Why the Westminster Dog Show Was a Fun and Educational Experience
As part of Westminster Week festivities in New York, I had the chance to attend the AKC Meet the Breeds and the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster on Feb. 10 at Piers 92 and 94. As the newest Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) staffer, I was pleased to interact with many different breeds of dogs and cats, talk to experts about the different characteristics of each breed, learn the nuances of how owners treat their pets responsibly and better understand the show breeder community’s specific needs.
With most show dogs owned by hobbyists, it was also amazing to see how dogs there were treated almost as family. The pampering, the quality of food and care—it was all truly impressive and, as I learned, very typical of show breeders. The pet owners I met have a shared goal of bettering their breed. They are experts on every nuance of the breed’s specifications, including genetic testing, and they keep exhaustive records. They all took the time to talk with me about their best practices, laws and regulations of interest to them, and how they got into show breeding.
As PIJAC’s lead on zoonoses issues, it was also great to see good hygiene through hand sanitizers at booths, encouraged hand-washing by hobbyists and literature on zoonotic disease prevention. The thousands of general public visitors to the events prior to the Westminster Dog Show itself were well-served by the proactive educational efforts.
Finally, between the exhibitions and competitions, I was able to connect with the great folks at the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) government relations team. PIJAC frequently works with AKC to address legislation that stifles legitimate show and other breeders, such as breed-specific legislation and pet sale bans. We are proud to support many of their efforts, and to receive their support when our goals align.
This was my first time at Westminster, but I hope to be back! Be sure to check out my photos of the fun and educating events below.
Savonne Caughey is director of government affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Her nearly 20 years of government relations and public affairs experience includes high-level positions in public service as well as in the corporate and non-profit sectors. She has worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Elanco Animal Health, the state of Texas, and the American Heart Association.
(Click a photo below to view the gallery)