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What is a conflict of interest?

The Rules, Policies, and Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges provides “A conflict of interest exists when a judge is influenced by any relationship or factor other than the merit of the dogs.” Essentially, a conflict of interest exists when the presence of an exhibitor or their dogs gives the impression of an unfair advantage. AKC Rules and policies do define many situations that result in an ineligibility to enter a dog show or to exhibit to a specific judge.

While many are clear and obvious, it is impossible to define every relationship that creates a conflict.  Just because a specific situation is not defined as conflict does not make it acceptable.  AKC judging guidelines do clearly state it is the responsibility of the AKC to interpret its Rules, Regulations, and Policies; and that scenarios not specifically defined may be determined to be a conflict of interest and potentially results in the cancellation of awards.  In the end, the best advice is to simply apply common sense.  To provide clarity to our exhibitors, the following are circumstances that do affect one’s eligibility to exhibit.

What is considered as ‘exhibiting’ to a judge or at a show?

AKC defines “exhibit” as when one personally handles a dog, or any dog owned or co-owned by them being shown regardless of who handles the dog and where the dog resides.  Per AKC policy, restrictions impacting the eligibility to exhibit apply to all members of the same household.

Can judges exhibit the same weekend they judge?

Per AKC rules and policies, conformation judges assigned to breed, group and/or Best in Show may not exhibit in conformation at any show held from three days before through three days after the day(s) they judge held within 200 miles.  For example, a judge assigned to panels on Saturday and Sunday could not exhibit in conformation at any show held within 200 miles of their assignments from the Wednesday before through the Wednesday after.

AKC Rules state that judges may not exhibit the day they judge.  As a rule of thumb, a judge cannot compete in any AKC sport the same day they judge but could compete in other sports the days before and after their conformation assignment.  However, it is best to confirm with the appropriate AKC department as the eligibility to compete in a sport is dictated by the rules and regulations that govern it.

Is there any restriction for sweepstakes or futurity judges?

Per AKC policy, individuals or a member of their household assigned to judge sweepstakes or futurity may not exhibit the day they judge. This renders the sweepstakes/futurity judge ineligible to exhibit in any conformation event held within 200 miles the same day. They may exhibit the days before and after.

In addition, per policy, when the sweepstakes are part of a multi-day specialty, the restriction will run the entire length of the event.  It is important not to be confused with event numbers as a multi-day specialty may have several event numbers associated with it.  For example, sweepstakes will always have a unique event number when its judging is on a separate day than the regular classes.  For example, if a specialty schedule has sweepstakes on Wednesday, dog classes on Thursday, bitch classes on Friday, and intersex on Saturday; the sweepstakes judge would be ineligible to exhibit at any conformation event help within 200 miles from Wednesday through Saturday.

Are there any restrictions for judges of special attractions such as the National Owner-Handled Series (NOHS), Veteran groups, Bred-by Exhibitor groups, Puppy groups, etc.?

Judges assigned to NOHS groups/Best in Show are restricted similarly to sweepstakes judges where they may not exhibit the same day.  For all other special attractions, individuals judging the special attraction group/Best in Show may exhibit on the day(s) they judge but should not compete in the respective competition. Judges of the Four-to-Six Month Puppy competition may also exhibit the same day but may not compete in the Four-to-Six Month Puppy competition.

Can I exhibit at a show where someone I co-own dogs with is assigned to judge?

As explained previously, any dogs co-owned with the judge may not be exhibited the day(s) they judge and at any events held within 200 miles from three days before through three days after.

For dogs not co-owned by the judge or a member of their household, per AKC policy, you (and members of their household) may not exhibit to a judge with whom you co-own dogs.  It is important to remember that exhibit is defined as personally showing a dog, or any dog being shown that is owned or co-owned by you regardless of where it resides and who is handling it.  You may enter and exhibit any dog not co-owned in any class/competition the co-owner is NOT assigned.

If your co-owner is assigned to judge the respective group for your breed, but NOT the breed competition, you may enter and compete in the breed judging but may not compete in the group if your dog should win Best of Breed/Variety.

If your co-owner is assigned to judge Best in Show, but NOT the breed or group competition, you may compete in the breed and in the group.  If your dog should happen to be awarded Group 1st. per AKC Rules, all dogs eligible must be present for Best in Show, therefore it must be called in for Best in Show and marked present, and they must be excused for conflict of interest by the judge, by way of the request by the exhibitor.

Can I exhibit in sweepstakes if a judge with whom I have a conflict and cannot exhibit to is assigned to judge the regular classes for the breed?

If an entry in the sweepstakes requires that a dog be entered in the regular classes, NO, you may not compete in sweepstakes.  This is based on the fact that sweepstakes entry is conditional upon entry under a judge you are ineligible to compete.

Can I exhibit in the regular classes if a judge with whom I have a conflict and cannot exhibit to is assigned to judge the sweepstakes classes?

