Minutes of the June 2008 Breed Council Meeting

A meeting of the Persian Breed Council was held in Louisville, KY, on Saturday, June 28. There were 37 people in attendance, with 34 of them members of the breed council. Breed Council Secretary Nancy Petersen called the meeting to order at 8:30 am.

Nancy's first reminder was that August 1 will be the deadline for breed council membership in order to be able to vote on any ballot items in the fall. Membership will expire again on December 31, 2008, so it is to one's advantage to renew BC memberships as early in the year as possible. Also, any submissions of BC ballot items/questions must be to Nancy by August 1 as well.

Donna Jean Thompson has been given the task of developing a training session for judges specific to the Persian and is interested in breeder/exhibitor feedback in targeting areas where judges may need extra instruction. Several topics were mentioned by many people in attendance... SIZE, for one. All agreed that our breed ("large to medium in size" according to the standard) is becoming smaller, likely due to line- and/or in-breeding over many generations. HEAD was the second feature mentioned, as being such an important factor in evaluating a Persian as it comprises 30 points in the standard. The head cannot be properly judged without TOUCHING it - exhibitors are not interested in the "illusion" some cats create by appearance, unless that "illusion" is verified by properly feeling the head for the smooth, round underlying bone structure and break as called for in the standard. BIASED EYES and EYE COLOR were two more items mentioned as being overlooked. TEMPERAMENT, although not defined in the standard, is expected to be even in the Persian and some in attendance mentioned that some unexpected and poor behavior has been witnessed in our breed in recent years. COAT is 10 points in the standard, although some judges seem to give more like 90 points to those cats with "big hair" without taking the whole cat into consideration. SQUIRREL TAILS (tails held up and over the back) are another concern of exhibitors. We also prefer that judges DON'T PEEL BACK THE HEAD on a Persian when evaluating it - it is possible to feel the head structure without destroying the grooming the exhibitors present. Exhibitors want judges to emphasize good head structure, yet at the same time, those judges do have to choose from what is available and if poor structure is rewarded then breeders have less incentive to breed for better. Carla Bizzell stated that from her point of view as a judge that BALANCE is very important - how does it all pull together in a cat? Though only 5 points in the standard (along with refinement), it is the "whole package" and not just a head or a body or eyes, etc. that make the cat. Carla has also noted Persians with examples of chest defects (open diaphragms) and knee problems. She said that exhibitors do seem to appreciate being told discreetly of problems noted by a judge, discreet being the important factor! Donna Jean also stated that we must be patient with the new judges ... many of them come from a SH background and don't always have as much Persian experience as we would hope. Donna Jean told those in attendance not to fear reprisals if a particular concern about a judge's handling/evaluation is warranted, as Rachel Anger is quite good about letting judges know of concerns anonymously. In response to comments about how training judges are paired with trainees, Donna Jean indicated that she is very concerned about pairing trainees with good judges of Persians and makes every effort to do just that but that sometimes other factors (e.g., handling, presentation) come into play where she must use judgment in making the pairings work the best they can.

A comment was made about some judges who, during judging or finals, have referred to Bi-Color Persians as being "LH Exotics" or to Exotics as being "SH Persians." We were told this is something that has been addressed to the Judges' group already. Another popular topic was conversations between judges and exhibitors and vice-versa. Years ago, CFA shows were much more "formal" if you will ... now, the emphasis is more on being "casual:" Socializing, getting together with friends - many of whom are judges - and while that is all well and good, many times the boundary between the judge and the exhibitor has been blurred and good judgment is not always exercised on either side of the judging table.

One idea was mentioned as to the breed councils evaluating judges: If 1/5 of the judges were voted on each year and given "Pass/Fail" ratings by each Breed Council, those judges not receiving at least 51% "Pass" rating could be targeted for further training and evaluation. This idea met with mixed emotions, but does point to the fact that exhibitors do feel that some judges are lacking in their ability to properly evaluate more than just the Persian breed.

Concern was expressed that many Persian breeders are not friendly to spectators at shows or to those interested in learning about showing Persians; this generated quite a conversation as there were others who felt that wasn't true at all. Several at the meeting currently mentor newbies (some more than just one or two ...) - perhaps it was more a "regional" concern? Another individual mentioned that perhaps a larger problem exists between breeders, where contracts are limiting and severely restrict sharing of lines for the benefit of the breed. It is not unusual for contracts to prohibit offspring of a purchased cat from ever returning to the area or country of its origin. Where has the sense of competition gone?

The last item on the secretary's agenda for the meeting was the question of showing Longhair Exotics. The Persian and Exotic BC Secretaries had been asked by the Board to "reach a mutually agreeable compromise" to allow these cats to be shown. Further, they were to meet with Annette Wilson and Debbie Kusy (Breeds and Standards Committee) at some point during the Annual meeting to discuss their concerns. Peter Vonwontergehm (Exotic BC Secretary) was unable to attend the meeting and asked Becky Orlando to represent him; Becky in turn asked Carla Bizzell to join her at this meeting.

Annette asked both sides to "draw their line in the sand." Nancy, in speaking for her constituents stated the original "line in the sand" was that the LH Exotics would never be shown; however, charged with compromise she proposed drawing the line so as to prohibit Exotics from ever being registered as Persians. Becky and Carla of course spoke to their council's desire to have LH Exotics shown however it would work.

