Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Tis the season to be... jolly strange!

Just in case you don't have a subscription to the Kennel Gazette you might have missed Ronnie Irving's follow up to his bizarre Queen's speech in Dog World. (For those not in the know - Ronnie is the Chairman of the Kennel Club.)

Ronnie starts off by reminding us that this time last year he was doing his Mystic Meg impression and forecasting that:
"greater interference from the outside world on how we breed, work and keep dogs will doubtless continue to plague us."

Hmmm? So where exactly does he define the edge of the world of dogs?

The front door of his offices in Clarges Street?

How very annoying for them having the troublesome meddling general public wanting to look over their shoulder.

But Ronnie really loses it in the next paragraph where he claims the:
"loudest in the media"
"the politicians"
and the
"do gooders"
(ie people who want to encourage the KC to reform and make dogs healthier)
are
"like terrorists lobbing hand grenades into a casualty hospital."

Taxi for Mr Irving to the Priory Clinic perhaps?

Possible explanations for this lapse in the company line...
  • Too much sherry at the KC office party?
  • PR guru's not working over the festive period?
  • Someone who doesn't like him has cloned his identity to get him into shed loads of trouble?
On the plus side, Ronnie's New Year message really takes all the pressure off Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for the I really wish I hadn't said that award.

If you want to read the rant in full please email me!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Stop eating those After Eights...

Nothing on the box till Harry Hill? Played with, eaten or broken all your pressies?
Why not visit the Dogs Today Think Tank and share your doggie knowledge with others. There's a load of new questions on there, so please do have a browse - and if there are any questions you'd like answered do email me so I can post them as the blog is no respecter of office hours!
Latest question asks you about your top tips for products you couldn't do without. I've kicked it off with Crazy Dog Grooming Spray - which I am sure is in some way enchanted as the knots do seems to undo themselves when you spray! And no - they don't advertise so I'm definitely not biased!
Have any of you found something remarkable? Pass it on!
Also, any experts out there who can explain why we and dogs are so different when it comes to chocolate and grapes? How come they can eat a rancid bit of dead animal or drink from stagnant stinky pond with no ill effects - but things like grapes which we consider a health food can kill them. How exactly do we differ?
The Think Tank is awaiting your input should you tire of another round of Trivial Pursuit!
Click here to take part

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Welcome to Martha and King Ronnie's speech

The Deputy Editor's job at Dogs Today has proved a very fertile position of late. First Julia Owen had baby Megan in the summer and Karen Redpath (Mrs Cornish) stepped up the plate to cover her maternity - soon after announcing her own baby was on the way, too.
With tremendous consideration, baby Martha Cornish, arrived just after we put the February issue to bed at 8pm on December 22th.
Congratulations to the very proud parents! Well done to Karen who was a real trooper working through her pregnancy.

The KC has given Dog World a Christmas speech - Ronnie obviously feels he and HMQueen have a lot in common- well they both preside over dynasties with a high coefficient of inbreeding and neither were elected by those they rule! Here's the start of it...

"ALTHOUGH 2008 may have been its own annus horribilis, the Kennel Club is forging its way into the new year with courage and the conviction that the show dog world is still alive and kicking."

Now I think that's the first time they've come out with it so baldly - that far from being the all embracing guardian of all things doggie they'd like to be seen as - they are really just primarily all about showing dogs.
Our dogs deserve better.

Here's the rest of the speech

Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year for our best friends!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Bulldog spirit?

I've been so immersed in finishing the latest issue and attempting to get ready for Christmas that I've scarcely had time to sleep, never mind blog.
Here's a few thoughts and happenings that I've wanted to blog about but have been stymied until now.
What happens now that the pressure to change in time for the BBC decision is off, will the KC still have the zeal to try to change all 209 breed standards? (Of course it is only changing words on a page, inspiring breeders to breed to the standard and judges to judge to it is an entirely different challenge. And in most cases it's just adding a passage that basically passes the buck to the judge to police the health of the breed.)
But the 'worry' breeds plus a few more are being treated like naughty schoolboys and some of the breed people don't like it one little bit.
The KC suddenly playing the strict head teacher has met its first major obstacle. The Bulldog people. I suspect they feel they've little to lose as they are probably already seen as the naughtiest in the class, although the Peke people gave them a waddle for their money.
A few weeks ago, when I was talking to the other KC baddies - the German Shepherd United Front, the chap I was talking to had said that Bulldog people had broken away and I forgot to ask him to explain as we diverged into lots of other interesting avenues.
So how will the KC deal with the Bulldog breakaway? Do they let them walk..? (Sorry my warped sense of humour wants to substitute the word stagger!)
And if they lead will others follow?
Will we end up with what the BBC wanted and for the breeds that really needed to change not being at Crufts, but for completely different reasons?
And when will we at last get the inbreeding reform which would be very much more meaningful than this bickering over words which I doubt will result in any physical improvements. I'm not asking for a flashy ban on incest necessarily - that will have hardly any affect. I want the coefficient of inbreeding to be displayed on registration certificates, for the KC pedigree database to be searchable by anyone and for COIs on test matings to be calculated by the KC system. I want breed average COIs to be obviously displayed and targets put in place so that good breeders can be clear on what they need to do. And we need to limit the number of times a sire is used.
Is it just me or is there anyone really confident that the KC will hit these buttons?
Almost pointless for me to mention that all the above are already features of the Swedish KC registration system and have been for some years.
Wouldn't inbreeding reform have been a better place to start? Who could argue with this? Work up to the nuggety moulding the misshapen breeds back into a more logical form issue after you've stopped the shrinking gene pool problem. Taking each breed separately and devising a plan rather than just changing the breed standard wording in isolation might be a more successful strategy.
In my own breed, I just discovered a litter that had a COI of 38% over 10 generations - out of just over 500 possible relations in the pedigree only 121 were unique - all the rest were repetitions - 65 dogs appearing up to eight times! What's the worst COI in your breed? Do write in! Professor Balding says we should be aiming for 3% or less and over 20% shouldn't be registered at all. But this 38% produced a Champion... so that line will be bred on from.
What's the most inbred Champion in Britain today? Let's have a little festive inbreeding quiz!
Guess that's the one upside of incest, less relies to buy pressies for.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Sorry to have been quiet

We've just put the February issue to bed. It's hard to blog on deadline. Off to a pantomime this morning with the kids, so no time to catch up - so many things bloggable have happened in the last week. Will update shortly!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Xmas pressie ideas with a point

Cavalier King Charles merchandise - all profits will be donated to support health research initiatives to combat SM and MVD in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Please order from: www.cafepress.com/cavalove
Worldwide shipping available.

These seasonal folk art designs are also available on other products such as mugs and coasters, etc.

Thank you to our subscriber Gerrie Pryor Carter in Monroe, CT, USA for the tip off. She told my colleague:
"I had painted some folk art designs of my puppies and I am featuring them on an ornament collection: The Four Seasons of CKCS. All proceeds will go towards the research for SM & MVD. The Four Season designs and other CKCS designs are also available on other *stuff* like mugs and tote bags, etc."

"Today Cafepress is offering free upgrade to express shipping. Orders will carry standard shipping charges but will arrive in time for Christmas. Anyway, I would sure appreciate the mention as the fundraiser has not been successful at all. "

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Messengers in the firing line again!

In case you're not checking the comments on the old posts, some people have been being very mean to Jo, the owner of Zak the epileptic Boxer featured in Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
Out of order I'm afraid. Jo is a great owner and she always does her very best for Zak, many sacrifices made to make sure he is never left alone. Huge drug bill, too. People really should treat her gently, she has enough to put up with.
Anyway this post caught my eye.. they start with an extract from one of my comments.

