UK Show Dog Exhibitors Who Support An End To K.C. Coat-testing
The Kennel Club should cease with immediate effect the practice of coat testing for powder,lacquer and silicone-based grooming products. After witnessing the treatment of Poodle exhibitors this year at Crufts by Club officials, I, supported by many others across a wide spectrum of breeds, felt compelled to challenge our Kennel Club's regulations with regard to the preparation and presentation of show dogs and the practice of coat testing. Currently it is considered unacceptable for exhibitors to use products which may alter the texture of the coat. These include chalk, powder, lacquer, and grooming products which contain silicone. The latter is commonly found in shampoo and conditioners for both human and canine use. These items are used to enhance our dogs for the ring and make them appear at their best for exhibition. I know that the KC endorses the views of most exhibitors in that ''freedom and a natural life'' is paramount for our beloved companions. Dogs with white coats who enjoy such a lifestyle will no doubt experience some dulling of the hair as a result, and therefore benefit from the use of brightening powders and chalks. Dogs with drop-coats such as Maltese, Yorkies and Shih Tzu are normally washed and conditioned in shampoos which invariably contain silicone as a way to maintain a sleek appearance and prevent the coat from tangling. Poodle exhibitors traditionally use lacquer to enhance the topknot of hair which frames their dogs' face. In fact, most breeds regularly use products to simply increase shine, and others to increase (or decrease) volume. No unfair advantage is gained as everyone has access to these materials and uses them where appropriate, but all mentioned about should technically disqualify a dog from competition under current regulations. The fact is that each time we bathe our dogs we alter their coat texture and thereby break the KC's rules. Adding to this frustration is how the KC enforces these rules. The practise of ''coat testing'' for foreign substances is carried out in a supposedly random fashion across a small minority of breeds most commonly including Bichons, Poodles and a selection of Terriers. In all cases during the last decade only the Dog CC and Reserve CC winners have been tested. These facts reinforce the belief of many that to call the process random is a contradiction of terms. The winning dogs and their handlers are removed from the ring immediately after their wins, and taken to a designated area. A vet drags a selection of flea combs through the coat to obtain samples of hair, perhaps to the discomfort of the dog himself. The samples are sent to a forensics lab to be tested for foreign substances such as the ones mentioned above. As an experienced exhibitor who has been through this process firsthand , I can say that it is thoroughly intimidating and distressing for both dog and handler. For an exhibitor who has just experienced the joy of winning a coveted card, the euphoria is quickly drained away as he finds himself embroiled in this unexpected scenario. Following the dog judging at Crufts this year, this scene played out in the Miniature Poodle ring. No fewer than 8 suited officials escorted the two female exhibitors (one of whom was Swedish and spoke only broken English) to the testing area. Confusion and frustration grew around the ringside as judging was delayed until further notice. It was a sad reflection on our sport, at our most publicised and publicly-attend event, for an air of wrong-doing and the inferred allegations of ''cheating'' to pervade the hall. More than one exhibitor was heard to say ''I can't believe I paid money to see our breed treated this way!'' The owner of the RCC winner, 80 year old June Clark, is a longtime breeder/exhibitor of Miniature Poodles. She was terribly upset and distressed at being made to feel as though she had done something wrong, and later needed much consoling from fellow exhibitors on what should have been a day of celebration. Why were these two animals tested from the 20,000+ who competed at Crufts? When health and welfare are so rightly a top priority, enforcing these regulations is a distraction from more important issues. If KC-sanctioned testing was used to ward off dangerous substances or performance-enhancing drugs, none of us would argue at its importance in maintaining a safe enviroment for our canine friends. But when such force is used to detect what boils down to high-street beauty enhancers, which pose NO welfare risk or potential ill side-effects, it is time for re-evaluation. It is important to note the specific wording of this proposal. We are asking for an end of testing for powder, lacquer and silicone-based products ONLY. We are NOT suggesting that other substances which permanently change natural colour or natural texture such as DYE or Chemical straighteners should be acceptable. We support the continued testing for dye should the KC choose to do so. Some might fear that if regulation on grooming products is relaxed, then the proverbial flood gates will open. However, when one considers that out of the 4 tests carried out at Crufts this year (Miniature Poodles and Westies), all 4 samples came back positive for substances, it is clear that the current methodology is NOT effective. Nor is it conclusive as to how the substances arrived on the hair samples. Cross-contamination from other exhibitors within the grooming area is one very plausible explanation. What is obvious is that exhibitors want to present their dogs in a manner which affords them the look they desire, whilst remaining safe and harmless to the dogs themselves. We are asking for common sense to prevail in this matter. We implore the KC to accept that the practise of coat-testing is no longer appropriate and conjures up more negatives than benefits.