The PBGVCA Hunt Committee recently requested feedback and suggestions from members in preparation for a review of the hunt test rules. Below is the document that I sent to the committee with my suggestions. If you are a PBGVCA member, please take advantage of this opportunity to offer feedback on how the hunt program could be improved. 

Below are my comments on the Hunt Test Rules and Standard Procedures. I appreciate the request for feedback prior to this rule revision, since this has not been done in the recent past.  

 

I was on the original hunt committee in the 1990s, attended the first PBGVCA hunt in 2002, and have been a hunt judge since the beginning of the hunt program. In the past few years I have limited my involvement in hunts because of a lot of concerns about how the program has evolved.  All of my comments are based on actual, not theoretical, situations. 

Quotations from the rules are in italics. 

Chapter 5, Section 1  

A Judge may not officiate over any hound they or any member of his immediate family or household has owned, sold, held under lease, boarded, trained, or handled the hound within one year prior to the date of the test.

 

It would be helpful (at least to me and my students) to have a definition of “trained”. Does this mean training the dog directly or does it include coaching based lessons where the owner does the handling?  What about training that has nothing to do with hunting?

 

I don’t think the intention is to avoid financial contact between a judge and exhibitor, because other types of business arrangements are not listed. 

 

There is precedent in AKC events for a student to be allowed to complete under their instructor.  This is allowed in agility and scent work. 

 

The Hunt Test Secretary may not be approved to be advertised as a Judge of the test.

This rule can create an additional burden for smaller hunts with a limited number of judges. If the thinking in that the judge shouldn’t know who the dogs are, the handler’s full name probably shouldn’t be on the score sheet. Judge shortages are going to become a bigger issue as more of the original group of judges are no longer physically able to judge.

 

Chapter 7: Entry Requirements and Eligibility

Section 1 – No PBGV shall be eligible to be entered in a licensed Hunt Test unless it is individually registered with the American Kennel Club, having a full, limited or PAL/ILP registration number.

Hunt tests are breed specific events and should be limited to PBGVs with known pedigrees. The PAL program is a scam that allows dishonest people to misrepresent their mixed breed dogs as purebred and there is effectively no way to get AKC to remove a PAL number from a dog. Entries at hunt tests usually fill, which means that giving space to a mixed breed dog is taking a spot away from an actual PBGV. 

 

Allowing dogs that are not really PBGVs to run also creates a real safety risk for the dogs on the field. When someone enters a pack or brace, they enter with the expectation that they will be running with other pack hounds, not terrier or doodle mixes who may have very different behavior towards other dogs. 

 

Section 12 – Any dog that attacks a person or a dog at a PBGVCA hunting event, resulting in injury, and is believed by the Hunt Test Committee to present a hazard to persons or other dogs shall be disqualified. Reinstatement of said dog will be at the discretion of the PBGVCA Hunt Committee and PBGVCA Board of Directors.

I strongly recommend following AKC procedures regarding dog on dog and dog on human aggression, including giving the judges and test committee the discretion to excuse a dog for threatening or menacing without waiting for an injury to occur.  This is consistent with the existing rule that says AKC procedures should be followed if there is a misconduct complaint against a person.

 

Chapter 9, Section 7

d) The title of Parent Club Senior Hunter Excellent shall be granted to any PCJHX titled PBGV

receiving three qualifying scores of 100 or better from any stake, minimum of two different stakes, with: 1) a minimum of two qualifying scores of 140 or better, 2) a minimum of two different hunt sites, 3) a minimum of three different Judges. If requested by owner (see Section 8) this title will be designated by the suffix title PCSHX in all PBGVCA records.

e) The title of Parent Club Master Hunter shall be granted to any PCSH titled PBGV receiving one qualifying score of 100 or better in each of three stakes with: 1) a minimum of two scores of 150 or better, 2) a minimum of two different hunt sites, 3) a minimum of three different Judges. If requested by owner (see Section 8) this title will be designated by the suffix title PCMH in all

PBGVCA records.

f) The title of Parent Club Master Hunter Excellent shall be granted to any PCSHX titled PBGV

receiving one qualifying score of 100 or better in each of three stakes with: 1) a minimum of two

scores of 160 or better, 2) a minimum of two different hunt sites, 3) a minimum of three different

Judges. If requested by owner (see Section 8) this title will be designated by the suffix title PCMHX in all PBGVCA records.

The two field requirement was added early in the hunt test program when only two fields were in use:  Cabarrus in North Carolina and Delsea in New Jersey, about an 8 hour drive apart. These 2 fields had really different conditions and rabbit populations. The intent was to demonstrate that a dog didn’t just “learn” the habits of the rabbits on one field. The program has grown a lot since then and the rule didn’t account for clubs with multiple fields, hunts in more distant areas, and the unreasonable travel burden that would result. We also all know a lot more about hunting now, including how much a field can change from one season to another. An additional problem is that this requirement hasn’t been consistently interpreted. Two fields in South Carolina with virtually identical terrain count as separate fields, while two fields that are drastically different from each other in Pennsylvania do not. I recommend that this requirement be removed from all titles or at a minimum that it be modified to recognize that two fields at the same Beagle Club are in fact, two fields and not one. 

