Lockdown has certainly raised our levels of anxiety but something else has made the collective blood pressure of UK breeders, owners and judges of pedigree dogs rise at an extraordinary rate!
When the Kennel Club decided that they would bravely step forward into the industry of online technology to improve, enhance and improve their existing website some months ago it’s a fair bet they never imagined that far from impressing its many clients, it would actually alienate them even more.
There has been a vast range of issues, far bigger than could be described as “teething problems” so what has been going wrong?
Frankly, I’m a little bit rubbish with techy terms so forgive me if I try and explain my way out of this virtual paper bag to suggest where the rips have appeared and why.
Computers and databases respond to commands that are presented to them in their own language, this whole untidy mess comes down to communication. This is something the Kennel Club have struggled with for years, I can’t help feeling that this latest episode of apparent self destruction may have its roots back there when the new website and database was in its infancy. In my imagination this is how a conversation between the KC and the software company went.
KC “We need a massive database because ours is filling up rapidly, all those records stored, information and names and addresses, Phew! It’s a big job and we want all sorts of people to be able to go to the website and get that information, well at least the bits we want them to see , they need to be able to register litters and pay us quickly and , Oh yes, we want bright colours…”
Techie “I see, do you know in detail what you want all this to do?”
KC “Well yes, but can’t you just look at the old site and see how that works? “
Techie scratches beard “Ahh, bit of a problem there because we can’t just copy what has been done before intellectual property and all that, but we are confident we can build you a system that will last years and years and do what you want as long as you tell us EXACTLY what you want it to do”
KC “I can’t tell you everything about dogs and I know nothing about programming “
Techie “That’s ok I don’t need to know about dogs, I just need to know what sort of sanity checks I need to put in place”
KC “Sanity checks? We definitely don’t have any of those at the Kennel Club “
Techie smiles tightly” Data integrity checks, the technology has to have specific rules in place so when data is entered into the database it has to make sense.”
KC “Hmm… so for instance the offspring of a dog would have to be born after the date of birth of the parent?”
Techie “That’s right, or we could end up with lots and lots of …“ fingers wiggle in the air “not found”
KC “I thought our little red book was complicated, we’d better plan another meeting…”
You know that old adage, you only get out what you put in?
Data and programming is like that, there are so many possible slips to be made between a human entering a piece of information and what is spat out at the other end. The worst possible thing the Kennel Club could do when the realised it was all going horribly wrong was slam on their crash helmets and take cover but to the “client base”, we the breeders and owners, this is what appeared to be happening.
We telephoned the Kennel Club, we wrote to the Kennel Club, we sent emails to the Kennel Club and all but the lucky few, in proportion, had replies. Months on from the apologetic but positive message from KC CEO Mark Beazley and still the same problems arise again and again. Litter registrations that take weeks to process, glaring faults on the paperwork that any hobby breeder would spot before the envelope hit the waste bin and most worrying of all the acceptance of money via electronic transfer that cannot correctly detect if monies have been taken or not. It should not be the responsibility of the client to check their bank records it is simply unacceptable that a system dealing with banks cannot be sure if it has taken your hard earned money, this is tried and tested good practice so why not on the KC site? With that kind of attitude we could all be paying for a place in the Cayman Islands.
Why have folk been hanging on the telephone for not just minutes, but hours?
Anne Halls, Chihuahua exhibitor has just received her ‘phone bill. Not a lady to give up easily Anne was on hold for 6 hours before it cut off leaving her with a whopping £42.48 hole in her pocket. Telephone etiquette in a business setting isn’t easy but either the answering system is woefully lacking in personnel or the call handling has to be constructed in a way that is customer friendly , even if the customer isn’t feeling friendly!
It may surprise you that The KC actually have sought help from a company who specialise in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) part of that brief is, yep, you guessed it, communication.
Tracy Davies (Montecani Italian Spinoni) has a long list of complaints. Amongst them was her registration of a litter of 2 pups, on paper November 2020. She said “I got their registration certificates back yesterday. Shocked! No parent’s health tests on the paperwork. They had taken the money for those way before I got them. After complaining about the litter not being registered, the KC then sent out registration certificates for a litter I bred 18 months ago, whom had all gone off to new homes and been transferred to new owners. I made up a new KC account, but there are none of my dogs on it. In fact there is nothing on it at all!! They have told me to check it again this week, it’s a shambles”
People are still having to contact the KC because the information in their MyKC has some bizarre dogs listed in their name or like Tracy, none at all .One breeder wrote to the KC when she accessed her account and after several attempts at asking for her dogs to be listed and said “Well, you’ve got all my dogs with you there now, I do hope you’re taking care of them!”
I know very well that the ambition was to produce an improved service but when it is clear that not only are there ongoing issues that no construction of patches can make good without taking down another much wanted area there has to be a way forward that acknowledges that not only do the Kennel Club “say” they are listening but that the Kennel Club are accessible and these problems are investigated. Right at the moment I believe there is a fire-fighting approach, but areas such as chronological order, data integrity and financial security should have been tested to death before any launch was carried out.
