September 2014 Chairman's Report
-- A Summer of Positive Action for AKC --
New York, NY – It is back to school time across America and students are being asked that time-tested question – “What did you do over the summer?”
For my wife and I, it’s a rather easy question to sum up in just five words – “We had 13 Bullmastiff puppies.” Enough said.
For the American Kennel Club, answering that question takes considerably more words.
The summer yielded a large number of new initiatives to help dogs and the people who love and care for them, beyond the normal day-to-day world of certifying and recording registrations and listings; managing thousands of Conformation, Companion, and Performance events; and the current programs educating the dog owning public about responsible breeding, ownership, care, health and welfare, and training.
Summer at AKC saw a continuation of our commitment to relentless positive action.
We continue to improve our customer service quality and response times – achieving over 90% of our performance goals for the period - with no day falling below acceptable performance.
We increased the number of Customer Service Representatives with Spanish language skills to better serve this important and growing customer segment.
We leveraged technology to assure uninterrupted customer service - even when the North Carolina office was closed due to inclement weather - and to improve the user experience for breeders with our new EZ Breeder Reg service. This service is receiving strong positive reviews and eager acceptance by breeders, particularly AKC Breeder of Merit program participants.
The two shows in one-day pilot was employed three times with terrific results. The originator of the Board action allowing the pilot, Pat Cruz, participated in the first pilot at the Riverhead and Brookhaven Kennel Clubs on July 12, 2014. The other participating clubs were the Memphis Toy Dog Club and the Marquette Kennel Club in Michigan. In all three instances, the events were a success. Most interestingly, the entry at Marquette’s other three shows was up almost 15%.
I directed Staff to reach out to Parent Club officers and Delegates through two online surveys requesting advice on both effective educational experiences for judges seeking approval in that club’s breed and for their opinion of the breed exam and its use. Our goal is to continue to ensure we approve knowledgeable breed judges. With the help of the Parent Clubs, I believe we can accomplish that.
New opportunities for participation with your dog were created in a variety of other areas.
There are now two new Performance event titles to acknowledge higher levels of achievement – the Grand Field Champion title for Pointing breeds and the Retriever Master Hunter Lifetime Achievement title.
In response to requests for the ability to create special events, starting January 1, 2015, Agility clubs may host special events in which a club proposes a unique mix of regular AKC classes.
The AKC associated with the North American Dock Diving organization, allowing us to recognize the achievement of AKC registered or listed dogs in the growing sport of dock diving.
Participation in therapy dog work has grown, as has interest in the AKC Therapy Dog titling program. As a result of this growth, four new Therapy Dog titles were added starting July 1 to acknowledge a dog’s lifetime achievement in this very valuable service to those in need.
We increased our outreach to public shelters and to owners of dogs from shelters. A major concern for shelters is their recidivism rate – the number of dogs returned. Adding a dog to one’s family is a major life decision, and there are responsible and necessary questions to ask before this step is taken, no matter where the prospective owners plan to obtain the dog. Responsible breeders have long known the importance of addressing questions like these. We developed a helpful list of the most important questions to ask when getting a dog from a shelter to aid in that quest for a forever home. In addition, we are expanding our AKC Canine Partners and AKC GoodDog Helpline programs with shelters as tools to aid in lowering recidivism at their shelter.
On the legislative front, AKC Government Relations - led by Sheila Goffe - is developing two new programs to increase our visibility with legislators. We plan to award approximately 50 AKC Legislator of the Year Awards for federal and state legislators across the country who play an important role in supporting responsible dog ownership, and protecting the rights of responsible dog owners and breeders.
In addition, AKC Government Relations is developing a law school outreach program for future legislators and policymakers. Law schools are one of the primary training grounds for future state and congressional lawmakers. AKC is collaborating with other groups, such as the AVMA and Cat Fanciers Association, to develop writing contests, a speakers bureau, and other outreach to this important segment.
Understanding the critical importance of grassroots legislative efforts, we developed the Canine Legislative Support Fund Educational Grants program in support of clubs’ educational and advocacy initiatives to help protect the future of responsible dog owners and breeders.
We continue to fuel a positive, engaging, and educational conversation with our many constituents through AKC Communicates emailed every Friday; WOOFipedia, the consumer website for everyday dog owners with over one million users a month; our new content syndication with Vet Street, Pet 360, Best in Show Daily, ShowSight and Canine Chronicle – and more on the way; our new AKC Breeder Education and Government Relations pages on Facebook; and the continued growth of our Facebook page, now with over 2.1 million fans.
The AKC has had a very busy, innovative, and productive summer. So, what lies ahead for the balance of the year?
We are working on a major effort that will combine a number of initiatives all aimed at enhancing our role as the leading authority and voice on dogs, and increasing the public’s ability to find a happy, healthy puppy or purebred rescue. Those initiatives include a way to identify those breeders who follow Parent Club recommended health testing. A sub-committee of the Parent Clubs Committee is responsible for assembling the information and I will make sure it is readily available on the AKC website for all those looking for a puppy. How many people was that last year? In 2013 we had 20 million individual visitors and 95 million page views, of which 3.2 million were the breeder classifieds. We will exceed those numbers this year and we are planning for even more in 2015 with the new website.
I have been working with Staff on renewing the TV broadcast of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. We have a proposal to present to the Board this week that would create a TV showcase for all the events during the weekend. I will strongly recommend the Board approve it, allowing Chris, Gina and Michael to move forward with the final negotiations.
A lot changed this summer at the American Kennel Club. A lot more will be changing in the future. Even though, as Billy Crystal said, change is such hard work, we know without change, there is no progress. With change, there is great opportunity.
As we pursue those changes, we will do so understanding those things that should change for the better and those things that must not change, so we are sure to stay true to our principles. I believe you will appreciate those changes, and like what stayed the same.
Your comments and suggestions are most welcome firstname.lastname@example.org.