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.”

616 – Mary Dukes: An Evolution from Owner to Professional to Rep to Judge

Mary Dukes: An Evolution from Owner to Professional to Rep to Judge

Host Laura Reeves is joined by Mary Dukes, legendary Whippet breeder, professional handler, AKC Executive Field Representative and now judge.

A 1991 advertisement for Dukes’ handling services.

Dukes has spent a lifetime involved in working with animals. From showing horses to training elephants to showing dogs. Her work with the zoo animals instilled in her an absolute dedication to animal husbandry.

NO Dirty Dogs

“There are no shortcuts in animal care. Period,” Dukes said. “In zoo animals, you have to be even more on top of it because wild animals don’t have a tell that they’re sick. In the wild, any tell that they are sick or injured is going to make them dead. So they are really good at masking that. If you are sloppy or dirty or messy there is no room for you in the animal business.

“I’ll put this on blast right now, if someone walks into my ring with a dirty dog, we’re going to have a problem. There is no excuse to show a dirty dog. I won’t hold it against the dog, but the handler might get an earful.”

AKC Registered Handler Program

Dukes was an early member of the AKC Registered Handler Program. As a rep, Dukes was a coordinator of the RHP. She joined RHP because they demanded insurance, inspections, so “I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.”

RHP is not a guarantee the handler is going to win with your dog, Dukes said.

“The whole point of the program is so the people have a place to start looking where we had done some of the ground work for you. You know they (they handlers) are insured. You know their vehicle is inspected for safety and cleanliness. You know their kennel has been inspected by AKC kennel inspectors. You know they’ve signed a code of ethics.

“RHP members have to have a contract. They have to bill in a timely fashion. The bill has to be itemized. A lot of the trouble you see, most of it is because the expectations weren’t clear. If you have a contract, it’s

Dukes is still actively involved with horses. Her vacations frequently involve riding in exotic locales.

right there in black and white.

Safe Sport

“One of the newest requirements is SafeSport. All RHP members have to take the training as a condition of membership.

“Safe Sport is a congressionally mandated program for every Olympic sport.

“There’s been a lot of abuses in every sport. Basically, Safe Sport is making you aware of what to look for. If you see a situation that you suspect might be something, it gives you tools. Because we aren’t an Olympic sport, we don’t have access to the mechanics of the national organization.

“It automatically makes everyone (who’s had the training) mandatory reporters. If you put it out in the open more, it’s harder for someone to creep around. I would like to see it spread out to judges, especially juniors judges.”

Join us next week for part two of this fantastic conversation. Learn what Dukes is looking for in a dog and hear about her fantasy Best in Show lineup.