I wrote to Roger Helmer MEP, who had a message of support for the Kennel Club on their website. After a bit of a delay, I got a reply by e-mail today with the following Kennel Club Briefing Notes attached.
Somebody else on the Cold Wet Nose Blog has also recieved them via her MP, so I assume the Kennel Club has just released them. It's a bit of a turn around on the part of the Kennel Club, but I don't care about that, as long as they are moving in the right direction.
It sounds positive to me (particularly the bit about now supporting legislation) and I will be writing to them with particular reference to Cavaliers and the recent developments at the SGM.
As I am still a novice at this stuff I would be glad of any comments or opinions about the following statement in case my optimism is misplaced.
Briefing Note: Breed Health
Although the Kennel Club is disappointed that a recent BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed failed to acknowledge the work of the Kennel Club in tackling breed health, we are grateful that the programme brought this important issue to the forefront. While it is imperative to remember that our extensive research indicates that the vast majority of breeds and dogs are healthy, the Kennel Club is far from complacent where health is concerned and has many plans in place for the future to deal with breed health.
The Kennel Club Remit
The objective of the Kennel Club is to improve the welfare, health and general well being of all dogs, throughout every stage of their lives. To fulfil this objective the Kennel Club has long been working on the issue of breed health as a priority and is still continuing to do so – particularly in light of scientific advances. For legal reasons (a raft of competition law and sports law), the Kennel Club is not able to refuse registrations – it is because of this that the Kennel Club launched the Accredited Breeder Scheme (see below). In addition, there is nothing to prevent another dog registry being set up, or another breeder scheme of some sort. This is worrying for the Kennel Club since we are a not for profit organisation with a Charitable Trust – therefore all of the money the Kennel Club makes as a result of registrations, PetLog and Crufts, goes back into dogs
Kennel Club Initiatives to Improve Breed Health
The Kennel Club along with breeders and breed clubs have made a good start in improving breed health. This paper outlines the progress the Kennel Club has made to date, and also plans for the future.
The Kennel Club funds research through its Charitable Trust to improve the health of dogs. A number of research projects are in hand with such bodies as the Animal Health Trust and the veterinary universities. We are currently working with Imperial College to examine the available genetic research findings, specifically relating to close matings and frequently used sires and how these matters should be addressed.
- Funding research through the Kennel Club’s Charitable Trust
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association conducted the largest canine health survey in the world in 2004, of over 52,000 dogs. It provided us with the data needed to identify breeds with health problems.
- Health Survey
As a result of the health survey, the Kennel Club identified breeds in need of major health improvements. Such breeds included the Bulldog, the Chow Chow and short faced breeds including the Pug. The list of breeds requiring attention is continually reviewed and it is likely that in light of further scientific research being carried out (and funded by the Kennel Club) other breeds will be added. Work with these breed clubs is undertaken by the Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group.
- Breed Club Health Programmes
The BHWSG consists of Kennel Club representatives and independent experts with extensive veterinary and genetics knowledge and was established to take forward the breed club health programmes. A Breed Health Plan for all 209 Kennel Club recognised breeds will be in place by the end of 2008, to ensure that health continues to be the top priority in breeding all pedigree dogs.
- The Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG)
Breed standards have been changed to stress health issues and highlight the need to avoid exaggerations. These standards remain under review. In line with the changes that have been made to breed standards, all now include an amended ‘Faults’ clause to say "the fault should be regarded in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog". The standards are currently undergoing a further complete review by veterinary and breed experts.
- Breed Standards
Kennel Club regulations have had the following clause added: "In assessing dogs, judges must penalise any features or exaggerations which they consider would be detrimental to the soundness, health or well being of the dog". In addition to training judges, the Kennel Club assesses judges and conducts random spot checks to ensure they judge with health and welfare in mind. A conference of leading judges is to be held to reinforce the many actions already taken to emphasise the paramount importance of health and welfare issues. In addition to this a panel of independent veterinarians is planned to be set up across the country to conduct random spot checks on Best of Breed winners at Championship Shows to ensure that the dogs are fit and healthy.
The Kennel Club plans to introduce mandatory veterinary passports, so breeds identified by the BHWSG as having health problems would only be able to enter Crufts and other shows if they had veterinary approval.
- Veterinary passports
The Kennel Club has a policy agreed with veterinary surgeons - whereby operations which alter the natural conformation of the dog – such as corrective surgery for entropion – must be reported to the Kennel Club by the vet concerned. As a result they can not be shown at Kennel Club licensed events which discourages breeders from using them in their breeding programme.
- Health Initiatives in Partnership With the Veterinary Profession
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association has developed breed specific health screening programmes to monitor conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and various eye conditions. Information regarding available health tests per breed will shortly be included with registration documents and as part of the Kennel Club Puppy Sales Register information pack.
- Health Screening Programmes and DNA tests
The ABS was established with the primary aim of improving the overall standards of breeding all dogs in order that dogs are ‘Fit for Function: Fit for Life’ (see www.doggenetichealth.com). Accredited Breeders are required to make use of health screening schemes relevant to their breed on all breeding stock. The requirements of the ABS are constantly under review and are becoming ever more stringent. The ABS has over 3000 members – the standards set are rigorously upheld and anyone found wanting is removed from the scheme.To be effective, the scheme must be supported by all responsible dog breeders
- Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS)
Proposed way forward
Although the Kennel Club is working towards improving breed health, there is arguably a need for further improvement and to enable changes to happen more quickly by way of legislation. The Kennel Club currently operates under the constant threat of legal action for ‘overstepping the mark’ and other less stringent schemes being established for breeders not meeting ABS standards. We believe that the Kennel Club should be given statutory powers to make all breeders accredited. This would mean that every puppy sold to future dog owners, and indeed, every dog in the show ring (born in the UK) would have had to bred by an accredited breeder, and therefore with health as a priority, and with the appropriate health screening tests carried out.