Is ARBA Dead? <<<--- Rare Breed People READ!!!!

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Is ARBA Dead? <<<--- Rare Breed People READ!!!!

Post by bbur.. » Fri, 15 Mar 1996 04:00:00

March 11, 1996

To The Board Of Directors Of The American Rare Breed Association, Its Members And Rare Breed Dog
Exhibitors In General:

Briefly, and for those who don't know me, my name is Barry Burton.  I am a professional handler with a
well known reputation for handling large,  difficult dogs.  I have exhibited at ARBA shows beginning since
the beginning of 1993, and am a member of the Show Stopper Group that has placed more dogs in the top
ten (7 in 1994, 5 in 1995) and finished more breed club champions through our support of ARBA shows
than anyone else. My Fila Brasileiro ***, ARBA Grand Ch, ARBA A1CH, Ch. Blackforest's Beauty &
Beast, TT, finished 1994 as ARBA's #6 overall dog, #2 *** and #1 Fila.  Needless to say, I have spent a
small fortune in entry fees alone with ARBA.  For those of you who do know me, you haven't seen me at
many ARBA shows in a while.  This letter is to explain why.

ARBA was founded six years ago with the goal of unifying rare breed exhibitions in the US into a solid
show circuit, to expose American judges to some of the more *** breeds, to educate them in regard to
their standards, conformation, temperament, etc. and to expose international judges (FCI) to American dogs
and exhibitors. ARBA's stated goal was to do away with the political aspects of dog showing and to run
clean shows.  These are high standards for any organization, and in the beginning, it appeared to work.

Last night at 11:00PM, Dr. John Slack of the American Rare breed Association called me on the pretense
that ARBA had 4-5 computers they wanted to get rid of and would I be interested in them "since ARBA
was dead".  As I was asleep when he called, I missed this inference to ARBA being dead and took the bait.  
John then launched into a lengthy discussion about how wonderful the tournament was going to be, about
how many entries they had, the Cherry Blossom, etc. and that he wished I would quit telling everyone that
ARBA was dead.  I was asleep at the time of the call, so it took me a while to understand the point of the
whole conversation.  I interrupted him at this point and asked him if he had called me about computers or

pleasantries by this point and hung up.  Two minutes later, my FAX line rang with a specialty entry form
from "ARBA"  (<-- quotes here are intentional) and a hand written note from John saying he hoped to see
me there.  

Besides being very upset that someone would be so inconsiderate to call at the late hour to harangue me for
something I allegedly did, it struck me as indicative of what ARBA has become. To set the record straight, I
have told exactly ONE person my feelings on the current status of ARBA. Instead of calling to discuss what
I had said, he chose to approach me about one topic, while dancing around the issue he really wanted to talk
about.  Here you have the President and Executive Director of an organization that proclaims itself to be
world class organization, attempting to harass and intimidate someone who has been a very big financial
supporter. I believe that these actions tend to show the current state of affairs within ARBA, and if this
leadership continues, they risk losing everything.

My disillusionment with the organization began in 1994 at the Cherry Blossom Classic. On Sunday, I
noticed that one particular exhibitor was spending a large amount of time behind the ARBA desk in the
judges area (strictly off limits).  I observed this handler conversing with a number of judges during the
morning activities, so therefore it was no surprise when the handler-dog team won best in show.  It angered
me further when the handler-dog team took best in show in the afternoon!  Whether ARBA intended it to or
not, the appearance of impropriety had surfaced by allowing this handler in a restricted area that every other
exhibitor was prevented from entering. After that show, I began to observe and question more.

My next insight into the level of politics present within ARBA was at the Atlanta Show later that year.  All
day long, one particular judge was admiring the dog I was handling, even going so far as to ask me directly
for information on the dog, breed, etc.  The judge stated that it was the best dog at the show.  Period. No
question about it.  As an ethical exhibitor, I told her I did not think it was appropriate to discuss this with
her at this time, but would be glad to talk with her after the show, and directed the judge to ARBA
information area. The next day, when this judge had the dog in the group ring, the dog was dumped.  
Suddenly, overnight this dog was no longer worthy of making the cut.  What caused me to question this
whole incident was the unbridled enthusiasm for the dog the day before. However after the inquiry to
ARBA and/or the judges dinner that night, he was no longer worthy.  (As a side note, this dog finished the
year in the top ten.)

The next issue arose the Hollywood Classic.  My dog, Beauty, was the undisputed top Fila in the country at
this time and had won breed all weekend until the last show.  A class dog was put up over her, when it was
quite clear that the other dog was lame.  I understand judges preferences, and do not mind loosing to good
dogs, but to a lame dog? I then watched this same judge dumped ARBA's #1 overall dog (Guarini -
Argentine Dogo) for a class ***.  The common thread to both animals was the handler. Apparently politics
was playing a more important  role than the exhibited dog's merits.

This was the start of a pattern repeated throughout the rest of the show season and into the next.

