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Club History

History of Greater Shelby Kennel Club, Inc.


From its beginnings in 1990, the Greater Shelby Kennel Club, Inc. (hereinafter, also called “the Club” or “GSKC”) has grown into an active organization committed to promoting and protecting the sport of purebred dogs. In 1997, the Club received accreditation from the American Kennel Club as a licensed all-breed kennel club. Since 2003, Greater Shelby Kennel Club’s events have occurred on a spring-fall schedule. In addition, each April the Club hosts another weekend of agility trials. Periodically, the Club conducts herding trials with sheep and/or ducks.

The History of GSKC:

The following narrative chronicles the history of Greater Shelby Kennel Club, Inc. from its inception in 1990 until the present. Although many individuals have contributed in great and small ways to the current success of the Club, none is mentioned by name in the following historical narrative. This presentation recognizes the importance of the Club and its collective membership as the important entities. In no way should this method of presentation be construed to overlook or minimize the efforts of any current or former member of the Club. For it is the collective work of the membership—both past and present—to which the success of this Club is attributed. Over the past ten years, the Club has hosted AKC-licensed events with the Memphis Kennel Club, the Olive Branch Kennel Club, and the Tupelo Kennel Club, as well as local, regional, or national specialty clubs.

The Club’s Beginnings:

The beginnings of Greater Shelby Kennel Club, Inc. trace to 1990, when a group of individuals active in the sport of purebred dogs initiated plans for a new all-breed kennel club, located in what then constituted the unincorporated areas of Shelby County, TN. The Club’s original name was the Mid-South Kennel Club. Despite having a different name, the primary objective of the Mid-South Kennel Club was the same as that of GSKC today—to actively promote and protect the sport of purebred dogs and educate dog owners in responsible dog ownership.

The Club’s Philosophy:

Adopted by the membership in December 1992, the Club’s philosophy is the following: “The … Club was organized for the purpose of actively promoting and protecting the sport of purebred dogs. The efforts of the Club as a whole, and of its members as individuals, are geared toward activities, which are beneficial to the sport, to individual fanciers, and to the community at-large. Every member of the Club has agreed to work together as a harmonious group of fanciers to serve the best interests of the sport.”

The Membership of GSKC:

Although the original Club membership was composed to a large extent of individuals who were also active in other dog-related clubs, such as the Memphis Kennel Club, Shelby County Obedience Club, and the Mid-South Judges Group, it also attracted individuals who were involved in competing with dogs and breeding dogs, but who did not belong to other formal groups. As a result of its open-membership policy, the Club welcomes all dog fanciers who share the philosophy of working together to serve the best interests of the sport and to continue the Club’s tradition of conducting outstanding conformation dog shows and performance events.

The Club’s Road to Becoming Accredited as an AKC-Licensed All-Breed Kennel Club:

The process of becoming an AKC-licensed all-breed kennel club is a long one, designed to select only those clubs with memberships dedicated to the sport and capable of sustaining the work of continually conducting quality dog shows and/or performance event. Not all clubs that begin the process complete it successfully and become AKC-licensed kennel clubs. In 1992, the Club began officially taking steps toward its goal of becoming an all-breed club licensed with the American Kennel Club.

The Club’s Original Objectives for Forming a New AKC-Licensed All-Breed Kennel Club:

The primary reasons for forming a new AKC-licensed kennel club were (1) to provide individuals residing in the Mid-South area, who were devoted to their purebred dogs and their sport, with two weekends of conformation dog shows and (2) to host additional obedience trials in the area so that local competitors could title their dogs in obedience without overnight stays in cities located several hours away. In 1992, unlike today, the AKC did not allow established clubs to hold back-to-back dog shows. Two or more clubs had to join together in order to hold a weekend of events. Thus, first objective was to host conformation dog shows as a companion club with the kennel clubs already established in the greater Memphis metropolitan area. The second objective was to host obedience trials in conjunction with the Memphis Obedience Training Club, an established obedience club that hosted two AKC obedience trials each year. Outside the Memphis area, the nearest clubs offering obedience competition at that time were located in Nashville, TN and Little Rock, AR—travel to both of which realistically requires overnight stays. Similarly, at that time the nearest clubs in Mississippi offering AKC obedience competition required about four hours of driving time to Greenville or to Jackson.

