CHAIRMAN'S REPORT, CDB AGM, NOVEMBER 1992
In my capacity as Chairman of the Council of Docked Breeds, it is my duty and privilege to present a report to our members, outlining the CDBs progress and achievements over the past twelve months.
When I started this report, I typed the word "achievements" then deleted it, then on finishing the report, inserted it again. I first thought to myself, the CDB hasn't achieved its aim until we are given a cast iron assurance that yes, we breeders can legally carry on docking, but after finishing the report I had reminded myself just how much the CDB has achieved in such a short space of time. When you have listened to it, I hope you will agree.
In the Summer of 1991, two ladies wrote to the Dog Press complaining bitterly about the Veterinary Professions decision, to introduce a ban on docking by the back door. The letter was entitled "How Dare They" and was penned by Anne Moore and Ginette Elliott.
Unknown to them at the time, this letter was to be the start of the most hectic 18 months of their lives.
The letter was a voice in a wilderness of lethargy surrounding the docking issue at that time. That is lethargy from us, and thousands of other breeders. The Veterinary Profession and the RSPCA were well down the road to success in their aim of abolishing docking once and for all. From their Ivory Towers these august bodies probably couldn't believe how little resistance they were encountering. They were shortly to receive a rude awakening.
The inaugural meeting of the CDB was held in this hall on 25th August 1991. Very few of us knew what to expect when we arrived, nor did we know how the CDB would shape up to the task in hand. Area Delegates were elected from volunteers, or where necessary press-ganged into being, and the board of the CDB was formed.
The first meeting of the board was held in the wilds of Leicestershire and finished not long before midnight. With a long drive home in front of us, I would suggest that most of us wondered, just what had we let ourselves in for.
Understandably, the first few meetings of the board were hectic to say the least, as everyone had very positive ideas on how the campaign should be run. From this pool of ideas, a strategy had to be agreed on which the majority were comfortable with. This inevitably meant that we had to be able to work very closely together in complete harmony, if we were to be successful. The Constitution and Membership details were agreed at our first Open Meeting, held here on November 17th, 1991.
You will have noticed that the CDB was careful not to fall into the trap of some committees, where rules and regulations tie their executives into knots and where no one can sneeze without first obtaining permission. Whilst it had to operate in a constitutional manner, the CDB also needed flexibility for the executives to be able to take instant decisions as and when necessary between meetings, as the anti docking brigade had vast well oiled machines already in place, and were not going to quietly give way on this issue. The CDB had to respond quickly to the latest developments if it was to be effective.
The CDBs resemblance to a normal dog show or breed club committee is remote. To achieve its aims, the CDB had to operate more like a business starting off in a recession with very little money, and to compete successfully with several national companies who were firmly established and who had a 22 year start on us.
Every successful business needs to identify the market place, and so did the CDB. Its customers are the Docked Breed Owners and Breeders. Its two main competitors are The Veterinary Profession and Governmental Departments. If set up as a trading company, The Council of Docked Breeds PLC, would have needed a money raising department, a sales department, a press office, a public relations office, an advertising and marketing department, an administration department, a legal department, an accounting department, a printing department, a supplies department, a promotional Video department and last but not least, a board of directors.
Well, the CDB had and still only has, a board of delegates, but between them they have put their hand to all of the departmental tasks I have mentioned, and used their skills with great effect.
Here then is a breakdown, of their work.
Firstly, I mentioned that the customers of the CDB are the docked breed owners and breeders. You may well have thought that the easiest part of the CDBs task would have been to sell itself to breeders. They don't want docking to be banned, they will put their hands freely into their pockets and fight alongside us to the end.
Unfortunately this has not been the case.
Apart from the breeders who have visited our Open Meetings or applied for membership near the beginning, the CDB has had to actively seek support from breeders by a variety of methods.
The delegates have found that the most successful method of gaining new members has been by approaching breeders at Shows, literally face to face and getting the membership form signed there and then with immediate payment. Giving breeders forms to take away was not particularly effective, as on arriving home in the euphoria of winning or the sorrow of losing, so many forms got left on the sideboard to gather dust. This face to face contact has taken up a lot of our delegates time and effort, and necessarily meant that they lost the time where they would normally have been relaxing or enjoying the social side of the Shows they visited. As it was found to be the most effective way of swelling our membership, the delegates took it in their stride.
Many regional meetings have been held throughout the past twelve months to again enlist new members and to keep current members abreast of the latest news. We need to thank all the speakers who have participated in these events, and all of the clubs who have helped the CDB organise these meetings which have been of great benefit, if not always attended by great numbers. Over the year, many new members have been recruited from these meetings.
