CHAIRMAN'S REPORT, CDB AGM, NOVEMBER 1995
Tribute to Anne Moore on her retirement
As has been stated in several previous Chairman's reports, the time, effort and enthusiasm given to the campaign by our delegates and executives alike, has been truly magnificent. All members of the board possess a determination to succeed, and have worked exceptionally hard in their spare time to ensure the continued success of the campaign.
The Council of Docked Breeds would probably not be here today, if it were not for two ladies, who in 1991,decided that enough was enough. They decided that as breeders generally were too lethargic to get off their backsides and fight the storm of antidocking hysteria, they would start doing it themselves.
They strode around many shows demanding that breeders listen to them and organised the first meeting of the CDB, to take over the fight from the Council For Docked Breeds. Without their foresight, I would suggest that perhaps there would be NO tail docking carried out today and we would be faced with many longtailed dogs.
The time and energy required to be given up to keep the organisation running at full steam, is immense. Unfortunately, Anne Moore has found of late, that she can no longer spare the time required to work on behalf of the CDB, as it has seriously infringed on her business and family commitments.
Because of this, Anne has found it necessary to retire from the CDB Board and will not be standing for re-election today.
We cannot and should not forget the effect that Anne has had on the docking issue, by starting the CDB along with Ginette, and I am sure that you will join me shortly, in offering your thanks for all the hard work that Anne has contributed in this respect.
As a mark of our appreciation, we would like to present Anne with a token of our thanks;
Anne was presented with a bouquet and an engraved glass bowl.
Before I begin, I think it proper that we should remember the passing of Gerry Howells, just a few months ago. Gerry was one of our founder delegates, and many kind words have already been written about him by those who knew him well. Gerry possessed that special balance of common sense and good humour, so he would not want us to mourn for him today, never the less, he will be missed and I would ask you to respect his memory now, by standing for one minute silence.
It is my pleasure today, to outline the activities of the CDB over the past twelve months.
Whilst our initial objective was solely to campaign for the retention of the docking option, we have grown into a professional organisation, which offers far more.
Members and veterinary surgeons have received legal assistance which has had the effect of warning off the RSPCA and defeated an attempt by the RCVS to discipline a veterinary surgeon. Hundreds of breeders a week seek advice from our helpline. A puppy sales service has been launched for our members. We boast a public relations machine capable of reacting to all new developments and a team of dedicated delegates which most clubs would be proud to have on their committee.
Our voice is now respected, is being heard loud and clear and represents the aspirations of the many thousands of docked breed owners. The CDB has changed considerably over the past four years, and will if necessary, continue to change in order to achieve its aims.
In my report each year, I have pointed out that the CDB is growing and how we have reacted to the changing face of the opposition, how we anticipate they may react, how we can be best prepared. Each year we have reviewed how we operate and how we need to structure the CDB to be in the best position to handle the opposition effectively. We believe that this constant fine tuning is working to great effect.
In January this year, the executives met to consider whether or not we were managing the organisation in the best way possible. I have compared the CDB to a business venture in the past, and make no apologies for doing so again today. If we are to continue successfully, we need to ensure that not only do we posses the best calibre of help available, but that they have a clear picture of who does what, and that we are using all their available skills to our best advantage.
We therefore restructured ourselves to cope with the increasing demands and identified the need for several new positions. These proposals were put to the Board and accepted. Sally Leslie was invited to become an executive and as you hopefully already know, has earned the respect of us all, by the way she handled the defence of the first veterinary surgeon to be brought before an RCVS disciplinary hearing.
Mavis Chapman joined forces with Ginette Elliott and Anne-Marie Esposito to strengthen the Helpline, Anne Simpson and Fred Ellingford joined the board to fill the vacancies of NW and NE area delegates. Glenn Otto joined as Working Gundog Delegate and Marjorie Gill as East Anglian area Delegate. These changes were necessary to ensure that we were best organised to face future challenges.
Those of you who have attended previous AGMs, will remember how I have always laboured on the necessity for our funds to be in as healthy a position as possible to ensure that we could offer the best legal defence possible, for any CDB member or veterinary surgeon wrongly accused of docking.
As you now know, 1995 marked the first case of a vet being called in front of a disciplinary hearing by the RCVS, and thankfully, he allowed the CDB to assist him in his defence. I say thankfully with conviction, because if he had been proved guilty, I believe there would now be no more than a handful of vets still docking. The cost of the defence at just over £23,000 pails into insignificance when compared with the cost of losing.
