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WAYNE CAVANAUGH, UKC PRESIDENT

Exclusive Interview onducted by Barbara J. Andrews - June 2000

 

UKC is one of the oldest sporting organizations in America, President Wayne Cavanaugh is the consummate dog-man and together they champion the purebred dog and all that dogs do!

 

The United Kennel Club celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 1997. In 1999 Fred Miller had the foresight to bring Wayne Cavanaugh into UKC as Vice-President and General Manager. In March of 2000, the United Kennel Club and the dog world lost one of its most vital and best loved supporters. Fred Miller passed away.

 

There has been much speculation about the future of the dog sport and some uncomfortable shuffling in the halls of AKC. Mrs. Connie Gerstner Miller reaffirmed the future of the U.K.C. when she wisely appointed Mr. Cavanaugh as President. TV personality, breeder, former AKC Vice President, Wayne Cavanaugh is a legend in our sport. No person or show giving organization exemplifies excellence more than Mr. Cavanaugh and the United Kennel Club.

 

Mr. Cavanaugh, you were an AKC Vice President, so you came to UKC with a strong organizational background. Those who knew Fred Miller know how much he loved the UKC and that he chose carefully to insure its future. Tell us how you feel about the tremendous responsibility you have accepted and whether or not your experience with AKC will be an asset to you now.

 

UKC President, Wayne R. Cavanaugh"The AKC was a wonderful place to learn about the entirety of the sport and the variety of organizations and individuals involved in dogs. I look back with pleasure on the moments when the staff was able to make a difference there and hope there is more of that ahead. I learned a lot from the delegate body and I learned a lot about working with a board. I left the AKC on July 8, 1997 and started a two-year stint on Wall Street as Vice President of Marketing for Schafer Cullen Capital Management on July 14, 1997. Of course, I ran into a few old dog and horse people there, and made some other great friendships, but most of all it was a good time to focus on finance skills (and a lucky time to be in the market!). While at Schafer Cullen, I attended Baruch College in Manhattan to keep up with current financial trends and was still juggling my television work with Animal Planet. Then one day I woke up and realized that it was time to, um, slow down a little! So I left Wall Street in the spring of 1999, joined a local beach club and pretty much retired, except for the television work. Life was good. Then one day later that year, Fred Miller called from the U.K.C. I met Fred working on canine legislation many years ago. While I knew I had one more run left in me, I was really enjoying the time in the sun, hosting the dog shows, and the time writing for “Breed All About It” on Animal Planet. It took quite a while and many phone calls before I said maybe, but Fred was a superb salesman and here I am in Kalamazoo! Of course, we all thought Fred and I would have more time together before he passed the baton. I can’t tell you how much we all miss Fred as both a friend and a mentor. Yes, it is indeed a tremendous responsibility to take the reigns of a 102-year old registry from someone of his caliber. But it’s a challenge that intrigues me."

 

Does UKC plan to enlarge market share and produce more multi breed shows?

"Well first it needs to be understood that the U.K.C. is first and foremost a performance dog registry. Our coonhound events have been U.K.C.’s focus for over a hundred years. The dog show business only began seven years ago when Connie Gerstner Miller came aboard, so it is still new to us. We sanction about 400 multi-breed shows a year and one series of three all-breed shows over our U.K.C. Premier weekend. There has been a lot of interest from AKC clubs to add a U.K.C. show to their weekend, and we will be looking into how we want to deal with those requests, but we have no plans to volley forth with a ton of new dog shows and we have no interest at all in competing with the same kind of shows that the AKC currently sanctions.

 

The U.K.C. has always had a Total Dog Concept; that is, we are a registry designed to promote the conformation, looks, overall athleticism, instinct, and trainability of a breed. At the U.K.C. Premier Show (where professional handlers may not show a dog unless they own it) we had 17 dogs qualify for a U.K.C. Total Dog Award which means they were judged best male or female in their breed AND received a qualifying score in obedience or agility. That should pretty much give you a clue to the direction we are headed.".

 

How does a club become sanctioned to hold single breed or multi breed shows?