"When will dog breeders stop being so defensive - the enemy should be suffering - not the people who tell others about it."

When you report all the efforts being made to eliminate these issues within the show world or the lack of efforts in the 'Pet' only pedigree industry.When you start publishing details of the research groups, scientists etc who are working on the very health problems we are trying to counter. When you start to encourage YOUR public to support said research groups with blood samples, buccal swabs, monies to maintain their research.

Well regular and real readers will know that every edition of the magazine and on the web the Hairy Dogmother contains all the tests that are available and advisable for every breed and our recent How to save the Pedigree Dog booklet lists all the DNA tests available and encourages readers to take part in all the Animal Health Trusts ongoing research projects. We also had a major feature in the latest issue on all the Cavalier research projects and how to get involved. And dare i mention the Little Black Dog books which catalogued for the first time all the different health testing schemes....

So I am puzzled, anonymous - what is it we are not doing?

"It's not a defensive reaction to question an owner whose experiences are different to yours, its not defensive to give our personal experience, knowledge, advice received etc back to said owner. I see no attack from breeders here what I do see is people asking for clarification. Idiopathic - Cause/origins unknown Familial = occurance in more members of a family than would be statistically expected True Dominat autosomal epilepsy in both humans and other mammals is very rare - ie a simple genetic cause. Epilepsy as a stand alone condition is also rather rare with family members suspected of having polygenic susceptability towards seizures on their alles ie Complex epilepsy. "

"For those of you who truly wish to see the end of these diseases great, contact the research groups, offer them blood samples from your affected animals, monies etc do something constructive not just complain and attack those people who are trying to eliminate the problems. For every sample submitted they stand a chance of being a step closer to finding an answer that will help human suffering as much as animals. Here's a couple to start you offhttp://www.aht.org.uk/genetics_research.htmlThis is the group who developed the epilepsy test for Lagattos. I am proud to say my own breed club members submitted some 50 plus samples this autumn towards their epilepsy research, with more coming via our pet purchasers.http://www.koirangeenit.fi/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=18&Itemid=44 "

Surely you must see we are on the same side anonymous? Everyone here is pro-research and testing. You're raging at the wrong people. Those who don't support science should be your target. Those who think it's still quite fine to breed half brother to sister and not limit the use of popular sires.

Certainly the owners of dogs with horrible problems shouldn't be anyone's target.

Monday, 15 December 2008

50% Doggy house sale

Want to get a foot on the property ladder but can't get on? Got dogs or happy to share with someone who has? (Two small non-shedding Lagotto and Bichon) here's an interesting house share idea. Genuine - this is a friend of one the Dogs Today team.

A 50 per cent share of a 3 bedroom semi detached house. £130,000
Carpenders park, Watford, Hertfordshire
The large garden is dog proof backing onto a quiet semi rural area.
2 well trained dogs already in residence, both castrated and used to living with a large number of other dogs
The house has recently been decorated, and the large bedroom will be yours.
No smokers please.
Feel free to ring Carol (07896020460) for a chat and more details or email c.g.meacham@hotmail.co.uk

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Flood warning over

Which is great. Wonder how long it will take to put everything back in the cupboards on Monday morning!

It never rains...

Just been to the office to pick everything possible off the floor. We're on flood watch again. Watch this space... ugh!
Was on BBC5live on a debate about Crufts when heard about flooding on the news and thought I'd check the environment agency site with our record of floods at our office. Sure enough - there it was - flood watch and the recorded announcement said low lying areas would flood - so that's our office then.
Off to bed, let's hope if it does flood it's not too high as we only cleared the bottom shelves.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Crufts 2008 not on the TV

Just had a phone call from the Times. The BBC has decided not to show Crufts this year. They will review the subject again for the 2010 show.
It makes sense and it does mean the BBC haven't been dazzled by the frenetic burst of activity initiated by the KC in the last few months.
Twenty years of overdue reform could never be achieved in a few months.
The rush to reword all the breed standards, to compile lists of hereditary diseases that may all had the scent of panic, rather than of a sensible strategy.
And that panic seemed to be more about what the BBC might think, rather than the long term betterment of dogs. If not - why the rush, why not do this organically over the last twenty years like Sweden did?
This decision gives the KC a bit longer to get their act together, before the possibility of BBC Crufts coverage is reviewed again.
Let's hope the KC will now take a deep breath and aim to do it really properly. A thorough deep clean and that means looking at inbreeding not just doing word changes and testing for existing conditions - possibly the most significant thing they can do for the future of pedigree dog health.
While it will be disappointing for many not to see dogs on TV this will focus the KC's mind and hopefully ensure that meaningful reform will happen.

From Jemima Harrison, Director of Pedigree Dogs Exposed:
"The decision vindicates the film and no one will be more delighted than me if Crufts can return at some time in the future with healthier dogs. It was ridiculous to try to undo 50 years of damage in the six months between the documentary airing and Crufts. For example, Rolo the Cavalier with SM is still qualified to compete at Crufts, to be bred on from. The dog's owner is still yet to be censured in any way for breeding on from a dog with a known hereditary condition. Although the KC have been making welcome efforts to change things of late they have yet to put anything in place to deal with genetic diversity. On their website dated November 24th they say they are working with Imperial College on this subject - but they've not been in touch with the College for some months and there is definitely no on-going collaboration. The point of the film is we never said every pedigree dog was buggered - but too many are. Hopefully the film and all that happens next will prove to be a catalyst for meaningful change."


From the RSPCA:
"The RSPCA believes the BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts reflects deep scientific and public concern about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease affecting pedigree dogs.
"In the wake of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed the RSPCA decided not to attend Crufts 2009 in order to send a clear message that urgent action must be taken to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs. Several other leading animal welfare charities and show sponsors have since followed suit.
"The RSPCA’s Mark Evans said: “The BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts clearly reflects serious scientific and public concern about pedigree dog welfare. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are vulnerable to pain, suffering and disease because they’re primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament as the main focus.
“Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favours. They allow and encourage both the breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals. This is morally unjustifiable and has to stop.”
The RSPCA wants to see the emphasis of dog shows shifted away from arbitrary appearance, so that health, welfare and temperament are considered first and foremost. The Society wants to help ensure that pedigree dogs have the best possible chance of being fit, healthy and happy and well suited to the lives they will lead as pets.

The RSPCA has commissioned an independent review of the science in this field, which will be published in the New Year. Amongst a raft of specific recommendations, the following general themes have been identified as possible ways forward:

• An overhaul of the rules and requirements for pedigree dog registration and competitive dog showing (including breed standards). Health, welfare and temperament should be prioritised over appearance.
• The development and implementation of health and welfare-focussed breeding strategies for individual breeds. This should include pro-active steps to increase the genetic diversity of dog breeds.
• More data collection and scientific analysis on causes of disease and death in dogs.
• Education, especially of would-be owners, to encourage demand for dogs which have the best possible chance of leading healthy, happy lives as pets.


For the KC's perspective click here

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

German Shepherd world unites

For the first time in history pretty much the whole German Shepherd world has united in a push to improve the health of their breed. Here's a copy of their open letter to Caroline Kisko, copied to all the KC General Committee.
I have to say I am in awe at this group. Are there any other breeds that are really pressing for improvement?
Did you know that in Germany all GSD have to have a breed survey before being bred from? A multi-faceted test that looks at health, temperament etc.

