OPEN LETTER TO ALL BORZOI ENTHUSIASTS
To whom it may concern
JEAN CLARE, B.V.Sc., M.R.C.V.S. 10.10.04 HOME
The above article appeared in the September 2004 edition of the Borzoi Club newsletter. You are all aware that I am the breeder to whom it alludes.
The facts of the matter are these. Anne Hill asked if we might be able to look after her puppy Ryazan Harlequin for an unspecified period at some time in the future, due to Dave Hill’s illness. At this time things were particularly difficult for us. We were adjusting to an increase in our number of dogs and introducing a new male and two homebred puppies into the large paddock where all our dogs live together. Our dogs also suffered a number of injuries during this period, which we found very stressful and time consuming. This necessitated the use of our alternative accommodation, which anyway is not be suitable for longterm occupation. In view of this I did not feel I could do Harlequin justice, particularly if he needed to stay for a long period of time, and if I had tried to do so I felt it would have compromised the welfare of our other dogs. Unlike some in the breed I do also have a life outside dogs and my husband to consider, and I did not feel I could expect him to take on another dog at this time.
I most certainly did not refuse to help Anne, but explained the difficulties and asked her to leave the matter with me, after confirming that there was no urgency. I did offer to rehome Harlequin, but she did not want this. I spoke to a couple of other breeders and a few hours later I was told by Lorraine Marchant that Christine Spencer was prepared to take Harlequin. I spoke to Anne again later that day and she was quite happy with this arrangement, and in fact has since told me that she initially approached Christine even before she spoke to me.
I have since been told that the usual vicious gossip was going on behind my back, with people saying that Anne was desperate to place Harlequin immediately but I had refused to help. Needless to say not one of these people had the decency to speak to me directly about this so I have remained unaware of what was being said until now. The fact is that Harlequin has never left Anne’s home. The plan is that he will be boarded for a while when Dave first returns home from hospital. This will probably not be until after Christmas, hardly a very urgent situation, and if necessary he will come here. Anne has confirmed to me that she has been quite happy with my response and actions throughout.
Although I have been breeding for over 30 years with no hint of criticism from any quarter, neither Mr. Bassett nor Miss Broxup, the newsletter editor, had the basic courtesy to contact either Anne or me about this matter before rushing into print. If Mr. Bassett was genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of this puppy rather than trying to make trouble, that would have been the first thing for him to do. Instead these people misused their positions to make a cowardly and unjustified attack on me. A club newsletter is no place for personal attacks of this sort and no self-respecting editor would contemplate the inclusion of such material.
As a member of a profession and as a breeder my reputation is of paramount importance to me. It is obvious from the foregoing that I am entitled to demand an apology from these people, but I am realistic enough to know that I am unlikely to receive one. Mr. Bassett expresses concern about ‘uncaring behaviour towards a fellow Borzoi enthusiast’ but he seems to have no qualms about behaving in this way towards me.
I am well aware that some breeders take any animal back immediately without question, then put it in a little concrete prison with minimal attention until it can be rehomed. This is not my policy, any more than it is to deny my dogs free running, which I consider an act of extreme cruelty. I always take responsibility for any animal I have bred, but in the past I have usually managed to arrange any necessary rehoming directly from the old to the new owner. This has often been stressful and taken a lot of time and money but I believe it is in the dog’s best interest.
There has only been one occasion when I have been unable to follow this policy, and in that instance the dog came straight back here, again at a particularly difficult time for us, and stayed for two months until rehomed. The original owner had decided at six months of age that this puppy would not be of show standard, and rehomed him with my agreement. Unfortunately he subsequently ended up in rescue without our knowledge. Someone who saw this dog suggested that he might be from this kennel, but no-one bothered to tell me so he spent longer in kennels than necessary. From there he was then rehomed with an acquaintance of mine, a veterinary nurse who was an experienced Borzoi owner. After a few weeks she was unable to cope and I took the dog back at short notice.
When we first discovered this dog was in rescue, the original owner put an impassioned piece in the breed notes saying how upset she was about it and how she would have had the dog back immediately had she only known. When she was asked to do that very thing just a couple of weeks later it suddenly became impossible and she failed even to return phone calls, which made it still more difficult to resolve the matter. Almost four years later this person has never made a single phone call either to me or the current owner of the dog to enquire after his welfare. I have spent many hours on the phone with the new owner sorting out the problems she initially experienced with this dog and she would have welcomed some input from the original owner as well. I wonder why Mr. Bassett does not choose to direct his wrath against this person, where it would be quite justified, or against other breeders we all know of who have refused to help when one of their dogs has been in genuine need?
Recently a puppy farmer in this breed was actually convicted of cruelty in court. I do not think many lay people realise that only a tiny percentage of the very worst cruelty cases ever go to court and result in a conviction, due to the weakness of the law and the expense involved. Despite this, a large majority of those involved with the breed continue to support this person by buying stock from her and using her dogs at stud when it suits them, after initially condemning her, because they have no principles. Mr. Bassett himself has publicly supported her by showing under her when she judged. In my possibly simplistic view all these people must share responsibility for her cruelty because without their support the puppy farmer would not have been able to continue her operation and in doing so flood the breed with stock which is largely of questionable quality. Obviously the view of her supporters is that any action which may lead to them winning pieces of coloured cardboard is justified, and they see no reason to trouble themselves with the welfare of the breed in general or specific dogs affected in particular. I too like to win coloured cardboard, but do not consider it of sufficient importance to sacrifice my principles and act in a way which is detrimental to the breed as a whole.