In addition to these personal invitations to join, the CDB has advertised in the dog press, Our Dogs, Dog World, Shooting Times, to name but a few. The response has been mixed. Some advertisements brought in new members, some were allegedly completely overlooked by the readers when asked at shows if they had seen the advertisement. Apparently, there are none so blind as those who don't wish to put their money, where their mouth is!
Many Breed Clubs have also played their part, originally by advertising our existence in both Year Books and Newsletters, and by continually mentioning our progress at their own Shows and meetings.
All in all, the response to our pleas for membership has been less than overwhelming.
That then is a brief résumé of our Customers, but to operate, an organisation requires money. How did the CDB approach that?
Membership has already been covered, which aimed to give the CDB the number of supporters necessary and obviously also brought in an income.
In addition to this, the CDB also requested support by contacting over 250 Breed Clubs. Not all have been as forthcoming with funds as they have been with their support, but by far the largest proportion of income to date has come from individual Club donations and the CDB wishes to emphasise our thanks to donating clubs and their members.
Many fund-raising events have been organised by individual breeders, clubs and our delegates, such as raffles, exemption shows, sponsored slims, sponsored walks, sponsored cycling events, and the like. I am yet to hear of anybody giving up smoking or drinking for sponsorship, but I guess we all have to draw the line somewhere.
In addition to these events, the CDB has had T-shirts, sweat shirts, badges, keyrings and reports for sale and today launches a video and Christmas Cards which you will see shortly.
Incoming funds have so far remained at a level sufficient to keep the momentum rolling, and I can assure all who have contributed that their support has been appreciated, and has been spent thriftily.
I would now like to move onto our competitors, the opposition. These can be categorised into two main groups, the Governmental Departments and the Veterinary Profession.
The CDBs energy at the beginning, was concentrated mainly on the Governmental Departments. It was important that politicians and the Home Office were made aware of our discontent at the cavalier attitude adopted to our case. Firstly in the way in which we were not fully consulted at the preparation stage of the bill to amend the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, and secondly, the manner in which the Bill was sneaked through Parliament. The CDB felt that our predecessors the Council FOR Docked Breeds, had been misled into accepting a compromise and that the parties invited to advise the Government, had not told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Unfortunately, during our campaign the Government were inconsiderate to the extent of calling a General Election, which interrupted much of the progress we had achieved, as MPs and departmental offices were changed in the aftermath. The emphasis of late has had to be inclined towards the Veterinary Profession, but we are aware of the possible need to re-start negotiations with our firmly established links in governmental departments, dependant on the outcome of the RCVS meeting three days ago.
This brings me onto our second competitor, the Veterinary Profession. It is with great sadness that I have to report on their actions, as it is the very profession with whom we as breeders should be forging strong links with, not fighting against. The fight I would remind you was not of our making and perhaps can be originally blamed on just a minority of their numbers, who chose to take what they envisaged as being an easy path to gaining respectability on "Animal Welfare" grounds, by attempting to ban docking whilst conveniently suffering from tunnel vision which enabled them to overlook much more pressing and important issues within their control. To quote the Princess Royal, "they have taken their eye, off the ball"
The very profession which had previously earned such high respect, has misled the Government by telling them that docking was a painful mutilation and continues to mislead by claiming that the veterinary profession is unanimous in its backing of a total ban on docking.
Many grossly exaggerated articles have been written by vets on the subject and the whipping up of hysteria has recently crept into the press, the radio and now television.
The sad fact is that the veterinary proponents of a docking ban acknowledge the existence of tail damage reports in previously docked breeds on the Continent, but prefer to belittle and debase these reports whereas if they were truly more concerned with welfare than with losing face, they would investigate the continental experience through the Swedish and Norwegian Veterinary Profession, to either confirm or factually deny our claims.
That is the approach a profession truly concerned with welfare would take, even if it did present them with the unpalatable consequence of having to climb down.
We acknowledge that whilst we are not University trained as are veterinarians, we speak with superior knowledge on the subject of docking, and the CDB has concentrated its efforts in producing as professional a defence as is possible. The CDB started off by involving fellow breeders in a letter campaign, which shook the anti dockers into realising that we were not going to be a walkover.
The CDB has continued the pressure ever since, by producing a leaflet to encourage breeders to debate the issue with their vets, originating publicity campaigns both in the dog press and where possible the veterinary press, and has generally increased the level of awareness which we are convinced the profession would have preferred to see, swept under the carpet.
A meeting with the then President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was held earlier this year, and at his request a report has been submitted to the RCVS for their consideration. This report, all 49 pages of it, was the culmination of the hard labour put into the CDBs campaign over the previous twelve months and its compilation was an equal volume of work condensed into just a few weeks. The CDB appreciated that this report was our last chance to put forward our case directly to the committee of the RCVS deciding the fate of our dogs, so it had to be on a professional level at least equal to their standing and above that of their own campaign.
