Margaret C

My Evidence for APGAW

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There has been some interesting discussion about breed clubs and breeders attitude to health testing, so I thought I would blog some of the written evidence I submitted for the APGAW report that followed on from the film Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

I'm pleased to say that the health monitoring system mentioned at the end, in point 5. is be trialed, thanks to the RSPCA........

I would like to ask that secondary legislation of the Animal Welfare Act, 2006 be used to protect dogs from the suffering caused by inherited diseases and exaggerated breed features.
I believe that legislation is necessary because the breed clubs and the Kennel Club are unwilling and unable to self-regulate.

There are loving and responsible breeders & exhibitors, but many breeders regard their dogs as a commodity.
Four out of five puppies are sold as pets, but health problems that affect the quality of life for the dog, & place a financial and emotionally distressing burden on their owners, are disregarded.
Breeders are very reluctant to change their breeding practices even when they cause welfare issues. 'Type' is thought to be more important than health.

The Kennel Club has tried to address some public concerns since the broadcast of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed, but many of their leading figures are long established breeders and part of the same culture. Chairman Ronnie Irvine, in the January Kennel Gazette, criticised ”interference from the outside world” and described ”the media, the politicians and the so-called do-gooders” as terrorists lobbing hand grenades into a casualty hospital. This is probably indicative of the true mind set that remains within the KC.

Successful dog show exhibitors are very influential. They are usually the top judges and they own the top stud dogs.
People that show dogs are highly competitive. Every week they will spend hours preparing their dogs, rise in the early hours & travel hundreds of miles to a show.
They will be reluctant to disagree with top breeders for fear of not winning in the show ring, or being unable to mate their bitches to the best dogs.

There is a prevailing culture within the dog showing and breeding community that actively discourages recognition of health issues within pedigree dogs
Successful breeders are those most threatened by buyers knowing about health problems There is an unspoken rule that inherited health issues should not be acknowledged or discussed because this will ‘ruin the breed’.

In conclusion, I would like to make the following points:-

1. Owners of pedigree dogs do not breed because they want to produce healthy pet dogs for sale to the general public.
The commercial breeders are financially motivated, the show breeders want to produce winning show dogs. In both cases they will not want to health test their stock & find they must remove their most prolific producer, or their champion stud dog, from their breeding programme

2. Breed club committees usually consist of the most successful breeders, the people most threatened by buyers knowing about health problems. This means that health issues are minimized or suppressed. Club members that raise awareness of health conditions often do so in an atmosphere that is discouraging and sometimes intimidating.

3. What is good for the breeder is often not good for the dog. The breed clubs operate for the benefit of their members, not for the dogs or the future of the breed.

3. The Kennel Club's policy of working through the breed club committees ensures that the health information given to the KC, and the advice given to puppy buyers, is within the control of the breed clubs.
There should be a system in place where concerned breeders and pet owners can raise health issues independent of the breed clubs or the Kennel Club.

4. The Kennel Club's Accredited Breeder Scheme, which could possibly provide a basis to encourage breeders to health check their stock, is very flawed. The health tests required under this scheme are very few and the dogs that fail can still be bred from.
Legislation making it mandatory that relevant breed health checks are carried out on the permanently identified parents of all puppies could ensure that KC registration becomes a mark of quality, but the scheme would need to be properly monitored by an independent animal welfare body such as CAWC or the RSPCA.

5. Unbiased systems to monitor established & newly emerging health problems in all dogs need to be put into place. The Veterinary profession, perhaps through the central collating initiative suggested by Paul McGreevy, would be better placed to give accurate health data rather than Kennel Club officials who rely on breed clubs for information.

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