For a new club, or a currently established club from another registry, to host a U.K.C. event, they must first form a U.K.C. club and submit a list of officers and members (which can be the same as their non-U.K.C. club list). They must also submit a constitution and by-laws that meet U.K.C. criteria and use UKC approved judges. Any UKC club can request to hold a UKC multi-breed or all-breed event but they must first hold a UKC Rules and Regulation Seminar and have a UKC Field Rep at their first event."

 

Do dogs cross-registering from AKC or TKC get Purple Ribbon pedigrees on the strength of those registries or do they have to earn that status all over again?

The Purple Ribbon designation is reserved for dogs that have a pedigree in which each dog in their three-generation pedigree is UKC registered."

 

Has UKC considered the implementation of a tiered registration system other that the purple ribbon designation? Perhaps something like a standard registration for dogs with no titles, or a platinum registration for conformation or performance title holders in the first two generations.

"I was a proponent of such a system while at the AKC and would certainly consider all possibilities here as well. However, being primarily a performance based registry changes the dynamics entirely. Many ideas that would work there would not be appropriate or even necessary here. First of all, for example, the UKC already denies registrations to dogs with disqualifying faults. An exponentially higher percentage of the dogs we register have UKC competition titles. And, most important, we allow the National Breed Associations to request special requirements for registrations. For example, the six coonhound breed associations each require an inspection and instinct test – each hound must tree and hold a coon for five minutes - before we single-register a dog of their breed. The Chinooks require all dogs to have DNA on file with us before they are registered. Anatolians require both parents of a litter have their hips evaluated before we will register their offspring. So the short answer is that we already have, through the people who know their individual breeds the best, set a pretty high set of requirements for even our most basic registration."

 

I know UKC was the leader in offering DNA certification. The UKC program has moved registration validation into the twenty first century as other clubs follow your lead. How complicated is the procedure and how much does it cost the owner?

"The UKC was indeed the first all-breed registry to offer DNA. The AKC later enlisted the exact same lab and collection methods. For some reason, the AKC still chooses not to accept our DNA meaning the responsible dog owner has to pay twice to register their DNA in both places."

 

What health clearances if any, does UKC recognize and is tattooing or microchipping required to insure identity of the dog?

Again, we allow each Breed Association to work with us to determine what they feel is right for their particular breed. We love the arrangement with the Anatolians but it would not be appropriate for every breed. We do record tattoo information for all breeds on a voluntary basis."

 

Does UKC have a computerized program that a show giving club could use so that entries and results can be easily entered and transferred via e-mail?

Fred was always ahead of the curve when it came to trying new technology. The UKC had a relational database more than a decade before other registries in the world even knew what it meant. We took entries for our Premier All-Breed shows (three thousand entries over three days) over the internet, via fax, and regular mail. We used that data to print our own armbands, judges books and catalogs and, as a result, didn’t use a superintendent."

 

You have such a solid background in conformation competition, as does Mrs. Miller, everyone wonders if UKC plans to expand “bench show” competition?

While Connie and I do have background in conformation, a good portion of the essential staff are coonhunters. My son Brody and I are having a blast at the coonhunts, where we meet the friendliest and most honest group of humans on the planet. As I mentioned earlier, the conformation events are a new discipline here and we are still working on plans for the future."

 

If UKC grows to bigger all breed conformation events, could you maintain the “small show” friendly, fun atmosphere currently associated with UKC shows while expanding the numbers and scope of these events.

If we do add more conformation events we would have to do so by focusing on exactly what it is that sets us apart from other registries. First and foremost is the family atmosphere and the fact that the dogs arrive with, are shown by, and cared for by their owners. It may sound basic, but if you think about it for a second it is profound in today’s world. In addition to the typical junior showmanship classes for children 8 to 17 years of age, UKC also offers non-competitive classes for pee-wees (age 2 to 4) and sub-juniors (4-7) where their parents are allowed in the ring. Our rule that disallows professional handlers from showing any dog they do not own changes things dramatically.

 

The AKC shows serve their niche extremely well and we never intend to compete with that kind of show. We do, however, think that a serious breeder who isn’t able to or doesn’t choose to invest in expensive professional campaigns just might want to have an option to show off their own stock. We think we can naturally fill that void, but the demand for that type of event is yet to be seen. I can tell you unequivocally that dog show expansion is not our number one priority at this time and may never be. We have a long way to go in establishing the kind of infrastructure to support such expansion and we are in absolutely no hurry. If and when we do it, it will be done right."