After 40 years’ involvement with this breed it is obvious from the foregoing that I am very sadly disillusioned. I have always striven to serve the best interests of the breed. I wrote breed notes for a number of years and have served on the committee twice, during which time I helped to rewrite the rules and the standard and was personally responsible for starting the Judges Training Scheme. In common with a number of other people, my only reward for this has been to suffer appalling treatment by the committee on a number of occasions. As in the current instance, I have previously been accused of things I have never even done, with no-one on the committee except Richard Duckworth bothering to contact me to ascertain the facts. A witchhunt is always much more fun, why spoil it with the truth?
While running the JTS support from many of the committee was lacking and it was apparent that I would need to undertake many of the arrangements on my own. When I did this, selecting dates and booking venues, I was told that I had exceeded my remit and the dates would be changed for no other reason than to emphasise this point. I resigned immediately as it was obviously impossible to work under such conditions and so the club lost the services of a committed hard worker. I did, however, feel very sorry for a number of busy allround judges who had booked the original dates to attend the seminars, especially as my successor was ‘too busy’ to notify them for some weeks. I wonder how the breed benefited from any of this?
Since leaving the committee I have continued to help with the JTS on a number of occasions. At the last seminar the speaker withdrew at short notice and I was asked to step in. I was not impressed with the unnecessarily complex manner in which the hands-on session was conducted and so responded to the plea for feedback by making a number of suggestions by email to Miss Broxup. These were intended to be helpful and constructive, but were rejected out of hand in the most arrogant and patronising manner. A further email was ignored. I am a little puzzled as to why a person who does not judge at any level is considered by the committee to be the most suitable person to have joint charge of the JTS.
I understand that there are plans to tackle the much needed rewrite of parts of the breed standard. I am the only person in the world who has had the good fortune to attend every International Conference, 8 in all starting in 1981. I have therefore offered to make available some of the knowledge imparted to me by breed experts worldwide during lengthy discussions on the standard. This offer has not even been acknowledged.
Recently a health scheme was started by the committee. As the only active club member who is also a veterinary surgeon, it would seem logical that I would be the first person approached to advise on this, but I have never been asked to become involved in any way whatsoever. On a personal level I am bitterly hurt by this, and have communicated my feelings to the chairman and another committee member. Once again no response has ever been received. In all these instances it seems that the committee are more interested in apportioning tasks to further their own egos, rather than utilising the best expertise available with the interests of the breed paramount and personal feelings set aside.
I have been a very active member of the Borzoi Club for 35 years and always used to support all the shows and other events. I no longer do so because of my total dissatisfaction with the way the club is being run. A club is only the sum of its members and they obviously have the club they want and deserve. I am a firm believer in democracy and of course the wishes of the majority must prevail. As I am so clearly out of step with current thinking, I was about to tender my resignation from the club, not as a grand gesture but because I feel an overwhelming need to distance myself from those currently running it. I have been persuaded by the few people in the breed whom I still trust and respect to remain a member, but this will be in name only. I shall continue to avail myself of the few services the club provides which are of interest to me, but am not prepared to be involved otherwise. This also applies to the JTS while it is being run in the current fashion. I hope this satisfies those who have worked so hard to exclude me, but wonder how they consider this is in the best interest of the Borzoi? All I have ever done is try to work for the good of the breed I love.
I may or may not continue to breed, but will certainly not be dictated to by Mr. Bassett on this matter. I do not approve of some things he and Miss Broxup do with their dogs, but I consider that to be their business, although the quotation about removing the beam from one’s own eye before worrying about the mote in another’s comes readily to mind. If I were to criticise I would make sure of my facts first and then do so face to face.
I shall continue to show but at a reduced level. It may be worth pointing out that of the 21 Ch. shows held so far this year, 8 had less than 40 dogs present and at least 3 others only just exceeded this number. I have attended almost every one of these shows, usually with 3 or 4 dogs, i.e. providing 10% of the entry. Our breed is losing CCs fast and with every exhibitor lost the problem is compounded. The current poisonous atmosphere in the breed, emanating from the top, obviously helps to drive people away, as does the appalling standard of judging. The judges in this breed who possess and use both knowledge and integrity are very few in number, and I have grown weary of showing under those whose opinion does not command respect. Of course there are those who seek out these judges to be assured of winning, and we have seen several examples of this in the last couple of months.
I have been advised that legal action against Mr. Bassett and Miss Broxup is a possibility, but I prefer to spend my money on my ‘Borzoi Paradise’ rather than waste it on these people. However, a complaint under Rule 42A has been lodged with the Kennel Club.
This open letter has been sent by post or email to Mr. Bassett, Miss Broxup, the club secretary and all committee members, a selection of other members and the editors of ‘Dog World’ and ‘Our Dogs’.
JEAN CLARE, B.V.Sc., M.R.C.V.S.