Tuesday, May 18, 2010


CH Foxrhode Virgils Morgan
An English Foxhound, AKC’s Rarest Breed

For the most part we consider ourselves a cheer leader for AKC dog shows.  Every week we encourage the public to visit a dog show and dutifully report on every all breed show for those who didn’t get to attend the shows.  So whenever we hear of something that might negatively impact the shows, we are alarmed.  We were recently told of AKC’s plan to charge judges for the privilege of judging your breed.  AKC recently mailed a letter to all conformation judges that states in part,
“Judges will be charged an annual maintenance fee of $50 and a $10 per breed per year fee, however in the first year (2011) the per breed fee will be reduced to $5. The initial billing will be sent out in early November of this year. Fee per breed will be calculated on November 1st of each calendar year and will be based on the number of breeds that an individual has either regular or provisional status for on that date. The $25 judging application per breed fee charged all applicants including delegates will not be increased.”
That means that an all breed judge would have to pay nearly $1700 annually to be able to judge all 164 breeds.  One would think that with the current inventory of judges getting grayer by the hour, the AKC would be doing everything they could to encourage qualified people to enter the judging ranks, not encourage people to get out of the business.  Now, quite a few of our judges already contribute more than $1700 to AKC sponsored charities, but we suspect they might rankle at being told to cough up another $1700 for the AKC’s general fund.  Try as we may, we cannot come up with a rationalization that makes us believe that this will increase the number or quality of our judges.

We have another concern.  One thing we are passionate about is the preservation of what the British Kennel Club call “breeds at risk“.  We use that term to refer to those breeds which have annual registrations around 200 or less.  Think about that. More than 25 percent of AKC breeds are “at risk”.   Now, if you read this blog, chances are you have actually seen a Komondor in person, but how many people out there have never been to a dog show?   Do you think that the average dog owner could tell the difference among an American Foxhound, an English Foxhound, or a Harrier?  Most of these at risk breeds have been saved from extinction by dedicated people who rely on AKC conformation shows to educate the general public about their breeds.   What will happen to these breeds now that judges will have to pay for the right to judge these rare breeds?  Might a judge decide that he/she could reduce their annual fee by eliminating those breeds they rarely see anyway?  Maybe not, more likely the judge will just decide to go back to being a dog fancier and an occasional exhibitor and leave judging to those people that don’t mind paying more and getting nothing more. 

A Face Book group, I Am Opposed to the Judges Maintenance/Breed Fee, was formed this past Friday in protest and already has over 2400 members.  We encourage you to educate yourself on this issue and contact AKC with your concerns.  We truly believe that the future of our sport is in jeopardy.


  1. thank you for finding out the fee. I'm ok with charging a fee but that high is ridculous. You will see judges not being judges anymore I'm sure.

  2. The fact of the matter is that the AKC is hemorrhaging cash and has been for years. The fact of the matter is that AKC depends on a large, large number of registrations each year to keep itself solvent. Where does one find large numbers of dogs to register...? Why, they're being pumped out by puppy mills (oh, pardon, that's "high volume breeders", and we should learn to love them, according to the AKC).

    As the AKC (rightly) sought the moral high-ground with kennel inspections and stringent quality policies, puppy millers took their registration business elsewhere. Now the AKC finds itself in an uncomfortable position - namely, having become accustomed to a very high standard of living (the Madison Avenue headquarters, the library, the Museum of the Dog, and lots and lots of dog shows, which don't make the AKC much money at all).

    Cue the last-ditch efforts at drumming up cash. The judge's fees are symptomatic of a larger overall problem - namely, that those of us small breeders who hit the shows each weekend have been enjoying a hobby subsidized, in no small way, by the misery of puppy mill dogs. It's time to wean ourselves off of the teat: the AKC needs to tighten it's belt (and it has started this process, out of necessity, but it has an awfully long way to go), and WE need to understand that we can't play for free anymore.

    If you can think of better ways than the judge's fees (and other proposals) for the AKC to increase revenues (and I'm sorry, but "attract more high-volume breeders" is simply not a morally-acceptable option), I'm sure the AKC would love to hear from you. For the time being, I should think that we can recognize the sorry financial state that our "dog show world" is in, and pay the darn fee.

  3. I'd be interested how much these judges are paid. I'm sure they stay in a decent hotel and given a food allowence. Perhaps they are getting to much?

  4. Megan,

    Actually, the vast majority of registrations come from hobby breeders. I can’t give you exact statistics, but I believe less than five percent of registrations come from high volume breeders.

  5. The current fee has been RESCINDED. They are going to reassess how it is structured.

  6. This just in from AKC

    May 18, 2010

    Dear Constituents:

    Today the American Kennel Club faces unprecedented financial challenges. These challenges not only impact us in the present, but also raise critical questions about our future.