05 December 2008

The Kennel Club
Clarges Street
Mayfair
London


Dear Mrs Kisko

The German Shepherd Dog Breed Council of the UK along with the two
largest and oldest GSD Breed Clubs in the UK The British Association
German Shepherds Dogs and The German Shepherd League (The Partners)
are concerned that the meeting on the 20th November sadly did not
include our reasonable request to include item No3 on the Agenda. We
simply wanted to jointly discuss specifically the GSD and
improvements to its Health and Welfare. The Partners letter of the
12th November enclosing the agenda item No3 was issued and hand
delivered with in 5 days of receiving briefing papers from yourselves
and to date, disappointingly, we still have had no response to the
letter apart from a message the night before the meeting saying our
item will not be discussed.

The meeting with the Kennel Club Health and Welfare Group( KCHWG) on
the 20th November only discussed certain perceived exaggeration in the
GSD, particularly in the hind quarters, which culminated in an
agreement to review the breed standard quickly in order to better
guide Judges.

The Partnership of the three prime organisations who collectively
represent the vast majority of GSDs who work and show their dogs in
the UK respectfully requests that the improvement plan contained in
the previous Agenda (enclosed) which was not received by the KCHWG on
the 20th November is now discussed in an urgent meeting with the
Kennel Club (KC).

We hope that the KC will acknowledge, that the most important and
substantive threat facing Pedigree GSDs today, is without question,
the lack of mandatory Health and Welfare initiatives for GSDs
registered by the KC. To have to attend a meeting in London to deal
with subjective, unsubstantiated and adhoc comments on aspects of
conformation is “Fiddling whilst Rome burns” the meaning of which is
“to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect the priorities
during a crisis”.

The Partners conclude, that as a consequence of the lack of any
mandatory breeding regulations by the KC that the vast majority of the
12,000 plus Pedigree GSDs registered yearly by the KC cannot conform
to be classified as “Fit for Function: Fit for Life”. Furthermore the
KC will be criticised by certain parties by allowing the preconceived
idea to prevail that to purchase a KC registered Pedigree GSD implies
a guarantee of higher quality than other GSDs.

We can help. The Partnership of the GSD Breed Council and the two
main breed clubs and their members have, for a number of years,
imposed voluntary Quality Control initiatives on the GSDs under their
influence and therefore would like to share with the KC the benefits
of implementing a planned, sustainable improvement plan for KC
registered GSDs

We would like to present to the KC the work that has been done in
improving the Health and Welfare of the GSDs controlled by the clubs.
The Breed Council and the Breed Clubs record that this initiative has
been implemented so far only by their members, members who care and
invest time, skill and devotion into choosing to enforce restrictions
on breeding themselves and which is not matched by 80% of the GSD
breeders and subsequent dogs registered by the KC.

It seems unbelievable in this day and age that no mandatory
regulatory tests are in place prior to breeders being able to KC
register over 12,000 GSDs every year. We believe this unregulated
environment leads to the consequential and wholly preventable health
problems that prevail today and variations of type which have
inevitably and unfortunately evolved.

There is some early wins we can achieve together by imposing
mandatory, stricter control on dogs being registered for breeding and
together we can make a difference which will be witnessed by the
Public and the Media.

Both the Kennel Club and all responsible Breeders need to demonstrate
that we are making progress by imposing Mandatory controls on
breeding, to simply alter the breed standard does not go anywhere near
enough to resolving the issue of continuous improvement.

We look forward to receiving confirmation of our requested meeting and
confirm our earnest desire is to work with the KC in agreeing a way
forward to implementing a step change in the Health and Welfare of the
GSD which this noble breed deserves and which will be demanded by the
Public and the Media increasingly in the future. Lets make our plans
together now.

Signed by the Partners for sustainable improvement in the GSD.

Bob Honey Chairman BAGSD
Graham Stephens Chairman GSDL
John Cullen Chairman GSD Breed Council


Encl
CC, Members of the KC General Committee

Agenda for the 2nd meeting with the Kennel Club -TBA

The GSD Health and Welfare Planned Improvement Plan

Introduction

1.0 The Partners

The GSD League and BAGSD are members of the WUSV (World Union of Shepherd Dog Clubs) which has representation from 76 member countries, the two clubs are the largest and oldest national breed clubs. Collectively they work proactively with the GSD Breed Council which is the body formed by all GSD Clubs in the UK and charged as a collective group with the progressive development of our Breed within the UK. The Partnership of the GSD Breed Council, the GSDL and BAGSD without question, make up the largest critical mass of GSDs working and showing in the UK.

1.1 One voice, one aim

The Partnership would therefore like to present the following on behalf of the vast majority of working and breed clubs in the UK.

Over the last 15 years progress has been made by the partners to implement VOLUNTARY Health and Welfare schemes for participating individuals within the breed. The facts are that none of these initiatives is endorsed by the KC and none are MANDATORY. Recognition however is made of the contribution made by the KC in the development of KC/BVA schemes so far.

2.0 Progress so far:-

• Highlighting the breeding lines responsible for epilepsy through testing by Dr P. Croft.
• Introduction of a Voluntary Hip Scoring Scheme.
• Voluntary Tattoo identification.( and Micro chipping)
• Voluntary Haemophilia testing.( males only)
• Voluntary Elbow X-rays and grading.
• Voluntary DNA Parentage identification.
• Other Parentage tests, work in progress…..
• Voluntary Breed Surveys
• Ground Breaking GSD Sieger event, for the Fourth year, where only GSDs with mandatory Health and Working qualifications are promoted to the highest awards.
• Mandatory Judges Training scheme in order to become sponsored by the GSD Breed Council judging lists, not mandatory for eligibility to Judge KC shows however.

3.0 The Opportunity

The time is right to implement the next steps and introduce mandatory improvements as part of a phased Progressive Improvement Plan. The GSD community and the KC do not want to be seen as complacent in this respect. We must work together with the KC Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG) and produce a realistic and achievable improvement plan to increase the Health and Welfare of the GSD and perhaps be a vanguard for other breeds to follow.

THE PARTNERS WHOLEHEARTEDLY SUPPORT THE KENNEL CLUBS FOLLOWING DECLERATION:-

“The Kennel Club will make full use of the measures it has within its remit and authority to ensure that all breed clubs and councils encourage their members to undertake health screening appropriate to each breed and that individual breeders reach the highest possible standards of husbandry and welfare”.

The Proposed Planned Improvement Programme

To further improve the Health and Welfare of the German Shepherd to be 'fit for purpose, fit for life' we would like to propose the following Terms of reference to build on the work already done by the KC and voluntarily by our members and produce, in agreement with the BHWSG, a mandatory sustainable Planned Improvement Programme for all registered GSDs.


4.0 Our Proposal in Summary

4.1 The breed name of German Shepherd Dog (Alsatian) should be brought into line with the rest of the World and changed to German Shepherd Dog. This will also avoid the confusion that exists with the general public who often believe that there are 2 different types/breeds - the German Shepherd Dog and the Alsatian.

4.2 Introduction of a mandatory breed survey before being allowed to be bred from.

4.3 No female under the age of 21 months should be bred from.

4.4 No male under the age of 18 months should be bred from.

4.5 Inbreeding closer than 3, 2 or 2, 3 should not be accepted.

4.6 Mandatory training scheme for Judges with a scrutiny panel of senior breed judges empowered by the KC and the Partners who will monitor judge’s adhesion to the rules, with regular forums for discussion.

4.7 Reduction of the judges list to an active register and qualified list

4.8 Line breeding to be shown on the KC pedigree in order to differentiate.

4.9 A quick win in differentiating GSDs who have had tests from those who have not would be for the KC to acknowledge international working Health and Working tests on Pedigrees. The standard of a good proportion of GSDs registered with the KC would be raised demonstrably.

