A Window on Italy • Interview with ENCI President Dino Muto
by Anne Tureen
Q: How did you become involved in ENCI?
A: My passion for dogs began in conjunction with my passion for horses, but it prevails because dogs become my inseparable companions. In 1991 I started my cynological career first as an exhibitor at Italian and European events, then as a breeder of Dalmatians, a breed protected by the Club Amici Dalmata, of which I have been President since the 1990s.
I have been a member of the ENCI Board of Directors since 2003. I served as Vice President in 2010 and as President in 2014. I was confirmed in office for the three-year period 2016-2018 and confirmed once again in the three-year period 2019-2021. This second confirmation was won with a consensus of more than 86% of the members during an assembly in which more than 87% of the members entitled to participate, personally or by proxy, participated. That was an exciting day, and gave me overwhelming support to promote a program with which I will continue to channel and expand the strengths of our club. At the basis of the program, is the underlying need to look ahead. My vision is to lead ENCI towards a closer collaboration of dogs within the fabric of modern life. Civil and and law enforcement service, therapy, and many other jobs are enhanced by the dog’s special gifts of speed, scent, empathy, and intelligence.
ENCI has a formidable history, the recent volume published by ENCI, ‘The People of ENCI’ introduces the new generation of the Italian dog world to that of the past, where individuals of exemplary technical understanding and moral value brought ENCI to the fore of cynological practice. It is difficult to take a step into the unknown future with such a brilliant past, but I am determined to try. I was elected alternate member of the board of auditors in the International Dog Federation in 2016 and confirmed at the FCI Assembly in Shanghai in 2019. So my ties to the FCI are deep, and I plan to continue being active at every level for the advancement of cynological affairs.
Q: Which initiatives are closest to your heart, and which initiatives have you launched?
A: We have launched many initiatives that already represent our future. In recent years, important memoranda of agreement have been signed with institutions, such as those at the regional level of government that provide for the specialization of man-dog teams in operations, for example, searching for lost individuals in the forest. The relationship with the Italian Ministry of Justice for the activities of dogs in prisons is also close to my heart.
The decision to develop specialization and certification courses dedicated to breeders in order to develop their ability to evaluate stock is also important. Among the initiatives that I consider most important and that I have created, is the ENCI WINNER show, which for 2019 will take place in December in Verona, the beautiful city of Romeo and Juliet and love. In our case, the love for our dogs. Another important project is Campo Felice, in the Apennine Mountains of Abruzzo, a week of field trials, zootechnical comparison and meeting among aficionados of hunting dogs. This is an event now followed by the whole of Europe. Among the initiatives of which I am particularly proud, is the close collaboration with the Carabinieri and the Police that ENCI cultivates to combat the illegal importation of puppies.
Q: What do you think are the most essential talents that make a good Kennel Club President?
A: One of the most important things I can do as President is to listen to the members, to hear their impressions, problems and to grasp the essential points upon which I need to reflect. It requires sensitivity to orient ENCI towards a more modern dimension and in step with the times. This mission can be carried out on condition that there is a constant exchange with the members. In 2019, ENCI organized the first edition of the ‘Stati Generali’, in which all the members attending worked on thematic commissions. An extraordinary event that allows the central organs of ENCI to understand the real expectations of breeders and enthusiasts. The initiative will certainly be repeated.
Q: What is it that inspires you about working in ENCI?
A: To always be at the service of dog lovers, taking into account everything that the territory of Italy and the specialized breed associations require. You can give concrete answers only if you can make a team with the members of the Board of Directors and with the offices. I like to work as a team.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
A: It is not always possible to give concrete and immediate answers, for organizational, structural or institutional reasons. This is the most difficult aspect, because I feel a great responsibility, that of honoring the extraordinary trust that Italian cynologists have given me.
Q: What distinguishes ENCI from other Kennel Clubs, what is unique about it?
A: I could talk about protecting the wonderful Italian breeds, which is our unique heritage, but there’s more. I think that breeding in Italy, of all breeds, is an excellence at the world level. This is testified in every international event and in all areas of dog breeding, not only in the exhibition and hunting sectors. Today, the Italian Kennel Club is able to combine tradition with modernity. I think we are unique in this.
Q: What role do you see for ENCI within the FCI in the future?
A: The important relationship that has been created with the FCI could be perceived at the WDS of 2015 in Italy, a World Championship show that still remains an exemplary point of reference at the international level. Our relationship with the FCI is fundamental because the decisions taken by the Federation always have repercussions on the national systems. Hence, the importance of cooperating with frankness and commitment, including at the decision-making phase, for the enrichment of the FCI.
