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Amazingly itís been 33 years since agility started. And to think it all came from a little demonstration that was to be used a filler in between important things in the Main Ring at Crufts in 1978. Who would ever had thought that from that humble beginning it would very quickly spread throughout the world and become a mainstream canine discipline with World Championships! Dave Ray, then KC Agility Liaison Council Chairman, was there from the beginning.

I know it is our favourite sport to criticise the governing body but the Kennel Club have got it right in the last 30 years. By getting involved and retaining control, UK agility avoided the free for all which is sadly what happened in the USA.

We were very lightly governed in the very early years with some very, very basic rules. In fact the first classification that was recognised and widely used in the UK was one that was suggested and recommended by 'The Agility Club' as a voluntary classification subsequently of course adopted by the KC along with a lot of other custom and practice rules within the sport again a pretty wise move hence they ensured that everyone was happy with the rule before they made it an obligatory rule. 

In the early dog days there were some old fashioned KC people who said that there would never ever be an Agility Council and that there never would be Agility Champions! Little did they realise that the sport would grow to surpass all the other activity disciplines that the KC have an interest in. It was only a short time before the first election was held for the Agility Council. Of course, the days of this attitude from the KC have long gone and I should say that the type of person that practised this attitude has long gone.

How it works
All disciplines have Councils with members representing all areas of the UK. As far as suggestions for the Kennel Club are concerned, the Council is the bottom of the decision-making ladder - very similar, in fact, to be being an MP. Just like them, Council members can put proposals through from their constituents, but it doesnít mean that this will be voted through the Council meeting (Parliament) to the next level.

In our case, this means that next Committee up in the hierarchy is the Activities Sub-Committee (ASC). This committee has representatives from Obedience, Working Trials, Bloodhounds, HTM and, of course, Agility. As Chairman, I represent the Agility Council. Other members on the ASC are John Gilbert (Council), Steve Croxford (General Committee), Lesley Olden (Council), and Dave Jolly (Judges Working Party).

Even if a proposal from the Agility Council is put through unanimously, it then comes before the ASC and has to be agreed by all the members who have a wider canine experience. Obviously, on technical matters they are led by the discipline involved. But, even if the ASC agree a proposal that is not the end of it. This then goes forward to the KC General Committee with a recommendation that a rule be adopted. In the main the General Committee will rubber stamp it unless they believe that the said rule change would interfere with the overall master plan of the KCís other disciplines or is badly worded.

There are two Council meetings a year and for both of these meetings, Council members are encouraged to gather opinion from their area in whatever manner they want. There is absolutely no doubt the preferred method of doing this is by having a meeting. With a meeting a subject can be debated and it is certainly not unknown for people to change their opinions on matters when a debate has been concluded and I certainly have had some lively debates in my meetings. I do understand it is difficult and expensive for people to travel to these meetings but that doesnít detract from my view that they are the best method of communication. Failing this of course we have emails, letters and telephone calls but everyone should understand that you are only expressing a one sided view perhaps without knowing the full reasons and justifications and likely outcome of any proposals made.

So as previously said, your council rep has two meetings a year at the KC plus perhaps two or three area meetings, but it doesn't end there. Members of the Agility Council, as senior participants of the sport, are encouraged to be involved in other areas. It could be the KC Agility Festival, Judges Working Party, Accreditation Scheme, Crufts or indeed to be a member of the Activities Sub-Committee which, of course, all takes up more time but obviously the KC can only function if people from all the disciplines take part in the many facets of the KC work.

In conclusion I have to say that if you are not happy with decisions concerning agility rules please bear in mind that in virtually all cases these originate democratically with the Council. If you want to get involved with this democratic process the answer is to attend area meetings to make your views known, or even better stand for election at the next KC Agility Council elections.

About the author...
Dave Ray j
oined Rugby DTC with his wife Mary in 1978 and, although not a dedicated dog handler, his business skills were soon put to good use. After election to the Committee, he held various positions including for many years the Club Treasurer and Show <anager.He has now been a RDTC member for 32 years and is currently the Vice President and Show Manager.

Dave is also Chairman and trustee of a Rugby-based charity called Avon Valley Canine Trust.

He took  over running the Olympia Agility events in the early 90s and became the agility organiser for the sponsors Pedigree. He remained in this position until their withdrawal in 2009. He then continued organising this event for the Kennel Club.

Dave was elected as Midlands representative on the KC Agility Liaison Council about 12 years ago and later elected as Chairman of the Agility Council. He is a member of the Activities Sub-Committee, the International Agility Working Party and the Agility Festival Working Party. He is also quite involved with Crufts Dog Show and is renown for the his expert agility, HTM, Flyball and Obedience commentaries.  

5 February 2011


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