The Times They Are A-Changin’

By Tales of Judging Tails FB Group, Theresa Goiffon Administrator. From the January 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe. 

Yes, indeed, just as the title of the popular 1964 song by Bob Dylan says, the times are changing.

Change comes with resistance, resolve, fortitude and eventually acceptance. The purpose of this article is to give the reader a clear understanding of the mission of those breeders and exhibitors, who have showcased some of their dogs in this issue of ShowSight, who choose to leave their dogs cosmetically unaltered. We expect our breeding stock to be evaluated fairly and in full by American Kennel Club judges without prejudice toward their natural state.

We are a large group of breeders who represent many different dog breeds. We breed to and follow our AKC standard with respect to our specific breed. We differ from the breed standard by making a conscious decision to have our dogs represented in their natural born state without any cosmetic alterations. Contrary to what some believe, we are not advocates for any extreme animal rights groups. Many, if not most of us, support the right of breeders to make these decisions for themselves, while others believe as our colleagues in other parts of the world that our dogs should no longer be altered at birth nor at any other time. We advocate for our dogs to receive equal consideration in the show ring.

A brief look into the history of this practice provides some theories as to why dogs were altered in the first place. Historical writings dated prior to 1796 show that in the United Kingdom a tax was levied upon working dogs with tails. Many types of dogs, therefore, were docked to avoid payment of this tax. In 1796 this tax was repealed. Others believe by docking our dogs we prevent potential injury that may occur during specific breed trait activities. Others once thought by docking tails the dogs were less likely to contract rabies. Now, in 2019, we know these original reasons for historically altering our dogs are unfounded. There are no legitimate nor medical justifications to cosmetically alter our dogs.

The following is the position of the American Veterinarian Medical Association, directly quoted from the AVMA:

"1976 POLICY Suggested by the American Animal Hospital Association and approved by the AVMA House of Delegates Resolved, that the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend to the American Kennel Club and appropriate breed associations that action be taken to delete mention of cropped or trimmed ears from breed standards for dogs and to prohibit the showing of dogs with cropped or trimmed ears if such animals were born after some reasonable future date. 2012 POLICY Reaffirmation of the 2008 policy recommended by the Animal Welfare Committee and approved by the AVMA Executive Board. The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards."

This position as stated by the AVMA is one that we stand behind.

The American Kennel Club states their current position on this issue as follows:

"The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided."

The AKC's position is to accept altering, not require it. We acknowledge and respect that the breed standard is set forth by each National Parent Club. We also acknowledge that AKC prohibits any breed standard to include any disqualification verbiage for showing dogs in their natural state. One must ask why the controversy?

We live in a global society and we know it is imperative for us to work together with breeders all over the world to protect and maximize gene pools in order to sustain and improve our pure-bred dogs. Most countries have a ban on docking and cropping. Removing prejudice against unaltered dogs in the conformation ring here in the USA would help support our dogs being shown outside of our country, thereby giving us the ability to represent the USA at international shows.

What should a breeder do when faced with the decision to crop or dock their dogs? American Kennel Club conformation judges are required to evaluate the "whole" dog, and most do. We expect the AKC judges to do so without personal bias or prejudice toward dogs being shown as they were born. Consider for a moment your dog's DNA, what is passed on to its offspring. That DNA contains the characteristics of the natural dog, regardless of whether the dog is cropped/docked. As breeding stock, the natural dog deserves to be judged equitably in comparison to its cropped/docked competition in the show ring.

In this section of ShowSight you will see many quality pure-bred dogs being shown in their natural born state despite their breed standard reflecting docked or cropped. Many of these dogs and many others not pictured in this issue have been awarded their AKC Championships, Grand Championships, group placements and national specialty placements. Some are even top ranked. We thank the multitude of judges who look beyond the parts that have not been cosmetically altered. Many of these judges acknowledge that change is coming, and it's coming sooner rather than later. These judges uphold the standard yet realize that the breed standard is not compromised when they award dogs being shown as they were born.

Together we celebrate as a large diverse group. We consult and support each other at dog shows and through social media. We are well versed on those judges who care about the future of our pure-bred dogs and we understand the importance of working together with our global friends and breeders for the betterment of our breeds. We also know with the continued decline of dog show entries that the future of this sport is in the hands of all of us.

If you are interested in joining the hundreds of breeders and exhibitors, a group that is growing daily, who want to know more about showing natural dogs in the USA, feel free to request membership to the Facebook private group called Tales about Judging Tails.

For now, it's ultimately the breeder's decision. We choose not to alter our dogs yet most respect the rights of our colleagues who decide to cosmetically alter their dogs. Let's unite and put our personal bias aside for the betterment of this wonderful sport and for pure-bred dogs everywhere. 

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