Follow Up to the Open Letter to French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada

I’m sure that some of you have wondered why a changed breed standard matters so much to so many of us, so I thought I’d give you some background.

As a Canadian breeder, if I want to exhibit French Bulldogs in the Canadian show ring (and to be considered ‘ethical’), I am essentially forced to adhere to whatever changes the CKC allows breed clubs to implement, even if I consider them misguided or to the detriment of the breed. This applies to all breeders in Canada, even to those of us not given the right of membership in the National club (and it’s a long and illustrious list, including some of the top winning and longest established breeders in Canada, like myself, Dr. Dorit Fischler and Shelley St. John). We have no say in the matter, apparently – and neither do the well over 300 breeders, pet owners, veterinarians and club presidents from around the world who made our opinions known about these changes. Since these changes affect breeders, they also, by extension, affect pet owners of French Bulldogs and everyone who considers themselves to be an afficionado – or fancier – of the breed.

I’ve been told that some parties involved in pushing for this version of the standard have claimed that it will be their ‘legacy’ for the breed. What, I wonder, motivates this kind of hubris? What motivates someone to press their own personal agenda, in the face of a standard that has been roundly decried by the people most affected by it? Is a legacy of bitterness, strife, accusations of malfeasance and disregard for the potential welfare of the breed the legacy that any of us would choose to leave behind?

You would think not – or at least, you would hope not.

Lisa Ricciotti has a follow up to the controversy over the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada vote regarding the changes they have proposed for the Canadian breed standard for the French Bulldog. Here are Lisa’s own words on the subject.

Hanging in suspense since Carol posted “An Open Letter to the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada” on Jan. 14? Wondering what happened next? Of course you are!

Well here’s an update from me, Lisa Ricciotti, who wrote the letter on behalf of The Skeptical 17. When Carol received this letter as president of the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club, she chose to share it publicly, along with her personal thoughts. That’s her right, and I respect her decision.

But fair’s fair. Questions raised publicly deserve to be answered publicly too. So I’ve asked Carol to share the response I received from FBFC here too.

Below is an unedited email from Karen Cram. If you want to go straight to the meat of the matter, skip the purple prose and start reading at the navy-coloured text. But if you do, you’ll miss one of the most creative defenses for one’s actions I’ve heard since Rob Ford justified why he smoked crack by saying “Probably in one of my drunken stupors.” Karen’s explanation: she was bullied by myself and Diane Dickins at the AGM, where Diane, myself and others chose to use the one occasion members are given annually to pose questions to the executive in a shared forum.

Karen says the recording of the meeting “bears witness to the fact that I was continually bullied and interrogated for two hours.” If you weren’t at the AGM and you’d like to make up your own mind about the validity of this statement, please contact (non-elected) FBFC Secretary Jan Casselman to request a copy of the AGM recording.

In her reply, Karen helpfully answers the question posed in the Open Letter about the actual vote count. You’ll remember I received different numbers from CKC than her reply at the AGM and I was confused whether the revised standard had actually passed. I don’t have to wonder any longer. In her own words, Karen definitely confirms that it did not: “Total Ballots Received Back: 35 – 22 Yes, 13 No”.

I’ll wait while you do the math. That’s right, 62.8571429% voted yes. But CKC says a revised standard must be passed by a two-third majority vote, i.e. by 66.6666667%. And just 62.9% said yes, not 66.7%. By Karen’s own report on the ballot count, the revised standard DID NOT PASS!

The Skeptical 17 originally raised questions about the validity of the membership vote because the results concern more than FBFC’s small group of members. If the revisions passed, the new standard would become the new “breed bible” of excellence for everyone who breeds, shows and appreciates French bulldogs. It will affect the entire Frenchie community. But now, after reading Karen Cram’s reply, I realize the impact doesn’t stop there.