Yes, you may exhibit in the regular classes assuming the dog you wish to enter is not co-owned by the judge or a member of the judge’s household.  Because your conflict is specific to the sweepstakes judge, you are only restricted from competing in classes he/she is assigned to judge.

A member of my immediate family is a judge.  Can I exhibit at shows they judge if we are not members of the same household?

Chapter 11, Section 13 of the Rules Applying to Dog Shows states “…members of a judge’s immediate family who no longer reside in the same household may enter or handle a dog at a show if the judge is not officiating over any competition, including a group class or Best in Show, for which the dog is entered or may become eligible.” To put in simple terms, when the judge is a member of your immediate family, the conflict runs downhill, for example:

  • Your family member is assigned various breeds – you may exhibit in any breed(s) they are not assigned to judge
  • Your family member is assigned to judge a group – you may not exhibit in any breed from that group but may exhibit in any other breed(s) they are not assigned to judge
  • Your family member is assigned Best in Show – you may not exhibit in any breed or group as all entries could potentially advance to Best in Show

Can I exhibit to a judge I purchased a dog from?

AKC rules dictate that no dog that a judge has previously owned, boarded or resided in the judge’s household may be exhibited to the judge for one year from the time of transaction.  Reminder, the breeders are the owners of a litter until ownership is transferred, regardless of the location of the litter.

It is important to understand that even after a year has passed, the judge can choose to excuse your dog for a conflict of interest.  This would be consistent with judging guidelines which advise judges to excuse from their ring any dog which they know they bred.

An individual I have shown dogs for is a judge, may I exhibit to them?

Per AKC policy, agents who handle dog(s) for judges may not exhibit under the judge while under their employ and for at least four months after working for them.  This restriction also applies to any member of the same household and any associate (assistant) of the agent.

In addition, a judge/agent conflict cannot be circumvented by having an otherwise eligible individual exhibit the dog in the class under the judge with whom the conflict exists.  A dog being handled by, and/or in the care of the agent at a weekend/cluster is considered “their dog” the entire weekend/cluster.

Further, per AKC policy, judges may not employ the services of an agent for at least four months after the agent last exhibited under them.  This restriction also applies to any member of the agent’s household or any handling associate of the agent.

An individual I am currently employed by is judging, may I exhibit breeds they are not judging?

Yes, eligibility in this scenario is the same as when a judge with whom you co-own dogs is on a judging panel.  You may exhibit in any breed competition that your employer is not assigned.  If your employer is assigned a group(s) for any breeds that you exhibit, should those animals become eligible to compete in that group, the dog must be absent from the group competition. If the employer is assigned Best in Show and dog(s) that you exhibit become eligible to compete in Best in Show, then per AKC Rules, all dogs must be present for Best in Show.  The dog must enter the BIS ring and then be excused by the judge for conflict of interest.

Can I exhibit my dog under a family member of my handler?

Per AKC Rules, no entry shall be made at any show under a judge of any dog which said judge or any member of his immediate household or immediate family has been known to have owned, handled more than twice, sold held under lease or boarded within one year prior to the date of the show.

Can I exhibit to a judge if I bred to a stud dog they owned?

Breeding to a judge’s stud does not make one ineligible to compete under the judge.  While it is not defined in AKC Rules and Policies as a conflict, the judge is permitted under AKC Rules to excuse any person or dog from their ring where they believe a conflict exists.  As a conflict of interest is defined as when the presence of an exhibitor or their dogs gives the impression of unfair advantage, one should exercise common sense and be cognizant of the scenario created when entering under a judge soon after engaging in a transaction with the judge.

Can I exhibit to a judge that teaches my training class?

Per AKC Policy, no entry shall be made at any conformation show under a judge of any dog or owner of which said judge has provided handling and presentation instructions in conformation or obedience training classes, for a period of one year prior to the show.

Can I exhibit to a judge that I travel to shows with?

The AKC Judging Guidelines includes “persons with whom you travel to shows” as those who should not enter under a judge.  “Travel to shows” would also include those with whom one shares hotel rooms or regularly park/sets up together with at shows.

If my exact situation was not mentioned as a conflict, is it assumed to be okay to enter and exhibit?

As mentioned at the beginning of this page, it is impossible to define every relationship that creates a conflict of interest.  Just because your specific scenario was not listed, it does not necessarily mean a conflict does not exist.  AKC Judging Guidelines do clearly state it is the responsibility of the AKC to interpret its Rules, Regulations, and Policies; and that scenarios not specifically defined may be determined to be a conflict of interest and potentially result in the cancellation of awards.

The responsibility for not entering dogs that are ineligible to compete or create a conflict of interest is with the exhibitor. The judge has full authority to excuse any person or dog from the ring, event for reasons only known to the judge.

If you have a situation that does not fall in any of the above categories, please do not hesitate to contact Judging Operations.  We would be happy to answer your questions.  Please send them to judgingops@akc.org or call (919) 816-3593. In the end, the best advice is to simply apply common sense.

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