.

Because the General Committee is so big, it has evolved that the main subcommittee is Finance and General Purposes, which is the main driver of strategy for the Kennel Club. However, its decisions also have to be approved by the General Committee. There are many subcommittees which make recommendations to the General Committee on matters such as…

Those subcommittees marked * can have a majority who are not necessarily Kennel Club members.

In order to involve the grass roots clubs (breed clubs, show societies, agility clubs, field trial clubs, etc.), there are liaison councils for the various activities. They meet and make recommendations to the subcommittees listed above with *. Liaison councils also have the right to elect people to the subcommittees listed above with *.

There are 719 breed clubs, 589 general canine societies (shows and field trials), 398 training societies, etc.

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