4.10 Future breeding standards:-

4.11 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been hip X-rayed and have achieved a minimum status of a score of 20 ( with one side being no higher than 12 ) or a recognised overseas grade which is similar.

4.12 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been elbow X-rayed and either graded by the BVA or have achieved a recognised overseas status.

4.13 The sire of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have passed a haemophilia test if bred in the UK.

4.14 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been either tattooed or micro-chipped for identification purposes, in order for the individual dog to match his/her documentation.

4.15 The parents of every puppy to be registered by the Kennel Club must have had DNA identification recorded with the Kennel Club or a recognised overseas authority.

4.16 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should conform to the Breed Standard colour requirement.

4.17 The parents of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have passed a Breed Survey (in the year in which the animal attains 2 years of age - or older) either in the U.K. or with a recognised overseas authority.

4.18 The U.K. Breed Survey to be upgraded to include a fitness/endurance test similar to the ' (AD) required by International WUSV authorities.

4.19 The parents of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should have achieved either a recognised Kennel Club or WUSV working qualification, with the minimum being a Gold Kennel Club Good Citizen Test or a BH qualification.

4.20 The breeder of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should hold a valid Kennel Club prefix.

5 Timescale

Clearly we cannot unilaterally propose a time scale for this planned improvement programme without the absolute involvement of the KC this would be inappropriate at this time, however we see no reason if we all work together to implement item 4.10 - 4.20 from 1st January 2010.

As a registered puppy achieves certain standards of Health and welfare qualifications these should be added to their official pedigrees by application to the Kennel Club for upgrading.

6 Two Tier System

We do not fully understand why the Kennel Club must register every litter. .

With this in mind it would appear that the Kennel Club may be obliged to register those dogs that have not been tested as 'fit for purpose, fit for life'.

On the basis that all puppies must receive a registration by the Kennel Club, the alternative could be a two tier system wherein that puppies complying with the above requirements receive green registration documents and pedigree certificates with the additional information contained thereon, and that all other non-complying puppies are issued with 'blue' registration documents and pedigree certificates.

General

There are further fundamental issues that need to be addressed i.e. The amount of puppies being born annually with multiple lines to known epileptic dogs which information is held by our breed archivist. We would refer you to the article by Mrs. Chris Hazell on page 22 of the 2008 Our Dogs Sieger Supplement. Can you imagine the distress caused to innocent purchasers of a puppy when, at around 18 months of age, as a fully integrated member of their family, their young dog begins to 'fit' and most often has to be euthanized because of multiple epileptic fits. Surely the Kennel Club cannot condone this disgraceful situation.

The unsoundness in movement of a GSD shown on the recent BBC television programme was not the Best of Breed Winner at Crufts but the C.C. winner at an earlier all breed Championship Show.

It is important that judges of the German Shepherd have knowledge of sound movement, as well as correct construction, required in this breed. Unfortunately those organisers of all breed shows only have the current Judges List to work from - this needs to be reviewed urgently.

To prove the ability of the judge they should be required to justify their placings after the end of each class by giving verbal critiques to be followed up within 4 weeks of date of show by a written critique to be published by the in the canine press.

It is sincerely hoped that the Kennel Club will approve and incorporate the above proposals, as we feel that by doing so it can only improve the 'fit for purpose, fit for life' requirement for the German Shepherd Dog.


To all GSD lovers, a Partnership Statement.

The GSD League and BAGSD are members of the WUSV (World Union of Shepherd Dog Clubs) which has representation from 76 member countries, the two clubs are the largest and oldest national breed clubs. Collectively they work proactively with the GSD Breed Council which is the body formed by all GSD Clubs in the UK and charged as a collective group with the progressive development of our Breed within the UK. This Partnership of the GSD Breed Council, the GSDL and BAGSD without question, make up the largest critical mass of GSDs working and showing in the UK.

One voice, one aim

Over the last 15 years progress has been made by the partners individually to implement VOLUNTARY Health and Welfare schemes for participating individuals within the breed. The facts are that none of these initiatives is endorsed by the KC and none are MANDATORY. Recognition however is made of the contribution made by the KC in the development of KC/BVA schemes so far.

Over the years the Partners have independently made representations to the KC in order to try and increase the Health and Welfare of the 12,000 GSDs registered by the KC with no real success. It is clear that there has been no demonstrable improvement in the health and welfare of the GSD to date.

The KC have always maintained that they have no powers to implement mandatory breeding controls and prefer to register any/all dog regardless of physical and hereditary problems without any regards whatsoever to inbreeding and allow so called breeders to basically do as they wish with guidance notes and non mandatorty initiatives like the breeders charter etc. .

The Partnership has recently been formed specifically to make the most robust of representations to the KC on the issue of the lack of mandatory control regarding the Health and Welfare of the GSD.

The joint national clubs and the Breed Council have been not taken seriously by the KC as previously we had been guilty of being fractious and not bringing a coherent plan to the KC to date. This has now changed, the Executives of each organisation have come together to represent the largest body of GSDs in the UK and want only one thing and that is to see the measurable improvement in the Health and Welfare of our beloved breed.

The Partners want to work in harmony with the KC to continuously improve the breed and have together devised a Improvement Plan for the GSDs which has been sent to the KC and is included for your information along with a letter which sets the scene for evolution.

The Partners realise that the improvement plan requires further work but we must do this with the KC and establish realistic and deliverable timescales. Without question the breed will only move forward with the KC agreeing to implement mandatory measures and allow registration to only dogs who can prove that they are satisfying the improvement criteria which will lead to healthier GSDs.

The KC have argued that this type of control will only drive some GSD breeders away from the KC sphere of influence and that their past passive measures of “ influencing” not “raising the standard” has been effective.

If we all believe that the GSD is better now as a consequence of this route then just look at the statistics which will show GSDs are still suffer from a legacy of wholly preventable diseases like epilepsy, haemophilia still prevalent today as they have always been with no control on incest matings etc.

With the sustained press and public focus on the issue of Pedigree Dogs Health and Welfare the time is right now to implement change and the KC must realise that and not just advise breeders to change. The KC truly need to listen to the ground swell of GSD lovers and through the Partnership we wish to create a powerful joined up lobby to the KC on the issue of improvement in the Health and Welfare of the GSD.

As such we welcome your views to your clubs on this issue or post your comments on the following websites.

The Partnership makes a commitment to its members to robustly represent them with the KC and seek to implement a planned improvement plan which we can all look back on when we demonstrate improvement in the reduction of epilepsy rates, the abolition of incest matings and other inbreeding horrors, the unique identification of individual animals and the incremental mandatory breeding tests to be implemented in the future.

The Kennel Club registered GSD of the future will truly be a healthier dog and therefore able to reclaim its place as one of the noblest and most sought after breeds because “true quality doesn’t cost it pays”.

Half a dog friendly house for sale!

Want to get a foot on the property ladder but can't get on? Got dogs or happy to share with someone who has? (Two small non-shedding Lagotto and Bichon) here's an interesting house share idea. Genuine - this is a friend of one the Dogs Today team.

A 50 per cent share of a 3 bedroom semi detached house. £130,000
Carpenders park, Watford, Hertfordshire
The large garden is dog proof backing onto a quiet semi rural area.
2 well trained dogs already in residence, both castrated and used to living with a large number of other dogs
The house has recently been decorated, and the large bedroom will be yours.
No smokers please.
Feel free to ring Carol (07896020460) for a chat and more details or email c.g.meacham@hotmail.co.uk

Friday, 5 December 2008

Arts and Crufts (spinning module)

The Kennel Club have announced today on their website that they have posted out their proposed Breed Health Plans to all the breed clubs.
This could be a tremendous opportunity for meaningful change.
Until we see what's in these plans we won't know for sure if this a PR exercise to soothe the BBC into sticking with their Crufts coverage or a serious attempt to sort out the endemic problems in the pedigree dog world.