Read the current (non-elected) VP’s account below, of exactly how the numbers needed for approval were reached—how she asked CKC to disallow a member’s vote, and it would seem the vote of this member’s husband too—and I think anyone who believes in democratic principles should be concerned too. Rule No. 1 of a fair election: No one has the right to tell others how to vote. Rule No. 2: The integrity of a vote must be respected, regardless of whether one agrees with the result. (One more issue for FBFC members: if you thought how you voted is confidential, you’re wrong. Complete details of the final vote—who voted and how they voted—were shared as an attachment to Karen Cram’s email below.)

To date no response has been offered by then-Acting President Bev Anderson, who is now the (non-elected) President. Even though all of this took place “on her watch,” as the Americans like to say. Now, to hear both sides of this issue, please read Karen Cram’s reply below. Sometimes the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I’m a writer, but I couldn’t make up this stuff if I tried.

Lisa Ricciotti
On behalf of The Skeptical 17

From: Karen Cram [mailto:redacted]
Sent: 15-Jan-14 1:54 PM
To: ‘redacted’
Subject: RE: An Open Letter regarding the most recent vote on the Breed Standard

The audacity to post in writing, on a public blog, the insinuations and lies!!!! This one tops all others Lisa, and let me warn you that the truth and justice will prevail.

Anyone who attended the AGM bears witness to the fact that I was continually bullied and interrogated for two hours by Lisa Ricciotti and Diane Dickens. The recorded session will attest to this.

These two individuals literally “hijacked” the meeting from the start and, unfortunately, completely dominated the entire two hours that I was in attendance. The insinuations, insults and downright bullying were at times, unbearable. I was continually bombarded with questions from them and did not have time to answer before I was rudely interrupted, asked more questions and interrupted yet again. It was impossible under these circumstances to keep my thought processes clear. Something MUST be done about this and I intend to pursue this. I will never allow myself to be put in this position again by these individuals nor would I want any other Board members to have to endure this type of treatment.

As a result, I incorrectly quoted the number of “no” votes as 11 instead of 13. I made an error and I apologize for this. Please note that this, in no way, changed the outcome. However, if there was a discrepancy between my numbers and the numbers at the CKC, the respectable and responsible way to resolve this would have been to inform me and ask me again, to clarify the numbers. Instead, we were all attacked on a public blog and basically called “liars”. Guilty until proven innocent. This is totally unacceptable!!! [I tried very hard not to insert any comments, to let Karen’s words speak for themselves. But here I’m compelled to comment: Karen, many members asked for details of the July 2013 vote many times between Oct. 13 when Bev Anderson announced the revised standard had passed and December 10, when the number of YES and NO votes were finally disclosed at the AGM. After learning CKC’s vote count differed from yours, I waited more than a month, hoping to see a public correction from you. Which makes me ask: if The Open Letter hadn’t gone out, when were you planning to inform members what the real numbers were?—Lisa Ricciotti]

Jan and I talked several times during the re-voting process and the numbers are clear. A list of forty nine (49) eligible voters was confirmed by Dave Berrey and forwarded to the entire Board. This is the list which was used by Jan when sending out the ballots via E/mail on June 3, 2013. Attached is a copy of that list. The Club results were as follows:

Total Ballots Sent Out: 49
Total Ballots Received Back: 35 – 22 Yes, 13 No
Total Number of Non-Voters: 14

When speaking to Yvette Kanji, I requested that Yvette bring to the attention of the CKC Breed Standard Group that Margaret Au was a member of the Breed Standard Review Committee and it was mandatory for all Committee members to agree with the proposed revision to the Breed Standard before it was released to the membership and the CKC. I requested, for this reason, that Margaret Au’s vote be disallowed.

If the CKC disallowed Margaret’s vote, this would bring the total number of “no” votes to 12 and the total number of votes received to 34. We were not informed of the CKC decision regarding Margaret’s vote.

The CKC numbers show 21 Yes votes, not 22 as received by the Club. All other numbers agree. I will correct that with the CKC when I send them the list of voters, those who voted yes, those who voted no, and the non-voters for a total of 49.