Marshal Dale underwent months of torment running up to his hearing, and so did Sally Leslie. Even though Sally was not facing the possibility of losing the right to practice herself, I believe that a guilty verdict would have had a disastrous effect on her too. The experience of those few months, and the days leading up to the hearing is something that no professional ought to be faced with, especially when you consider how Marshall and Sally are so dedicated to animals and their welfare. I will not attempt to enlarge on the hearing, as both Sally and Steve will be talking about it in more depth later on.
The outcome is well known, its cost, not so well known. The defence made a significant dent in our reserves, but amounted to less than half the sum we understand the RCVS spent on mounting the prosecution. Our costs were kept low in comparison, due to the generosity of the firm which Sally works for, who charged us considerably less than they ought, and the many hours which Sally and other CDB board members spent in their own time on behalf of her client, Marshal Dale. I am sure you would agree that our thanks and gratitude are in order.
To be learnt
We need to learn from this hearing, and be better prepared should another arise. A great deal of investigation was concentrated into the few weeks before the hearing, in order to find witnesses to present the best defence possible for the breeds involved in the case.
We intend to send a questionnaire out to each breed club very shortly, requesting detailed information, to ensure that we posses the required data on which to base a future disciplinary hearing defence, should it be required.
Having such data available in advance of any case, would leave time free to concentrate on building the defence case, under less pressure.
We also wish to set up a better recording system for logging cases of tail damage and hygiene problems encountered, but need more input from clubs and members who may hear of such cases. Many know of such instances, but currently fail to inform us until it is too late to obtain the necessary documentary or photographic evidence.
The veterinary scene
Whilst we are far from convinced that the potential number of docking vets has yet been achieved, the numbers have increased significantly over the past months which has given us encouragement.
There still remain pockets of the country in which vets prepared to dock are fewer than we would like, but we do have plans to arrange regional meetings with sympathetic vets, in order to hopefully encourage more to offer the service in the future.
Before leaving the veterinary front, I must mention that Walter Beswicks report on docking has just been released. The report took twelve months to compile and as Steve Dean will discuss shortly, you might wonder how it took so long to say so little. I would just like to mention, that had the result of the RCVS disciplinary hearing have gone in their favour, we feel that the working party would have been given a reason to recommend restrictions on docking, far in excess of what has actually transpired.
The Council of Europe
Whilst this acquittal made the biggest headlines of the past year, there is another matter which the CDB bought to the attention of dog breeders, the canine press and other organisations, which remains a major threat. I am referring to the Council of Europe's, Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.
It was the CDB which earlier this year discovered and publicised the amendments to the original Convention. This latest amendment strengthens their resolve to speed the cessation of docking and the removal of dew claws, and sought to restrict or ban, the breeding of many of today's much loved dog breeds.
Without a presence in Strasbourg, we have a limited chance of monitoring future actions in the Council of Europe. In order to attend their meetings, we applied for spectator status, but this was denied.
FACE, is the Federation of Field Sports Association of the European Union. FACE UK exists to provide an all-sports co-ordinated approach to European legislation affecting field sports in the UK. We have now become a corresponding member of FACE UK to help keep us better informed as to the antics of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
As a corresponding member, we shall receive information on the Council of Europe, from their permanent staff on the continent. Our membership to FACE also enables us to work more closely with gundog enthusiasts and to strengthen their valuable support.
We have also taken further steps to encourage the BFSS to adopt our point of view on the global docking issue and I am pleased to say that co-operation between the two organisations is increasing. The BFSS is a very important ally, as it posses an extremely effective political lobbying machine which we would hope at some stage, to be able to tap into.
There is much we can learn from examining the way the BFSS operates. For example, they have a communications tree in place which works on the pyramid system. If information needs to be circulated quickly to members or representatives, it starts with one phone call to six people. Each of those six people then make a further six phone calls each. Each recipient then makes a further six phone calls. The effect is such that by layer five, 8,000 people could have been contacted with little effort from each individual.
A communications tree such as this can quickly alert members by breed or by region e.g. if there is a phone in radio or television show where the numbers of pro-docking callers needs to outweigh the antis, to ensure that the public hear our voice. Trees should also work in reverse. If a member wants to get information back to base, they can just as easily. Setting up such a tree does rely on members being willing to join in, and a high degree of initial organisation. We shall be attempting to implement a CDB tree in the near future.
Using the Media
In this world of rapidly changing communications technology, perhaps the most recent development is the Internet, or the Information Super Highway as the press like to call it.
Not slow to exploit any new avenue for increasing our Public Relations exposure, the CDB has been corresponding with breeders in many countries via the Internet for several months. We have been able to counter any anti-docking matter as it appears and many lively debates have ensued, with both breeders and vets across the globe. Last week, the CDB launched a permanent site on the World Wide Web. This means that anyone in the world with a computer, a modem and the correct software, can contact this site and obtain a wealth of information concerning the CDB and the tail docking issue.
