United Kennel Club opens event today

ALBANY -- After hosting the United Kennel Club Winter Classic for 22 years, some long-time Exchange Club members were surprised at a talk by the kennel club representative.

Todd Kellam, the club's vice president for hunting programs, spoke at the club luncheon at noon Thursday. The talk was a preview of the coon hunt and dog show that is to open at 7 a.m. today and run through Saturday at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds, 817 S. Westover Blvd.

"The United Kennel Club was started in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1848," Kellam said. "It has had only four presidents in 111 years. We are

known for our consistent rules and policies."

The Kennel Club registers 360 breeds of dogs, but the majority of the dogs registered are not just pets; they are working dogs such as the Treeing Walker Coonhound. Aptly named, this breed and other coonhound breeds are used in competitions to send raccoons running up trees to score points in competition.

"We have a niche in the coonhound industry," Kellam said. "About 80 percent of our registrations come from coonhound breeds."

The Kennel Club tracks bloodlines and certifies pedigrees. Kellam compared the registration of a dog to a car registration.

"Each puppy gets a title registration. When it is sold, you get a new certificate. You can look at the dog's pedigree when you buy a puppy," Kellam said. "We have seven-generation pedigrees available possibly with 250 dogs on them."

More than 60 percent of its 13,000 annually licensed events are tests of hunting ability, training and instinct, the Kennel Club's Web site, ukcdogs.com, states.

The hunts, as well as the shows, are family-oriented events, Kellam said. Animal rights groups have left the organization's events alone, he added.

There are about 670 entries for the coon hunts at this year's event, Kellam said. The winter classic in Albany is the longest-running event held at one location, he added.

About 100 Exchange Club members, who met on Thursday instead of the usual Friday because of the coonhound event, found Kellam's talk surprising and informative.

"I didn't know that the (Kennel) Club was that old," said Forrest Russell, a 51-year member of the Exchange Club. "They are here every year and they have quite a history."