H) The title of Elite after any Parent Club Hunter title shall be granted to any PBGV that has earned a PCJH title or higher and produced a minimum of three Get with PCSH titles. Elite Titles may be awarded posthumously. If requested by owner (see Section 8) this title will be designated by the second suffix ELITE after the Parent Club Hunt Title (i.e. PCSH, ELITE) in all PBGVCA records. PBGVCA Hunt Test Rules & Standard Procedures

Approved by committee on 09-15-2022

i) The title of Elite Excellent after any Parent Club Hunter title shall be granted to any PBGV that has earned a PCSH title or higher and produced a minimum of three Get with PCMH titles. Elite

Excellent Titles may be awarded posthumously. If requested by owner (see Section 8) this title willbe designated by the second suffix ELITE X after the Parent Club Hunt Title (i.e. PCSH, ELITE X) in all PBGVCA records.

The requirements for the Elite title were decreased in 2022 without any opportunity for comment from the PBGVCA membership. The original title had been based directly on a French hunting title that was intended as a genotype title, to reward dogs who consistently demonstrated the ability to produce quality hunting dogs in multiple litters with multiple mates. Changing the requirement to allow the title to be earned from just one litter or pairing of dogs completely defeats the purpose of this recognition.  The committee’s logic, as published in Saber Tails, that the requirements should be decreased because a title that was earned infrequently couldn’t possible have meaning is deeply offensive.  This statement implies that anything accomplished with a PBGV that hasn’t been done before is meaningless. 

 

If the goal is to recognize any dog that produces offspring that hunt, it would be much more appropriate to call the title something other than Elite, which by it’s very definition should be a rare and special accomplishment. In the interest of not separating the hunt program from other club activities, it might be make sense to give hunt titles the same weight as prefix titles for the club’s existing ROM awards. 

 

I ask that the original requirements for the Elite title be reinstated. 

 

Procedure 2

2-C Any bitch which in the opinion of the Hunt Test Committee is in season, shall be ineligible to compete and shall be excluded from the running grounds and regular kennels. A refund of the entry fees will be made upon receipt of verification by a licensed veterinarian as to the bitch’s condition at the time of testing. The owner of the bitch may substitute another hound, in which case, no fee will be refunded or charged for substitution.

We should be swiping intact bitches regularly before going out on the field like they do in lure coursing. 

 

Please consider another option (like a time stamped photograph) to verify that a bitch is in season. Many vet hospitals are short staffed and really don’t appreciate having to take time to provide BIS documentation. Unless you plan to breed and are doing ovulation timing, being in season isn’t a reason to go to the vet. I’m not sure how many hunts are requiring documentation for refunds, but the rules indicate that we are supposed to. AKC rules for other events give a host club discretion as to what type of documentation, if any, is required. 

 

2-E No hound which is entered and declared present at roll call may be withheld from participation in any test and no hound may be withdrawn during the running of a test, unless it is disqualified or excused by the Judges, or is found to be ineligible, or is excused by the Hunt Test Committee after consultation with the Judges. No hound will be excused by the Hunt Test Committee except in the most unusual and deserving circumstances and never to meet the convenience or caprice of its owner or his agent. If any hound should be withheld or withdrawn with or without the consent of the Hunt Test Committee, that Committee shall make a full report of the incident in writing and the report shall be forwarded to the PBGVCA by the Hunt Test Secretary

An owner or handler should have the option to ask to be excused if they feel that running is not in the best interest of their dog. This is standard procedure in AKC performance events. Forcing someone to run a dog who is sick, injured, or under unsafe weather conditions is inhumane. There should also be consideration given if a handler becomes sick or injured during the hunt. Sometimes 8-10 hours pass between the draw and the last pack of the day- things can change during that time. 

 

Procedure 3

3-B The use of a training devices such as, but not limited to, clickers and shock collars are not permitted during the test.

This rule as written is absolutely fine, but needs to be enforced. A collar that can deliver an electrical shock is by definition a shock collar, even if it is being used for another purpose and even if tape is applied to lessen the shock. Judges need to be checking collars before packs are released. 

 

 

Procedure 4 

 

4-C The Judges shall not permit any person who is handling a hound to make any unnecessary noise, or conduct himself in a disorderly manner, nor to interfere in any way with another hound. After the hounds are released, a handler may speak, whistle, or work his hound in any way he may deem proper, if not contrary to these procedures, unless otherwise instructed by the Judges. Judges shall report promptly to the Hunt Test Committee for appropriate action, any person handling a hound who, during the running of a test, fails or refuses to comply with the Judges’ orders, or who uses abusive language to a Judge or otherwise conducts himself in a manner prejudicial to the best interests of PBGVCA Hunt Test.

