Kennel Club Insight
Your monthly guide to what the Kennel Club is doing for you and your dogs
By the KC Press Team
Outside the bustling period of Crufts in March, the busiest time of year for the Kennel Club press office is October when Eukanuba Discover Dogs and Westminster Dog of the Year (WDOTY) both take place.
The public relations team created several different news angles in the weeks leading up to Discover Dogs in order to promote the show. A photocall with a ‘stressbuster clinic’ was arranged, the most popular pet names for dogs across parts of London and different areas in the UK were revealed using Agria insurance statistics, and a breakdown of the most popular breeds in different London postcodes was announced using Kennel Club registration figures. Media highlights included coverage of the ‘clinic’ from the Mail Online and Evening Standard, a feature on London’s dog breeds and pet names in Time Out and lots of stories in regional areas.
The show itself was a huge success with nearly 34,000 visitors at ExCeL London, making it the second most successful year in the event’s history. The number of people who came to the show to meet around 200 breeds of pedigree dog, find out how to choose the right breed for their lifestyle and find a responsible breeder, watch displays and competitions and shop at the trade stands, was 28 per cent higher this year than in 2016 (26,310).
Volunteers help the KC
In addition to the ever popular pedigree dog breed booths, which included the White Swiss Shepherd and Russian Toy for the very first time this year after they were officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 2017, Eukanuba Discover Dogs hosted a series of 'firsts' to delight crowds, including a Young Kennel Club (YKC) ‘Have a Go’ ring for youngsters to sample dog activities and the special stressbuster clinic (the same one as used in the press launch) where the public could meet puppies to experience the positive psychological and physiological effects of being around dogs. Also new this year was a dedicated Kid Zone to keep children entertained when they were not meeting dogs.
Members of the general public were also able to see dog owners taking part in competitions such as the Junior Warrant Winner of the Year semi-finals, junior handling, agility and YKC agility and grooming, so hopefully these activities will have attracted a few new recruits. The Kennel Club takes this opportunity to thank all those volunteers who helped at the show to make it the success it undoubtedly was.
Dogs meet MPs
Westminster Dog of the Year, which this year celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, is run jointly by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust. It is an event which involves a large amount of work for the Kennel Club public affairs team, but is an excellent opportunity for them to meet MPs in an informal setting and discuss our lobbying work which surrounds issues affecting dogs and their owners.
The MPs entering the competition campaigned hard, canvassing for votes from the public before meeting the expert judges to discuss their dog’s heroic deeds and acts of devotion. This year, the event focused on the importance of training and behaviour and the life skills it arms both dog and owner with.
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The judging panel – Steve Jenkinson of the Kennel Club, Graeme Robertson from Dogs Trust and 2016 winning owner Jonathan Reynolds MP – spent the morning with dogs from different political persuasions and ambitions.
This year’s winner of the coveted title was Rocky, a seven-year-old chocolate Labrador belonging to Batley and Spen Labour MP Tracy Brabin. The winners of the online ‘Paw-blic’ vote were Boomer and Corona, Border Collies owned by Alex Norris, MP for Nottingham North.
Before the day, the KC’s public relations team pitched news stories to journalists and photographers from a variety of media outlets, many of whom attended the event which was a great success. Positive press coverage appeared in the majority of national newspapers the following day. Other notable coverage included BBC, ITV, and Sky News programmes, Buzzfeed video content and BBC online videos and a news quiz.
KC in the news
Throughout October there was a wide variety of coverage from national, regional and broadcast outlets, plus coverage in dog and veterinary publications, and the KC press office received a high level of queries and requests. Over the course of the month, 29 news releases and announcements were sent out to secure press coverage in a proactive manner across a range of media.
Other key coverage in October included stories covering a discussion in the House of Lords about the breeding of cats of dogs and whether or not brachycephalic animals should be bred, and calls from Defra, the BVA and others to prosecute those who knowingly use exaggerated breeding. The press office answered questions and provided comments for outlets including the Sunday Times and Veterinary Record. Regional coverage also picked up stories on agility and Scruffts winners at Discover Dogs, the upcoming agility competition at Olympia, and success stories of the DogFriendly Award winners.
One hundred and sixty six broadcast pieces were aired during October with an overall reach of 117 million, according to analysis received by the KC. The main focus of this coverage included interviews with the winner of WDOTY on national news programmes, regional radio reports of the event and televised parliamentary debates where the competition was mentioned by MPs. Other topics covered included a debate in the House of Lords regarding selective breeding and brachycephalic dogs, and an interview between Jonathan Ross and Clare Balding which touched on Crufts.
November is also proving a busy time for the KC’s public affairs team as, at the time of going to press, they have just returned from a roundtable meeting in the Scottish Parliament on the future of regulations on electronic training aids. This meeting was arranged jointly by the KC and the Scottish Kennel Club, sponsored by Maurice Golden MSP and was well attended by the leading animal welfare and veterinary organisations, dog trainers and behaviourists as well as Dr Jonathan Cooper from the University of Lincoln who conducted the Defra funded research projects on these devices. We were delighted that MSPs including Emma Harper, Colin Smyth, Mairi Gougeon and Jeremy Balfour were also able to attend.
However, the KC and SKC both remain disappointed with the Scottish government’s response to their calls for a complete ban on these devices. Despite the evidence presented and the overwhelming support for a complete ban on the sale and use of shock collars, the Scottish government outlined their intent to regulate their sale and use instead. The proposal put forward was that the Scottish government would develop a Scottish Vocational Qualification which would effectively license dog trainers to use electric shock devices. The Kennel Club has grave concerns that this would legitimise the use of these devices and gaining the qualification could become an aspirational target for dog trainers. This would send a message to the people of Scotland that this is an acceptable way to train a dog when there is a wealth of evidence to the contrary.
Further we were disappointed to learn that the Scottish government has met several times with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers who use shock collars (of which there are 20-100 in Scotland) and the same courtesy has not been extended to a number of well established professional dog training associations who oppose their use.
The KC and SKC are therefore now calling on the public to write to their MSP to show their support for an outright ban rather than continuing on this expensive and time consuming route.