Showsight December 2017

PROACTIVE PROS BY DAN SAYERS Professional Handlers Lead the Way Through Turbulent Times

Challenging times can bring out the best in people. The same can be said for organizations that respond to difficult circumstances through risk-tak- ing and innovation. When the Great Depression threatened the viability of the American Kennel Club, the organization responded in ways that may seem familiar to fanciers today. During the 1930s, the sport of dogs actu- ally grew. Breed recognition increased from 83 to 105 and new activities such as Obedience Trials and Children’s Handling Classes opened up the sport to many newcomers. In fact, the effort to provide classes for kids (designated as the Junior Showmanship Competition since 1950) was ini- tiated by another organization that got its start during the Depression. For the past 85 years, the Professional Handlers Association has led the way for both children and adults determined to preserve the tradition of breed- ing and exhibiting dogs — even through the most turbulent of times.

Private vs. Public Prior to 1932, no rules existed for the management of purebred dog exhibitions. In that year, the AKC Gazette published its initial set of rules governing registration procedures, dog shows, obedience trials and field trials. During this period, dog handlers became likewise organized. As noted in The American Kennel Club, 1884-1984: A Source Book, edited by Charles A.T. O’Neill and the Staff of the American Kennel Club, “An action initiated in the late 1920s that bore fruit in the following decade concerned professional handlers. This group was composed of persons who exhibited dogs for pay (private) or for a fee (public.) The AKC decided to require licenses of all persons who charged for these services.” This licensing requirement resulted in the formation of the PHA. According to the Source Book, “Their first real assembly took place in November 1926 in connection with the American Kennel Club sesquicentennial show in Philadelphia. At that time, Leonard Brumby, Sr., who later became the AKC’s first full-time field representative, was named as the first president of the Professional Handlers’ Association.” At the September 3, 1929 delegates meeting, a rule was adopted, providing, “No person shall be eligi- ble to handle dogs for pay or act as agent for pay at any show held under American Kennel Club Rules unless he shall hold a license granted by said Club through its License Committee,” writes W. Terry Stacy in the Source Book. “The License Committee subsequently established fees for handlers’ licenses: for public handlers $15 with $5 annual renewal and

$10 with a $5 annual renewal for private handlers; assistant handlers were to be licensed at a rate of $5 with a $2 annual renewal.” Mr. Stacy notes that Harold Correll received the first handler’s license. “A list of the first twenty-six public handlers licensed by the American Kennel Club was pub- lished in the January 1930 issue of the AKC Gazette. Thereafter, the AKC periodically published a com- plete alphabetical list of licensed handlers. In 1931, at the request of the PHA, AKC issued a directive to all clubs that handlers were to be given admission to any AKC show upon presentation of their license card.” From the start, professional handlers were responsi- ble for securing dogs for their clients, frequently from abroad. However, this practiced proved all but impossible with the advent of the Second World War. As the Source Book emphasizes, “The hostili- ties that began in Europe in 1939 had their first effect on the sport in America through a progressive reduction in the number of imported dogs.” This scarcity of imports allowed American fanciers to find their footing as breeders, many of whom offered puppies to the Dogs for Defense program. Others served their country with distinction in the K-9 Corps. In fact, mid-century America’s most accomplished professional handlers included returning G.I.s that brought home their wartime experience with dogs to the show ring. Among the sport’s most revered professional handlers of the day were many men and women who served the U.S. alongside a purebred dog donated to the war effort by an American dog breeder.


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