Questioning Compulsory Membership


In Australasia, buying a registered pedigree dog is insufficient to enable participation in pure breed activities. In every state of Australia and in New Zealand, it is compulsory to first become a member of your resident State body. These State bodies control the registers of pure breed dogs with each State having their own Constitution, Rules and Regulations. As only one controlling body is permitted in each state, surely we should ask the question, is this democracy? I believe this exclusivity leads to problems of over regulation.

Exclusivity of State Bodies

The First Westminster (USA) Dog Show 1877The First Westminster (USA) Dog Show 1877

Historically, pure breed dog registries were set up in each State modelled on the Kennel Club (UK) procedures. By the early 1900's Victoria is one State which had more than one Registry. So if you were prevented from using a name by one Registration body, you could register it with another!

Gundogs Frankston Australia c 1945Gundogs Frankston Australia c 1945

When the depression hit in the early 1930's, these registration bodies were struggling financially. So, the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) offered Presidential and Secretarial services if the dog people agreed to amalgamate the various registration bodies into the already existing Kennel Control Council (KCC). For 56 years this situation remained in Victoria as an all-male affair, with its Committee 'appointed' (but in reality rubber-stamped') by the RASV, itself also an all-male affair. By 1990, this situation became socially unacceptable and, based on my personal Equal Opportunity case, the KCC became the democratically elected VCA. Co-incidentally, the RASV also suddenly appointed women into its ranks!

KCC Park, Skye, Indoor PavilionKCC Park, Skye, Indoor Pavilion

However, the situation of exclusivity remains to this day and has always been dogmatically protected. During the 1960's the St. Kilda Kennel Club was set up as an alternative registration body. With no natural justice or fair trade practices in place at that time, the old KCC simply disqualified any judges who were listed by the St. Kilda Kennel Club. Additionally,  any dogs which were registered with this 'unrecognised organisation' were disqualified from joining another. So the St.Kilda Kennel Club folded.

Pyrenean Mountain DogPyrenean Mountain Dog

There was also another attempt by Eddie Van Eck of 'Andorra' Pyrenean Mountain Dog fame in the 1980's. It also folded and Eddie was disqualified for his entrepreneurial ideas which included the purchase of KCC Park. As the years rolled by, the exclusively continued. But KCC Park remains as a world class asset of the Victorian Canine Association, now trading as Dogs Victoria.

Alternative Registration Bodies

Cocker SpanielCocker Spaniel

This compulsory membership remains in place in every State. Additionally only one Breed Clubs is allowed in most States. Is this resulting in unnecessary dictatorships? If so, are the alternate dog registration bodies like they have in USA the answer? There they co-exist with the American Kennel Club (AKC). However, neither the Kennel Club (UK), nor the European equivalent (FCI), nor the ANKC recognise either the pure breed registry or the judges of these alternative dog organisations.

Hungarian VizslaHungarian Vizsla

Also, in the current climate of exclusivity in Australia, is the mandatory current situation of one breed club per State and one State Controlling member body overseen by the ANKC simply a 'left-over' from the old days and traditions? If so, do members wish to continue down this out-dated path? Or do members like the idea of alternative registration body and breed clubs, with dual membership of both dogs and judges catered for, leaving room for pure breed activities to occur in situations with more democracy?

Compulsory Membership

Poodle Brown DwarfPoodle Brown Dwarf

With the pure-breed dog Stud Register being the basis of our existence, let me first draw an analogy. If I want to own a car I do not have to be a member of VicRoads to register it. So why should I have to be a member of Dogs Victoria to register my pure breed dogs? I can understand our administrators. What a great source of income! This compulsory membership a few decades ago generated so much income for the KCC, they had to 'launder' some money to prove they were a non-profit making organisation! I believe that, to avoid being taxed on all this income, they purchased KCC Park.

It is my understanding that our 'sister' organisations, the Kennel Club (UK), the FCI and the AKC do not compulsorily require membership in order to register their dogs. Is compulsory membership of a State body acceptable in order to register our pure breed dogs, when there is no alternative? If not, how would the State bodies maintain an adequate income stream as well as basic disciplinary procedures?

Over Regulation

Group of SalukiGroup of Saluki

Is the maintaining of power through exclusivity and compulsory membership the reason why we are so over-regulated? Are many of our Rules and Regulations unnecessarily pushed by those with Animal Rights and personal agendas? Specific examples of this have been recently covered by Dog News Australia (DNA). I could add more including the one in the last issue of DNA which was a case of administrators not understanding but doggedly attempting to act against their own Regulations. But suffice to say these specific examples just add to the problem. So is the third reason why our unique Australian dog organisation which keeps our Pure Breed Stud Registry at present in decline because of over-regulation? If so, does anyone have any ideas on how to reduce these superfluous Regulations?

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

Surely exclusivity and compulsory membership add up to non-democratic processes. Many wars have been fought and lost over a lack of democracy! Punishment of its own members for acting against one of our myriad of rules and regulations which administrators may or may not understand is, in my opinion as bad as being fired upon by our own governments.

Many of us feel we are constantly under threats from those in charge. In order to prosper and grow surely the better alternative would be to build on the solid foundation of education, promotion and respect. We have people with a lifetime of experience within our ranks. But all too often these people are over-shadowed by those with animal rights and personal agendas.

Tibetan SpanielTibetan Spaniel

So, let's get back to basics. The ANKC is in the unique position of being Australia's only pure breed dog organisation. They are responsible for keeping Australia's only pure breed Stud Register, the heartbeat and pulse of what make us all tick. It is in our hands whether we continue to accept compulsory membership and exclusivity causing over-regulation, or think about the consequences of change.

References and Further Reading

Originally published as"Time to ask Questions?" by Jane Harvey in Dog News Australia (Australian Canine Press Pty Ltd, Austral NSW) ISSN 1834-1837 April 2011 Pages 4 and 16