Relationship between the UKC and the English Shepherd Club

I wrote the summary below in 2004 to address some frequently asked questions regarding the split between the ESC and the UKC.

What is the history of UKC involvement with English Shepherds and the ESC?

The UKC has registered English Shepherds since 1927. Fred Miller, the former owner of the UKC (until his death in 2000), was an English Shepherd owner. When the English Shepherd Club (ESC) was formed in 1954 it was not formally affiliated with nor did it operate a registry. ESC members who register their dogs have used all three of the major ES registries (IESR, ARF and UKC).

In 1992, members of the ESC voted to become the UKC National Breed Association (aka “Parent Club”) for English Shepherds. Within a few years of this vote, it was agreed that the Breed Standard for English Shepherds needed updating. The UKC agreed to remove English Shepherds from the list of breeds eligible for conformation showing while the ESC worked on updating the Breed Standard. A committee was formed…

The Breed Standard remained unchanged for many years. In 2000, after the UKC had been bought by Wayne Cavanaugh (a former AKC executive), the UKC decided to go ahead and put English Shepherds back on the list of breeds eligible for conformation showing despite the lack of a revised Breed Standard. The ESC was not consulted prior to this decision, nor was the ESC directly informed (a few observant members noticed the announcement in the UKC magazine). A number of ESC officers and interested owners contacted UKC officials to discuss this decision. An email list was set up for the discussion. In the course of this exchange it became apparent that not only had the UKC changed owners, it was also changing the rules/regulations for Parent Clubs. How much those rules would change was unclear, however UKC vice president Cindy Cooke stated that the ESC would not be required to host conformation events.

The ESC voted again on the issue of UKC affiliation in 2001. A majority of those responding indicated that they did not support the return of English Shepherds to the conformation ring. However, a majority also expressed interest in remaining affiliated with the UKC. As it turned out, this put the ESC Board of Directors in a difficult position.

One of the new UKC requirements for Parent Clubs imposed in 2001 turned out to be an “event requirement” – specifically, Parent Clubs are required to host a minimum of one UKC conformation event every two years. This contradicted the assurance issued in the earlier discussions with the ESC. The UKC agreed to allow the ESC to fulfill the event requirement by co-sponsoring an agility trial in 2002. The ESC would be obligated to host another event in 2004.

In November 2003, ESC President Marianne Dwight contacted the UKC to discuss the event requirement. She was informed that the UKC had decided to revoke Parent Club status for the ESC, effective 12/ 31/ 03, and that a letter was being sent to inform the ESC of this decision. Reasons supplied for the UKC’s decision included the lack of participation in UKC events by ESC members, as well as the ESC’s expressed interest in starting a club-owned English Shepherd registry.

The ESC voted again in the fall (2003) on the question of whether ESC members were willing to participate in UKC events should the ESC remain a UKC affiliated breed club. A majority of members who responded were not interested in participating in UKC events, and so the ESC did not protest the loss of “Parent Club” status as of 2004.

What does the decision to forego UKC Parent Club status mean?

In the course of debating UKC affiliation, questions arose as to the benefits and burdens of UKC Parent Club status, and what its loss would mean to ESC members

Can I still register my English Shepherd with UKC?

Yes, registration with UKC is in no way contingent on the ESC remaining a UKC Parent Club

Can I still participate in UKC events with my English Shepherd?

Yes, events are open to all dogs registered with the UKC

What benefits do Parent Clubs receive through their affiliation with the UKC?

The primary benefit is an ability to host UKC licensed events. This can raise money for the host club, although there is no guarantee that events will be profitable and many are not. Event hosting also requires a large investment in time and energy by numerous volunteers to be successful.

Parent Clubs may offer input on UKC Breed Standards, however these Standards ultimately belong to and are controlled by the UKC. Parent Clubs may provide information for educating judges. Parent Clubs may not appoint or approve judges, however.

Finally, a UKC representative notes that being a Parent Club provides “a certain standing in the dog community”.

What are the current UKC requirements for Parent Clubs? Which requirements/ issues have ESC members objected to?

The UKC has an 11 point list of requirements for Parent Clubs. The particular ones which have been discussed at length within the ESC include the following:

#3. Encouraging club members and breeders to accept the standard of the breed as established and approved by the United Kennel Club as the standard by which the breed shall be bred and judged…

Objection: While the UKC will accept input on breed standards, they will not commit to accepting changes proposed by their Parent Clubs. Ultimately, the UKC owns and controls the Breed Standard. This policy is quite extraordinary – by contrast, the AKC allows Parent Clubs control of the standard for their breed.

The UKC also insists that Breed Standards be structured according to a UKC format, regardless of whether the UKC format is suitable for judging English Shepherds.

#4. Educating and making known to the public the high standard of excellence of the UKC- registered dogs of the club’s breed…

Objection: This requirement places the ESC in the position of promoting a privately owned, for-profit business (UKC) which is not democratically run and represents only a portion of the English Shepherd community.

In addition, this requirement precludes the development of an independent, ESC-owned, non-profit breed registry. The ESC Bylaws provide for an ESC operated registry, and efforts are underway to launch an ESC registry in the near future.

#5. Conducting … at least one (UKC licensed) conformation event every two years…

Objection: ESC members did not support this activity in the 2001 vote. Conformation competition is a subject which polarizes ES owners. Mandating ESC support for conformation competitions controlled by a for-profit business would perpetuate the divisive arguments within the ESC which surround this activity.

In addition, the logistics of hosting large national events for a small, widely dispersed club make this a high cost – low yield activity in the eyes of some members.

#10. Providing U.K.C. with updated membership rosters each year …

Objection: Some ESC members feel providing a member’s name, address, and email address to a for-profit business without the consent of individual members is a violation of privacy. In addition, some ESC members find this requirement unfair because the UKC does not provide similar information to the ESC on individuals who register English Shepherds with the UKC.

In addition to the above requirements, the UKC reserves the right to veto any proposed changes to Parent Club Bylaws and Breed Standards – ESC Bylaw changes would not be valid unless approved by the UKC.

Objection: ESC Bylaws would no longer be under the sole control of ESC members. Member approved Bylaw changes would not be valid until approved by the UKC. According to UKC Vice President Cindy Cooke, “ESC must run the organization in accordance with our rules and procedures… No changes made to your Constitution and Bylaws are valid until approved by UKC.”

Does the change in the ESC’s relationship with UKC mean that there is hostility between the two organizations?

Not at all.

The ESC and the UKC existed separately (and peacefully!) for many decades prior to the ESC’s stint as a National Breed Affiliate, and the time seems to have come for the groups to once again separate. The ESC has an important role to play as an independent, democratically controlled, advocate and guardian for English Shepherds. Continuing as a UKC affiliate would mean giving up our independence and self governance. As a large, multi-breed organization, the UKC is able to offer a range of activities that is not feasible for smaller independent groups. ESC members can continue to participate in these activities. We on the Board of Directors hope that you will bring stories of your UKC triumphs and trials back to the ESC so we can all benefit from those experiences.

~ Mary Peaslee