The “Skeptical 17”

Lisa, please back up this statement with proof of E/mails sent from Jan. Jan sent an E/mail to every voter thanking them for their participation. There is no way that there are 17 unaccounted votes. [LR comment #2: You’re misunderstanding Karen. We found 17 NO votes versus the 11 NOs you reported at the AGM and the 13 you report here.] See attached list. [LR comment #3: GASP! What a breach of voter privacy! But how could I not look. I see 4 members recorded as “Did Not Vote” when they swear they voted NO. These members have asked CKC to investigate where their votes went.]

The Club Officers were not contacted by the CKC. Yesterday, after reading Lisa’s open letter, I contacted Elio Furlan at the CKC to resolve this matter.

Karen E. Cram

Say “NO” to a Revised Canadian French Bulldog Standard

This was originally posted in November, 2011. I’m reposting it so that people can see what the proposed (passed? sort of) changes to the Canadian French Bulldog breed standard consist of, and why so many of us vehemently and vociferously object to them. Bear in mind that these changes will affect EVERY breeder in Canada, and everyone in Canada who loves French Bulldogs and chooses to add one to their lives as a pet, a show prospect or a performance sport dog.

Oh, a note about the petition link – we garnered 375 signatures in total, and those 375 signatures include most of the top breeders in Canada, along with some of the top breeders in the world. Veterinarians, geneticists and presidents of French Bulldog breed clubs from around the world signed. Pet owners, obedience competitors, pet owners from across Canada – all signed.

And what good did it do? NOTHING. No one on the board of the Canadian club gave ANY weight to the signatures, or the opinions, of anyone else, even though THEIR decisions affected all of us. The Canadian Kennel Club politely acknowledged receipt, and then informed us that they ‘don’t like to get involved in club matters’.

This is why the revelation that the VOTE itself to change the standard may have been .. well, what term do we use? Held incorrectly? Wrongly tabulated? Faked? Whatever, this is why it’s all so incredibly disappointing and upsetting, and why we MUST see justice done.

related link: An Open Letter to the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada

Canadian French Bulldog enthusiasts have been stunned by the recent move by the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada (the Canadian Kennel Club parent club for the breed in Canada) to overhaul our current breed standard.

In almost every case that we are familiar with, a breed standard is changed in small, carefully considered increments – a single sentence change to a standard can take well over a year to finally come up for vote. This sounds unconscionably slow, to some people, but it is actually the correct way for such changes to be done. A single sentence can change the entire look of a breed, and create changes that can alter the appearance and structure of a breed for all future generations.

The French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada have pushed through not a single sentence change, nor even a single paragraph change, but rather twelve changes to the breed standard – changes which will, inevitably, result in an entirely different French Bulldog than the one we currently know today.

We are not personally aware of another single instance, in any breed, where so many broadly sweeping changes have been proposed for a breed standard. It is a monumental change, and worst of all, it is fundamentally flawed in numerous cases.

Most disturbingly, one change in particular could result in a skyrocketing instance of color linked deafness within our breed. At a time when other breeds are working within the confines of their breed standards to improve the health of their dogs, the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada, through either ignorance of the genetics behind deafness, or a willingness to prioritize aesthetics over health, have made a change that could result in dramatically increased possibilities of deafness within our breed.

Dr. George Strain is the Professor and Interim Head of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, and is considered to one of the world’s leading researchers into Canine Deafness. Here is his comment to me on the link between pigment and deafness in French Bulldogs –

I am confident is saying that deafness in Frenchies is probably greatest in those dogs that are nearly all white. The real issue is how strongly the piebald gene acts in a given dog. If it acts strongly there will be reduced pigmentation/increased white, blue irises, and deafness.

Morally, this is simply unacceptable. We are custodians of our breed, not just for today, but for posterity. Allowing a change which can have such sweeping consequences for all future generations of French Bulldogs is beyond the boundaries of what any of us should ever allow, let alone enthusiastically encourage.

Another disturbing change is the new emphasis on the word ‘powerful’ throughout the standard – this, combined with a removal of the upper weight limit, a newly added penalization of dogs weighing less than 9 kg (19.8 pounds), and the removal of the word ‘short’ to describe the body conjures the image of a completely different dog than the one we currently know today – a larger, longer, heavier, more aggressively built dog.