If you have seen one of these Breed Health Plans up close, please do enlighten me!

According to the KC website here are the three areas they seek to cover with the plans:

  • The conformation of the breed
  • The prevalence of certain conditions and diseases within the breed (once priorities have been agreed, the steps to tackle these will be formulated)
  • The diversity of the breed’s gene pool.

Most breed standards are staying the same, say the KC. Some minor tweaks, some major... probably those breeds they had on their worry list. But how effective can a wording change be? Did the last lot of changes change the Bulldog for example? I can't tell the difference. How will the changes be policed?

All breed standards will now include a paragraph that in essence passes the buck to the judges and makes them responsible for not rewarding exaggerations and only putting up sound, healthy dogs. In future the KC may also ask for feedback from judges on exaggerations.

So self-policing rather than leadership, much easier to administer and better for the bottom covering objective of saying any future mess isn't the KC's fault because they've written this wonderful get-out clause!

Information about existing health problems is also included in these breed plans. And the KC are referencing their data as being from:
  • The KC/AHT/BSAVA Scientific Committee’s Pure Bred Dog Health Survey, completed in 2004.
  • An analysis which has been compiled using data provided by Agria Pet Insurance and covers all purebred dogs covered under the Kennel Club Healthcare Plan for the past 5 years.
  • A list of conditions included in published material in peer-reviewed scientific literature.
So I'm gathering they're sending the breed clubs a list of conditions that they think are very definitely hereditary in their breed. A bit like the list they already produce for the ABS. After the club has seen the list they will be asked to come up with a way of tackling these problems.

Wouldn't it be more productive to cut out that consultation stage and instead ask the club to debate the introduction of mandatory testing where appropriate? Rather than just agree the list of conditions in an expensive proof reading exercise?

After all the feedback from the breed clubs - on what will be a relatively untweaked breed standard and a list of probably undisputed conditions - only then will genetic diversity be discussed.

I'm sorry, I was hoping to feel more excited at this point - but to me that just sounds like a lot of paper and not much action.

I'd have started with point three - genetic diversity - and worked backwards.
It would be so much easier and so much more effective to quickly limit the use of popular sires. To set targets for improved coefficients of inbreeding for all breeds and to start making the calculation of COI easier for all with a searchable KC database that works these complex formulas out for everyone.

It sounds like an attempt at looking very busy.
An attempt to show the BBC that they are doing everything possible - honest.
I'm afraid I'm not impressed so far, will the BBC be? I'm sure that's who this is aimed at.

No news... but possibly there is in the detail

The piece in the Guardian is fascinating, quirky and eccentric, but sadly - no scoop.
Click here to read
I'll summarise.
KC claim documentary on the one hand told them nothing new but it still managed to be shocking and biased.
Reporter finds the KC fascinating, quirky and eccentric.
He also finds the documentary maker fascinating, quirky and eccentric.
He finds a person who shows and breeds dogs fascinating, quirky and eccentric.
I say something he finds amusing and he ends on quite a good joke.
The most important bit in all that clever writing - two paragraphs from the end...

"What happens next is hard to say. Much hinges on the BBC, which has convened an expert panel to advise it on whether the health concerns raised by Harrison's programme are being effectively addressed by the Kennel Club. A BBC spokesman says the decision on whether it will broadcast next year's Crufts is imminent and that the corporation is "hopeful" of continuing the 42-year association. Harrison says she would be "incredibly disappointed if the BBC does not drop Crufts"."

Sounds like the BBC wants to go ahead doesn't it? "Hopeful," is an odd word for them to choose. It seems to indicate the decision is out of their hands! Who is on this special panel of there's and why is it taking them so very long to decide?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Watch this space....

Could an announcement from the BBC on their Crufts coverage be imminent?
Tomorrow's papers may reveal all. Watch out for the Guardian tomorrow - do they have a scoop? Or have they just got bored waiting for an announcement and decided to publish and be dammed - all will be revealed soon!

Saints preserve us

Sorry for the lack of blogs.
I am struggling not to have flu and failing.
The story of the Accredited Breeder and the 102 dogs, many of them St Bernards, left abandoned cut straight through my cotton wool head and put my temperature up by several degrees.
Surfing the Internet you can find several reports calling this kennels hellish as early as the summer, yet even though it seems plenty of people knew there was something going very wrong our infrastructure seems to have completely failed these poor dogs.
I understand two people have now been arrested, a man and a woman.
But just like the tragic Baby P case there surely must be others in the frame who should have done more?
This was a licenced kennels, plenty of people bringing dogs for boarding had seen things deteriorating, people within the breed seem to have known there was big troubles going on and that the dogs were being neglected.
So why no action until now?
There is very sadly, plenty of precedent for breeders losing the plot, plenty of other horror stories.
Remember the case where the RSPCA found skeletons in long forgotten cages - that was a Crufts judge of Shelties I seem to remember. And the champ show judge that kept her dogs on the allotment and just forgot them, one of our readers took a lovely Beardie from that case who had gone blind from malnutrition.
I'm not a psycologist so I can't tell you why these cases keep happening or why there have been so many of them.
Dog breeding in this country lacks regulation and supervision so either it is attractive to people on the edge - or it just doesn't catch people as they fall.
And the fact that this latest case involves a KC Accredited Breeder... do we need any more graphic an illustration to show how unwise it is to accredit the people and not the dogs they produce.
If you're not visiting these breeders very regularly, if you're not ready to step in when they are failing- can you really want to endorse people when you can't possibly know them anywhere near well enough?
I was the Beardie breed club secretary when I first spotted something odd with the treasurer at the time's behaviour. He still looked smart in his suit at committee meetings. He had asked for money for a new typewriter from club funds which had been agreed - but being a bit of a Miss Marple I couldn't fail to notice that the letters he sent me after that point were still produced on exactly the same old typewriter. It got me thinking - why ask for a new typewriter?
We started looking at the accounts more closely and tehre were gaping holes.
It caused a real stink at the time getting the auditors in.
The police got involved, too as it turned out it wasn't just our club he had taken money from. It was when they looked in his shed that the story took on a new dimension that no one had suspected. He had Beardies and Cocker Spaniels. Two of the gentlest breeds imaginable.
When people lose it - they can really lose it.
Poor dogs, I still often think of the poor dogs left in a shed. Listening out for their master's footsteps that never came.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Competition time


And yes, I'm working from home and have no idea what the prizes are - but trust me there are prizes!
Can you guess the parents of this first cross? There'll be clues if you don't get it...

And how about coming up with uplifting funny captions for this wonderful photo?


And no this isn't the same dog after being washed in Daz!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

KC read this blog - it's official

In the anonymous and sometimes scurrilous Kennel Club gossip column in this week's Dog World we get a name check - something I wrote seems to annoyed someone - although they seem to think I'm being much more sensible these days, gosh I'm almost blushing at this. Who knows I may end up on their Christmas card list at this rate!

