RSPCA & Dogs Trust convince the Kennel Club to revise breed norms
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
LONDON The Kennel Club, the world s first and oldest purebred dog registry, is redrafting the show standards for 209 breeds to eliminate rules that favor dogs with extreme and unnatural characteristics which might impair their health.
The Kennel Club, founded in 1873 and regarded in the show dog world as the most prestigious guardian of pedigrees, quietly disclosed the revisions of rules barely six weeks after complaining to the Office of Communication, the British television regulatory agency, that it was unfairly treated by the producers of the British Broadcasting Corporation exposé Pedigree Dogs Exposed, aired in August 2008.
Among the dogs featured in the documentary were boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems, and bulldogs who were unable to mate or give birth unassisted, reported Associated Press writer Jill Lawless. After the show was broadcast, Lawless added, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Dogs Trust withdrew their support for Crufts, the annual Kennel Club show, begun in 1891.
The only dog show of comparable status, worldwide, is the Westminister Dog Show, held in New York City by the West-minister Kennel Club, affiliated with the American Kennel Club.
Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals, explained RSPCA chief veterinary officer Mark Evans to Matthew Weaver of The Guardian.
There is compelling scientific evidence, Evans added, that the health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of pedigree dogs is seriously compromised.
Agreed Dogs Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin, to Times of London reporter Will Pavia, It would be a shame if we didn t have a voice [at Crufts], but we would expect to see some really robust responses from the Kennel Club about what they are going to do. They have a certified breeder program, Baldwin acknowledged, but added that it is full of pitfalls, the main one being that it is self-certificating. We need proper inspections, Baldwin emphasized.
We are horrified by the culling of dogs, Baldwin added. That has to stop.
Baldwin cited The culling of Rhodesian ridgebacks who don t have the ridge, and Dalmatians whose spots are in the wrong place.
The BBC has held exclusive rights to broadcast from Crufts since 1965. But after the BBC aired Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club hinted that reconsidering the Crufts broadcast contract might be ahead.
It is inevitable that this program has put strains on the relationship between the Kennel Club and the BBC, said an internal memo obtained by Weaver of the Guardian. Legal constraints prevent us at this stage from going into details of how that will move forward, the memo continued.
But either ending the broadcast contract or pursuing a lawsuit appeared unlikely in October 2008, perhaps because the Kennel Club belatedly recognized the value of the BBC coverage in promoting Crufts and purebred dogs. Instead of severing the relationship, the Kennel Club announced the appointment of panels to review breed standards.
New rules, covering 209 breeds, substantially more than are recognized by the American Kennel Club, are to be in place by the end of the year and will be used to judge dogs competing in next year s Crufts, wrote Times of London consumer editor Valerie Elliott. Breed judges are to be trained to choose only the healthiest dogs as prizewinners and champions at the show and its qualifying heats.
In addition, Elliot reported, the Kennel Club has asked rural affairs secretary Hilary Benn to rush new regulations through Parliament to give it powers to take action against breeders who fail to make canine health a top priority. These would also ban breeders who failed to comply with club health standards from selling puppies.
Our new breed health plans will enable us to ensure that the health of every dog is a number one priority, and we are taking a tougher line with breed clubs by adjusting those breed standards that fail to promote good health, Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko told Elliot.
What is particularly important is that the judges have clear instructions now that only the healthiest dogs can be rewarded, said British Veterinary Association president Nicky Paul.
My first change would be to tackle inbreeding and let people know the family history of dogs before they are bought as pets, responded Dogs Today editor Beverly Cuddy.
Wrote Elliott, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that it would meet with the Kennel Club soon to discuss breeding standards. Incestuous inbreeding of dogs is to be tackled.
The new Kennel Club rules have encountered resistance from some breeders of dogs with extreme characteristics, including basset hounds, bloodhounds, bulldogs, Clumber spaniels, German shepherds, mastiffs, and St. Bernards.
The BBC revealed that a flat-faced Pekinese, winner of Best in Show in 2003, had undergone a soft palate resection surgery to enable the dog to breathe, Elliott wrote. The new rules on Pekingese, which come into force immediately, have put the club on a collision course with the 104-year-old Pekinese Club.
Claimed Pekinese Club chair Barry Offiler, This will prevent us showing dogs abroad, and will stop overseas competitors from entering Crufts.
Assessed Elliott, It may take three to five years before the new generation of Pekinese will show the pronounced muzzles that were common in the 19th century.