I would never have thought that one day I could combine two of my interests, Hungarian politics and dog breeding, in a single blog post. Although about ten years ago I gave up breeding and showing basset hounds, I’m still active in the Basset Hound Club of America (BHCA). I’m what you might describe as the club genealogist, in charge of the monthly stud books the club receives nowadays in electronic form from the American Kennel Club (AKC). AKC maintains a pedigree registry of purebred dogs and promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs in the United States. Like The Kennel Club (UK) and the Canadian Kennel Club, its history dates to the nineteenth century.
In 1911 a group of European countries banded together to form the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). By now it is the umbrella organization for the kennel clubs of 86 member countries, located all over the world, including Hungary’s Magyar Ebtenyésztők Országos Egyesülete (MEOE). As a member of the FCI, MEOE can issue internationally recognized registration certificates that attest to the pure-bred nature of the animal. It can also organize dog shows held in Hungary.
All this is pretty straightforward, so I was greatly surprised when a friend who is an AKC delegate forwarded a letter that a fellow delegate had written to the AKC. The subject of the letter was the dreadful situation in which MEOE finds itself after the passage of a new Hungarian law on dog and cat breeding.
In order to understand the situation we must go back to the first Orbán government (1998-2002). Some “dog people” who harbored a grudge against MEOE turned to the Agricultural Ministry, in those days under the direction of József Torgyán (Smallholders’ party), a Budapest lawyer totally ignorant of everything connected to agriculture and I assume also of dog breeding. The malcontents complained that MEOE’s practice of registration wasn’t rigorous enough. The right to register dogs, they argued, should be taken away from MEOE and given to individual breed clubs gathered under a new organization, Magyar Ebtenyésztő Szervezetek Szövetsége (MESZSZ). (For those who don’t know Hungarian, the acronym is pronounced “mess.”) The forty-six dog clubs that were recognized by the government as entitled to register dogs became known as “elismert tenyésztő szervezetek” (ETSZ). MEOE, the official dog registry since 1933, was no longer recognized.
The good old days: All European Dog and Cat Show in Hungary in 2008
Not surprisingly, FCI refused to recognize the registration certificates and pedigrees handed out by forty-six different Hungarian breed clubs.
Although the 1998 law was never annulled, it wasn’t enforced either. Thus 90% of the registrations were still given out by the official Hungarian Kennel Club. Moreover, MEOE carried on with organizing dog shows according to FCI rules and with FCI approved judges.
But now that Viktor Orbán is back in power, the Ministry of Agriculture decided to return to the issue and make sure the law is enforced. Law XXXI of 2012 enacted on April 2 specifies the fines that can be collected for disregard of the law. The penalty in the case of an organization can be as high as 20 million forints (about $92,000).
As the Hungarian breeder who turned to a representative of AKC pointed out, “we are in a Catch 22 situation now. MEOE won’t be able to issue pedigrees, determine and control breeding after May 15, while the ETSZ (recognized) organizations and their umbrella organization (MESZSZ) have no FCI recognition.” The Hungarian breeders are worried about the future of Hungarian dog breeding. They don’t know whether “there is any future for us at all.”
Their worries are well founded. If the FCI doesn’t recognize the registration papers issued by those organizations sanctioned by the government, Hungarian breeders will be at a severe disadvantage. Their dogs’ registration papers will not be recognized at international shows so their animals will not be able to compete. And selling an animal abroad without official registration papers will be well nigh impossible.
Will it take place?
Moreover, after May 15 MEOE can no longer organize dog shows. The huge FCI World Dog Show, scheduled for Budapest in 2013, will be down the drain. Considering that the 2011 show in France had an entry of over 21,000 dogs, this cancellation will be a blow to Hungary’s tourism industry.
But this is how things go in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary where being different from the pack is all-important. And where iron-clad laws are passed based on ignorance and without any consultation.
By the way, an admittedly dated footnote: According to an article in Magyar Narancs from 2003 the government official in charge of dog breeding admitted that he knew nothing about pure-bred dogs. He had a mutt. Now there’s nothing wrong with owning a mutt, but an official in charge of dog breeding should know something about the world of pure-bred dogs.