 

I’ve been told you have close to fifty field reps. What is their primary purpose? Do they randomly inspect kennels or only upon evidence of a problem?

Our field reps primarily focus on the 10,000 annual UKC events, most of which are performance events. They also help us with kennel inspections as does the staff, but this is a different world than the AKC entirely. The UKC Breed Associations monitor themselves very well and since most of the dogs we register compete in our events, we know or the Association knows most of our breeders personally. It is not uncommon for a Breed Association to take action on errant individuals or to bring them to our attention."

 

With your experience, do you feel it is necessary to do a personal inspection of the facilities in order to insure both record keeping and proper care?

I personally feel that the best breeders would welcome such inspections, but I’m also aware of the typical concerns including enforcement and finding the right criteria to fit all breeds in all climates and conditions. Our solution has been to enlist our breed associations who know their breeds and their breeders. The Coonhound Breed Inspectors examine each dog before it can be granted single registration privileges. No, it’s not like a German Warden thing for every breed nor would we want it that way, but we’ve had good luck with the Associations involvement."

 

What suggestions can you offer in establishing an independent certification program that will also compliment and enhance the image of registered dogs?

Again, I go back to the Breed Associations, or in AKC language, the Parent Clubs. Clearly these are the people who know what is right for their individual breed. Each breed club knows exactly what is essential for their own breed. This is one place where a level playing field is absolutely destructive. Let the breed clubs determine what individual clearances or criteria are important for their breed. The fact that the AKC Breed Clubs have no say in determining criteria for registration of their own breeds is absolutely mind boggling from this perspective."

 

The sport has been criticized for over-commercialization. Do you see that as a problem?

Commercialization is not always a bad thing if used properly. If clubs use the money to promote purebred dogs, it can even be an asset. But with the incredible number of shows today, the competition for money gets tough. It doesn’t look like there’s any turning back now, so maybe the time for a less commercial pursuit is near. Isn’t it ironic though, that the AKC as a not-for-profit registry hosts the professional and commercial shows leaving the for-profits to pursue the owner-breeder thing?"

 

What do you like best about your new perspective on the sport of dogs?

The thing I like best about my personal perspective is that I find myself constantly adjusting the focus to see the ever-changing big picture. As much as I’ve enjoyed the east coast, I have to admit that leaving there opens a whole new world of dogs. Two years ago, I never would have guessed that the UKC Coonhound program is larger than all other hunting dog sports combined (including retriever, bird dog, and rabbit sports)! I never would have guessed that an Irish Setter and a Smooth Fox Terrier would be among the breeds that won UKC Total Dog Awards. And I would have never guessed that I’d see 600 coonhounds at a Coonhound Bench Show on a fairly regular basis! By the way, at our Coonhound bench shows each dog is announced by name, owner, and breeder and the judge gets a microphone so he can explain his placements. The same goes for our Group and Best in Show judging at our all-breed shows. Interesting, huh? But most of all I love that this world, the world to which I’ve dedicated my life, is still prospering, still getting better, and can still be enjoyed by anyone wanting to keep it in perspective. Not a day goes by that I don’t celebrate the dogs and the sport, regardless of their breed, country or registry."

 

Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?

Well, I guess I would like to say that while the AKC seems to be, um, a little more focused on UKC these days, we have no plan to acquire their events - even if they continue to try to buy some of ours. We have offered to work with the AKC on legislation, enforcement, research, promotion and whatever we can do to advance purebred dogs. They have unfortunately decided not to accept our written invitation to do so and have declined a meeting to discuss the possibilities. We are two very different organizations, but we have a few common goals, the most important of which is the advancement and promotion of purebred dogs. Let’s hope we can all move beyond the political issues some day. Let’s hope that someday, the dogs will come first."

 

Thank You Mr. Cavanaugh. I am sure that everyone who reads your comments will be absolutely certain that the UKC and the future of the breeds it registers is in very good hands.  Readers can visit the UKC website at www.ukcdogs.com

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Wayne Cavanaugh Bio

2001 ProFile, TV personality, Animal Planet voice of the dog sport.

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