The Camel’s Nose

For an AKC judge acquiring new breeds involves quite a bit of effort done at one’s own expense, including going to shows for ringside observations, sitting in on breed seminars and judging matches and sweepstakes. On applying for new breeds a judge paid a fee of $25 for each new breed.

With the AKC under financial pressure from declining registrations, on May 13th, John Wade, AKC Director of Judging Operations, sent out this note to all AKC judges with a decision by the AKC Board:

On May 11, 2010 the Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club voted to adopt an annual fee for all conformation judges effective January 1, 2011.

The Board reviewed the financial subsidies AKC makes to support the Events area annually. Fees assessed to clubs and exhibitors have reduced the subsidy by almost 30% to approximately ten million dollars each year. Approximately two million, three hundred thousand dollars of that subsidy relates to the Conformation Judging Operations Division. The Board considered a staff proposal to institute an annual judges’ fee, which would be phased in over two years to reduce this Judging Operations subsidy by 20% in 2011 and 30% in 2012. As the AKC Bylaws prohibit Delegates from charging a judges’ fee, Delegate Conformation judges will not be required to pay this fee. Also, Junior Showmanship only judges would not pay a fee.

Judges will be charged an annual maintenance fee of $50 and a $10 per breed per year fee, however in the first year (2011) the per breed fee will be reduced to $5. The initial billing will be sent out in early November of this year. Fee per breed will be calculated on November 1st of each calendar year and will be based on the number of breeds that an individual has either regular or provisional status for on that date. The $25 judging application per breed fee charged all applicants including delegates will not be increased. Clubs that hire visiting judges will be assessed a $25 per judge per show fee for all visiting judges.

So while my lovely bride would only get dinged for $75 in 2011 and $125 in 2012, an all-rounder – licensed to judge all 164 breeds – would be charged $870 in 2011 and a cool $1690 in 2012 and each year thereafter.

The reaction of the judging community was, to say the least, not approving.  It was, in fact, so negative that Ron Menaker, AKC Chairman of the Board, wrote just five days later:

With the input of the judging community in mind, the Board today has taken the following actions:

  1. The previously approved fee structure has been withdrawn by the Board and new fee structures will be considered. The concept of judges’ fees remains intact.
  2. The Board has instructed AKC staff to revisit the alternatives discussed over the past year in addition to the other suggestions made recently by several judges to arrive at several equitable methods for consideration.
  3. The Board has instructed AKC staff to meet again with representatives of judges organizations for input on these methodologies before any final decision is made.

What the fees pay for is a question no one can answer.  The AKC, apart from providing an oral and written examination, does nothing to help prospective breed judges acquire new knowledge or assist with continuing education.  It’s a fund-raising ploy, pure and simple.

So the camel’s nose is under the tent.  The judging community is celebrating winning the battle but they’ve lost the war:  regardless of how much, they’re going to be charged annual fees for continuing to be licensed, which fees will no doubt be increased in future years.  And, with even less doubt, the judges will pass the increased cost onto the clubs and inevitably on the poor onwner-exhibitor.

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