Is this the image that we want for this most ‘charming’ of companion breeds? Is this the image that you, as a fancier, envision when you think of a French Bulldog?

Shockingly, even with these objections being raised by Frenchie owners and breeders from across Canada, many with decades of experience in the breed, the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada still voted to pass their proposed changes. This move, by a minority of Canadian French Bulldog breeders, will affect every single Canadian French Bulldog breeder, exhibitor, owner and enthusiast.

These changes will also affect French Bulldog breeders and enthusiasts from the USA who have traveled to Canada to show and exhibit their dogs, and who have incorporated Canadian bred French Bulldogs into their breeding programs.

Will the new, altered version of the standard make American bred French Bulldogs noncompetitive in the Canadian ring?

Will American French Bulldog breeders still want to use Canadian bloodlines in their breeding programs, if our entire breed alters so drastically from the US standard for French Bulldogs?

We ask you to join with us to make our objections to these changes known to the Canadian Kennel Club, so that the CKC can evaluate the feelings and concerns of ALL Canadian Frenchie fanciers before they approve these proposed changes. Please don’t allow a few people to speak for our entire breed.

If you are an owner, breeder or simply an enthusiast of French Bulldogs, please click here to sign our petition

link: Objections to the Revised Standard

link: Proposed and Passed CKC Breed Standard Changes

Below the cut, you will find the ENTIRE proposed changes, with annotations, along with links to word document format files outlining the changes, and our draft of our objections to the changes.

This letter of objection is endorsed by the French Bulldog Club of Western Canada, and the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club (pending CKC recognition). PLEASE share this post, and ask your friends to sign the petitions. We appreciate your support, on behalf of Frenchies, and the people who love them.


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Trophy table, FBFA Specialty, 1998. This was the first EVER French Bulldog specialty held in Canadian breed history.

An Open Letter to the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada

I’ve always loved breed specialty shows. Where else can fanciers of a breed see so many different examples of type, style and quality (along with an unfortunate handful of ‘urgh, eww, what the hell is that supposed to be?’). Breed specialty shows are where we meet other breeders, compare notes on breeding programs, and eyeball potential suitors for our bitches. Breed specialty shows are where we gossip, form friendships and (hopefully!) make a name for ourselves in our breed. And the trophies! The swag! Have I mentioned I love specialty shows?

Quite a few years ago – more than I care to count – I had what seemed like a fairly simple idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if Canadian French Bulldog Fanciers could have specialty shows, like our American counterparts? We are such a big country, after all – there are less French Bulldog fanciers in all of Canada than there in some US states, and we rarely have the chance to gather all in one place. A specialty show would give us our own chance to meet, and to create a sense of camaraderie and community. Of course, to have a specialty show, one needs something else, first – a breed club.

I admit it – I knew nothing about the ins and outs of forming a club, but Gail and Chris Neilson of Come Pat a Bull Bulldogs (and later Come Pat a Bull French Bulldogs) sure did, and over a few dinners, we hashed out the plans to create a regional club, called the French Bulldog Fanciers Association (Gail suggested using “Fanciers Association” as the club name, since it was non regional specific and would make the easiest change to a name suitable for a National Club). We asked a few other Canadian fanciers to join us, sent off the piles of paperwork the CKC demanded, and held our first sanction match. A short time later, we held our first regional specialty, which was fun, raucous (Those letter openers! What was I thinking? And were they *really* obscene? Opinions are still mixed) and a great success.

Unfortunately, my personal life imploded a short time after that, and I had to step down from the club, and from French Bulldogs altogether. I had high hopes that the club would continue, become a success as the National Club, and thrive as a unifying force for French Bulldog breeders and breed lovers in Canada.

Sadly, that’s not how it has worked out, as my previous blogs documenting the shockingly ill conceived, proposed (and now passed – or should that be ‘maybe passed?’) changes to the Canadian French Bulldog breed standard have made clear.

