AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - April 2003


The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, having begun in 1968 through the efforts of Carol Pyle, of California. By the time the club's first newsletter was issued a few months later, the BMCDA had 33 members.

Today the club has 1,188 members. The desire to communicate and protect the breed has resulted in 24 regional clubs, five of which are licensed to hold their own specialties. These beneficial manifestations of escalating popularity are indeed exciting and will be invaluable in confronting its downsides. The low points include Berners being offered at auctions that typically supply stock for puppy mills; Berners in the hands of backyard breeders, some of whom have gotten their dogs from puppy mills or from the recent rash of exploiters of the breed; and an increase in rescue situations.

Among a variety of strategies to meet these threats, the BMDCA bas increased its efforts to educate and inform prospective puppy owners and those new to the breed.

A particularly valuable tool is the BMDCA Info Series, which is accessible through the club's web site, www.bmdca.org. This impressive collection of fact sheets is available for reproduction as handouts. Developed as a kit with a CD in 2002, it was distributed to regional clubs at the national specialty for use in public relations. BMDCA public relations chair Robin Hamme describes it as "highly flexible... so that the reader or information request sender can tailor the material to the needs and interests of the reader." The CD is available from BMDCA Ways and Means for $22, including postage. Contact Lynne Hawkinson, 2244 Montia Place, Escondido, CA 92029, or by e-mail at bojuben@home.com. (Note: email/street address/club position listed may not be current.)

Another educational offering is an attractive color poster (11 by 17 inches) emphasizing breed and breeder selection through contacting breed clubs. Generalized in character, it is suitable for use by any club. Information provided before ownership reduces rescue situations. The poster is available from Robin Hamme, 10306 Browning Rd., Evansville, IN 47725, in packs of 25 for $37.50, payable to the BMDCA. (Note: email/street address/club position listed may not be current.)

Grave concerns over the deplorable conditions of auctions, with underage Bernese and frequently ill puppies and adults coming from overseas to brokers, prompted funding a lobbyist to focus attention on these issues to achieve positive regulation changes. The BMDCA has made a plea for other breed clubs to join forces with these efforts. For further information contact BMDCA legislative affairs committee chair Ruth Nielsen at 3909 Interlake Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103, or by e-mail at rnielsen@nielsenlaw.com. (Note: email/street address/club position listed may not be current.)

In pursuit of worldwide cooperation, the BMDCA has established an international alliances committee chaired by Herb Hoffman, 11623 Meeting House Rd., Myersville, MD 217873 (hhoffinan@sysmatrix.net). (Note: email/street address/club position listed may not be current.) Concerned advocacy at the global level has resulted in participation at the annual international symposium sponsored by the Swiss club for Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Dedication to resolving health issues has been omnipresent. As the vanguard for openness and utilization of a database, the BMDCA, in conjunction with Berner-Garde, continues striving for long term control of genetic diseases affecting BMDs.

The BMDCA's 35-year history reflects an active parent club committed to the preservation and protection of Bernese Mountain Dogs.

-Julia Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875