To begin, we need to look at the first position on Silver Labradors that the AKC and LRC actually once agreed upon. This is the statement one often finds on Silver Labrador breeder websites and is a quotation from an AKC representative "Jake Norton" of the AKC Special Services Department. It was the result of the investigation into the Crist Culo Silver Labradors that Dean Crist discusses in Culo Interview.
“In 1987 the AKC, in corporation with the Labrador Retriever Club of America, conducted an inquiry into the breeding of litters that contained members that were registered as silver. An AKC representative was sent to observe these dogs. The report and color photographs of these dogs were reviewed by AKC staff and representatives of the Labrador Retriever Club of America. Both Parties were satisfied that there was no reason to doubt that the dogs were purebred Labrador Retrievers, however they felt that the dogs were incorrectly registered as silver. Since the breed standard at the time described chocolate as ranging in shade from sedge to chocolate, it was felt that the dogs could more accurately be described as chocolate rather than silver. This remains the current policy of the American Kennel Club.”
Let's look at the various components of this initial position statement.
First: The statement tells us that the AKC, in cooperation with the LRC, sent a representative to observe these dogs that were, at that time, being registered as "Silver." The AKC and LRC both had interest in discovering what, if anything, was amiss with these anomalous colored Labradors as will be shown below. They worked together, this was a joint effort.
Second: The inquiry resulted in 1) a report and 2) color photographs. On the surface, this inquiry appears to be very basic and indeed many Silver Lab opponents claim that just observing these dogs and taking pictures was not sufficient. Fortunately, from the Culo Interview, we now have more information as to what efforts actually went into developing the "report" (litter and parentage investigations, multi-state travel, etc). A much more robust investigation than the basic casual observation and photo shoot as is often suggested.
Third: The AKC and LRC representatives reviewed the report and photographs. These representatives would have been individuals of authority within their respective organizations so that they could make a recommendation to the highest authorities, or make decision themselves on behalf of their organizations. This is shown by the next sentence.
Fourth: Both the LRC and AKC agreed that "there was no reason to to doubt that the dogs were purebred Labrador Retrievers." The position is made clear by both parties. This passage tells us quite a lot and needs to be clearly understood. It indicates the true purpose of the inquiry, the reason it even took place. There were individuals or organizations that questioned the purity of these Labrador Retrievers. With such a purpose, one can get a better understanding as to what the investigation was truly looking into. More than just go and observe these Labs, they wanted to see if there was ANY reason to doubt the purity of these Labs. Had the Culo Kennel also bred or owned Weimaraners, that would have easily been reason sufficient to doubt. Had they found any reason, without question, the position taken would have been quite contrary as "Silver" Labradors were at that time an anomaly in the breed. The LRC and AKC jointly found no reason to doubt.
Fifth: The AKC and LRC decided that these Labradors should not be registered as "Silver" any longer. The breed standard did not have "Silver" in it as an allowable color, and these Labradors, now agreed by all parties to be "purebred," needed to be identified as an allowable color since they were unquestionably Labradors. The decision was to list them as a shade of Chocolate as "sedge" was an allowable lighter variation in shade within the Chocolate color. The term "sedge" was removed from the breed standard as part of the 1994 rewrite of the LRC breed standard. Since that point, through today, the breed standard describes Chocolate as "varying in shade from light to dark chocolate." This may all seem academic, but there is a striking bit of evidence here that should not be overlooked. Genetically, "silver" Labradors are in fact dilute Chocolate Labradors! The AKC and LRC recognized that though there was not "Silver" in the breed standard, there was Chocolate, and these Labs were in fact Chocolates by way of genetics! They put them in the appropriate allowable breed color. Under today's standard, they can only be considered as the lightest possible shade of Chocolate.
Sixth: This policy is still the AKC policy. The AKC is a breed registry. Their basic purpose is to ensure that the purebred dog breeds recognized by them, remain purebred. They keep and certify the pedigrees of all AKC registered dogs. If there are discovered misrepresentations in breedings and false pedigrees, the AKC takes quick and decisive action to end the practice, void the lines, and revoke breeding privileges. The AKC takes very seriously any accusations of misrepresentation of purity and pedigree. In the case of Silver Labradors, they investigated numerous times the actual Labs and kennels that have produced them. Never have they wavered from their position. To this day there is not, and never has been, any evidence to even suggest that Silver Labs are not purebred Labrador Retrievers; this from an organization who successfully stakes its reputation on its ability to preserve breed purity, they are the preeminent canine registry in the world.
Next we need to look at the new position that the LRC has recently taken. A complete reversal of their earlier unified position with the AKC, which as we just discussed, was a position based on actual thorough investigations into Silver Labradors. Here is the new LRC position:
“There is no genetic basis for the silver gene in Labradors. The silver color is a disqualification under the Standard for the breed. The LRC does not recognize, accept or condone the sale or advertising of any Labrador as a silver Labrador. The Club opposes the practice of registering silver as chocolate."
Let's take a closer look at the components of this statement.
