How to Start an AKC-Accredited Local Specialty Club

The previous installment of this column (October 2014) discussed the need for local specialty clubs—that is, clubs formed to serve the interests of a single breed, operating on a local basis.

Now, the important question: How do you start such a club?

The first step for any group who wants to start a local breed club is to contact the breed’s parent club, as parent clubs can be helpful to a new local specialty club.

Elements to be considered include:

  • Geographic region. The AKC allows only one local specialty club, per breed, within an area. They do not define an area by mileage radius, because different regions have different population densities. For example, a specialty club in sparsely populated Alaska will be allowed a larger radius than one in Delaware. That said, it is not an issue for our IWS, as few clubs currently exist.
  • Membership. While the AKC requires that most of a club’s membership reside within the designated area, again they allow for population density variations.
  • Ongoing viability. It goes without saying that the AKC wants new clubs to be sustainable before they approve accreditation. However, what’s not as obvious is how this is documented. Clubs should keep records of meetings and activities, such as minutes and details of happenings with photos and flyers.

To begin, host an organizational meeting, invite every breed owner you know, and suggest they invite friends as well. Contact the breed’s parent club and request contact information for area members; post meeting notices to Craigslist; use show-catalog information to invite exhibitors; contact local all-breed or group clubs; and prepare flyers stating the date, time, and purpose of the meeting, and leave these at shows. Most all-breed shows have a table for this purpose.

Here’s a suggested agenda for the first organizational meeting:

  1. Brainstorming—Talk about peoples’ interest in, and benefits of, a club.
  2. Select temporary officers—Choose someone to chair meetings, take minutes, and keep records of the club’s development. This is probably the most important job, as the AKC will require you to present the club development as a major part of the evaluation when applying for accreditation.
  3. Begin a list of event sites. This will make planning activities easier in the future.
  4. Set up a “program of activities.” Make a list of things the membership wants to do over the next year or two; then choose an activity and immediately begin organizing by setting a date and time to do it.
  5. Choose someone willing to draft the club’s constitution and bylaws. (See the AKC sample at

After holding an organizational meeting, electing officers, establishing a meeting schedule, and drafting bylaws, the first steps toward accreditation can be taken. Begin with completing and submitting a new club profile and holding a “fun” match. Once that is done, contact the AKC to assure they received the form. Then, depending on their review of the application and by-laws, the AKC will direct you down the path to hosting fun, but fully accredited activities!

—J.B. (January 2015), Irish Water Spaniel Club of America