Breeders Behaving Badly
I sometimes feel like I’m spending a lot of my time defending my fellow breeders, in large part because almost all of the breeders I know personally really are ethical people who love their dogs and their breeds. I also defend conformation showing, which I know seems trivial and superficial to anyone outside of the fancy. It’s a sport I have mixed feelings about, but at its best I enjoy it as a fun way to meet with friends, have a look at their dogs, and maybe take home some ribbons.
At its worst, however, showing becomes a world filled with shady, amoral behavior, none of which seems to have anything to do with the well being of the dogs, and most of which has to do with greed, ego and money. When at its worst, it becomes hard to defend either showing, or the breeders involved in it.
This would be one of those ‘worst’ situations.
A recent criminal case based in Venice reveals a darker side of the $330 million American dog show industry where greed and ultra competitiveness can lead to allegations of cheating, corruption and vindictive acts.
Venice dog breeder Melinda “Mindy” Holmes, 48, was arrested this month on a felony extortion charge in the falsification of a champion show dog’s veterinary records and demanding money to keep those records hidden.
The allegations have rocked the Greater Venice Florida Dog Club, of which Holmes was a member in good standing for several years.
“I’m just in shock,” said Rita Figg, a founding member of the Venice dog club when she learned of Holmes’ arrest on Feb. 12. “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before.”
According to sheriff’s reports, Holmes in 2009 first threatened to release damaging documents about a Pembroke Welsh corgi, named Ty, bred by AKC judges Rutledge and Nash Parker of North Carolina unless they paid Holmes $18,000.
The Parkers claim Holmes fraudulently changed Ty’s veterinary records to show the dog had been cosmetically altered through surgery, which would prevent him from competing and could permanently damage the Parkers’ judging and breeding careers.
The Corgi involved in this case, Champion Happiharbor Saddle Lane Ty, is not just any show dog, either – he’s the number four ranked Pembroke Welsh Corgi in the country. Ty was exhibited at Westminster this year, but while Ty didn’t place in the ribbons this year, he has numerous prestigious wins in his past, including Best in Specialty Show.
The article doesn’t specify what surgery it was alleged that Ty had had performed on him, but it’s possible that none of his wins would have been awarded if it was proven that Ty had received cosmetic surgery.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed standard states –
A dog must be very seriously penalized for the following faults, regardless of whatever desirable qualities the dog may present: oversized or undersized; button, rose or drop ears; overshot or undershot bite; fluffies, whitelies, mismarks or bluies.
I assume that Holmes was threatening that Ty had one of these ‘serious’ faults corrected. Holmes, who breeds Corgis under the “MapleCreek” prefix, was the breeder of Ty’s dam. She and the Parkers had apparently done breedings together in the past.
More from the Herald Tribune:
The Parkers, according to arrest documents, paid Holmes $3,000 to keep the falsified records private, but refused to give her $15,000 more she demanded.
Then, a month before this year’s Westminster show, Holmes reportedly e-mailed Ty’s vet records to the dog’s handler to discourage her from showing the dog. Breeders often own the dogs, but handlers are the ones who present the dog in competitions.
Reached for comment in North Carolina, the Parkers would not discuss specifics of the incident beyond what was in the police report. But Rutledge Parker said he and his wife fear further retaliation by Holmes.
“I’ve never dreamed of something like this happening. I don’t know how to react to it,” he said. “This was all about money, and that’s clear from the police report.”
Read the rest of the article here.
This story does not add up. Who pays hush money to suppress FAKE extortion documentation? Especially something like falsified vet records (not convincing photoshopped pictures of Ty in a compromising position with an underaged cocker spaniel). If the vet records are fake, it’s no problem for the vet in question to get on a witness stand and swear he never did any such thing. I believe these people were being blackmailed, but I don’t believe for a second that the records were fake.
As a lawyer, I know how you feel. There are a lot of bad apples in my field, but a lot of ethical, good-hearted people who go the extra mile (and get screwed).
Doctors, Priests, police – there are spoilers in every category, pretty much.
This weekend I took my pups to the dog park. I met a guy with a very handsome Boston Terrier. The dog’s name was Boudin, like the sausage, and he was so sweet – he kept coming up for pets and giving kisses and just sitting and leaning against you. I asked the owner where he got his dog, and he told me he was his first dog. He had gone to a Boston Terrier breeder to look at puppies, only to be a little shocked by the price (from a good breeder, they are almost as pricey as Frenchies). She said, wait, I want you to meet this rescue. She introduced him to Boudin. Now, I could see from the look in this man’s eyes that he adores his dog. And I was cheering inside that he had found a breeder with the dogs at heart. She knew she could find buyers for her litter. But she found a soul mate for this man and dog.
I wish more of the public knew that side of breeding.
@ Heather – my thoughts EXACTLY. I was trying to avoid editorializing 🙂
@ Susan – I wish more people did, too. I wish more people knew how many of us have houses full of old dogs, or spend our weekends driving shuttle for rescue dogs, or answering questions from the public even if we don’t have puppies (which we usually don’t).
But, as this case illustrates, bad apples get the most press – just like in lawyers, police and priests.
Now my question is, if in fact the dog has had cosmetic surgery, will he be stripped of his wins? Cheating is rampant in dog showing, so much so that some people seem to take it as normal – a very sad state of affairs. Something a simple as coloring the white on a black Pug or painting nails black. This I have seen for myself. Is it true that some people actually attack hairpieces to Poodles?? It really is amazing what vanity can do.
There is also a bit of an issue with black poodles being dyed. Many black poodles fade, which is a fault, so people artificially hide that (and then perpetuate poor color by breeding it on).
Heh. The Hair Club for Poodles. Put ’em into respectable puppy cuts – that will squelch the cheating there and they’ll look better, too.
I’ve only been to a couple of small Boston shows, and even there, in the back room the chalk dust was enough to make you sneeze.
I know that the poodle thing is true, because I’ve seen a handler putting one in. It’s allowable in their standard, apparently. I also know of a well known handler who had one fall out when they were gaiting the dog.
There have been a few rumors about cosmetic surgery in Frenchies, but I can’t imagine what you’d have done. Artificial ear implants, to make them bigger and rounder?
One of Bun’s puppies is missing a toe nail (we think his fat sister ate it untero), and I am still not sure if that’s a DQ or not. I called the CKC, and even THEY didn’t know.
You tried to avoid “editorializing,” yet you didn’t hesitate to “assume” something you know nothing about. Your points about “good” breeders are certainly well-taken, but you are further muddying the waters in this sorry case.
I think those waters were already pretty muddy with no help from me.