The American Kennel Club has made an incredible step forward to defend human diversity in the dog world. The World Dog Show, which is the dog world’s equivalent of the Olympics (a comparison that will matter in a moment), is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2016. For those who haven’t been following the news, Russia has recently passed and begun enforcing some scary anti-gay laws. The legislation outlaws the discussion of LGBT rights or relationships anywhere that minors might overhear them — which covers a lot of places. The result has been the arrest and beating of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
In response, the AKC has released a strong public statement written by chairman of the board Alan T. Kalter Chairman as well as President and CEO Dennis B. Sprung. It condemns Russia’s homophobic law and also demands that Fédération Cynologique Internationale move the dog show to a county where all guardians, regardless of sexual orientation, will be safe to participate.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are also scheduled to be held in Russia, and many people are calling for those to also be moved for the safety of LGBT athletes and spectators. Although the AKC is not known for its progressive politics, this is a tremendous statement that carries a lot of weight in the international dog world.
You can read the whole AKC statement here. And here is my favorite part:
“Dogs do not discriminate. Gender, race, sexual orientation, and other status do not enter the equation of responsible pet ownership. That is why the American Kennel Club and our constituency are puzzled and disappointed by the decision to allow Russia to host the 2016 World Dog Show. The proliferation of anti-gay and lesbian laws in Russia today is both disturbing and shocking to our community. The choice of this country as a venue for such a prestigious dog show flies in the face of the ideals of the human-canine bond.”
Even though I’m the guardian of two mixed breed dogs, I care about what the AKC has to say. They wield an undeniable amount of power in the world of dogs, and when they make this kind of statement it carries huge cultural meaning, not only to the International Dog Show, which hopefully will not take place in Russia, but also to the dog world here in the States. For me this isn’t just a story in the news, it hits very close to home. It was a homophobic dog show world that left me 17 years old, homeless and faced with no choice but to rehome my dogs who were not only my best friends, but also my teammates in canine sports, and the only reason I survived high school and my abusive childhood home.
It sounds silly, but when I read the AKC’s statement about Russia, LGBT people, and the world dog I started crying. A lot has changed for me in the years since I became homeless and had my dogs ripped away from me — I’ve built my own home and been able to recapture stolen dreams of working with dogs — but there are still moments when the past haunts me. I think about how much has changed in the past 12 years. I think about being a scared homeless gay teenager holding empty leashes. I never would have believed that I would see the AKC would issue this kind of powerful statement. It says in no uncertain terms that dogs do not discriminate, which is the beauty of the human dog bond, and that as a gay person I am not only welcome in the dog world, but the most powerful dog organization in the country will fight to protect us.
About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.
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