First: "There is no genetic basis for the silver gene in the Labradors." This is an interesting statement considering that there are actual Labradors with the silver gene, DNA verified and studied. The key here is "genetic basis." What is genetic basis? How does the LRC define it? It cannot be historical basis because it is quite evident that there have seen "Silver" Labradors since the 1940's, if not the early days of the breed as described by various breed authors and noted in stud books. So, what is genetic basis? They are surly not suggesting that the progenitor of the Labrador breed, the St. Johns Water Dog did not have the silver gene in its gene pool. We all know that the two other breeds most closely aligned with the St. Johns Water Dog do have the silver gene, the Newfoundland and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Perhaps they are suggesting that the genome of the Labrador is devoid of the silver gene. If that is the case, it is a bold statement that can never be supported...unless, the LRC collected DNA from every Labrador retriever that now lives and ever lived and then tested for the silver gene, proving that no Labrador ever had it in its genetic makeup. This fist statement is a claim that cannot be corroborated, not even by the LRC. It is, in fact, an unfounded opinion.
Second: It is true that the color "Silver" is a disqualification under the standard for the breed. You can look in the breed standard over and over any you will not find "Silver" anywhere. However, you will find that "any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow or chocolate as described in the Standard" is in fact a disqualification. Fortunately, the foresight of the first investigators from the LRC and AKC correctly recognized these Labradors as Chocolate, an allowable color as described in the standard ("light" shade). Were the LRC to have allowed these Labradors to still be registered as "Silver" by the AKC, as some were in the late 1980's, they would in fact be a disqualified color. They are Chocolate, DNA can prove it, pigment color in the hair can prove it, the AKC registry can prove it. Were one of these Labradors disqualified in the conformation ring for being a non-standard color, when all the facts say it is an allowable Chocolate shade, there will assuredly be significant fallout and potential for legal repercussions. A battle the LRC wished to avoid as the facts disagree with their present opinion.
Third: The LRC is opposed to selling or advertising any Labrador as "Silver." This is a fair position to take, one that a breed club that upholds a breed standard should take when an important descriptive term commonly used is not found in the breed standard. The LRC takes the same position against advertising Labradors as "White," or any other color adjective not specifically described in the standard. That is understandable. If you ask any Labrador breeder that breeds "White" or "Silver" Labradors, they will tell you themselves that the colors are actually light shades of "Yellow" and "Chocolate," and that they are registered as such with the AKC. Breeders use these color adjectives to clearly communicate to any individual interested in their Labradors what the appearance of the coat actually is to the eye of the beholder. Though the LRC may not like it, most people actually do care what shade of Yellow or Chocolate their Labs are, the most descriptive color adjectives assist best in that. Otherwise you would have Silver Lab breeders advertising all their puppies as Chocolate, as well as the more common darker Chocolate breeders, what a mess that would be.
Fourth: Opposition to registering Silvers as Chocolate. An interesting position as the LRC was in fact the organization that directed the AKC to register them as Chocolate, they are the only body that the AKC could get that directive from. Remember, the AKC and LRC agreed, that these Labs "could more accurately be described as Chocolate rather than Silver." So, it's a complete flip-flop. The key here, which is also telling of the entirety of this newer position, is the "the club" opposes... The LRC is a breed club made up of Labrador Retriever enthusiasts; by and large, individuals who breed Labradors (Breeders). It is only appropriate that breeders are the majority of the club's membership as the club's directive is to preserve the breed, who better than those doing the breeding? This does bring with it some unique baggage however. Breeders often do not see eye to eye. They differ in their very interpretation of the breed standard. This is actually quite common in all purebred dogs, however, the LRC has experienced several significant divisions within it, significant infighting, complete breed bifurcation, and even class action lawsuits filed by members against their own club! The LRC has its share of drama, drama that all originated from its membership, breeders with personally developed opinions that are then impressed upon the rest of the club membership whether or not those opinions are good for the breed or not. One need only look to the fight, and ongoing discontent, over the present LRC breed standard for a perfect example of this. Until 1994, the LRC breed standard was nearly identical to the original breed standard used by the Labrador Club in the UK, the same standard the rest of the world accepts and uses. In 1994, the LRC rejected the true breed standard for the present standard. The standard, as it is now written, caused a deep chasm to develop in the breed as club members were either in favor of the new standard, or completely against it. The National Labrador Retriever Club formed as a splinter group of once LRC members who rebelled in an attempt to preserve the original standard. What ultimately has precipitated is most LRC member breeders now breed largely for their own tastes; breeder-Judges often put up dogs that reflect their own tastes, all personal opinion. The club leadership is made up of individuals that can successfully garner popular support to get elected and/or appointed. In short, the LRC is a fractionated, bureaucratic mess. Understanding this recent debasement it is clearly understood how an opinion, with no foundation in actual facts, has become the official position of the LRC, and an abandonment of its earlier unified position with the AKC that is based on facts.
So, will the color "Silver" ever be added to the breed standard? In the US, only the LRC can answer that question. As it apparent, the club's opinion is presently contrary to Silver Labradors. If the club was to revisit the facts and members actually understand the facts, then perhaps there would be hope. Unfortunately, those that breed Silver Labradors are snubbed from club membership so they do not even get to have a say in their own breed's parent club. If the LRC really wanted to ensure that all Labradors were bred for the betterment of the breed, genetics, pedigree, and health, they would welcome those who desire the same among the Silver Labrador enthusiasts. We have seen that pushing them away does not stop them from breeding and supporting Silver Labradors, but leads to only further split the Labrador Retriever breed, an unfortunate legacy that the LRC has created for itself. Though Silver supporters in the LRC would be a minority, they could give voice for the dilute gene carrying Labradors and their breeders where now there is none.