Sufficient Club Membership Representing Many Breeds of Dogs:

The American Kennel Club has a documented process for accreditation and approval for holding sanctioned and licensed events. One of AKC’s requirements for this process is that the applicant or prospective club must meet eligibility requirements. One requirement is that the club has sufficient numbers of members to actually conduct dog shows and performance events for which the club seeks licensing. In the Fall of 1992, a membership drive by the Mid-South Kennel Club increased the number of individual and family memberships of dog fanciers residing in the unincorporated areas of Shelby County, TN, to a level that met that requirement. To qualify as an all-breed kennel club, the membership must also represent a wide range of AKC-recognized breeds from a number of the groups. In addition, a substantial proportion of the membership must have participated as exhibitors in AKC events for substantial period of time, have registered a litter within the previous three years, or be an active AKC-licensed judge. A proportion of the prospective club may also consist of interested dog owners who are active with the club but not currently competing or breeding. By the end of 1992, the membership also met these eligibility requirements.

The Club’s Unsanctioned or “Fun” Matches:

Another requirement for AKC-accreditation is that the prospective club demonstrates that the members are qualified to conduct dog shows and/or performance events by holding a series of unsanctioned or “fun” matches. On October 25, 1992, the Mid-South Kennel Club sponsored its first fun match offering competition in conformation and obedience by the lake at the Tennessee State Technical Institute (now Southwest Tennessee Community College, Macon Cove Campus). On March 7, 1993, a second fun match was held inside the gymnasium at the same venue.

A New Name—Greater Shelby Kennel Club:

In April 1993, the Club began the official process of becoming an all-breed kennel club licensed to conduct conformation dog shows and obedience trials at which championship or performance titles, points, or legs are earned. At that time the Club’s name was officially changed to Greater Shelby Kennel Club. This change was necessary because the rules of The American Kennel Club require a prospective club’s name to specifically reflect the geographic area in which the dog club is located. The rationale for this change was that the geographic area implied by the name Mid-South is overly broad; in contrast, the name Greater Shelby more accurately reflected the geographic area of which the Club is representative. All members of Mid-South Kennel Club at the time that the application was sent to The American Kennel Club became Charter Members of Greater Shelby Kennel Club.

Approval of the Club Logo and Colors:

A design committee was formed and members submitted designs for the official logo. The current logo (outline of Shelby County, TN, with a cotton boll and the Hernando DeSoto bridge) and Club colors (royal blue and maize) were approved by the membership in September 1993.

The Club’s Constitution and By-Laws:

Another step in the accreditation process was the drafting and approval by the membership of the Club’s Constitution and By-Laws. The Club’s Constitution and Bylaws are based on a model document provided by AKC’s Club Relations Department. The Club modified this template to reflect the unique nature of Greater Shelby Kennel Club. After approval of the original Constitution and By-Laws by the membership in September 1993, the Club sent the documents to The American Kennel Club for their approval. The American Kennel Club approved the Constitution and By-Laws of GSKC, but required some minor revisions. These were incorporated and approved by the membership. Since 1993, the Club has operated under this AKC-approved Constitution and By-Laws.

The Club’s Public Education and Public Service Programs:

For accreditation a prospective club must establish a program of activities designed to assist individuals interested in competing in AKC events and breeding purebred dogs and to promote the sport and responsible dog ownership. Since 1992, the Club has continuously and actively sponsored public education and public service programs. The public education activities included nursing home visitation and demonstrations at schools and churches to educate the general public in responsible dog ownership and the value of dogs to society. In 2005, the Club placed a moratorium on these activities as Club-sponsored activities due to liability issues. However, a number of members continue to participate as individuals in the Delta Society’s Pet Partner Program and the R.E.A.D. program. Other members have participated in dog rescue groups and many continue to do so. In May 1993, the Club offered its first classes in how to handle dogs in conformation dog shows. Since then, the Club has offered several sets of handling classes each year. These handling classes also provide members and non-members with opportunities to socialize their dogs and prepare them for competition in the dog show ring. One of the most lasting contributions to the community by the Club was a series of donations of dog-related books to the library at the Cordova Community Center.