The relationships of trust enjoyed by our Club at this time, in a personal capacity but always as President of ENCI, are important, but would be completely useless if there were no operational phase, that is, concrete proposals, requiring clarity to solve problems and the ability to perceive what the repercussions of our activities will be. In our relationship with the FCI, too, however, the support of the ENCI Board of Directors is crucial. If you think in individual terms, you make mistakes: the team is always central to my projects.
Q: Is Italy a good destination for competing in shows and working trials?
A: Yes, absolutely, following the experience of WDS 2015, ENCI wanted to maintain an exhibition organized directly by the Kennel Club: the ENCI WINNER, immediately became a crossroads for all cynological professionals. This is the event of the year in Italy for zootechnical evaluation in a show context. The ENCI WINNER is also a point of reference for the other Italian show organizers who pick up on our ideas and try them out at their own shows.
As far as field tests are concerned, zootechnical verifications of the highest level are carried out in Italy demonstrating the organizational capacity of our system. It’s a way to get to know the leading sectors of Italian dog breeding and to build important technical and commercial synergies in all disciplines.
Q: Has ENCI ever considered introducing timed breed judging as do some countries (Spain for example) ?
A: This method is used in various exhibitions in Italy. In fact, the operating system of ENCI SHOW created specifically for the registration of exhibitions in Italy has this option available, but ENCI leaves each organizing committee the faculty of choosing how to organize their shows.
Q: Which research projects does ENCI support that you feel are especially urgent?
A: I will never tire of saying this: the selection of purebred dogs must have at its center the essential value of animal welfare. Among the many initiatives we have launched, I would like to mention the one on heart disease, carried out with the Animal Health Foundation and in particular with Dr. Bussadori, a point of reference for veterinary cardiology worldwide. This is a study of breeds affected by hereditary cardiovascular diseases, with the aim of creating specific protocols for each breed based on the processing of data collected.
Much has also been done in terms of training. For example, the conferences on the genetics and health of dog breeds that we held with Dayana Dreger and Elaine Ostrander, American luminaries in the sector, at the headquarters of ENCI with Juan Pablo Gutiérrez García, of the University of Madrid, were a contribution to our progress in these fields.
In addition, the Central Technical Commission, one of the most important organs of ENCI, is playing an important role in examining with the necessary attention, and on the basis of recognized studies, the various issues raised by the Specialized Associations to give proper guidance to breeders. In terms of training, ENCI periodically organizes, together with the Association of Italian Veterinary Doctors, the Masters in Breeding course, which consistently focuses on animal welfare. There are also lessons held by qualified speakers at training courses for expert judges, who have a fundamental role in dog selection.
10. Is there still a connection between ENCI and the University of Pisa?
ENCI collaborates with the University of Pisa both in research projects and as a recognized laboratory for genetic parental checks.
Q: Which areas of breeding in Italy today do you think could be improved?
A: The profile of Italian breeding is for the most part, composed of many breeders who produce a few litters each year. This is fortunate because it means that dog culture is well rooted in our country. There are examples of excellence but high quality training of our breeders is a constant priority.
Q: How do you feel Italy’s selection and training program for new judges compares to those of other countries especially in the FCI?
A: The regulations of the Corps of Expert Judges of the Purebred Dog regulates the training and updating process that the figure of the expert judge must follow in compliance with the FCI directives. The ENCI training program for judges has a long tradition, and has had excellent representatives. The training process today includes sections of our cynological heritage within the framework of training that is implemented in the most advanced European Kennel Clubs. Therefore our training program is especially rich.
Q: The stud book can now be consulted on ENCI.it, that’s really brought Italy into the 21st century!
A: It is available to all and is very much consulted! Transparency is one of the key principles of the proper functioning of our organization. The more transparent the system is, the greater the guarantee of its correct functioning. We are working to increase the canine data to be included in the online genealogical register. However, we must always be careful of privacy laws, which are becoming increasingly stringent in Italy.
Q: The 2015 World Dog Show presented Italy’s 16 native breeds beautifully, in what way does ENCI continue to promote them?
A: The specialized associations of our breeds are very active. I myself constantly see their representatives in order to have an updated picture of the situation. Italian breeds always have an open channel in ENCI for the resolution of problems and access to resources, of course all initiatives are screened and approved by
the Board of Directors and the relevant bodies.
Q: Finally, one of my favorite questions: if you could magically make one change, of any sort, in the dog world today, what would it be?
A: I would like to see dog shows more open to the public. Often, they are extraordinary technical evaluations, but are appreciated only between professionals. Sometimes the public is scarce and when it is present, it is almost excluded from the heart of the event. People cannot always understand the judging system. I’d like the audience to understand exactly what the judge is doing and why he makes one dog win over another. If he could better understand what happens in a ring or on a field trial he could understand how much knowledge, how much culture, how much preparation and how many personal sacrifices there are in the dog world. Understanding the evaluation of dogs is to appreciate even more our wonderful dogs.