Earlier in the year, ballot questions regarding this issue were ruled out of order because they were unconstitutional (i.e., it was ruled that the Persian was an affected breed and since the Persian BC voted not to let LH Exotics be shown to do otherwise would be in violation of the constitution - see Article XI of the constitution, "Nothwithstanding the fact that the Councils shall serve the Executive Board in an advisory capacity, the Executive Board shall not alter or amend any part of the standards for any breed, or add thereto, without first obtaining (within the prior 12 months) the approval of 60% of the members voting of the specific Breed Council(s) affected."). To permit LH Exotics to be shown would require setting aside or abolishing the What Is A Breed (WIAB) policy, it might require modifying or eliminating Show Rule 2.04 which requires that "a cat must be shown in the breed in which it is registered," and it might require modifying the Exotic standard to include a description of a LH Exotic. A tremendous amount of work has gone into the WIAB policy to define and protect breeds and setting it aside or dismantling it entirely is something the Persian BC has been against from the beginning. Any action regarding the Persian/Exotic issue will have ramifications for other breeds down the line, and our every move is being watched by the Siamese and other breed councils as a result. However, since the Persian and Exotic BC Secretaries were charged with coming up with a "compromise," the following items were agreed to in principle, again keeping in mind that the secretaries do not intend to speak only for themselves but with the interests of their breed councils in mind. Here are the points of that "compromise:"
   • LH Exotics would be shown in appropriate Persian color classes (any in AOV colors could not be shown) yet their points would be scored in the Exotic breed (the breed would be divided into Shorthair and Longhair divisions).
   • Kittens resulting from a LH Exotic x LH Exotic or LH Exotic x Persian would NOT be registerable.
   • Exotics would be prohibited from outcrossing to Persians after TEN years.
   • Persians would be given an 8-generation pedigree rule for individuals being registered in CFA from other domestic or international registries.

Of course, much discussion ensued following this announcement. There were a number of Exotic breeders in attendance at this meeting and much concern was expressed about the potential cutoff of the allowable outcross to Persian. Persian breeders questioned why the super LH Exotic cats they breed aren't used instead of Persians? It was mentioned that the Persian gene pool is stronger and that there are qualities that Persians contribute to the Exotics that cannot be matched by the LH Exotic counterparts. Also, it was noted that more individual cats would need to be kept in a dual Persian/Exotic breeding program if the Persian outcross were denied. In essence, it was admitted that the LH Exotics are not identical to Persians when used in breeding programs, and the Exotic breeders are adamant about keeping the outcross to Persians intact. The outcross cutoff was a negotiable item between the secretaries with the Exotic preferring 15 years with the Persian asking for 3 or less, so ten was the compromise.

One Exotic breeder said that since the February board meeting where the ballot questions were ruled out of order, a general sense of defeat was felt that (to paraphrase) "We give up ... no matter how the argument is presented or how we change it to suit the Board the end result is that the item is tabled again and again. We will never be able to show these cats, but we need the Persians now more than ever if outcrossing won't be possible in 10 years." From the Persian perspective, the argument was "Where does it stop? Where do you draw the line in letting the breeds get blurred? The Himalayan/CPC issue was a direct board action against the Persian breed council vote - Don't let it happen again!"

Another Exotic breeder's opinion was that there would be more incentive to use LH Exotics in breeding programs if those cats were able to get show titles because of the perceived disinterest in pedigrees containing large numbers of untitled cats. While DM is a great title, it doesn't speak to the quality of the individual holding it if it can't compete in the show ring and prove itself in that way. Another agreed, but said that progress with the Exotics would be much more difficult to maintain without the Persian outcross. Both sides agreed that giving up the outcross would be a huge issue, yet it was noted that even if the outcross is cut off, it can be reinstated by the board dependent on perceived need.

A straw poll was taken of those 34 members in attendance who were eligible to vote if indeed the compromise as stated above becomes a ballot item. Only 6 were in favor of the compromise as stated. 18 would be in favor of the compromise if LH Exotics were shown as a division of the Exotic breed and the outcross was eliminated in a couple years. After those straw polls, more than one in attendance indicated that they were not willing to let all of the hard work in putting the WIAB policy in place go out the window by allowing these cats to be shown in any way. Another point made was that there are a number of Exotic BC members who also have membership in the Persian BC which definitely makes an impact on the ballot results. It was argued back that there is no rule precluding membership in more than one breed council and that voting eligibility is not restricted to one breed only.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:05 am, as Nancy's attendance was required at a meeting of the Board with the breed council secretaries.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Cook Henry

Note: I attended the Exotic BC meeting later as an interested party and must clarify a couple of statements made by Becky Orlando during that meeting regarding comments made by Nancy Petersen during their "compromise" meeting with the Breeds and Standards chairs as well as at the breed council secretaries' meeting with the Board. Becky informed those attending that at the meeting with the Board, Nancy had asked Fred Jacobberger to rule on WIAB once and for all ... this was news to us for sure, and Nancy had not said anything about that to me in prior conversations. My only reaction was - and I told others in the room - that she must have wanted clarification on WIAB as to whether it would remain a viable policy which would continue to affect the LH Exotic issue, but that I could not believe she intended any ill will in making such a request. When I saw Nancy after that meeting I asked her about this, and she had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, that did not happen at all ... and it was confirmed by Debbie Kusy. Nancy did, however, bring up the subject of dual-breed council membership affecting ballot results, which, as she expected, the board deemed a non-issue. Further, Becky told us that during the "compromise" meeting, there were several occasions where Nancy responded, "Well, I don't know ..." when asked if she would be in agreement with each of the compromise issues. Again, my reaction to those in attendance was that she was saying that only as the secretary of the Persian Breed Council - charged by her constituents as representing the breed fairly. She was answering honestly for herself - and not for the entire Persian Breed Council, as she knows any questions will be settled by the whole and not by her alone. I felt that Becky's comments were unfortunate and definitely intended to portray Nancy and her involvement in this process in a negative light which she did not deserve under the circumstances.