The American Dog Breeders Assoc. (ADBA) is one of the oldest registries of American Pit Bull Terriers in the world. Founded in 1909, the ADBA has been vital to the preservation of the American Pit Bull Terrier in its true heritage breed type.
The breed is discriminated against daily and without the support of the ADBA it would most assuredly be worse off. There are many misconceptions regarding the American Pit Bull Terrier, the ADBA/ADBSI sanctioned shows and the ADBA in general.
I'm honored to have the opportunity to interview the president of the ADBA, Mr. Hank Greenwood. My hopes are that this interview will provide the readers with some insight as to why somethings are the way that they are. This interview is from September 2015.
Canine Athletes: I know you are a busy man with a lot on your plate so thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you give us a little background on yourself? How you got into the dogs and what it is that drives you to preserve this great breed?
I was born into an American Pit Bull Terrier family. My father, Ralph Greenwood, was well established in the bulldog world when I was born. As the eldest of eight children I grew into the role of “right hand man” to my father throughout my life. I became an ADBA Conformation Judge in 1981 and an ADBA Weight Pull Judge in 1986.
After college, I spent my career as a branch manager for the largest construction equipment rental corporation in the country until I retired after twenty-five years to take a position as Vice President of the ADBA in 2004. My primary task was legislative education and support in fighting Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) for the organization. The ADBA, in conjunction with the Endangered Breed Association (EBA), had made inroads in fighting BSL. However, I believed we could do much more.
In 2008 I was elected by the ADBA Board of Directors to the position as ADBA President and assumed the position as editor of the American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette.
I have been around the world judging and advocating on behalf of the ADBA and the American Pit Bull Terrier, and I am driven by the great dogs that I have known to maintain this breed true to it’s heritage type.
Canine Athletes: As president of the ADBA, you are not in an envious position. You have to try to find the balance of maintaining our dogs true to heritage, yet make it work in a time when most do not understand that heritage. Can you touch on just how difficult this is?
I like my position. Is it easy? No. However, this is the time when the American Pit Bull Terrier and fanciers that love and honor the breed require all the support we can give them.
I agree that a good amount of today’s owners have little knowledge or respect for the historical purpose of the breed. However, the other positive qualities of the breed (ie. intelligence, courage, loyalty, drive, and their athleticism) attract many of these owners to the breed. We are at a unique time in history with this breed. It’s historical purpose no longer has a place in our current society, but due to it’s adaptability by virtue of the dogs’ athletic ability and temperament many other avenues have opened for the breed. This includes conformation shows, weight pull competitions, Top Dog Athletic Events, search and rescue, bomb detection, therapy dogs, catch dogs, and for a family that enjoys a dog that can keep up with their active lifestyle this breed is the right fit.
Canine Athletes: I feel that the true Heritage American Pit Bull Terrier is an endangered species. What does the future look like for our breed?
The focus of the ADBA is to make sure this breed does not become an endangered species. The dog shows have been active for thirty-eight years. There are top breeders in and out of the show ring that are doing their part to preserve the Heritage American Pit Bull Terrier form and function. The steps have been taken by the registration office to make sure that all dogs are classified into the right breed name so that the breed is identified on the ADBA registration certificate as an American Pit Bull Terrier is an American Pit Bull Terrier. The great dogs in the history of the breed are still being seen in the pedigrees of current dogs that are being registered. Many of the great dogs that have passed have had frozen semen stored by the breeders and litters are being produced directly off these stud dogs and are being registered.
Through the pages of the Gazette we feature the American Pit Bull Terrier with pictures, stories and achievements of the dogs and their owners. The magazine runs advertisements and features from breeders who breed true to the Heritage American Pit Bull Terrier standard. There are a lot of us out there that still appreciate an honest dog with the attributes of courage, character and loyalty who are contributing to the preservation of the Heritage American Pit Bull Terrier. Although the original purpose of the dog is gone, the bloodlines of these dogs are still being used today. The best temperament, structure, and soundness that you see in this breed come from these lines. As long as dog owners appreciate an honest dog with the attributes listed above, there will always be a future for this breed.
