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January 2003 News:
AKC Board of Directors lifts moratorium on NGA registrations!

At the January 2003 meeting of the American Kennel Club Board of Directors, the Board voted 12 to 1 to lift the moratorium on AKC registration of Greyhounds registered with the National Greyhound Association.

Now, the situation is back to the where it was in 2001, at least as far as the AKC is concerned. Racing Greyhounds may be AKC registered. The situation within the Greyhound Club of America is in flux, in that there was a recent club election where the posts of President, Recording Secretary, and Corresponding Secretary were won by supporters of an open stud book. At the time of this writing (mid-January) it's unclear what will happen within the club regarding this issue. For more information, check the Chronology.

In January 2002, the American Kennel Club Board of Directors voted to have a 'moratorium' on the registration of National Greyhound Association (NGA) Greyhounds while they consider a request of the Greyhound Club of America (GCA) directors. The GCA board has asked the AKC to disallow the registration of NGA hounds.

Here's some background: The American Kennel Club registers dogs produced by AKC registered parents of the same breed and also registers dogs from some foreign and domestic registries, such as the Canadian Kennel Club, the Field Dog Stud Book (registry for hunting pointer and setter breeds), and the National Greyhound Association (NGA), the registry body for most racing greyhounds in the U.S.

The AKC registry (known as the "stud book") has been open to NGA dogs since its inception, but in the late 1940's, the NGA closed its registry to the AKC dogs. In retaliation, the AKC closed their stud book to NGA registered dogs in 1949. The AKC Greyhound stud book was reopened to racing Greyhounds in 1960 and a small number of show breeders, mostly those trying to produce show dogs that also course competitively, have used racing dogs in their breeding programs. Keep in mind that except for an eleven year period from 1949 to 1960, NGA dogs have been fully accepted for registration by the AKC.

While the National Greyhound Association registers tens of thousands of Greyhounds each year, the AKC registers fewer than 200. Most of those are bred by breeders who participate in dog shows. Many show breeders select their dogs for breeding primarily using aesthetic criteria, but some of the show people also course their dogs at lure coursing or open field events. Dog shows tend to promote physical extremes, so some of us feel it's good to test the dogs on a regular basis to be sure that you're breeding dogs who can still function well.

In general, the Greyhounds selected for success at dog shows tend to be taller, narrower, have longer rear legs (technically speaking, 'more rear angulation') and they have less muscle than the average racing dog. Show dogs have been selected for consistently producing some cosmetic traits like a long muzzle and ears that are semi-pricked when the dog is alert. While there are AKC greyhounds that look very similar to some NGA dogs in many respects, others are more exaggerated in type. Some folks think that the more extreme show dogs are more ornamental than functional but they are all purebred Greyhounds.

With so few AKC Greyhound litters bred each year, the show dog gene pool is relatively small. This problem is compounded by the fact that in some years, a few prominent stud dogs will sire most of the puppies registered by the AKC. While some show breeders have imported show dogs, mostly from England and Scandinavia, the imported show dogs all go back to a small number of English show dogs who are prominent in almost all show pedigrees.

"Small gene pool" is basically a polite way of saying "inbred". A lot of AKC litters are produced by 'kissing cousins' so to speak. Not everyone favors this kind of breeding, however. A few AKC Greyhound breeders who course their dogs have combined the NGA and AKC bloodlines and some of the dogs from NGA/AKC pedigrees have both finished show championships and lure coursing or open field coursing titles.

The Greyhound Club of America (GCA) is considered the "parent club" for the Greyhound within the AKC. The club members are mostly show fanciers. The GCA is not a representative sample of greyhound owners as a whole, since pet owners and owners of coursing and racing greyhounds are rarely invited to join the club. Getting into the club is a bit like getting into a private country club. You have to have two current members sponsor you, then the entire membership is allowed to comment, and finally the board of directors considers whether to approve your application. When I first got a Greyhound, you could not even get an application to the club if a club officer did not personally know you. The current officers and directors of the club are now rejecting applications for membership from applicants whom they suspect disagree with them regarding the AKC registration of NGA dogs.

The issue of whether the NGA dogs should be eligible for entry into the AKC stud book came to a vote in the club four years ago, and the membership voted to leave the stud book open to NGA dogs. There has been no great avalanche of NGA dogs into the AKC registry. A few show people who wanted to breed to NGA dogs did so, most show breeders did not, and in the past, there was a 'live and let live' attitude among most of the breeders.

For some reason, in recent years a number of GCA members have become obsessed with this issue and decided to contest the decision to 'live and let live'. They have been writing letters to magazines and newsletters that are sent to dog show fanciers and have expressed the following opinions about racing Greyhounds: that they are ugly, genetically unhealthy, and that they are no longer Greyhounds at all but some other breed entirely. They have expressed the fear that the NGA dogs will suddenly flood into show rings and outnumber the show greyhounds at conformation shows.

This vocal group has decided that NGA Greyhounds are somehow less worthy and less true to the heritage of the breed than the dogs bred for conformation shows. After some machinations and political mischief, they convinced the board of directors of the Greyhound Club of America to ask the AKC to close the stud book. This was done in contravention of the club's own constitution, which states that the club is ruled by Roberts Rules of Order. (This means the only way the prior vote could have been legitimately overturned would have been to hold another vote of the members and get a 2/3 majority.) This was pushed through the GCA board without prior notice and without another vote of the membership. Some members had privately circulated a petition, but the petition signatures were never officially submitted or validated. So this was done primarily as a result of backroom politicking and without the open discussion and debate that preceded the vote of the club membership that determined that the stud book would remain open.

