628 – Show Safe Launches for the Dog Sport Community

Show Safe Launches for the Dog Sport Community

Host Laura Reeves is joined by Mary Dukes, Lindsay Fetters and Carissa Shimpeno to discuss their new grassroots launch of Show Safe. The organization encourages all exhibitors to take the Safe Sport program and offers a lapel pin to those who complete it.

“I knew about Safe Sport through my daughter, who’s a professional horse trainer,” Dukes said. “And safe sport is a congressionally mandated program for all Olympic sports that came in after the multitude of abuses in gymnastics, swimming, diving, I could go on. So anyway, I was familiar with it because my daughter shows horses and since equestrian events are an Olympic sport, she has to take safe sport and a re -up every year. I got it in for the registered handlers program and then I always had wanted to expand it. I advocated to expand it to at the very least junior judges, but while I was an employed by the AKC I was never able to get that done.

“Everybody has a story. Everybody has a story to varying degrees. I feel like mine is relatively minor in the big scheme of things, but everybody has a story of being inappropriately touched, inappropriately propositioned, all that.”

“Historically when something happens people react and everybody wants to do something,” Fetters said. “But I feel like a lot of people put it off on somebody else. ‘The government needs to do this, the AKC needs to do this’… It’s like we’re upset about something, but we’re saying it needs to be somebody else’s mission.

“I sort of was reflecting on what can we do, what can I do, what can you do, what can we do as a fancy because I think if anybody can be united over something it’s united over protecting our children.

“I don’t know a single person who would disagree with the mission of let’s do better for our next generation but it’s hard to invoke change. It’s hard to start a movement, it’s hard to unite people as just one solo person, especially in our sport.

“My idea was basically, let’s do a grassroots movement. Let’s control what we can control. And let’s let people know that this training and this option is out there. And instead of mandating or instead of controlling somebody or demanding somebody do it, because I think that that immediately puts somebody on edge, like let’s say, ‘okay, look, this options out here, let’s pursue it. And if you do, we want to let other people know we want to let juniors know. We want to let other people in our sport know that we’ve had this training and we’re here to be a listening ear and we’re here to provide support.”

“I guess I would have to say my biggest learning experience in what works and what doesn’t work started last year,” said Shimpeno. “When we had a handler who had been to prison for raping his minor assistant and he was returning to the world of dogs. In my mind I thought well what a beautiful way to show the young people of our sport that we actually have their back. Why don’t we try and make some kind of policy within AKC that says, you know, if you’ve been convicted of X, Y and Z, that we can’t stop you from coming to the dog shows, we can’t stop you from existing and we can’t make you a better person. But we can send a message to our little people and men and women around the sport in general just saying this is not what we’re about. We’re going to take a stand and we’re going to draw a line in the sand.

“A year ago, Mary actually said, you know, why don’t we stop asking AKC to do this? And we do something ourselves. And my response in that moment was like, ‘because that’s not right.’ We have to be the better people, like we have to make them do what’s right. That mindset got me exactly nowhere at all.

“We have this large portion of people out there that are just stuck in the injustice of it. And I want them to understand that we get that and we don’t want to minimize the pain, the trauma or anything they’ve been through. But our group of people has learned through experience that we need everybody to receive this message.

“And in order for that to happen, we have to be way more organized. and focused. We are not a vigilante team. This has nothing to do with the perpetrators themselves. It’s not even about necessarily protecting. It’s about empowering, right, like knowledge through education.”