1) During the ARBA annual meeting at the Cherry Blossom in 1995, a financial statement was issued to all
present claiming to be a true and accurate record of ARBA's 1994 revenue and expense.  As I reviewed it, I
began to realize that the numbers didn't add up.  John Slack had many times stated to me and others that
Pedigree funded ARBA in excess of $100,000 annually.  The revenues stated on the financial report, taken
with this level of funding or with very conservative estimates of what revenue should be without it, simply
did not add up. In addition, show revenue was stated as other income.  If show revenue was other income,
what and where was real income?  It wasn't listed.  This oversight could have a very significant effect on the
stated bottom line.  As I was an exhibitor/handler, suspecting more and more the high level of politics that
now consumed the organization, I chose to say nothing. I thought it would not be prudent to jeopardize the
entries of our clients.  (As a side note, do you realize that the ARBA Board of Directors and general
membership could be held liable for any and all losses and/or tax liability?)

2) At the 1995 Nutmeg Classic, I personally witnessed on three separate occasions an ARBA official
(acting as steward) telling the judge which dog he should or should not pick!  I  realize that judges have
their own minds, but in each case they went with the "suggestion".  The insult to all of the exhibitors,
though, was the shameless way the judges behaved in picking their best in show winners.  For those who
don't know or recall, the winner in three of the four shows was a German Pincher. My concern arises from
the fact that the dogs' owners and other GP breeders were shuttling the judges back and forth.  Why were
they seen hugging and laughing with each other both before and after the show? Why did the judges know
the GP's by name?  Here you had hundreds of people who had paid large sums of money to enter and travel
long distances to have the show biased very obviously in one direction.  It was obvious to the professionals,
but even the every day exhibitor started to notice. Even senior ARBA officials were shocked.

3) One more incident at this show occurred to really drive home how political things had become. To
digress a minute, at the 1994 Orange Blossom Classic in Orlando, an acknowledged dual-registered Pit
Bull/Am Staff took a best in show. Shortly thereafter this dog was barred from exhibiting further at any
ARBA shows as dual registered dogs are prohibited from showing at ARBA events.  There is no reprieve
and no appeal.  Presently, during the 1995 show season, a similarly dual registered Pit Bull/Am Staff was
shown without comment by ARBA until very late in the year.  Again, this is plainly in violation of the
ARBA rules, but the owner is a close friend of ARBA officials, and it was allowed to show. When the Glen
of Imal Terrier people mentioned this to ARBA, it was flatly stated that the dog was grandfathered in (no
explanation of what exactly this means, or why this "grandfathering" was applied to one dual registered dog
and not another). Is this fair to other terrier exhibitors or to the owners of Thor, the banned Pit Bull?  (By
the way, this same dog, now under new "ownership" and magically transformed into a Pit Bull won a best in
show at the 1996 Orange Blossom Classic.)

When the Las Vegas show was canceled and the tournament moved to San Diego, that should have been a
big signal to all of us, the big trouble ARBA is in.  To add insult to injury, there was no immediate
notification that the show was canceled.  As many people had already purchased their airline tickets,
changed vacation schedules,  made hotel reservations, etc., this was a big blow that cost people a lot of
money ARBA!   Their attitude was so what, that's life.  And then the tournament itself.  There were two
premiums, from two groups claiming to be ARBA, sent to exhibitors.  The main message of each was, send
us your money.  At this point,  for all of us that have faithfully supported ARBA, it boiled down to a matter
of confidence.  Many owners of 1995's top dogs have decided just to sit this one out.  

Therefore, in light of Anita Bryants' resignation as board member, the forced removal of Betty Augastowski
as President if favor of John Slack, and the subsequent resignation of four other directors as well as
numerous non-salaried support personnel,  I cannot and will not support the organization unless the
following occurs:

1. The resignations of John Slack as President and Executive Director, all other officers, as well as the
resignations of the entire Board of Directors are tendered effective immediately. A new Board will then be
fairly elected instead of appointed and a new President selected.  It will be up to the new board to decide
whether or not to name John Slack as executive director.

2. All ARBA funds are put in an escrow account until which time, a full and complete financial audit is
made (see item 3).  All physical assets will be similarly secured.

3. A complete financial audit by a certified public accounting firm of all ARBA financial records for the last  
three years as well as ongoing yearly audits will be initiated immediately.  Once this audit is complete, an
annual meeting will be called with a minimum of thirty days prior notice in order to review these financial
reports and to elect new board members.

4. A new mission statement by ARBA stating that politics and personal favors of any kind will not be
tolerated in any way, shape, or form.  Even the appearance of impropriety will result in harsh sanctions
against exhibitors, judges and/or ARBA officials.

5.  The formation of a judges committee to properly select, screen and assign judges so occurrences like
what happened at the Nutmeg Classic will not happen again.

Statements one through three will take care of the continuing operation of ARBA; statements four and five
will bring it back in line with its original intent.  Do I think John or any of the remaining board members
will agree to this.   Probably not.  However, if they truly wish to serve the interests of the organization and
the dogs, as much as they profess, then it is the only thing they can do to set things back on track.  Anything
less is suspect, and in my opinion, should result in the dissolution of the organization, its charter and
constitution.  The new "ARBA" can then proceed on whatever tack they wish, it just cannot call itself
American Rare Breed Association any more.  

The interest of rare breeds dogs in the United Stated of America are not being served by the current keepers
of ARBA.  I believe the question was "is ARBA is dead".  It is up to you to decide.


Barry H. Burton

cc: FCI
     American Kennel Club
     United Kennel Club
     States Kennel Club
     World Wide Kennel Club

P.S. PLEASE!!! Pass this message on to others that may interested.