The Orbán government and the Hungarian Kennel Club

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.


  1. What is starting to become clear is that Orban is convincing his backers that whatever he deems correct is just that, and that all other conflicting opinions, regardless of past usage or tradition is inherently wrong. Thus, no one can any longer say that this is not the way it’s done in the US or Britain–Orban and Fideszers don’t care: they alone are in possession of the CORRECT way and all others are misguided. Against this, no logic or good sense will carry weight. Inevitably, the only way these people will be convinced that they followed the wrong path is when it all falls down beside their ears. Then the wails will be heard: “We have been mis-led! We have been tricked.”
    But no one will say: “We didn’t use our own brains. We didn’t look objectively at all these promises; and we succumbed to the great, original, trick of all dictators–we allowed ourselves to be complimented and wooed to disaster.”

  2. There’s a saying about some lucky person:
    Whatever he touches turns to gold.
    Now with the way Fidesz has made laws (100s of them ..) one might say:
    Whatever they touch turns to shit …
    It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
    In my wife’s family we have/know about some situations where people are really in a mess – because the laws they are supposed to follow are contradictory and every office interprets them differently, changing from day to day, so nobody knows what to do …

  3. Maybe the dogs prior to 1998 were all communists. I also think that people who are liberals, homosexuals, gypsies, or live together without marriage or goodness forbid sympathize with Gyurcsany cannot not be trusted with dog breeding. We have to make sure that no dogs have some communist owner ‘s dog’s blood in them. Right. I think Orban is onto something, and only an organization under Orban’s direct control that is hopefully staffed with the most faithful Fidesz supporters should take care of the Bitches.

  4. One honestly has to wonder what cabinet-level officials, indeed, what a government in any country, not only Hungary, has to do with the status of a Kennel Club. These are private membership clubs with their own internals rules, structures and finances as well as their own international institutional associations and standards. Those disgruntled with their national organizations always have the possibility of trying to change policy or personnel in the national, appealing to the international level, or of founding a competing organization. None of these requires government intervention, unless your model is totalitarian. What a waste of taxpayer resources!

  5. Professor you wrote ** “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.” **. They then wonder why things then all go ‘pear shaped’. They accuse the world of being ‘Anti Hungarian’ and of waging war on Hungary.
    @GW you wrote that ** “Kennel Club. These are private membership clubs with their own internals rules, structures and finances” ** Yes indeed these are private groupings of free individuals who come together out of choice and not at the whim of some Viktator.
    I am just wondering what my late father would have said to them if they had interfered with the affairs of an international society of which he was the ‘High Muck-a-muck’. He was appointed to such an exalted rank for a couple of pints of not very good beer. But never the less he took his responsibilities’ very seriously and never interfered with the sundry doings of the society. He did this so well that they appointed him to be their ‘Great Panjandrum’ –with a little brass button on top-
    When will these nurks in Hungary learn that they do not know it all and to leave things they do not understand alone (especially if other peoples they involved). Remember “if it aint broken do not try to mend it!”
    Ps I love dogs especially black Labradors, but I find the look on the Basset Hound’s face very sad. (rather like Sigmond Freud)

  6. Mutt Damon, “scared shitless..”
    No, Mutt, guys who shoot guns off in the air are the first to run at real confrontation. These are the turkeys who shoot their mouth off, and will probably demand…once Victor succeeds in ‘liberating’ Hungary from the EU….to march into Romania and free the Erdelyi Hungarians. Of course, they and the hapless Hungarian army will be beaten back, and because Romanians don’t have much of a sense of humor, they might
    keep marching until they get to Budapest. (They too have heard that the ‘kremes’ is good there!)

  7. “Some “dog people” who harbored a grudge against MEOE turned to the Agricultural Ministry…. ”
    Grudges here and there are mixed into the running of this country as if the country is their playground!
    Yesterday we had lunch at my sis-in-law. She told us at the table that she hasn’t heard of “robin hood tax” until recently. Not wanting to ruin the atmosphere, we kept our mouths shut.
    After lunch, my MIL mentioned the telecom/internet taxes, my bro-in-law said – even though he is financial trouble- “’s only a few hundred ft.”
    There you go, one of the loyal supporters of this regime.

  8. Nice blog Eva.
    It is a shame that the NAZIs and Communists couldn’t even draw some sort of truce over, even, their dogs.
    What a bunch of losers. Sorry, dogs.

  9. A blog teljesen félrevezeti az olvasóit. A törvényeket minden országban be kell tartani.A MEOE tíz éve szabotálja a hatályos rendet. Egy ügyvédnő ámokfutásával pert per után kezdeményezve eddig futotta! Saját maguk verték szét az egyesületet és az egész magyar kinológiát. Javaslom a blog tulajdonosának próbáljon felvenni egy racionális szemüveget.

  10. “dr”? Really?
    Ok, let me help:
    “This blog is totally misleading it’s readers. You have to abide by the laws in every country. Over the last 10 years the MEOE has been sabotaging the existing regulations. They started law suits after law suits with the help of a lawyer running amok but they got only this far. They destroyed the organization and the Hungarian cynology. I recommend this blog’s owner to try to see through a rational eye!”
    (dr. Varga)

  11. dr. Varga; THis is an English blog. If you wish to contribute, you should do so in English. I think what is rational is that you should post in English. If you were able to read the original post, you must be able to correspond in English. If you cannot, how can you have a problem wit the original post?

  12. Please, would somebody Hungarian explain to me what this conflict is really all about? Money arising from issuing pedigrees – how much would that amount to? Organizing dogs shows – how much would that bring the government, if it took over? Is it about the 2013 Dog World Show in Budapest and the income it will bring? Is there anything at all in the allegations I´ve read elsewhere about unscrupulous breeders being less.than-conscientious over pedigrees, smuggling popular Viszlas out of the country to meet increasing demand?
    I´m Swedish and have only an overall view of the situation in Hungary – although, like many people here, I do have an idea of the present government, the Jobbik movement and a few other things.
    Thank you for a very interesting and informative blog! i will certainly read regularly. my emailadress is

    Best regards,
    Bodil Carlsson

  13. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that
    it’s really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

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