Delegate’s Corner September, 2019
Newark, New Jersey
Don James, Delegate, Leonberger Club of America
First, I want to commend the folks who run our Leonberger University (https://leonberger-u.org). During our last sustainability committee (see June Delegate’s Report), I mentioned Leonberger University as an example of a club pursuing a goal of breed and breeder education. During our September meeting, Alan Kalter, the Delegate for the American Bull Mastiff Club and former Chairman of the AKC Board of Directors was absolutely effusive in his praise for our website, pointing out how current the content is on the site and asking how it is we are able to do this. I just said, ‘Great Dogs, Great People’. You know, I’ve said many, many times in this report how much respect other Delegates have for our club. This is an example of the things our members are doing that make me really proud to represent the LCA at these Delegate meetings.
A couple of things stood out from the meeting last week. First is another club’s initiative that I think has relevance for almost any low population breed (including Leonbergers). The second is a look at how an initiative that I brought forth is being looked at by the appropriate Delegate committee and by AKC.
During the sustainability committee meeting I referenced above, JoEllen Gregory, a practicing Vet and Delegate for the Otterhound Club of America spoke about a program they’ve started in her club. Understand, that the Otterhounds make Leonbergers look like Golden Retrievers when it comes to population. Last year, there were 10 Otterhound litters born in the United States….a total of 30 puppies (and that’s up 2 litters from 2017). That is the definition of a low population breed. So, here’s something they’re doing about it, and I think it’s relevant for many breeds, including our own.
The Otterhounds have formed a 501©(3) corporation whose sole objective is to ensure that no Otterhound straws or canes currently stored at facilities across the county are ever lost should a breeder choose not to continue with Otterhounds or has died and left unspecified the dissemination of straws they have saved. The goal here is to begin collecting these straws and to make sure there will be more vials available to help with the Otterhound population problem. It would be disastrous for a breed as rare as the Otterhound were to lose this potential resource. The non-profit is setup to accepts donations as well as negotiate the purchase of available straws.
Now, obviously, this initiative is fraught with land mines, not the least of which is how to determine which breeder gets which vial and what charges will be made for its use. The Otterhound club is preparing a paper that will show how they addressing critical issues such as this one and others. More on this when their paper becomes available. Even more interesting is that several other clubs have formed a consortium and will act as a group in addressing the same problems as the Otterhounds are doing.
It should come as no surprise that the Leonberger Health Foundation (LHFI) has already begun to address this issue. I don’t have a lot of information at this time, but my understanding is that the LHFI is considering turning this idea into an International consortium of national Leonberger clubs and federations.
I’ll try to keep all of you up to date as more information on this becomes available.
Mickey and I have recently begun participating in the sport of Fast CAT. We made our first couple of runs at a recent show in Washington where he was able to run close to 20 MPH. Fast CAT points are earned based on how fast a dog traverses the 100-yard straight line course. I also learned during this trial that a handicapping system is involved designed to level the playing field between dogs of different sizes. A dog less than 12” in height has a handicap of 2 meaning he will receive twice the number of points he receives based on the formula they use, a dog between 12 and 18 inches receives a handicap of 1.5 while any taller dogs receive no handicap. If you dig into this, it doesn’t take long to realize that the Fast CAT point system is unfair to dogs like our Leos mainly because their handicapping system uses only one element (height) in determining the handicaps. And, the way it’s currently setup, the fastest dogs in this sport (Whippets and Italian Greyhounds) are awarded a higher handicap than a giant breed like a Leo. In my opinion, the handicapping system should be based on both height and weight. This uneven playing field becomes even more pronounced in the titling arena. In order to receive the highest title in Fast CAT (called the FCat), a dog must earn 1,000 points. With a 1.5 handicap, a Whippet running 34 MPH (not uncommon) need only make 20 runs to get its FCat title. At an average of $20 per run, the Whippet owner would pay $400 to attain the FCat title. A Leonberger, on the other hand, running 20 MPH with no handicap would require 50 runs to get an FCat at a cost of almost $1,000. Not sure how anyone would see this as fair.
I made a presentation to the chair of the Herding, Earthdog and Coursing Events committee to state my case. I also spoke with Doug Ljungren AKC’s Vice President of Sports & Events. I discovered that the handicapping snafu had previously been brought before the committee and the decision was made not to pursue and changes. I pretty much thought that was the end of my efforts until I had an impromptu conversation with 2 other members of that committee and found that there are still significant disagreements between those members as to how fair the current system is. As a result, I have filed my recommendation formally with the committee and also with Doug Ljungren. I’ll wait to see what happens, but I’m excited to have my first recommendation for change even being considered.
All that administrative stuff aside, you all should try Fast CAT. It’s a blast!!!
And, speaking of that, I’ve made our own Working Dog Committee aware of this issue and asked them to consider revising their points system for Fast CAT as it relates to the Versatile Leo title. Currently, the committee awards 1 point to any dog who attains a Fast CAT title. In addition to the FCat title (1,000 points), AKC also rewards FCat titles for 150 points (BCat) and 500 points (DCat). My argument is if only 1 point is involved, why not make that award for the BCat title and save our members a bunch of money. I’m hopeful that committee will also see it that way.
At the General meeting on Tuesday, I was able to announce that the LCA has voted to make a donation of $3750 to AKC’s Museum of the Dog. That grant will be matched by the Jeff & Lynne Ansell Foundation meaning our total contribution amounts to $7500. Well done!!!

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