Get the facts right
Interesting to hear that Beverley Cuddy is taking a more sensible line with the KC now - working together is meant to be what it's all about after all. But I would ask her to consider the facts a little further before she puts finger to keyboard in future.
I'm told that in her coldwetnose blog she states that 'the majority of breeders (of Labradors) aren't observing good standards' - ie since they aren't hip scoring. It's very easy to look at total registration figures and make assumptions about who does and doesn't hip score but the fact is that the only dogs which need to be scored in order to be relevant to the future health of Labrador hips are those which will be bred from.
The following information comes from a report by Jeff Sampson, geneticist at the KC: "Of all the breeds that participate in the BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme the Labrador has the greatest participation. In 2007 3,842 hip scores were added to the KC database from Labradors; in total 55,775 KC registered Labradors have been scored under the scheme. The most
recent data (for Labradors) shows that in 2006, 23.4 per cent had either the dam or the sire hip scored and 51.6 per cent had both parents hip score."
Now I will accept that it is only just a majority of breeders that are scoring both parents but a further 23 per cent of pups are born into a litter with one parent scored and the result is that hip scores in the Labrador are coming down.
Whichever way you look at it, Beverley has her facts wrong because she's looking at all Labradors rather than the relevant ones - ie those being bred from.
I'm told that over the last ten year period what's called the rolling mean score for the breed has gone down from 16 to 12 which is good news. All it needs is for more puppy buyers to ask the question of the breeder as to whether or not the parents' hips have been scored - and
ask to see the certificate for proof - that way all breeders will have to get on and join the many responsible ones out there.

Just how 48.4% of Labrador litters registered at the KC not being from hip scored parents anything to brag about I really don't know!

Have these people never witnessed a dog recovering from hip replacement surgery? Or been on the end of a line to someone who can't afford to fund the operation in the first place and is in floods of tears at the thought of putting their pet to sleep.

And huge apologies KC for my 1.7% margin of error when I said that the majority of breeders aren't doing the tests. But I wonder how many of the 51.6% were actually breeding from dogs below the average hip score? How many tested for eye problems or for any other hereditary diseases you can and should test for.

Here's the bit that seems to encouraged the KC to investigate their own figures. The figures they now quote weren't ones I had seen before this column announced them. Be fascinating to see these percentages in all breeds if the KC would like to publish them!

It seems I over-estimated the total number of Labradors hip scored when I said 60,000 had been tested in the 30 years that the scheme has existed - which averages out at 2,000 dogs a year. As 45,000 Lab pups are registered every year the 3,842 tested in 2007 - which is nearly double the average since testing started - is still less than 10% of the annual additional Labrador population. Hardly anything to celebrate!

Here's the bit that appears to have riled them! Gosh, who'd have thought they be so touchy over a 1.7% error!

Who'd have thought they'd want to put the spotlight on the 21,780 Lab pups born each year to breeders not using hip tested parents.

I'm sorry - and just what exactly is the point of breeding from a Labrador and having only one of the parents hip scored? It shows some breeders are aware of the scheme but still just choose to be random and just breed on blind regardless!

COMMENT: Yet again we have a charity that should know better saying:
"While we acknowledge that most dog breeders do observe good standards..."
At the risk of sounding like a broken record. Only 60,000 Labradors Hip scored in 30 years since the hip scoring scheme started. 45,000 Labrador puppies registered by the KC last year! So the majority of breeders aren't observing good standards quite obviously as only a moron would breed from Labradors without testing them for hip dysplasia at the very least!
But great to see the vet world finally saying publicly what normal vets have been saying for years - change is long overdue!


Pedigree Dogs Exposed and acclaimed

Groundbreaking TV documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed has been shortlisted for Documentary of Year at the Broadcast Awards which will be announced at the Grosvenor in January.

Here's the whole of the field:

Best Documentary Programme
A Boy Called Alex, C4
America Unchained, More 4
My Street, C4
Pedigree Dogs Exposed, BBC1
Sex Change Soldier, C4
Undercover in Tibet, C4

Congratulations to Jemima and all the team at Passionate Productions.

I note someone called Miked is posting some pretty angry comments here - would love to hear more from you Mike so we can understand your perspective a little more? You may not like us very much, but we do try to listen to critics as well as supporters.

Can you calculate COIs?

While I love Apple Macs there are times when having one does mean you are discriminated against.
For example, I would very much like to be able to calculate the coefficient of inbreeding for a particular dog. If I lived in Sweden I simply could turn to the Swedish Kennel Club website and type in the name of the dog and instantly I would have the COI. Well I would be able to if I had a PC. Even Sweden isn't Mac friendly.
As our KC is not that evolved no matter what type of computer you have, I needed to source the software to calculate the COI.
Guess what - it's all PC-only!
So I have a choice - buy a new computer just to calculate COI and the software. Or learn how to do cross platform stuff on my already creaky Mac - scary.
Or appeal through this blog for someone who might already have the software and a computer that can handle it to please, please, please calculate the COI for this one particular dog.
We need to use the maximum number of generations as all the inbreeding seems to concentrate on the fourth generation onwards.
My manual research shows that 11 out of the 16 dogs in the 4th generation are all line bred to three siblings! And of the remaining 5 dogs many of them feature one or other of those siblings parents.

Be very grateful for any help anyone can offer!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Driving me mad

Oh dear, I'm having one of those days.
I loaded Oscar into the car - it's his grooming day again. I put my bags on the passenger seat but as I went to sit in the driver's seat something unusual on the car floor next to the peddles caught my eye.
It was about three inches long and an inch wide, brown and flat with a very ornate border.
I picked it up and turned it over in my hand and was surprised to see it was actually four pieces of a Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate bar that appeared to have been very evenly chewed around the edges. Very like the chocolate bars Kieran and Cameron had for their home-from-school treat the night before.
The complex edge design was very, very neat. The needle-like teeth marks were very regular.
Now regular bloggers will know I have had rodent problems with this car before. Twice a rat has chewed the electrical loom in the engine costing over £1,000 to repair and giving the garage a lot of laughs as the rats had a little store of cheese and biscuits to go with their wire starter.
But I'd never had a rodent problem inside the car. These teeth marks looked more mouse-like, too - although a baby rat could also have similar dentition.
I am a complete coward with regards to all things small and quick moving and the possibility of sharing my car interior with a mouse was likely to make my somewhat erratic driving just that little bit worse.
Tess the Springer seemed the obvious next step. She is a natural hunter.
Tess will look for stuff if you ask her and she did a great impression of drug sniffer dog in the car interior and she covered every inch of the car - but if Mr Mousey was hiding he wasn't daft enough to make a run for it with killer Tess on the case.
So as well as a mouse in residence I also now have the muddiest car seats imaginable!
I rang my husband who was on a train so unfortunately unable to come to my assistance. However, he called mutual friend Craig who very kindly rushed to my side to provide moral support.
Craig attempted the tactic I'd probably have tried with the kids - of trying to reassure me that it wasn't really a rodent that had chewed the chocolate, but probably a child using an implement. But that didn't wash as I'm sure someone from CSI could have easily rustled us up a three dimensional image of the guilty mouse's skull with those very clear rodenty teeth imprints. This mouse had one tooth slightly shorter than the rest and at a slight angle. I'd be able to recognise him anywhere!
Then Craig assured me that Mr Mousey had probably long gone, but I'd have seenhim if he had made a run for it through the open door. So that didn't wash either.
There was nothing more he could do - we realy needed a thermal imaging camera to convince me Mr Mouse had left the car.
My solution - apart from sell the car and call a taxi - was to drive very quickly and put the radio on very loud and encourage the children to finish their sweets in future.
Oh dear.
Was Mr Mousey working alone? Did he escape and will he tell all his friends about my car's well stocked larder of unfinished confectionery items?
Craig told me that his chickens sometimes catch mice.
Is that a solution, some hens for the car?
To be honest they probably wouldn't make half as much mess as the kids!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ethics and extinction

A very strong new report from the Companion Welfare Animal Welfare Council (CAWC), issued yesterday, has concluded that an independent advisory body needs to be set up to decide on genetic welfare issues on a breed-by-breed basis.
It considers that this advisory role could be fulfilled by CAWC and that it should look at ethical and practical concerns to decide if continuing to breed from some of the unhealthiest pedigree dogs could be justified. And if there are valid arguments for continuing - it will outline what the appropriate breeding strategies need to be.
If any breeders needed another boot up the backside to put health higher up their agenda this will certainly provide it.
CAWC simplified things considerably by saying there are three possible approaches in every breed:
1. Breeding to reduce prevalence or eliminate within the breed
2. Outbreeding to reduce prevalence or eliminate
3. Ceasing to breed at all from potential carriers

I predict mass hysteria in the weekly breeder press.

