Competitor Kathy Mocharnuk’s Cricket recently got caught in the chute when it detached from the barrel at a trial. Cricket was not hurt in the incident.
On August 17, 2016, UK Agility International made the following announcement regarding the use of the closed tunnel (otherwise known as the chute) at UKI trials:
“Due to the overwhelming evidence of dogs getting entangled and tripping from the use of flat tunnels/chutes, UKI would like to announce that it is suspending the use this piece of equipment in all of its courses including the US & Canadian Opens. In the event that a safer design for the chute is released and tested, we will then re-evaluate the possible reinstatement of this obstacle, although as before, it would not be a required obstacle in any class.”
UKI co-founder Laura Derrett says that the change was inspired by recent accidents in the chute:
“Over recent months it’s become very apparent from both sides of the Atlantic that dogs getting tangled in cloth tunnels seems to be more frequently seen despite even straight approaches and exits. This past weekend has seen incidents in both countries and has been well publicized on social media. As an organization we wanted to be proactive and respond before a serious injury occurs rather than after. From the response from our announcement it appears that majority of agility competitors are in favor of this move.”
UKI competitors seem quite happy with this change. Floridian Gail Lynch says, “I am delighted that UKI has opted to suspend the use of the chute for the safety of our canine athletes. I compete in UKI trials and will continue to support the organization. It is very satisfying to see that the organization truly cares about our canine athletes.” California competitor Deanna Fairchild adds, “The announcement from UKI today about suspending the use of the chute is a breath of fresh air! The chute has several scary components to it (the hard plastic barrel and the loose fabric exit) which can and have caused a multitude of injuries upon entry and exit in our four legged teammates. I was already a fan of UKI but now I will be enjoying it even more! I hope AKC and USDAA also consider suspending the use of the chute.”
The rule change may bring more competitors out to UKI agility trials. Marla Friedler-Cooper is one of them: “I’m so happy that UKI has taken the lead* in the US by discontinuing the use of the chute. The chute is a very dangerous obstacle and its use is one of the reasons I have done less agility this year than in the past. In the earlier days of agility, dogs were not as fast and courses were simpler. Even then, the chute (and the tire) are obstacles I considered to be riddled with safety issues. But now, with trickier courses and faster dogs, I consider these obstacles to be ones that should be obsolete. So although I have not done UKI in years, I am going to start entering UKI because I want to support them in this decision. I hope the other organizations will also make this decision to help keep our dogs safer.”