An Open Letter to the Working Presa Forum
February 12, 2002
I want to thank you for writing back to me. I have followed your work on the message boards for almost two years now, and have always enjoyed your insights. I want to take the opportunity to talk a little more about my goals, by playing the devil’s advocate regarding the article you mentioned on “AKC and the like”.
At the risk of prefacing with too much flattery, this article is a good example of why I have followed the Working Presa Forum. I am not a frequent contributor, because posting on message boards always makes me a little queasy, but I try to visit whenever I can and see what’s new. I think great things have been done with this board by creating an informative and useful place to share ideas. This is not an easy accomplishment, as a visit to some other boards will quickly show.
I decided to place my letter on the Working Forum because of the respect that I have for the people involved. While I must broaden the scope if interest in this project is to build, I think that while starting out this is the best place to defend the goal of UKC recognition because I will not be “preaching to the choir”. This is a serious audience, and a skeptical one. If I can challenge your preconceptions, convince anyone here to participate, or simply investigate directly, I’ll have accomplished a lot.
Although I am speaking primarily of an article in another thread, I would like to reply here, as a selfish effort to keep some attention on the goal of UKC recognition. I thank you for your patience, and allowing me to do so.
My thesis here will be that it is too simplistic to demonize competitive registry organizations in one broad stroke, and that in fact it sabotages the goal of improving a breed by relegating oneself to an extremist fringe. I will pursue this argument by questioning some of the claims and opinions that were presented, and more broadly, argue that the interconnection of those facts presented, which are true, is specious and self-contradictory. In the comments below, I will address my arguments in the second person, referring to no individual but instead what I perceive as a chorus of opinion.
A hundred years ago, your opinion of the AKC would be shared by a person by the name of Chauncey Z. Bennett. He too was dismayed by the cliquish AKC and its organizational structure that favored the look of a dog so highly that its intelligence and performance were lost. His solution was to form a new kennel club, which he called the UKC, and in its charter he placed the working and performance aspects of the dog above all else.
I believe you have more in common with him than you realize, but you lack his insight and wisdom. What you are doing is rejecting outright any form of organization beyond chat forums and kennel specific training seminars, specializing in only one performance characteristic of the breed, namely protection. As a philosophy this is anarchistic and nihilistic. Where Mr. Bennett penned his goals into an organizational charter so that his ideal would become a legacy and have an impact upon society, you have rejected any and all organized institutions, clearly stated goals, and participation in the broader society.
This broader society is both that world in which we live, and the community of people who share our interests, or have interests closely related to ours. This is why Mr. Bennett’s organization and its charter are so important. We live in a world of other people, whose ideas do not always or even often correspond with ours. We rely upon this society to allow us to pursue our interests, such as working dogs. By organizing, we take advantage of the structure and strength of institutions left to us by people like Chauncey Bennett. By embracing their charter, we have goals that are no longer nebulous. By becoming involved, we achieve those goals, through competitive events including all aspects of a dog, from its conformation to its abilities in the field. And finally, we have a means to distinguish one dog from another.
I would like to posit the hypothesis that if you are no longer registering your dogs, then your dogs are no longer Presas. They are Bandogges. A Bandogge is a mongrel, highly bred for size and performance characteristics, but with no restrictions placed upon its genealogy, and hence no history that has any meaning, since at any time it can be bred to anything and no history of its lineage will survive more than a few generations. A Presa is a breed of dog that traces back to a program started in the late 1970’s by a group of breeders in the Canary Islands, in an effort to redevelop an ancient breed that was nearly lost. The distinction is critical for two reasons. First, if you pursue the Bandogge course, which if you don’t register your dog you are doing whether you like it or not, your line will separate from the broader population, simply for practical reasons. Second, pursuing this course will mean that all your efforts will be lost within a short period of time, because of this separation.
Your argument is also internally inconsistent. First, most of the dogs represented by this board are in fact registered with the FCI. This is a kind of dirty secret in that it exposes the oxymoron of an “anarchistic organization”. Second, by placing upon all registries the sins of one, you condemn yourself. If you choose to continue registering only with the FCI, you are being deceitful, and if you choose not to register with any organization then you have gone the route of the Bandogge, and will be swallowed up by inevitable forces around you. Your only choice is to amend your position and embrace a charter of some kind, or admit your position as an extremist fringe with no hope of influencing the future of the breed. Finally, remember that even if you do embrace the FCI, your dogs still will not be Presas. They will be Dogos. [see footnote.]
I would like to turn now to the AKC article, whose thesis is that the “collective” of the Working Presa Forum should not support any registry. I will argue that its premise, which is unstated but seems to be that all registries, no matter their goals, history, organizational structure or competitive events, are inherently detrimental to dog breeds and dogs in general, is entirely specious. I would also like to point out where I can such passages that are egregiously false.
The Foundation Stock Service of the AKC is alive and well. The AKC has however placed a moratorium on FSS breed competition in performance events. When I got my Presa in the winter of 2000, such competition was allowed, and I had to work very hard to obtain an FSS number. After a lot of work I was able to obtain FSS registration for Pride Rock’s Elizabeth II, FSS #WR031692/01. Upon getting FSS registration, I learned of the moratorium. This was a hard development to take. While I embrace neither the culture of the AKC nor the results of its conformation judging process, I do not boycott the organization. Such “boycotting” strikes me as immature, as if to say, “You did something I don’t like, so I’m taking my football and going home!” Competitive agility in the AKC is unsurpassed, and even though there are other venues of very high quality, such as NADAC and USDAA, where we will be competing this year, neither will offer the competition level that AKC offers, and neither will offer prime time television exposure. I’d give my left eye to compete in the AKC Nationals in Agility with my Presa Canario, and I hope that when we get there, you will tune in and watch us compete, even if you do stay home in a huff.