Just a week ago, the CDB circulated a video to the home of each of the members of the RCVS committee, showing a litter of puppies being docked in the nest with their dam, showing NO painful reaction from either pups or mum. This video clearly refutes their claim of it being a PAINFUL procedure. The CDB hopes it will have had an effect on their decision.
The very latest additional skill the CDB has had to learn, is that of media exposure. Many breeders and CDB delegates have now contributed to radio and television debates, and in the opinion of listeners and viewers, have generally come out of the ordeal ahead of the vets, the RSPCA, members of the RCVS and so called animal behaviourists combined. We are of course helped by the fact that truth is on our side!
I would like to finish this report by just mentioning again, the departments which would have been required to set up this venture as a business and how each one has fared.
A money raising department; short of getting down on its hands and knees, the CDB has tried most legal ways of raising the funds required to finance a professional campaign and would like to thank the many people too numerous to mention today, who have contributed both with money, ideas and help in this area.
A sales department; The CDB has had to sell its campaign both to the breeders as individuals to gain membership numbers and to the breed clubs for support and funds. We thank all who have supported us and those who have contributed
An advertising and marketing department; The CDB has originated an advertising campaign with the triple aim of raising breeders awareness of the problem, raising funds and getting our message through to the veterinary profession at the same time. The success of these advertisements is difficult to establish conclusively, but they remain a vital part of our campaign, to keep the issue as high a profile as possible.
A press office; The two secretaries have kept the dog press, the Kennel Club and over 250 Breed Clubs constantly updated with progress reports with great effect. This keeps the dog press and breed clubs involved in our campaign and whilst it is considered free advertising, it requires a considerable amount of planning and executing.
A public relations office; The secretaries and delegates telephones have been red hot over the past twelve months with enquiries from members, prospective members, associated clubs, foreign enquiries etc., with an equal number of outgoing calls being made both home and aboard ensuring that our aims are clearly understood and that as many people as possible are involved in our cause.
The Docking Helpline has also been very active, as many breeders have found out that their vets, who have docked previous litters, have suddenly decide to cease the practise without notice. Where the CDB has no local help at hand, many telephone calls are required to find a suitable person and to this date, the CDB has managed to ensure that all breeders contacting us, have been offered assistance.
A printing and administration department; the secretaries have printed virtually all of our literature in-house on the CDBs own equipment both to keep down costs and to enable the CDB to react instantly to all urgent requirements. In excess of 250 Breed Clubs have been contacted and kept abreast of developments, each donating club receiving a copy of the report to the RCVS free of charge along with an abundance of other literature. Constant enquiries from breeders and clubs, from home and aboard, have resulted in stacks of literature being sent out week after week. Information, data and reports again from home and aboard have had to be tracked down, sifted through and acknowledged. Even crank telephone calls and the odd threatening letter have had to be contended with. All this of course while attempting to tend to their own families, dogs and private lives. The two ladies who started this campaign full of energy and enthusiasm have never ceased to amaze us with their capacity to burn the midnight oil to keep the campaign moving forward.
An accounting department; to ensure all income is accounted for, both for the safety of investors and the exchequer and to enable the board to be in a position of knowing it can afford its plans. The accounting department is often one of the least glamorous departments, and unrewarding at times for its operators. It is nonetheless vital. The treasurer has carried out her tasks in an exemplary manner and is to be congratulated.
A promotional Video department; the very latest addition to our arsenal of weapons is the video I have mentioned, again compiled entirely by the CDB, which you will have the chance to see shortly.
A board of directors; well in the case of the CDB, your delegates and executive offices. They have carried out all of the above functions, attended many board meetings, regional meetings, open meetings and shows throughout the year solely to promote and support the CDB. The delegates have committed an extraordinary amount of both time and money to the CDB, and have so far not claimed any money to cover their travelling expenses or excessively high telephone bills.
Many of you here today will have been on, or are on a committee which has carried out some, if not all of the above work, over the span of many years. But I would question if there has previously been a group of volunteers who have achieved this level of effect in such a short space of time.
My report has necessarily majored on the CDBs progress over the past twelve months. I must however point out that although Docking is our primary concern and will remain so, other threats to our dogs futures are looming on the horizon. There is already talk in the UK of extending the docking ban to cover dew claws and the Dutch Government has interpreted the European Convention For The Protection of Pet Animals, to entitle them to end all LINE BREEDING. If either of the last two issues are progressed in the UK, they will of course cover all breeds, not just docked breeds, so the need for an established organisation such as the CDB to represent ALL dog breeders, could well increase in significance.
I sincerely trust you feel that you have received value for both the money and faith you have put into the CDB so far, and that this in turn will be converted into a positive result for the future of our docked dogs, when the decision of the RCVS is announced.