The use of an electronic collar that constantly announces “Fluffy is barking” or “Fluffy is running” is most definitely unnecessary noise that can distract judges and hounds.  Judges should have the option of not allowing this. 

 

Procedure 5

5-B Desirable Qualities

Endurance is the physical ability to compete at a consistent level throughout the duration of the hunt.

It appears to be necessary to clarify that a dog who lies down for any period of time at the end of a hunt, whether out of exhaustion or obedience to a cue to stay, is not competing at a consistent level and should not earn a qualifying score on endurance. 

 

Hunts are held in a variety of weather conditions and fields may or may not have water sources, which will almost definitely not be clean. Penalizing handlers for offering their dogs water during a hunt has the potential to create a significant health risk for the dogs. While this is not addressed in the rules, judges have publicly stated that this practice has an impact on a dog’s endurance score.

 

Cooperation with handler is the appropriate response to a handler’s commands. Hounds should work within reasonable control distance of the handler such that they can be called back when needed (to be collected at the end of the hunt or to move with the pack to a fresh area on the field). It is not expected that the hound will obey a recall when following a fresh trail, but there should be a clear indication that it is responsive to the handler’s commands.

If a dog is working within reasonable distance of the handler, there should be no need for a GPS collar to determine his whereabouts. A dog who is so unmanageable that this type of device is needed as a handling tool is not meeting the minimum standard for a passing score on cooperation with handler. 

 

The rules do not specify a time limit for collecting dogs at the end of the run, but 5 minutes has been the unwritten rule for the past few years. I recommend this be used as a guideline, not a rule, and that judges be given discretion based on the conditions on a given day. Some fields have barriers that dogs can cross and humans can not, some conditions allow dogs and rabbits to cover more ground in pursuit than others, some individual handlers are working up to 5 dogs at a time, and some handlers have mobility limitations. 

 

Procedure 6

6-F Locating devices such as a GPS tracking unit designed for the specific use of locating a hound in the field are permitted. GPS devices must be available for inspection by the Hunt Committee.

The intent of this rule was for safety if hunts were held in unfenced areas. Allowing collars to be used to locate dogs who escape the fenced field or who truly can’t be found at the end of the run is reasonable, but giving a qualifying score to a dog who can’t be located without an expensive tracking collar is not. PBGVs were bred to hunt for dinner, not ribbons. A dog who couldn’t be located and wouldn’t recall would not have made it into the gene pool. I recommend that if tracking collars are used that the handheld tracking device be left at the clubhouse or carried by a marshall. This is consistent with pointing breed hunt tests. 

 

Procedure 8

2. Minimum age of hound to be tested is 6 months.

In the interest of safety, twelve months would be a more appropriate minimum age, at least for the regular hunt test stakes. Doing high impact activities with a dog who is still growing can have long term health consequences. Even a Fast CAT run, which involves no turning and takes only about ten seconds to complete, requires that dogs be twelve months old to participate. The fact that the lower height limit of our breed standard doesn’t apply to hounds under a year old is because puppies of that age are still growing. Allowing younger puppies to do learning experience or HIT runs is reasonable, but sending a six month old puppy out to hunt for an hour with 4 adult dogs is irresponsible. 

 

Procedure 9

 A hound must be Hunt Certified by passing a PBGVCA Hunting Instinct Test prior to entering the Hunt Test stakes or received an equivalent qualification by an established hound association.

Please consider making the HIT an optional stake. Young dogs learn to hunt by working with experienced pack mates.  Putting a group of inexperienced dogs out together to play and run the paths is much more likely to teach bad habits than good ones.   There is precedence for this in AKC Herding Trials and sporting breed Hunt Tests, where handlers can chose to skip lower level classes if a dog is ready. Given the expense involved in traveling to hunts, allowing experienced exhibitors to choose where to start their young dogs is only fair. 

 

Page 20 of Premium List

ENTRIES MAY NOT BE POSTMARKED EARLIER THAN Date OR POSTMARKED LATER THAN Date.

Postmark is not used as an opening date for any other event, it is always date received. By using postmark, hunts create an extra burden for exhibitors without easy access to a post office. As the mail service has gotten less reliable, I have had agility entries take 6 weeks to get from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. An envelope postmarked opening day could arrive after the hunt. 

 

Local clubs who are hosting hunts should have discretion as to entry policies, including the option of guaranteeing runs for essential volunteers and judges. There is precedence for this in other AKC events. 

 

The practice of limiting runs by household is not something done in any other type of event. This penalizes breeders, who are almost always going to have multiple dogs to run, particularly since solo and brace runs are required for titles. Speaking for myself, almost every hunt would require 2 travel days in each direction. Closing my business for a week and traveling a long distance is not an option if I am only going to be allowed to run one dog. 

 

Page 39 Hunt Evaluation Form

Maybe this form should be used again so exhibitors have a voice in the hunt program.  I was told that it was discontinued because people used it to express concerns. 

 

Thank you for considering these items. 

 

 

Megan Esherick