Through this technology, the CDB can share its experiences and knowledge with breeders in all countries who face similar problems, or who think they are immune from the problem, as many do for example in America. By visiting other sites, known as surfing the Web, it does not take long to find that the Americans too, have organisations dedicated to the abolition of tail docking. For example the Veterinarians Association for Animal Welfare based in California, is attempting to gain support for their anti-docking agenda, just as the BVA did back in 1969.
Whilst the CDB has no intention of over-stretching its resources by fighting their fight for them, bringing our experiences to the attention of the Americans and to other countries who may think themselves immune from the issue, must be to the advantage of us all.
Much information is freely available from other sites on the WWW including data concerning the European Union and the UK Parliament, so by careful use of the Internet, the CDB will be in a better position to keep itself informed of future developments which could affect us, and to hopefully gain further support from other continents.
In our quest to obtain as much positive Public Relations as possible, to inform and communicate to as wide an audience as possible, we are in the process of organising a canine welfare symposium next year. Our intentions are to cover subjects such as the Psychology of dog training, Breeding and good husbandry, Veterinary/Breeder relations, Animal welfare and the law, Philosophy of welfare issues and of course the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.
It is intended to hold this symposium at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh and we are in the process of inviting high profile speakers at this moment. More details will be announced very early on in 1996.
Our income over the past twelve months has reduced slightly compared with the previous year, but again exceeded our expenditure, by careful control of expenses. The full cost of the RCVS Disciplinary Hearing defence case however, was not paid before the accounts were closed, so will be met from this coming years account. The Fighting Fund Account has now been emptied to cover these costs so we are keen to replace our reserves as soon as possible. We cannot call in any of the money pledged from clubs, as this money has been pledged on the understanding that we would only call it in if a case arose which needed to be defended and we had no finances available at all.
Several clubs have however, kindly sent us money since the case, to help us top up our funds, and have suggested that we approach other clubs to do likewise. We shall therefore be writing to clubs shortly, in the hope that others can follow suit. Although our finances are not in a desperate condition, with other potential costs looming on the horizon it would be comforting to know that we could mount another successful legal defence at short notice, with the financial means to cover the costs already safely deposited in our account.
We are recommending that membership subscription fees remain unchanged at the current level, which was set two years ago. Provided that clubs are able to respond to our request for financial help, we hope to keep subscription fees stable for the remainder of the year.
We recognised earlier on in the year, that a large percentage of our members did not renew after joining. In order to encourage long term membership, we introduced the Dial a Docked Puppy helpline, similar to commercially available puppy sales services. We now offer members free advertising for one litter a year and members are advised of this along with their renewal notification.
A spin off from Dial a Docked Pup, is that the advertisements placed in journals such as the Exchange & Mart, also bring in new members though our helpline. We believe it to be a valuable addition to our overall media strategy.
Change & the Future
You have hopefully noticed that I have used the word "change", many times. It is imperative that we remain flexible and receptive to change, if we are to achieve our goal. Many businesses which have shunned change, fall by the wayside. Many businesses which could not adapt to the recession have fallen by the wayside. The CDB will not be a similar casualty.
We started off with what some people may have interpreted as a rebellious attitude, we have become more respectable, and necessarily so. We started off with our now famous and most cherished slogan "Carry on Docking", we now tend to emphasise the more green slogan, "Protecting the future welfare of all docked breeds". Once we would have reacted by shouting from the roof tops on winning a victory over the RCVS, now we can be quietly content that the RCVS know we are here, know we have a strong voice, know that our resolve will not be broken. We have changed.
We are aware that over the years, this need to adapt, and the change in our management structure, has not yet been reflected in our constitution which still speaks of two secretaries and a total of just four executives. Believe me, if we had not spread the load a little more evenly or brought in specialist advisors, we would have sunk before now. That does leave us with the problem, that the constitution requires an urgent review to reflect our current management structure. It had been hoped to have an updated constitution available to present to you today for discussion and ratification, but events such as the RCVS disciplinary hearing, have obviously had to take precedence.
We shall be reviewing the constitution very shortly, and will call an extra members meeting before the next AGM, which we trust will be attended in sufficient numbers to enable the constitution to be updated.
Whatever changes have been made, or are required in the future, please rest assured that the basic objectives of the CDB have not changed, we shall continue to protect the future welfare of all docked breeds.
I trust we continue to have your full backing and support, for the manner in which we are proceeding with this, your campaign.