The Club’s Continuing Education Activities for Members and Guests:

Another way to meet the AKC’s requirement for educational programs is offering educational activities at meetings and hosting seminars. Since 1992, at its general membership meetings, the Club has sponsored educational presentations and demonstrations by local guest speakers and members on a variety of dog-related topics. Other educational activities have included videos and educational games for members, such as “Dog Show Jeopardy”. Since 1992, the Club has hosted picnics, dinner meetings, and other social activities (such as “Members Lottery Fun Matches” and wine tasting) for members at various members’ homes. General membership meetings are open to the public and advertised on the Club’s website.

Accreditation of GSKC by The American Kennel Club, “B” Status, and B(OB) Matches:

Having met the eligibility requirements for accreditation, the Club assembled a presentation for the purpose of becoming an AKC-sanctioned club. This is the step at which the Club documented its eligibility and requested approval from AKC to host “B” Matches for competition in conformation classes and “OB” Matches for competition in obedience classes. AKC-sanctioned events are events that are approved by the AKC but are not events at which titles or points may be awarded. The American Kennel Club officially accredited Greater Shelby Kennel Club in June 1993, and granted written permission for the Club to hold its first sanctioned B(OB) Match on October 24, 1993, outside at the State Tech venue. The second sanctioned B(OB) match was held on March 5, 1994 in the gymnasium of the Cordova Community Center. The third through sixth B(OB) Matches were held outside at the State Tech venue on June 26, 1994; October 9, 1994; May 21, 1995; and October 29, 1995.

The Club’s “A” Status and A(OA) Matches:

After The American Kennel Club granted the Club “A” status, the first A(OA) Match was held inside the gymnasium at the State Tech venue on February 18, 1996. The second A(OA) Match was held on October 13, 1996. Unlike B(OB) Matches which follow more lenient rules, A(OA) Matches must be conducted in a manner almost identical to that of an actual dog show or obedience trial.

The Club’s Incorporation as a Non-Profit Corporation with the State of Tennessee:

During 1996, the Club became incorporated as a non-profit corporation operated for public benefit. This designation certified that the Club was qualified to do business in the State of Tennessee by the Secretary of State.

The Club’s First AKC-Licensed Conformation Dog Shows and Obedience Trials:

AKC-licensed clubs may hold events at which dogs compete for championship points and/or titles. Although The American Kennel Club granted the Club approval simultaneously to hold a licensed dog show and two licensed obedience trials, the obedience trials preceded the first conformation dog show. The Club’s first conformation dog show was held in conjunction with the Memphis Kennel Club’s Fall dog show on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, November 29, 1997.

The Club’s Second Year of AKC-Sanctioned Events:

In 1998, the Club held three sets of AKC events. The Club’s second conformation dog show occurred on Friday, April 3 as part of a three-day cluster with the Olive Branch Kennel Club and the Memphis Kennel Club.Then, in November, the Club held its third conformation dog show in conjunction with the Memphis Kennel Club.

The Club’s Change of Date and Venue from April to October:

In June 1998, the membership of the Club voted by written ballot to continue with two conformation dog shows per year, but to move from the April date to an October date. The November date with Memphis Kennel Club was retained. The show site for the October Showcase event was designated as a picturesque area between the pond and the RV Park at the Agricenter International. Following the positive vote of the membership, the Club requested approval from The American Kennel Club for the proposed changes of dates and venues, all of which were approved.

The Beginning of the Club’s Partnership with the Tupelo Kennel Club:

In October 1999, the Club hosted its first three-day cluster with the Tupelo Kennel Club. Competition was offered in conformation on two days (Saturday and Sunday) and obedience on three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). In addition, the Club held another conformation dog show with the Memphis Kennel Club in November. The same format was followed during 2000, with conformation dog shows in October (with the Tupelo Kennel Club) and December (with the Memphis Kennel Club) and obedience trials in October (with the Tupelo Kennel Club). In 2001, the Club added Rally Obedience Trials on Friday and Sunday.

The Club’s Addition of AKC Agility and Herding Trials as Performance Events:

The year 2000 marked some big changes for the Club. Shortly after AKC accredited the Club, a group of members began working to have the Club also become sanctioned in agility. In August 1994, they presented an agility demonstration at a general membership meeting held at a member’s home. Although interest in agility remained high among those desiring to expand the variety of AKC performance events hosted by the Club, it was not until the year 2000, that the Club had a sufficient number of members willing to volunteer to conduct an agility “A” match and, subsequently, an agility trial. By then, there were also members who wanted to conduct AKC herding trials. Therefore, in 2000, the membership voted to add agility trials and herding trials to its repertoire of performance events and, subsequently, requested approval from The American Kennel Club for licensing of these two performance events. The American Kennel Club gave their approval. After holding “A” Matches in each event, the Club offered its first agility trials in October 2000. The Club held its first herding trial in December 2000.

