SCJA discloses AKC’s proprietary position on Judges Education and unfair hardships imposed on provisional judges due to alleged AKC financial problems.
The Senior Conformation Judges Association (SCJA) sent a letter to the American Kennel Club (AKC) in which the “action the AKC Board has taken to reduce the AKC Field Reps staff to help with the financial burden facing the AKC” was noted.
The SCJA explained the “burden on all provisional judges, but especially those who are working their way through the breeds in their first Group.” To wit, a provisional judge may travel great distances at their own expense only to find that he/she is “denied the observation opportunity if there is no Field Rep at that show.”.
The Judges Association reminds AKC that even those who are “approved for only a few breeds are judging at that show for a limited per-dog fee while personally absorbing all travel and hotel expenses.”
That letter, sent in August 2011, provided a typical example, name withheld, of “One such provisional judge who lives on the East Coast accepted a provisional assignment on the West Coast. She made the trip at her own expense and had a large entry in one of her provisional breeds, only to find there was no rep at that show.”
As of March 2013, nothing has changed. Judging invitations, acceptance, and travel arrangements are confirmed months in advance of the show date. Currently there is still no way a Provisional Judge can be assured of the required observation opportunity. The cut-back in AKC field reps means that aspiring judges will do their part as contracted with the club, but will increasingly be deprived of an all-important step towards completing their judging advancement goal.
John P. Wade was at that time Director of Judging Operations. He is presently retired and has returned to judging. He replied in part “in regards to your statement alleging the ‘present situation is a burden on all provisional judges, but is especially hard on those who are working their way through the breeds in their first Group’” Wade assured the SCJA that AKC is “taking steps to minimize the provisional judges concerns and any impact by the reduced number of Executive Field Staff members.”
Mr. Wade assures Lt. Col. Wallace H. Pede, SCJA Chief Executive Officer, “One such endeavor is the proposal of the Board appointed committee chaired by Dr. Robert D. Smith which is currently under review by the Board of Directors. Should the committee's proposal be approved the judging approval process will undergo significant changes that positively impact the judging community and sport of purebred dogs.”
November 2011, following the AKC Board meeting in which nothing was accomplished on behalf of Provisional Judges, Col. Pede’s letter to the Board states “One especially egregious provision in the Smith Committee Report still remains – AKC’s insistence that a new provisional judge “must attend” the AKC Institute thereby making it necessary for new judges to attend two basic courses should they want to attend the original, and by far, the most comprehensive basic course a new judge could attend – the ACEF Basic Institute. One AKC Board member covers the fact that the AKC should get out of judges education and leave it up to judges that have been judging 30 – 50 years. He also talks about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be saved.”
The rationale falls on deaf ears. The Colonel observes “To his credit and with previous thanks from SCJA Board members, Committee Chair Bob Smith was a motivating factor and indeed played a leading role in assisting the SCJA CEO in putting on the very first national judges institute in the early 80’s even paying his own travel expenses in the process. Presently, the committee chair and other AKC Board members who agree that the oldest most experienced judges’ institute should be acceptable were apparently unable to convince the AKC Judges Department to give up the dictatorial power they enjoy irrespective of the cost saved for the improved quality of judges education.”
Regarding the requirement that an aspiring judge must attend the AKC’S institute, Col. Pede, writing on behalf of the Judges Association Education Fund, says “The SCJA suggests once again that one of the AKC Board members, who has indicated personally that they agree, make the motion that the SCJA’s (now ACEF) five-day Judges Institute be accepted along with AKC’s own one or two-day course.”
He emphasizes the ACEF Institute provides “a full day of the top individual within AKC to lecture on AKC Rules, Regulations and Judging Guidelines and Bench Committee Hearings and Trial Boards – AKC’s Executive Secretary, Mr. James Crowley – who has always been the after-dinner speaker as well.”
Having attended the five-day ACEF event , I can personally assure readers that Mr. Crowley’s day-long presentation is neither dry nor boring and his after-dinner speech is a highlight for the judges. Crowley is articulate, entertaining, and presents a powerful yet friendly side of the American Kennel Club that is overwhelmingly appreciated by the judges
So win or lose, as an exhibitor, we hope you will better understand that most judges have earned the right to award points and ribbons through determination and personal sacrifice. The road is easier for some and yes, there are inequities, but that is true in any sport.
As someone thinking about becoming a judge, we hope this glimpse inside the first “judges association” is encouraging. The Senior Conformation Judges Association stands up for its members. The long list of accomplishments on behalf of all AKC judges signifies real representation, not knee-bending.
No corporate structure is perfect and the American Kennel Club struggles every day to abide by its Constitution and Bylaws, and to stand true and strong on behalf of the purebred dog. That is what everyone in the sport expects and deserves.
 20th ACEF Judges Institute Report & Pictorial Coverage
AKC Judging Approval System in 1996
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