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The latest update from users of the system is that litter registrations are now going through a little faster but there is still a massive backlog to be trudged through and it appears that should an imported dog be involved you might as well make yet another cup of coffee because you have a long wait ahead. Janet Lee (Tythrop Border Terriers) has been trying for months to have her order fulfilled for a 5 generation pedigree from the KC. This official document is required when exporting semen for AI. So far the dog in question has not been found at the KC allegedly and yet this dog was legally imported with KC documents and has even won a Challenge Certificate and two reserves in the UK! A recent print out stated this dog’s mother had been born on 00.00.01.What is apparent in her many conversations with the registration department is that the operator is seeing correct data, probably through direct access but by the time it gets to a printer it has become gobble-de-gook.
DogFocus asked for a statement from the Kennel Club on this appalling situation. As was expected it was full of expressions of how the new system would work and about the improvements and the forward planning. I have to agree, it all sounds wonderful, except that it really isn’t working at a very basic level. Part of the statement from the KC says “In order to ensure that significant learnings and improvements are made for the future, the Board and the Risk and Assurance Committee of The Kennel Club have commissioned a review of the IT and new website project. This process is already underway and the report will look at project conception, vision, business planning, governance, programme management and execution. The interview sessions will include our consultants and developers, Hartsquare and Felinesoft, the Nexus Programme Board and business leads.”
This surely needs an official enquiry into how these actions have put pedigree dog’s official body in such an invidious position and how money has been spent. The time for closed door review is over, this is affecting how the world view the KC and by association, us.
You can read the full statement at the end of this article.
What can be done?
You could look at this two ways. As a disgruntled client you could pursue a claim, backed by the law of the land as applied by Trading Standards. Goods or services supplied in the UK have to toe the line as far as functionality and the item should be as described, all delivered within a reasonable time from payment or contract. It really is a simple case of Trader unable to fulfil a contract in a reasonable timescale. As a monopoly this becomes even more serious.
Certainly the Kennel Club have worked hard at health issues within dogs over many years and yet for some unknown reason health tests on the parents have ceased to be part of a new puppy’s paperwork. There was enough confusion on the sad demise of the Animal Health Trust and the pivotal tests that were only carried out there but now the information is even harder to find and more importantly for a new owner, prove. Breeders feel let down and unsupported at a time when we should be shouting from the rooftops that we have decent breeders in the country. The KC has put those breeders in a dark place and already we are seeing unregistered puppies being sold with promises of the “KC paperwork” to follow from greeders who are taking advantage of the situation.
The Kennel Club would, I’m quite sure, prefer that we didn’t pursue a claim. That we trust and wait because all good things come to he who waits, right? I would suggest that it is as well that Crufts will not take place next month, dog folk get pretty feisty when it comes to their reputation and the longer these issues continue the more tainted and tarnished the UK dog world may appear.
Given time, the problems will be sorted out. I know that doesn’t help you right now if you need a service from the KC that is time sensitive or you have been waiting some while. It is frustrating in a world that is changing and we are having to adjust almost daily that the one thing we thought we could count on appears to have been a victim of software self sabotage. It has shaken our confidence in the establishment. In a society that demands someone to blame I’m sure there will be several sacrificial lambs in the coming year but will it achieve anything?
I am reminded of American comedian Mitch Hedberg’s quote “ An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.”
Kennel Club Statement 02.02.21
A spokesperson for The Kennel Club said: “We sincerely apologise for the delays and customer service issues that the new website has caused over the past few months, which has fallen far short of our usual service. As the system bedded in, we experienced some technical issues and software bugs which has been a source of disappointment for our customers and for us as an organisation. We have been and are continuing to work hard with our suppliers to deal with these as swiftly as possible, but want to be clear that this has not impacted people’s ability to find many thousands of successfully registered puppies on our Find A Puppy service, which is unique amongst puppy listings websites for including health test data on every puppy entry and is a vital resource for those looking to buy a puppy responsibly.
“Similarly, whilst there are improvements to functionality and navigation that will be made, all of the tools that we provide to help breeders make responsible decisions, related to health tests and genetic diversity, are still at the heart of The Kennel Club website.
“We are continuing to listen to customer feedback as we develop and improve the website, for example, we have reinstated the second generation pedigree view when using the Dog Look Up Service. Website users no longer need to log in to use this service, and the titles of dogs (such as Ch and JW) have now been added, as a new feature. We have also made changes to the search functions to make it more intuitive and sophisticated. When using the Find a Puppy service, we have removed the key word search and provided a drop-down list to ensure breeders are receiving emails only for the breeds for which they are listed. Other filters allow website users to search for the location and sex of the puppy. It is also possible to refine the search to look for Assured Breeders, as well as for litters produced by dogs with health test results recorded on The Kennel Club database.
“Work is also now underway on the functionality and enhancements of our Find a Club, Find a Judge and Find a Show services, and we will be bringing these valuable tools back as soon as we are confident that they meet the required standards.
“There are many other areas for development, not least enhancing our customers’ experiences when accessing the vital information and tools to help breeders produce and puppy buyers find, healthy pups, and these are amongst the issues at the forefront of our minds as we make developments in the future. We have made progress in this area, for example health tests are now displayed on the Find a Puppy search for parents, which is a useful tool for puppy buyers seeking responsibly bred puppies and which was not available on our old site.
“In order to ensure that significant learnings and improvements are made for the future, the Board and the Risk and Assurance Committee of The Kennel Club have commissioned a review of the IT and new website project. This process is already underway and the report will look at project conception, vision, business planning, governance, programme management and execution. The interview sessions will include our consultants and developers, Hartsquare and Felinesoft, the Nexus Programme Board and business leads.”