Most of what is said in the article regarding the AKC is quite true, and all I can say is “ditto” to most of it. But to extend the comparison to the UKC is quite wrong in all respects:
“as THE richest and one of the most powerful (as well as undemocratic) dog registries in the world they continue to fail to address issues that make this country a haven for puppy mills and commercial breeders, who pump out hundreds of thousands of puppies each year, most ending up euthanized by their second of fourth birthday in these country’s shelters annually, and yeah, by hundreds of thousands.”
The UKC charter is quite specific with regards to puppy mills and breeder ethics, and the following passage is patently false:
“And as far as UKC and CKC, etc. – I still see their ideas of what’s better for dogs and their people based on 19th century outdated notions of breed purity, their unyielding emphasis on conformation, their refusal to deal with issues like puppy mills, unethical breeders and genetic welfare of dogs.”
The UKC’s founding notions in 1898 were almost identical to your own (unstated) goals, and they have evolved for 100 years. UKC breeders have developed some incredible breeds of performance dogs, that simply wouldn’t exist today in their present form without the participation of the UKC breeder. A short list includes the Purple Ribbon APBT, the American Bulldog, and scores of high performance hunting breeds, who owe their high quality and sometimes very existence to the UKC.
A UKCPresa National Charter will have broad power to oversee such aspects of Presa breeders. Wouldn’t it make more sense to organize and structure our concern, rather than complain noisily from the sidelines? I encourage you to see what the UKC says about these issues, which they do far more than simply pay lip service to, and what UKCPresa can do about breed quality from within the UKC:
Bullet points on what the UKC really is: http://www.ukcdogs.com/about.html
The UKC breeder’s code of ethics: http://www.ukcdogs.com/ethics.html
The requirements of all UKC breeders: http://www.ukcdogs.com/breed_req.html
The UKC DNA program: http://www.ukcdogs.com/rules/r-4.html
“. . . several alternative kennel clubs, including the large United Kennel Club, are also in the show business, and the exhibitors participating in those events are engaging in the same harmful practices that have brought so many AKC breeds to ruin.”
This just says that there are conformation shows at the UKC. Certainly, there are. If anyone caught the UKC-Hunting Beagle National Championship on Outdoor Life Network (run #4 is Feb. 15, 2002, 11 am, on OLN), you saw that there was a conformation show. It was a modest event, and certainly not a highlight, just another activity. Out of 400 dogs, less than 40 participated. It was very casual, and the winners were all Hunting Champions. There is no chance whatsoever that conformation is harming the performance UKC dog, in any way conceivable.
Demonizing conformation out of hand is an absurdity. Conformation is a valid aspect of the complete dog, who should be judged by its physical, mental, health and performance aspects. There is no venue that addresses each of these areas more thoroughly, or in better balance, than UKC competition.
Mark Derr goes on in the quotations section of the article with data that is fast and loose, to put it mildly. His hypothetical statistics are made up, and even if they were true could be applied equally well to Dogos, or Bandogges, or unregistered Presa Canarios. The absence of registration cannot, per se, be purported to eliminate hypothetical statistics.
M. B. Willis goes on to theorize that the UKC will inevitably ruin the Border Collie, because “control” was ceded by the Sheepdog Society. What form this control takes is left to the imagination of the reader. The fact is that the UKC is a parent body of breed societies, the very thing the loss of which Mr. Willis is lamenting! While it is believable that an AKC variety of the Border Collie will someday be unable to herd sheep, the same cannot be said for those whose breeders belong to a UKC affiliated national, regional or performance organization. Providing services and structure to those organizations is what the UKC is all about.
Jeffrey Bragg finally shatters the argument through an unintended reductio ad absurdum. His thesis is that the notion of a purebred dog smacks of eugenics and is rooted in Nazi philosophy. I’d simply like to leave you with this question: How do your goals in developing a performance Presa differ from the vilified aims of “breeding best to best”, etc.? Isn’t that what you’re already doing? Adding the services, strength, and organization of a parent registry such as the UKC gives you a medium in which to do these things, to meet your goals, attract others, and help you leave behind a legacy.
At this point the argument wanders into the question of genetic diversity. While John Armstrong’s arguments are correct and admirable, the UKC fully embraces his philosophy, in exactly the same way that you do, unless, as I am beginning to suspect, you are not arguing from a morally higher ground, but rather with an ulterior motive. The goal of the article on “AKC and the like” seems to have developed by the end, to convince the reader that a purebred dog, meaning one that has a breed specific pedigree that allows new genes from neither other breeds nor mongrels, is inherently flawed and cannot be redeemed by any organizational means whatsoever. I will posit that this is untenable, defeatist, self-contradictory, and false, and will relegate you and your legacy to obscurity in short order.
In closing, I would like to express again my deep respect for the authors and the board itself. I hope that my thoughts will be accepted in the spirit of debate over crucial topics. And finally, I hope if I’ve convinced anyone that there may be any validity to any part of my arguments and thesis, that you will consider joining the efforts of UKCPresa, by visiting the web site (http://www.ukcpresa.com) and joining the effort and discussions. This goal will not be achieved without participation, and this audience is the best from which likely candidates can be found.
With Best Regards,
The paragraph regarding FCI contains inaccuracies on numerous levels, and is unsalvageable. I have chosen to leave it extant, however, for the sake of accuracy. For the complete thread, please visit: http://pub57.ezboard.com/fworkingpresacanariofrm5.showMessage?topicID=117.topic
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