    There was a time when the American Kennel Club’s robust registration revenue provided the opportunity for the sport to flourish and the ability to do more for dogs grew unabated. However, the past few years have witnessed a marked downward spiral in registrations, leaving the memories of yesterday in the wake of the harsh realities of today. Therefore, it has been necessary to embark on a number of new initiatives in the quest for additional revenue. At the same time, there has been a constant tightening of all expenses in ways that, thus far, have not impacted our preeminent position in the world of dogs.

    Our ability to maintain a reasonable operating budget has come from alternative revenue sources, as well as some previously enacted revenue initiatives that have required exhibitors, clubs, and registered handlers to accept increased or new fees. In addition, there have been significant staff and expense reductions at AKC. When revenues fell below projections, staff made the necessary cuts to avoid an operating loss. While purebred dog organizations in other countries face serious threats to their very existence, we have been able to maintain the high level of our services to the sport, launch new programs, continue our important philanthropic contributions, and protect a financial reserve that helps ensure our future. Yet the decline in revenue continues.

    Our judges are crucial to our sport. They not only officiate at our events; they are thought leaders, mentors, and breed experts who help bring the next generation of the fancy to maturation. Now it is time for judges to join the other constituencies of the AKC - clubs, breeders, exhibitors, and registered handlers – to make a financial contribution to help maintain the quality of the sport we all love so much.

    With this in mind, at its May 2010 meeting the AKC Board voted, without an opposing vote, to enact a fee for conformation judges. The need for that fee is undeniable. The feedback from the judging community on the necessity for the fee has been very supportive. However, the feedback on the methodology for application of the fee has met with universal disapproval. Healthy debate is critical to the viability of a strong and vibrant organization. The Board values the opinions of the judging community and appreciates the many constructive suggestions offered concerning the fee structure methodology. With the input of the judging community in mind, the Board today has taken the following actions:

    1. The previously approved fee structure has been withdrawn by the Board and new fee structures will be considered. The concept of judges’ fees remains intact.
    2. The Board has instructed AKC staff to revisit the alternatives discussed over the past year in addition to the other suggestions made recently by several judges to arrive at several equitable methods for consideration.
    3. The Board has instructed AKC staff to meet again with representatives of judges organizations for input on these methodologies before any final decision is made.
    It is imperative that all of us come together to face our challenges with the same passion, sportsmanship, and determination that is the hallmark of the great competitive spirit of the fancy. When we have come together in this manner in the past, we have accomplished great things. For the good of the sport we all love so much, we must now move forward together.

    Ronald H. Menaker
    Chairman of the Board

  7. Billy Wheeler,

    That may be 5% of AKC registrations, but what about the number of individual purebred dogs produced each year? (And this assumes that the figure is correct; I don't have the actual number, either.) The hobby-breeder world is very small, and it seems impossible that we are actually producing 95% of the purebred dogs born each year in the US. The AKC would be delighted to have those "high-volume" registrations back, because warm bodies and mailed-in registration slips = revenue.

    I'm just saying that yes, our hobby is in danger - and we need to evolve to survive. We may lament the increased costs to exhibitors/judges, the loss of the prestigious Manhattan offices, or any of the other changes that are coming down the pike, but some things need to change in order for us to continue to enjoy purebred dogs the way we do now.

    It frustrates me to see the AKC's heavy-handed and poorly-planned "innovations" for increasing revenue without inconveniencing the old guard. It angers me to hear us blame all our problems on the animal rights boogeyman (who is conveniently invoked whenever criticsm is voiced). And I say this as a third-generation fancier who grew up going to ninety shows a year! I want to see us succeed as a fancy, and I want to see us move forward to protect and preserve the purebred dog. Unfortunately, it's hard to get people to change their views and habits, and there's only so much I can do from my little soap-box.

  8. It is difficult to tell what is or is not a puppy mill or backyard breeder. So it is difficult to determine what percentage of registrations come from these vs hobby breeders. But a study was done in the 90s on Great Pyrenees registrations & it found that of all the Pyrs registered the previous year, only four percent (4%) had an AKC titled dog (conf or performance) in the 1st 3 generations of their pedigrees. It seems very likely that the other 96% were not coming from show/performance breeders.

  9. AKC needs to register all the puppies in a litter and we as breeders need to do our part in this. They could also structure registration so that it provides a tangible benefit to the companion buyer, valuable coupons for heartworm meds, pet tags, etc. To encourage breeders to register every puppy in a litter they could provide credits for AKC services, pedigrees, reports, etc. Also, the belt tightening needs to start at Maidson Ave, move all offices to NC, and review the salaries of those who have presided over this unprecendented decline.