Another Change of Date and Venue from December to October for the Club:

Also, in 2000, the Club’s membership voted to concentrate their efforts in October and requested that The American Kennel Club allow their November dog-show date to be changed to October. In 2001, after approval, the Club began hosting its conformation dog shows and obedience trials on Friday and Sunday with the Tupelo Kennel Club retaining their Saturday conformation dog show and obedience trial.

More Herding Trials and a Second Weekend of Agility Trials for the Club:

Other herding trials were held in September 2001 (with the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Memphis) and in July 2004. Starting in the Spring of 2003, the Club began hosting a second weekend of agility trials.

The Club’s Canine Good Citizen Tests:

The Club has sponsored AKC Canine Good Citizen Tests (also called CGC Tests). For the past several years these tests have been conducted by the members of U-DOT (Ultimate Dog Obedience Trainers), a local group of dog lovers interested in obedience training and responsible dog ownership. In the past members of Shelby County Obedience Club and the Huntsville Obedience Training Club have also conducted CGC Tests at the October event. These tests are widely advertised and they are open to the public. Under the AKC’s CGC Program, both AKC-registered and mixed breed dogs may be tested to determine whether they have sufficient training and skills and display appropriate temperaments around other dogs and people to earn certification as Canine Good Citizens. In April 2006, GSKC members conducted their own CGC Test at the Spring agility trials; this test was open to dogs competing in that event. In an article in the Gazette, Dr. Mary Burch, the AKC field representative for the CGC Program, recognized the GSKC-sponsored CGC Tests as a model for other clubs to follow.

The Club’s Community Service and Charitable Contributions:

In addition to conducting outstanding dog shows and performance events, the Club has made continuing donations to the community at-large. The Club has purchased protective vests for dogs serving with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the Club has contributed monies toward the purchase of training equipment for Search and Rescue Dogs associated with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. Following the natural disaster in southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama from Hurricane Katrina, the Club made a donation to a fund for the care of lost and abandoned pets at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

The Club’s Educational Seminars:

GSKC has sponsored several seminars, which offer more in-depth, concentrated continuing educational experiences, focused on specific areas of interest to judges, breeders, exhibitors, and/or interested dog owners. These seminars are widely advertised and are open to the general public, as well as members of the Club and the dog fancy. The Club has sponsored breed seminars at which judges and others received continuing education credits. In 2000, Dr. Carmen Battaglia, an AKC-licensed judge and Director of The American Kennel Club, presented his two-day seminar on Breeding Better Dogs. In 2004, Ed and Pat Gilbert presented their two-day K-9 Structure and Movement Seminar. In 2006, Lynn Weinberg taught a one-day hands-on seminar on rally obedience at her Hideaway Farm Canine Academy in Lakeland, TN.

The Club’s Current Schedule of AKC Events:

Since 2003, the Club’s events have occurred on a spring-fall schedule. The Tupelo Kennel Club continues to host a conformation dog show and obedience and rally obedience trials. In addition, each Spring the Club hosts another weekend of agility trials. Periodically, the Club conducts herding trials with sheep and/or ducks.

The Club’s Future:

The Club’s membership determines future directions for the Club. That membership is a dynamic entity. Over the years the Club has lost several dedicated members because of illness and death; they are deeply missed. Other members have moved away because of career or family changes. While each former member leaves his or her distinct mark on the Club, new members with different interests and breeds of dogs continually change the Club’s character. While the Club’s future looks bright, keeping it that way requires the dedication, integrity, and work of its individual members.

Source Documents:

This history of Greater Shelby Kennel Club, Inc. was compiled by Betsy Tolley, President and charter member (since 1992). The source documents for this history included Club minutes, newsletters, financial records, and the Club’s Charter and yearly reports filed with the Secretary of State, as well as personal communications with other charter members. The process of becoming an AKC-accredited club is documented in an official publication of The American Kennel Club, entitled How to Form an AKC-Accredited Dog Club.