End Promoting Labrador Obesity at AKC Dog Shows
This Petition is directed to the AKC, the AKC Labrador Retriever judges, and the Labrador Retriever exhibitors in the show ring. Twenty-five years ago, the Labrador Retriever breed standard was revised to bring to an end, among other practices, the showing of Labradors in overweight and poor condition. Dogs that weigh 20% above or more of their ideal body weight are considered obese. However, Labradors that are overweight and sometimes obese continue to fill show rings. It is highly unlikely that a Labrador will win routinely in the ring today unless it is at least overweight.
The Labrador Retriever is a purpose-bred breed and a member of the AKC sporting group. The Labrador was bred to retrieve both waterfowl and upland birds for long hours under difficult conditions. As such, the Labrador breed standard states dogs are to be shown in "working condition" and "without excess fat." However, since the revised standard's passage, the AKC judges, and in particular AKC breeder judges, have not enforced the requirement regarding the Labrador Retriever's conditioning. The problem of obesity in the breed has actually become much worse. We understand that not all judges reward overweight or obese exhibits. They do their best to make conditioning a factor. But judges can only judge the exhibits brought to them for their opinion, and excessive fat is not a disqualification under the standard. The problem is too pervasive for sympathetic judges to make a significant difference without a multi-focal approach.
We participate in AKC performance events, such as hunt tests, field trials, agility, obedience, tracking and the like, with Labrador Retrievers. We have Labradors as family companions. We would like to participate in dog shows, but we will not subject our dogs to as much as an estimated 20 lb. weight gain (over and above our dog's healthy weight) just to satisfy our wishes. The sport is supposed to be fun and fair for the dogs too. No dog bearing as much as an extra twenty pounds with a heavy show coat would be comfortable moving in the show ring in the hot sun. For us, our dogs' health comes first.
The Labrador Retriever is the most versatile breed on earth, and it is the most popular breed in America. The opportunity to enjoy the return of the dual purpose Labrador, a dog with both the conformation and intelligence to carry out the breed's purpose, has been effectively blocked on account of an unspoken understanding that a Labrador be overweight or obese in order to acquire a show championship. Some dogs are shown in appropriate weight, but they have to be extraordinary dogs to win at an AKC show.
The enabling has to stop for the sake of our dogs and our breed. The AKC has committed significant funding to canine health issues, but the number one avoidable problem for America's most popular breed has not been given appropriate attention by the Kennel Club or the Labrador show fancy. The life of an overweight Labrador will be shortened by approximately 2 years on account of its excessive weight. Surely the AKC understands the significance of this nationwide health issue for our breed. Addressing excess weight and obesity in the Labrador should not be limited to what the standard requires. It is first and foremost a health issue, and the promotion of healthy dogs at AKC dog shows is the responsibility of all so interested.
Fat is not substance nor is it lean muscle mass; and fat does not look like either. Assuredly when judges find a dog in the ring that is fit, when compared to the majority of overweight dogs, the fit dog appears to lack "breed type" and, chances are, will be disregarded by judges. Fat is not a feature of Labrador breed type under any reasonable definition.
We are petitioning the AKC, the judges of the Labrador Retriever and the exhibitors to take action. We do not include the Parent Club, the Labrador Retriever Club, among the parties petitioned. The Labrador Retriever Club invested ten years in seeing a well-detailed standard to passage addressing this issue. The LRC did its part but the AKC, AKC judges and Labrador exhibitors in AKC shows have not done theirs to address this problem.
The AKC and AKC judges control all aspects of Labrador Retriever shows and all aspects of judging of the breed's conformation. Exhibitors have created the problem by continually showing overweight and obese dogs at AKC shows. Our breed's future is solely at their mercy. Please STOP awarding overweight and obese dogs champion points. Please STOP enabling Labrador exhibitors who bring overweight and obese dogs with a win. Exhibitors please STOP entering poorly-conditioned, overweight dogs expecting that doing so is somehow necessary to win. Exhibitors and judges, please reread the standard before entering the ring and think about the consequences of your decisions regarding this breed's future. Many of us have dedicated our lives to end the division in this breed. It's time to confront these shameful practices that impact our breed's health first and foremost.
Thank you for your attention,
Christopher G. Wincek, Esq.