Monday, September 7, 2015

The English Shepherd Club's Open Registry: Doing Studbooks Better

The breed club for my own dogs, the English Shepherd Club, recently launched a new website for breeders, which includes my friend Heather Houlahan's impassioned jeremiad for the (then-new) ESC open registry. Unlike the AKC and virtually all other registries, the ESC is open because it satisfies two particular requirements:
  1. The data is openly visible to all.
  2. Dogs not in the registry may be registered based on consensus. That is, does the dog appear to satisfy knowledgeable individuals that it is an English Shepherd?
The post, of course, is worth reading in its entirety, but I wanted to focus on the final graf because of its importance:
...[W]e need to step away from the weird “pedigree as a valuable secret” attitude that has been deliberately fostered by IESR and UKC — especially the former. The only way to break their stranglehold on information is to give it away en masse to those who will make it available for free. Breeders who jealously guard the information that they have picked your pocket for is exactly what allows them to charge hundreds of dollars for a few names on a sheet of paper. It’s a liberating act to make that information free. (Remember that urban legend about the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe? There’s a reason that people take such glee in freely passing around a recipe that they believe someone was “robbed” — or at least overcharged — to acquire. Now the Neiman-Marcus story is made up — but there’s a greater truth behind the legend, which is that the empowering response to being ripped off is not to rip someone else off in turn, but to deny the holdup artist the ability to do it to someone else.) But more than individually liberating — sharing pedigree information is a cost-free way to conserve the future of the breed.
 I hasten to add that this is by no means a complete solution; a closed studbook is ultimately fatal, whether by good intentions or not. And with the kind of holes that the ESC has in its studbook (speaking from experience, as I have extensively examined them), there are a lot of potential problems, up to and including misleading coefficient of inbreeding (COI) calculations. But the relatively promiscuous approach of the ESC, compared to its AKC brethren, put them head and shoulders above most other breed clubs (and not a few arrogant ignoramuses) in this regard.

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