Ann Bark, Ethics Committee Chair

If it’s not a residential zone, school zone, or area with pedestrian traffic, chances are I’m driving somewhere between 5 and 7 or 8 mph over the speed limit.  I generally consider myself to be a law-abiding person but hey, the police don’t seem to notice and I'm usually late to somewhere.  I am also aware that at 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit, chances are much higher that I’ll be pulled over and that at 15 to 20 mph over, it’s pretty much a sure thing.  On top of that, I know that greatly exceeding the speed limit is dangerous and I never, never want to be the cause of an accident.  So, what does this have to do with ethics?  Well, I love a good analogy so bear with me.

The first line of the WTCA Code of Ethics (COE) reads: “I will comply with all American Kennel Club and WTCA rules".  We have all agreed to this, but do we strictly comply? For example, how many of us exhibit dogs with artificial substances in their coat.  Uh – almost all of us?

So, is this ok? Consider the fact that this is an AKC rule subject to AKC enforcement.  Most of the time, judges seem to turn a blind eye to this practice.  The most serious transgressions that result in discolored hands may elicit a knowing and disapproving look from the judge but that’s as far as it goes.  Sort of like speeding 5 mph over the speed limit.  What about fixing tails?  maybe 10 mph over the speed limit?  And dental work and more extensive surgical change? Maybe 20+ mph?  Whatever.  At the end of the day, all these practices are violations of AKC rules however AKC seems to view some transgressions as more serious than others.

As an AKC parent breed club, WTCA is aligned with the principles upon which AKC is founded and WTCA members need to be compliant with AKC rules.  In general, we defer to AKC’s judgement when it comes to enforcement. We can and should, however, choose to emphasize particular rules or be stricter in our enforcement of those rules if we feel it’s important to fulfilling our mission.  For example, if WTCA decides (and I am not expressing an opinion that we should) that preservation of color in our breed is a high priority, there are a number of ways WTCA can emphasize this point.  One way would be to add a sentence into the COE that states that in accepting the COE, a member agrees to always present their dog in its natural state, including color.  Whether or not the Club chooses to enforce this, this statement will remind members of the importance of preserving this trait.

The above is a hypothetical example meant to help everyone better understand the role of the COE.  The COE reflects the values of the Club and states the basic principles that should guide the behavior and decisions of its members.  As in the hypothetical case above, the Club has in some cases specified explicit expected conduct to ensure there is no ambiguity.  The COE, which is there to support WTCA in fulfilling its mission, helps us to decide what it means to follow or exceed the speed limit.  (published in May 2023 WAG)