Canine Athletes: How important are breeders to the preservation of the American Pit Bull Terrier?
As with all other purebred dogs, without breeders it is one generation and out. The breeders are the people who determine what happens with any breed of dog. In the past, the American Pit Bull Terrier was used as a fighting dog. This function kept the breed true to breed type. In today’s society, their use as a fighting dog no longer exists. With the increased interest of many current dog owners, finding a different look and color has made designer dogs within our breed a hot commodity. If breeders make the decision to breed and create different characteristics within the breed to satisfy the market, they can create havoc on breed type. If other breeders follow suit the dogs form and function can change. The American bully breed is a good example of this trend. The form and function of the dogs move so far away from the breed type that it no longer fits the definition of the original breed.
A breeders code of ethics is to breed to ‘breed type’ no matter what breed. ADBA has taken the steps to make sure with not only pedigree verification but also with pictures that the breeder is taking breed type into consideration when registering their dogs. With the acceptance of two new breeds by the ADBA, the registration department is taking the lead to educate the new breeder to follow the breeders code of ethics for whatever breed they choose to own. ADBA and the breeders of dogs will work together to make sure the dog that is represented and registered is the correct breed listed on the paperwork.
Canine Athletes: Many are reluctant to register and/or DNA profile their dogs because it leaves and audit trail that could potentially be used against them down the road. How does the ADBA protect their customers privacy?
The ADBA has an official policy concerning our customer’s records.
All clients’ records maintained by this Corporation (American Dog Breeders Association Inc.) are confidential. The Corporation is committed to honoring the privacy of our clients and to provide services in a manner that facilitate this confidentiality. The Corporation will take all the necessary steps under this policy as well as the Utah State and Federal law, to preserve the privacy rights of those who receive its services, unless expressly authorized by the client to do otherwise.
The Corporation will respond to a properly served Court ordered subpoena in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the client’s records.
The Corporation will attempt to notify a client as soon as it receives a subpoena concerning the client. No one at the Corporation will release any information regarding the client’s confidential records without first informing or attempting to inform the client.
No information about any client private records will be released in response to a subpoena until:
That being said, all American Pit Bull Terriers and the breeds being developed from the American Pit Bull Terrier descended from fighting stock back in the day. However, a “fighting dog” is only a “fighting dog” if it is used for fighting. The “game bred” lines that made this breed were not discontinued when the laws prohibiting dog fighting were enacted. The breeders and owners changed their focus to legal activities for the dogs. For example, dogs from “game bred” lines make some of the best search and rescue canines due to their physical capacity, willingness to please, temperament, and the drive to work for long periods of time. The soundness of the game bred dogs temperament is the best attribute of the breed and is reflected in the dogs that are used daily for many different purposes.
Canine Athletes: What are the qualities that go into making a good judge? How does the ADBA ensure their judges not only have moral integrity but also a good eye for a dog and a solid understanding of the ADBA conformation standard?
The selection of conformation judges for the ADBA includes persons of integrity that have backgrounds in the breed predominantly as breeders of consequence. Over the years the road to becoming a judge has always, with very few exceptions, been paved with breeding experience. The premise was that these experiences ensured that the new judge had a pool of knowledge that would help them in becoming a good judge. These judges understand the breed standard, how it relates to function and have an eye for a quality dog.
Then there comes the benefit of extensive experience for which there is really no substitute. The ability to make incisive, impressively direct decisions comes only from practice as does effective ring management and procedure.
Every judge goes through training at our judging seminars. There is a high bar that needs to be adhered to in order to be an ADBA judge. Advanced judging seminars are held to keep all judges apprised of current trends and problems that arise from the dog shows. The focus of the ADBA is to see that the dogs being placed are being judged to the APBT Heritage Breed Conformation Standard. By way of judging seminars, we make adjustments in the training if we see problems in the dogs that are being placed. This is an ongoing education process that all judges are held accountable to.