This letter, which I received as President of the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club (our motto: ‘Come join us – we have cookies!’) has made me sadder than I can express, and made me fear that there might not even be a future for the current national club, as things stand currently.

Here’s the text of the letter – the original word document is attached, and may be downloaded here.

Feel free to discuss – the future of French Bulldogs in Canada depends on you ALL making your voices heard.

An Open Letter Regarding FBFC Voting Results That Don’t Add Up

TO:  Members of the French Bulldog Fanciers of Canada (FBFC) most directly involved in the July 2013 vote on revisions to CKC’s French Bulldog standard, namely:

·         Bev Anderson, Former Acting President, Current Non-Elected President (as of Jan. 1, 2014)

·         Karen Cram, Chair of the FBFC Breed Standard Committee, Former Treasurer and Current Non-Elected Vice President (as of Jan. 1, 2014 )

·         Jan Casselman, Former Quebec/Atlantic Director, Current Non-Elected Secretary (as of Jan. 1, 2014), FBFC member appointed as Returning Officer and Teller (vote-counter) for the third membership vote on proposed revisions to the standard

·         Daphne Goodine, FBFC member and Teller No. 2 (i.e. the other member responsible for counting votes)

RE:  The Curious Case of 3 Different Totals for the NO Votes, a.k.a. Where did all the NO votes go? 

Dear Bev, Karen, Jan and Daphne,

Consider these three numbers: 11, 13 and 17. All of these things are not like the other, right?

Of the 3 Rs, arithmetic isn’t my strong point. Yet even someone as mathematically challenged as myself knows that 11 votes is less than 13 votes and 17 votes is more than either. Then how is it possible for three different groups to come up with three different totals when counting the NO votes cast in FBFC’s most recent re-vote on the breed standard? Which is correct—11, 13 or 17 NOs? And depending on the factual results, did the revised breed standard  actually pass?

In October 2013, when then-Acting President Bev Anderson announced that CKC had approved the new standard following the membership re-vote in July, many of us wondered what the final tally was. How many YES votes vs. how many NOs? Unfortunately the answers weren’t disclosed at the time.

So of course members began comparing notes. By the time Karen Cram, Chair of the Breed Standard Committee, released the club’s official answer at December’s online AGM, we discovered her total for the NO ballots was less than what others had determined from personal research. Confused and concerned, I contacted Elio Furlan at the CKC for clarification—and received yet another total!

You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to correctly count less than 50 ballots, but somehow three different groups arrived at three different totals for the nay votes. NOs. Which made me wonder … Which number is correct?

Was it … The 17 NOs—compiled by The Skeptical 17?

How most FBFC members feel about proposed revisions to the standard isn’t much of a secret. A great deal of open debate followed the first vote in September 2011, and anyone paying attention wouldn’t find hard to predict how most members would vote the second time around.
[NOTE: The 2011 vote was later declared invalid since it included four members still in their 60 day probationary period who were ineligible to vote.]
As members who voted NO talked to others who they thought would also have voted NO, a list of confirmed votes against the revised standard emerged. By the time of the AGM, 17 members had confirmed they voted NO in July. And many can prove this, having kept the confirmation receipt emailed back to them by Jan Casselman.

Which raises the question: Did all 17 of these NO votes count?
The Skeptical 17 decided to email Elio Furlan this week, asking CKC to confirm their vote was included in the summary sent by FBFC—and that a NO was recorded beside their names.


Or, was it … The 11 NOs—reported by the Breed Standard Committee Chair?

At the online, recorded AGM, held Dec. 11, 2013, Karen Cram confidently stated: “Yes, I can answer that question. There were 49 eligible voters. We got 33 votes back: 22 YES votes and 11 NO votes. 16 people did not vote. [Note: these figures account for all voters, leaving no room for spoiled ballots.

Which raises the question: What happened to the other 6 NO votes?


Or, was it … The 13 NOs—as reported by Elio Furlan on behalf of CKC?

When I called Elio Furlan on December 16, 2013 for clarification, Elio related the numbers CKC has on record for the vote as: A total of 34 votes: 21 YES votes and 13 NO votes.