Here's the report in full:

Approaches to tackling genetic welfare problems in companion animals

Report of the Companion Animal Welfare Council Workshop held at 14:30 on Thursday 9th October 2008 at 2 Millbank, Westminster.

Summary and conclusions

At present, structured and coordinated approaches to implementation of appropriate breeding strategies for addressing genetic welfare problems in companion animals are limited and the leadership for such coordination is unclear. By default, the approach adopted has been one of developing diagnostic tests and breeding strategies to tackle specific problems. This is of course extremely important but there needs also to be higher level consideration of whether the best way forward, for animal welfare, is to proceed in this way or, instead, to cease breeding at all from some strains.

The Workshop concluded that a suitably constituted and independent advisory body, set up to consider these issues (ie the best ways forward to tackle genetic welfare problems on a breed by breed basis) could provide a very valuable service to animal welfare and to society. By addressing the issues outlined above, ie by making explicit both the welfare costs and the possible benefits of continued breeding, and by offering its consensus views on the balance of these and making clear its reasons for these, such a body (and this may be an appropriate role for CAWC) could provide valuable guidance. It would clearly have to consult widely and its standing and authority would rest only on the quality of its composition, including its technical advisors, and its judgments. It would address, with breeders and others, both the ethical and the practical genetics aspects: can continued breeding in a population be justified? And, if so, what the aims (and perhaps methods) of the future breeding strategies (species by species or breed by breed) should be.


Background

On 29th April 2008, CAWC held a workshop meeting at the House of Lords to review progress in tackling genetic welfare problems in companion animals two years on from the publication of its Report on ‘Breeding and welfare in companion animals’. This workshop focused on the condition of syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) in order to try to highlight general principles about tackling genetic welfare problems that might have wide application in companion animals.

At that workshop there was discussion about the possible approaches to tackling genetic welfare problems. A brief report of the meeting is available from CAWC and the relevant section of this is reproduced at Appendix A below. At that meeting, three kinds of approaches to tackling genetic welfare problems were identified (see Appendix A):

• breeding to reduce prevalence or eliminate within the breed,
outbreeding to reduce prevalence or eliminate,
• or ceasing to breed at all from potential carriers.

It was concluded that there should be further debate about such fundamental aspects of approaches to tackling genetic welfare problems in companion animals

The aim of the workshop held on 9th October was to discuss these matters and the relative merits of these three approaches to tackling genetic welfare problems: recognising that this is a large and controversial subject which clearly includes both scientific and ethical aspects. The intention was to try to capture key points with a view to producing a brief paper, perhaps for publication as a letter or brief report, to help inform society and stimulate further critical thinking and debate about these important animal welfare matters.

A list of the Workshop participants is at Appendix B


Breeding strategies for tackling genetic welfare problems in companion animals. How are decisions reached and what factors underlie them?

If it is believed that there is something intrinsically important about a breed then the matter of how best to deal with any genetic welfare problems within it is one of practical genetics.

However, if there is not something intrinsically important about a breed, then the question of what to do about genetic welfare problems is more purely an ethical one. Under this circumstance, shouldn’t the breeding of these animals cease so as to preclude the risk of perpetuating welfare problems? So how does one decide which breeds are sufficiently important to justify continued breeding in the face of genetic welfare problems?

There are some 200 breeds of dogs so would it matter if this dropped to, say, 180? For those species that have only relatively recently begun to be bred as companion animals (eg many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish), it has been argued that breeding for particular traits should be avoided (CAWC, 2006; CAWC, 2008a): there seems to be no good case for developing wide varieties of breeds of these. This is because, from the welfare point of view it is likely to be generally better not to select for characteristics away from the wild type (although some modifications - eg that result in better adaptation to the new environment - may have welfare benefits).

Breeding animals that will be at risk of genetic welfare problems reflects a judgment (perhaps usually tacit) that, in some way, the benefits of so doing outweigh those welfare costs.

Assessing the costs and benefits

It is clear that individuals reach different conclusions about which way the scales tip in this cost to benefit balance. The workshop considered that there were some breeds of dogs whose perpetuation could not be justified (at least in their present forms) because it was felt that any benefits of so doing could not outweigh the welfare costs. However, where in other breeds, the welfare costs were judged to be milder (ie less intense, and/or of shorter duration), and where the proportion of individuals affected was (sufficiently) small, opinion was that continued breeding is acceptable: the benefits can outweigh the costs in these cases, providing that breeding is structured and managed so as to tackle the existing genetic welfare problems.

In these cost to benefit assessments, welfare costs are put, in the mind’s eye, on one side of the scales and the various benefits are put on the other. We each form a judgement of which way the scales tip. The ‘weight’ on the welfare side is dependent on our judgements about the impact of the condition on the animal’s quality of life (in terms of, for example, pain, fear or other unpleasant feelings, how severe these are, how long they last, and the proportion or number of animals affected). But what are the benefits that we (tacitly, or otherwise) place on the other side of the scales? That is, what are the reasons why we might, for example, choose to breed (or buy) a dog of breed A whilst being aware that the dog may face an increased risk of a problem that will diminish its welfare? (The dog is picked here as an example – the principles apply to any species).

The reasons might include some of the following.

• Function. For example, we may choose a sheepdog if we want our companion animal also to herd sheep.

• Economics. We may wish to breed As because we depend upon so doing for our income (say, to feed our family).

• Suitability. Choices may often relate to suitability for our needs with respect to, for example: size, feeding costs, space and exercise requirements.

• Predictability. We may choose to buy a dog of breed A because its temperament is predictable, because of its breeding, and hence is more suitable for our needs.

• For social reasons. Our friends may all have dogs of breed A and we want one also for social reasons.

• We just like them. We may wish to breed or buy dogs of breed A because we just like them (eg because of the way they look).

Some of the reasons for our preferences, described above, might be logical and reasoned. For example, choices that relate to suitability in relation to meeting the animals needs for food, space and exercise, space and cost; or choices relating to function (eg getting a sheepdog because we need to herd sheep). However our choices may, in some cases, also be reflections of arbitrary preferences the basis of which may be unclear to us, and which may perhaps be whimsical. We may just like As.

The bullet points above list reasons why we may wish to buy or breed a companion animal breed that is known to be at risk of genetic welfare problems. So ‘good welfare’ is not included in the list. However, good welfare is undoubtedly also a powerful factor influencing people’s choice. So, it is very important that clear information is readily available on genetic welfare problems in companion animals and how to avoid or minimise them so that potential buyers and breeders can take this fully into consideration.