Intellectual perception of subtle distinctions and keen discernment are skills which only the seasoned possess. In an overall healthy scheme of things there is, of course, obviously a role for both current breeder and past breeder judges to play. There should be a balance set. Each has something valuable to contribute, provided that their respective judging decisions are soundly based on knowledge and integrity.
Canine Athletes: Can you explain why the ADBA allows judges to judge dogs they bred?
As the registrations of purebred dogs and participation at dog shows decline, an odd new debate has developed. To some in the fancy, breeders who become ADBA judges have become controversial. That criticism comes from owners or breeders who compete against dogs bred by breeder-judges and feel the breeder-judge somehow has an advantage. In my experience, a breeder-judge is more critical judging dogs from their own bloodline than another dog from an unknown line. By definition, breeders who become judges are experienced and established in their breed. They also have a lot to offer the fancy. A judge’s opinion should be looked upon as just that – their opinion. Wouldn’t you prefer the opinion of a judge who knows the breed from the whelping box to the Best in Show ring?
The premise is that the breeder-judge experiences ensured that the new judge had a pool of knowledge that would help them become a good judge. These judges understood the breed standard and what it takes to produce excellent dogs.
Canine Athletes: Can you explain why the ADBA allows judges to show dogs?
The ADBA encourages their judges to keep breeding and stay in the game as much as possible. Exhibiting dogs in the conformation ring gives a judge an in depth understanding of the competitive show ring that no other experience can. This understanding instills compassion and tolerance and allows a judge to do their job better, we encourage judges to keep breeding and competing with their dogs. By doing so they continue to advance the structure and temperament in the lines they breed. Many respected and successful judges continue to be top breeders. There is no question that they know what they are doing as they judge in the ring. Most of these judges are also very generous with their time to explain why they placed the dog the way they did when asked by an exhibitor. Why? Because they are also mentors and they respect the exhibitors, just as they trust they will be respected. They understand that the future of the sport and this breed is depended upon a growing pool of new knowledge dog owners and exhibitors.
Unfortunately, the trend has been that once a person becomes a judge they tend to stop breeding. The ADBA has guidelines that are designed to limit the perception of a conflict of interest for a judge, yet some judges use this as a reason to stop breeding. This does not advance the sport of purebred dogs. When a judge stops breeding all of us lose a huge reservoir of experience, knowledge, and advancement of their breed and the sport in general.
Canine Athletes: Show entries are seemingly down across the country. What are the driving forces for this and what do we need to do to get this turned around?
To a certain extent, it is a matter of discretionary funds. The economy for the last ten years has been pretty much stagnant with no real wage growth. The majority of show enthusiasts come from middle income families so instead of attending six shows a year, they attend three. Instead of showing five dogs, they now show two.
That is one of the reasons we developed our Top Dog Athletic Event. This allows another dog sport venue for dog owners to engage in that encourages a close dog/owner relationship and shows off the breeds’ outstanding athletic ability. This is a great spectator event, and it also helps the club with another fund raising event. At this time, our overseas clubs continue to be a growth area for the breed.
We all need to mentor, develop and encourage newcomers to the sport if we expect to have a sport in 10 years. Our judges, club members and exhibitors are in the best position to do all of that as breeders; producing dogs that meet the heritage breed standard and placing great dogs with new owners who will be the life blood of our sport’s future, not just here but overseas. Because they are performance events, we have opened up all performance activities to ADBA registered dogs and dogs that are part of our Limited Performance Program (LLP). We are now developing a conformation standard for the American Bully that reflects the American Pit Bull Terrier as the foundation of the breed and showcases a functional companion dog.
Canine Athletes: If you had a magic wand, and you had the power to immediately change one problem our breed faces, what would it be?
I feel that many rescue organizations have a “save them all” mentality and place “pit bulls” (and the mixes thereof) with questionable temperament in the hands of unknowledgeable owners that cannot, or will not, manage and contain their dogs. This practice will continue to cause the American Pit Bull Terrier and its owners untold grief. My magic wand would make these dogs of questionable temperament disappear.