Saving for the Future

The Otterhound Club of America Reproduction Bank was created to collect, store and distribute reproductive material from Otterhounds, an endangered breed with only 800 left. Joellen Gregory, DVM talks about the semen bank formation and AKC registration.

Otterhounds are outnumbered by Giant Pandas. There’s a number for you. And the Otterhound Club of America is doing something about it.

Joellen Gregory, DVM, is an Otterhound breeder, exhibitor and AKC Delegate from her national breed club. She is a member of the committee within the OCA which developed a groundbreaking Reproductive bank which will store semen and even frozen ovaries. The Bank was established in order to expand the possibilities for a breed with an estimated 800 dogs alive in the world.

“It has been quite a process,” Gregory said. “We realize we have an issue with the gene pool. We need more options to continue to have Otterhounds.”

The Otterhound Reproduction Bank began as a concept in 2009 but didn’t gain traction with the parent club members or the American Kennel Club, which at the time did not allow a corporation to own frozen semen. The committee disbanded for six years.

Gregory said that times are changing and when Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia spoke at an AKC Delegate’s meeting in 2016 about his concern regarding low number breeds, Gregory was there to speak up about this historic concept.

“The process was re-started by Betsy Conway, OCA president, in 2015,” Gregory said. “She founded the committee (within OCA) with five like-minded people who felt it was important to save our breed. The first step was to form a corporation.” The committee then came up with requirements for “deposits and withdrawals.”

“Then we needed to get the club members on board,” Gregory said. “It’s a different era than it was. More people have realized what a position our breed is in. It was easier to get support this time. It helped that we had rules worked out ahead of going to the club for support. The rules are very fair. No decisions are made by the bank. If your bitch qualifies, you get to use the semen.”

The Otterhound Reproduction Bank rules enable an owner to donate “x” number of breedings. The rules encourage males who have CHIC numbers and would like to have semen from young dogs. But Gregory said, “We’ll take almost anybody.” The goal is to expand the available genetic material.

In order for a bitch owner to use semen from the bank, the bitch needs to be proven. “We need to know she can get pregnant and carry a litter to term before we release semen from the bank,” Gregory said.

One of the most exciting pieces of this new program is that it isn’t an “all boys club.”

“We decided to call it a reproduction bank because we hope to be able to store ovaries or eegs at some point, depending on how the science develops,” Gregory said. “The only thing I know for sure is if we don’t freeze them they absolutely won’t be useful. We (potentially) would take eggs from a thawed ovary, inseminate and grow them … and put them into a dog…. It doesn’t have to be an Otterhound. We may not be able to do it now, but I see it for the future.”

After Gregory’s outreach to Battaglia at the 2016 Delegate’s meeting, AKC Board members supported the move and in February 2017, AKC approved the creation of a “parent club acknowledged semen bank.”

Gregory noted that the parent club doesn’t *approve* the semen bank, but needs to acknowledge it exists. And she added that the OHC and the Otterhound Reproduction Bank are happy to assist any other club interested in developing similar programs.

Listen today as Laura shares the excitement of this new program.