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By Kathy Hoyt Warren, originally published in the Aussie Times Sept/Oct 1990 p. 101 Copyright 2001 Australian Shepherd Club of America, Inc.
I had the privilege of being the course director of the 1990 Silver Bullet
Futurity. Thirteen well-prepared dogs participated over two days, with three
go-rounds on each class of stock. Being in the position of course director, I
handled any and all complaints. The overwhelming concern by spectators and
exhibitors was about two dogs entered that were (allegedly) not Australian
Shepherds. For those of you not familiar with futurities, they are open only to
ASCA registered Australian Shepherds. These people had a legitimate complaint.
In my opinion, these dogs bore neither physical resemblance nor the working
style of an Aussie.
These same dogs were brought to the attention of the then A.S.C.A. board of directors and our A.S.C.A. Registrar. The then board of directors executive decision was to register these dogs. It didn�t matter that these dogs phenotypically did not even resemble and Aussie. The breeder filled in the numbers and signed his/her name, and that was all it took. The then board had an opportunity to nip this sort of thing in the bud, but chose to ignore it, setting a horrible precedence that will now be very difficult to correct or stop.
For those of you who think this is an isolated incident and think no long range consequences will be felt, think again. There are in a number of these type dogs out there across the U.S.. The long-range consequences as I see it are:
1) Bringing in inherent genetic defects that are present in one breed and not another. For example, Border Collies have a definite problem with PRA. Aussies are pretty clean. Borders have a higher rate of hip dysphasia and monorchidism than Aussies.
2) Diluting the much-needed loose-eyed herding traits of the Aussie. As a person who not only trials Aussies, but uses them on the ranch because they are loose-eyed, the loss of this trait would be very upsetting. There are quite possibly only two breeds that are loose-eyed and can handle cattle. These dogs are hard to come by. I can find a eye dog anywhere. There are lots of them around. We don�t need to change the Aussie into a Border. Why remake the wheel, it�s already been done quite successfully.
3) Misrepresentation. These dogs are misrepresenting the Aussie both in looks and working style. One of these days, these dogs will be competing our National Finals. You and I may know better, but will the novice puppy buyer who buys a pup out of these dogs? Or the general public who came because they wanted to see what an Australian Shepherd is suppose to be?
4) Conformation folks, this affects you too. What�s to stop someone in the breed ring from crossbreeding to bring in some quick fix to satisfy a breed ring fad. Wouldn�t it bother you just a little bit to have one of these wondering around the Nationals looking like a short-tailed, short-coated McNab, Border or Kelpie, and calling itself an Aussie? Or worse yet, going Most Versatile Aussie? Oh yes, this could happen. Dock the tail on a Kelpie, fake A.S.C.A. papers, and he can show in breed. Of course, he won�t place, but he doesn�t have to, to get points towards the Versatility Award. There has been more than one National Versatility winner without breed ring placement.
What can we do about this? Well, the barn door has been left open. It�s going to be very difficult to close it now. However, for all of you who have seen these dogs and others like them and are upset, a short or long letter to the now board of directors may get them to close the barn door and eliminate the obvious fakes from our registry. Also, A.S.C.A. has A.S.C.A. Stockdog Judges who can score these dogs down if they work like a Border Collie and are called an Aussie, for having working style atypical for the breed.
That isn�t much, but if nothing else it should make these people promoting these dogs a little uncomfortable. Maybe so much so that they will take a look at their ethics and clean their act up. Who knows? One thing for sure, ignoring it will not make it go away.
(Please read the follow-up article, published in the very next Aussie Times, called "Terminology", and the President's Response)