Which raises the question: Why did CKC tell FBFC the revised standard had passed?
Perhaps Elio’s math is as weak as mine. I had to get out my calculator to translate these numbers into percentages. Remember, any change to a breed standard must be approved by a 2/3 majority, i.e. at least 66.66% of the votes must be YES ballots.

I was shocked to see that, according to Elio’s numbers, the tally came to 61.76% YES and 38% NO votes. In other words, according to CKC, the required 2/3 majority of 66.66% was not reached … meaning the revised standard wasn’t approved!

I quickly called Elio back and we checked the calculations together. Elio agreed something didn’t jive. “This raises questions,” he admitted. “We will call the appropriate officers of the club to request an explanation.”

Elio promised to act quickly. That was back in mid- December 2013, so surely FBFC has received CKC’s request for an explanation by now? Yet I’m still waiting to hear how—or if—this discrepancy was resolved.

There you have, Bev, Karen, Jan and Daphne—three groups, three different totals for the NO vote. Whose numbers should I trust? The Breed Standard Committee, which already had to redo the vote once? The CKC, which is usually correct, but didn’t seem to notice that 21 YES votes out of 34 overall doesn’t equal the 2/3 majority required for approval? Or The Skeptical 17, who can either produce hard-copy proof of their NO vote or are willing to sign a sworn affidavit stating their vote was NO?

What will others think when they read this letter and discover there is cause to doubt the ballot numbers officially reported at the AGM? Surely the actions of those involved in something as sacrosanct as a vote on the French Bulldog standard, the bible for our breed, would be above reproach? Surely they’d never stoop to destroying ballots, vote-tampering or ballot-rigging?

However, following the vote, the ballots were never forwarded to the club’s Secretary for archival safekeeping, our club’s usual protocol. And the two Atlantic members who counted the ballots never gave an independent tally of the votes. All questions were referred to then-Acting President Bev Anderson. Would we hear yet another set of numbers if the actual vote-counters spoke out?

No one wants to ask these questions. But until the discrepancy between three different totals for the NO vote—11, 13 and 17 (at minimum)—can be explained, it’s very hard to understand what really went on with the July vote.

I freely admit I have been an open and vocal critic of the proposed changes to our standard. Yet I was willing to concede that if two thirds of our membership voted in favour, I would have to accept the revisions, like them or not. Until, that is, questions were raised by trustworthy members and I looked more closely into the results.

Because there are three conflicting sets of numbers for the NO votes, and because it’s no longer certain FBFC’s membership actually passed the standard, I am sharing my concerns with Canada’s two regional French Bulldog clubs—the French Bulldog Club of Western Canada and the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club. A new standard would affect French Bulldog breeders and fanciers across Canada, and I feel both national and regional club members deserve to know that some explanations are needed before we can agree the new standard was truly approved.

Bev, Karen, Jan and Daphne—I look forward to your prompt response. Hopefully you and the CKC will provide satisfactory answers and confidence will be restored in the outcome of the breed standard vote. Until then, my non-mathematical but curious mind will continue to ask: Did 11, 13, 17, or more members vote NO?

Since I strongly believe the final vote count is now in doubt, I volunteered to write this letter on behalf of The Skeptical 17. However, this letter is not intended to accuse individuals of wrongdoing or point the finger of blame. It’s simply a sincere request for answers to vexing questions, driven by a desire to discover the truth.

Thank you for your consideration. The FBFC membership—and the Canadian French Bulldog community at large—await  your response.

Respectfully submitted,
Lisa Ricciotti



·         All additional members of the FBFC’s Current Non-Elected Board of Directors

·         Brenda Anwyll, President of the French Bulldog Club of Western Canada

·         Carol Gravestock, President of the Eastern Canada French Bulldog Club

·         Elio Furlan, Staff Liaison of the CKC Breed Standards Committee and CKC Director, Events and Operations

·         Wendy Maisey, Board Liaison, CKC Breed Standards Committee

·         Alan Ewles, Chair, CKC Club Relations Committee

·         Lance Novak, CKC Executive Director