Why We no Longer Belong to the Bracco Italiano Club of America
It is obvious to anyone who goes on the BICA website that we are not members. Since almost every other Bracco breeder is a member, we felt it is important to let those who might wonder about our reasons for leaving the club.
We became members during the club’s early days and during that time it developed that there were a couple of breeders (who started the club) who did not want any other members, or their input. We joined and gave our input anyway. After belonging to the club for about a year, it became apparent that things were being run in a somewhat disorganized way – that is, decisions were being made without club members‘ ideas or concerns. Eventually, Dan (Koon) was elected BICA President, with (naturally) some hard feelings among some of the past and current officers. A good deal of discussion ensued over several months about affiliating the club with some kind of hunt testing; NAVHDA, the UKC and the AKC were being considered. NAVHDA (National Ass’n for Versatile Hunting Dogs) was started for just this purpose – they essentially wrote the book on hunt testing, and was and is a very appropriate forum for Bracco testing. The United Kennel Club (UKC) was a registry started specifically to focus on the reasons breeds were created – bird, raccoon and rabbit hunting, for example. We, and several others, made our negative AKC feelings known (even though this would be hunt test affiliation and not yet breed affiliation) and a decision had not been made, much less voted upon. Then three officers got together, without Dan’s or club members’ knowledge, and contacted the AKC, requesting that hunt test affiliation.
Although we are sure that the AKC does many good things, we feel they are also responsible for many problems in purebred dogs.
It seems to us that, any time a breed is accepted by the AKC, its popularity rises dramatically. This isn’t a problem in and of itself; the problem arises due to “backyard” breeders and puppy mills, neither of which often seems to be concerned about the breed’s health, either mentally or physically. We know there are many good dog breeders out there – the problems arise when they are breeding for quantity rather than quality. Many puppy mills produce AKC registered puppies, with no regard to health screening whatsoever. Again, the general public sees “AKC” and assumes it’s a mark of quality, especially if the breeder’s website is an appealing one.
It used to be that, if a dog was AKC registered, it was generally an indication of good quality, especially if the pedigree showed champions in its background. This is still the assumption by the majority of the public; however, an AKC champion is not required to have any health screening at all (although many do.) Of course, once a dog is a champion, if he hasn’t yet been bred, he certainly will be – and many times, genetic issues such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (to name just a few) don’t show up ‘til later years, when the dog has produced many puppies (now with the same genes as the parents’.)
A case in point would be the Italian Spinoni – recognized by the AKC roughly 15 years ago. This breed has both hip and elbow dysplasia and cerebellum ataxia (a genetic brain disorder) in its lineage. We have specific knowledge of a breeder who, knowingly, breeds an AKC champion Spinoni who carries c. ataxia, and many Spinoni have lost the desire to hunt at all.
Additionally, since AKC breed shows are strictly for judging against “the standard”, that is, how the dog physically measures up in comparison to others and the breed standard, no concern is given to the dog’s original use – hunting, carting, herding, etc. What this has inevitably resulted in is beautiful dogs, potentially carrying serious genetic disorders, often without a clue as to what a bird, a cart or a sheep is. But boy – are they the AKC’s idea of a great specimen of the breed! And thus, a champion. This is not to say that all AKC champions have no idea of how to hunt – it’s just that the AKC does not consider those attributes, or even focus on them at all.
There was a good deal of e-mail discussion about the way that we thought things should have been handled, and the more we held to our principles, the more we found ourselves being strongly criticized for the way we said things and our perceived inability to get along with others, and there were quite a few negative attacks on us, when those officers were the ones who did what we felt was bad for the breed – funny how things get changed around.
At that point we realized that we could not be members of a club whose officers played by those rules – Dan resigned as president and we both quit the club. When we started out in 1998, we decided that we would strive to be the “best” breeder of the Bracco Italiano in the United States. To us, standing for the integrity of the breed and its use in Italy, both original and current, is part of that – and far more important than conforming to things we know will lead to its downfall.