I'm one of those breeders who has shown an NGA dog to a show championship and my current dogs have pedigrees that are a mix of NGA and AKC bloodlines. The NGA dogs tend to produce offspring with more muscle and speed than many of the AKC lines, and I like to live with and show Greyhounds that are still fast running athletes, as has been historically the traditional type of the breed. I don't breed often or show a tremendous lot, but my dogs have done reasonably well.

Obviously, having chosen for many years to breed dogs with pedigrees that include NGA dogs, I don't agree that they're ugly. Not every dog in a breed is going to be equally attractive, but there are plenty of lovely racing dogs out there. There's never been any formal study, but from what I've seen over the years, the AKC dogs are not any healthier or long-lived than the NGA dogs reared in pet homes. There are a few health problems more common in the NGA dogs (one form of cancer and pannus, for example) but there are some health problems more common in the show dogs (bloat, some other forms of cancer, and certain heart problems, to name a few).

As for which group is deserving of being considered Greyhounds, I think that it's bizarre that some breeders of show greyhounds want to 'excommunicate' the dogs who are bred for running. To say that the few show Greyhounds bred each year are the only true Greyhounds in America ignores the fact that through the history of the breed these dogs were selected on the basis of ability, not appearance. The Greyhound was originally developed to run after hares, not trot in small circles inside show rings. And if NGA hounds are not Greyhounds, it's kind of odd that some of them have earned show championships and that some dogs with NGA/AKC pedigrees have won major awards at breed specialty shows in the US and Canada.

No one has ever forced any AKC breeders to breed their dogs to NGA dogs. A relatively small number of people have done it, but there has been no flood of NGA dogs into the show rings. In fact, the numbers have been very modest, (though the few who have been shown show up in the pedigrees of many currently successful show dogs). And there are many other breeds where the number of hunting or working dogs in the breed far outnumber the show dogs - yet those who wish to keep separate lines of show dogs do manage to do this quite well. But if you read the letters to some publications like Dog News or the Greyhound Club of America Newsletter by those who seek to disenfranchise the racing dogs, you'll see that some folks are completely irrational about this issue. It's getting to be the dog fancier equivalent of a war over racial purity and miscegenation.

Since most of the people reading this are not Greyhound breeders, you might feel this doesn't effect you. But registering a dog with the AKC is not just for breeders. A lot of pet owners who never breed will AKC register their dogs or apply for "Indefinite Listing Privilege" so that they and their dogs can participate in agility trials, obedience trials, coursing events, and other amateur dog activities.

If the AKC agrees to the request by the Greyhound Club of America to bar the AKC registration of NGA registered Greyhounds, they will be agreeing that the NGA hounds are a different breed or that their registrations are somehow inferior to those of dogs from foreign registries or the Field Dog Stud Book. And if racing Greyhounds are not considered registrable Greyhounds by the AKC, it's not hard to anticipate that the next step might be to bar them from ALL AKC events. So this turn of events should be a warning to the owners of rescue dogs who enjoy agility, obedience and coursing competitions. You should not assume that NGA dogs will always be eligible for these events. (In fact, for most of the pointer, setter, spaniel and scenthound breeds, ILP dogs are NOT eligible to compete in field trials.)

And consider the precedent. In the past, the AKC has denied dogs registration only in cases when there were questions as to the accuracy of the pedigrees involved. In this instance, no one has claimed that the National Greyhound Association record-keeping or pedigrees are sloppy. In fact, their standards in this regard are higher than those of the AKC. All NGA dogs are tattooed for permanent identification and the NGA requires DNA testing to be done for all dogs used for breeding.

While in the past, the Greyhound Club of America accepted Greyhound fanciers for membership based on the applicants' interest in the breed and the quality of care they gave to their dogs, the club now is rejecting extremely qualified, experienced fanciers, because in the words of one recently resigned officer, "Every issue is decided in light of the Stud Book matter." Applicants are no longer discussed in open Board meetings, as has been the policy since 1994. For more information on this, please see the GCA Membership and Chronology pages.

If this moratorium is made permanent, the AKC will become the first and only country to reject the racing Greyhound as a part of the Greyhound breed. The Kennel Club of England does accept racing Greyhounds for full registration, as is the case throughout the world.

The AKC should not follow the wishes of a club's directors when that vote is of questionable legality (and is unwise, to boot.) The Greyhound isn't the only parent club in the AKC whose membership is not representative of the breed as a whole. If, sometime in the future, the Foxhound owners who show their dogs or the some of the show fanciers who have sporting dogs decide that the dogs used for hunting are not pretty enough, will they the AKC may be asked to stop accepting the registration of performance-bred dogs from those breeds as well.

S. Pober
Golightly Greyhounds

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Revision history:
30 Jan 02 corrected dates of stud book closure period, plus new links to show ring article and Gazette column.
7 February 2002 - Letters from GCA officers, spreadsheet on litter information added.
9 February 2002 - COI spreadsheet updated, html validated.
22 May 2002 - AKC director info updated, new COI spreadsheet data, new notable dog info added.
12 October 2002 - layout revision, chronology page added, club documents and membership info added.
January 2003 - Greyhound club election results and news from AKC added.

2 February 2003 - New health articles added. Links checked and html re-validated
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2003 S. Pober