Reports urges health certificates for puppies after Crufts scandal
Puppies should be sold with a full family medical history to alert new owners to the risk of genetic disorders, an inquiry will recommend today.
All future sales must be accompanied by a contract stating that the dog’s parents have undergone health checks before breeding to ensure puppies are born free from genetic disorders, MPs and peers will say.
The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare recommends that breeders provide a veterinary certificate confirming that the dog’s parents have been screened for health defects prior to mating.
Other recommendations include:
? a statutory limit on the number of times a dog can sire puppies, to prevent inbreeding;
? random checks on breeders;
? that all pedigree dogs be microchipped;
? that champion showdogs undergo health screening before prizes are awarded;
? guidelines to inform owners about what to look for in a healthy dog.
The new rules should apply to all puppies sold as pets, whether from a breeder registered with the Kennel Club, a licensed puppy farmer or someone breeding dogs as a hobby at home.
The safeguards come after a year-long review into pedigree breeding after the controversial BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, was aired in August last year.
The programme featured a prize-winning Cavalier King Charles spaniel that was suffering from syringomyelia, a neurological condition that occurs when a dog’s skull is too small. It also featured boxer dogs with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs that were unable to mate or give birth naturally.
The programme provoked a furore and led to the BBC scrapping its coverage of Crufts for the first time in 42 years. The rights for television coverage of next year’s show have been acquired by the More4 channel.
Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, is still investigating a complaint from the Kennel Club about alleged bias in the programme, which was made for the BBC by Jemima Harrison, of Passionate Productions.
The inquiry report published today, A Healthier Future for Pedigree Dogs, found unanimously that many pedigree dogs suffered serious health and welfare problems.
It is thought that the puppy contracts will act as a powerful control to prevent inbreeding of dogs, improve their welfare and spare owners the anguish of having to put their sick pets through extensive surgery.
Eric Martlew, Labour MP and chairman of the group, said: “We have had numerous examples given of the distress and suffering caused by poor breeding practice.
“Dog owners find themselves faced with huge vet bills and have to endure the emotional distress of seeing their pet in pain and sometimes even being put to sleep.”
With a general election expected in the spring there is insufficient time to introduce the laws. But the report says that if positive change is not forthcoming as a result of breeders curbing their practices voluntarily, ministers will be urged to bring in the new laws.
Sweden has already adopted such an approach, and breeders are financially responsible for any health problems that occur within the first three years of a puppy’s life.
Insurance companies are also urged to encourage take-up of puppy contracts by offering discounts to pet owners who can produce one. Eventually, the contracts should be a requirement for owners to receive insurance cover.
The Kennel Club has been given a year to enforce the changes among breeders and breeding societies.
At present the club accepts dog registrations from anyone and only polices breeders signed up to its accredited breeder scheme.
MPs and peers want the club to refuse registrations from breeders who fail to comply with the health checks and puppy contracts.
A separate inquiry by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge, commissioned by the Kennel Club and the Dogs’ Trust, is to be published next year.