Historically, it appears that function was a major factor driving the breeding of particular genetic lines of dogs. For example, the purpose of bulldogs was to bite bulls and their design reflects the selective breeding that was directed to that end. The purpose of bulldogs now – the reason why people breed and buy them – is as companion animals. It appears that ‘just liking them’ is a very powerful motive for breeding and buying particular breeds and that this, rather than function, economics or other reasons in the list above, may often be the major factor.

If this is the only factor, the question becomes does ‘just liking them’, with whatever human welfare benefits this may bring, justify continued breeding where it is known that there is a risk of poor welfare due to hereditary disease as a result? If animals were to be bred, for scientific purposes rather than as companion animals, where there was a known likelihood that the welfare of some of the offspring would be compromised, this would be permitted only under licence under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, and only where the Home Secretary was persuaded that the benefits outweighed the welfare costs. It seems very unlikely that ‘just liking’ something would ever be accepted as a justification for causing poor animal welfare in this context. Similarly, there is legislation which aims to protect farm animals from risks to welfare associated with breeding - the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 provide that: 'It shall be the duty of any person who selects an animal for the purpose of breeding from it to have due regard to any anatomical, physiological or behavioural characteristic apparent in the individual or the breeding line which is likely to put at risk the health or welfare of the offspring or the female parent' .

So, is ‘just liking them’ justification enough to breed companion animals whose welfare may be at significant risk?

No doubt there is a wide range of opinions about this. Perhaps, if views were surveyed rigorously, there would be a consensus (as in this Workshop) that there are some breeds whose continued breeding cannot be justified.

The way forward?

At present, structured and coordinated approaches to considering these questions are limited and leadership is unclear. By default, the approach adopted (if any is adopted at all) tends to be one of developing diagnostic tests and breeding strategies to tackle specific problems. This is of course extremely important but there needs also to be higher level consideration of whether the best way forward, for animal welfare, is to proceed in this way or, for some strains, instead, to cease breeding at all.

It was not the role of this Workshop to begin to consider approaches to particular breeds but it was clear that there was little support for the continued breeding of those whose very breed characteristics have direct adverse welfare consequences. For example, dog breeds with deep skin folds are very likely to suffer from dermatitis and any perpetuation of this is very hard to justify. However it is not always simple to draw a clear line between welfare problems that are linked to breed characteristics and those that are independent of them.

The Workshop concluded that a suitably constituted and independent advisory body, set up to consider these issues – the best ways forward to tackle genetic welfare problems on a breed by breed basis - could provide a very valuable service to animal welfare and to society. By addressing the issues outlined above – by making explicit both the welfare costs and the possible benefits of continued breeding, and by offering its consensus views on the balance of these and making clear its reasons for these – such a body (and this may be an appropriate role for a group that CAWC might establish and operate) could provide valuable guidance. It would clearly have to consult widely and its standing and authority would rest only on the quality of its judgements.

It would address both the ethical and the practical genetics aspects: can continued breeding be justified? And, if so, what the aims (and perhaps methods) of the future breeding strategy should be. And, what would be the key characters upon which quality of an animal (especially for future breeding) should be judged (breed standards) and how can these be assessed or quantified? With respect to methods, the Workshop recognised that all the methods listed above may have a role to play depending on the circumstances.

Tackling these welfare problems depends on them being recognised as such. Where the way forward is through structured and managed breeding programmes, success will depend on those responsible for breeding taking ownership of the challenge. Breed standards should reflect welfare objectives. It was proposed at the Workshop that there should be breed-specific certification (regarding health and welfare status) and that such certification should be a requirement for entry to shows or for breeding. This certification should be managed or overseen by a specialist panels.

The workshop also concluded that the creation of veterinary databases that could be accessed for monitoring and properly regulated scientific analysis would be a most valuable step towards proactive management of welfare problems in companion animals. The need for recognising emerging problems, monitoring the prevalence of these and existing ones, and for prompt development of appropriate responses has been the subject of a separate CAWC workshop and the ‘Scoping Report on Companion Animal Welfare Surveillance (CAWC, 2008b) is available from CAWC.

The intention, following the Workshop, was to produce a brief report of the discussions (and this is that report). After seeking comments on this from the Workshop participants, this would be circulated to the CAWC Council, made generally available, and publicised to help promote debate and seek wider views about the way forward to inform, among others, CAWC regarding the next steps to pursue.

References

CAWC (2006) Breeding and welfare in companion animals: the Companion Animal Welfare Council’s Report on welfare aspects of modifications, through selective breeding or biotechnological methods, to the form, function, or behaviour of companion animals. Available from the Companion Animal Welfare Council. www.cawc.org.uk.

CAWC (2008a) Report of the CAWC Workshop on ‘Fixing ancestral problems. Genetics and welfare in companion animals focusing on syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as an example’. 29th April 2008, House of Lords. Available from the Companion Animal Welfare Council. www.cawc.org.uk.

CAWC (2008b) Scoping report on companion animal welfare surveillance. Available from the Companion Animal Welfare Council. www.cawc.org.uk.







































Appendix A. Excerpt from the Report of the CAWC Workshop ‘Fixing ancestral problems. Genetics and welfare in companion animals focusing on syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as an example

Approaches to tackling genetic diseases

Where genetic diseases occur that cause welfare problems in companion animals - and here we are referring to principles and in all companion animals (eg fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals) - there are various possible responses. These are outlined below.

(i) If maintenance of breed purity is taken to be the priority – then the approach pursued might be (as some advocate in the case of syringomyelia in the CKCS – see above) to take steps to eliminate the problem through selective breeding whilst as far as possible minimising further loss of genetic diversity in cases where the population is already very inbred (eg dog breeds).

(ii) If breed purity is not such a priority – then outbreeding (with another breed or breeds) may offer advantages. Whilst there could be risks with this, of introducing other genetic diseases, generally one would expect that advantages would be more likely than disadvantages. Ideally, this would be undertaken in managed programme – perhaps directed to try to address particular problems. To illustrate this using syringomyelia as our example again: since this a consequence of large brains in small skulls and selection for increased body size tends to result in relative greater size increment in skeleton than brain size, it might prove beneficial to breed for increased body size (whether or not this idea might have merits in the case of CKCS needs further consideration – some do not think it appropriate).

(iii) If animal welfare is the only consideration – then a decision might be made not to breed from any carriers or potential carriers of the disadvantageous trait even if this meant that the strain or breed might be lost. (For example, if a new colour morph of, say, a species of snake was bred but this strain was found also to be predisposed to a genetic disease that compromised welfare, then, if the priority is welfare, ceasing to breed this strain would resolve the problem).

It is apparent (and it was apparent at the meeting) that preferences concerning these options differ radically. This is not because of differences in the importance attached to welfare – all believe it very important. Some people feel strongly that breed purity is a great priority (whilst seeing welfare as a great priority also), others take the view that breed (the details of particular morphology and appearance) is not so important, being largely a matter of fashion, and that where it might be advantageous for the animals’ quality of life to relax the pursuit of breed purity, this should be the way forward. As far as we are aware public opinion on the desirability of breed purity in this context has not been surveyed.

As for the idea of not breeding from any potential carriers in order to prevent births of further animals whose welfare is compromised when the consequence of this would be that some lines or breeds might go extinct, it is apparent that there are strongly held views against this approach. As discussed above in the context of CKCS, one reason for this is that – depending on the circumstances - not breeding from potential carriers could lead to further loss of genetic diversity that may compromise the tackling of other genetic problems in a population. It was suggested that public opinion would not support the approach of not breeding from potential carriers in order to prevent births of animals at risk, but here again, as far as we are aware, public opinion has not been surveyed. The other side of this coin is acceptance that, during the course of efforts to eliminate genetic welfare problems, perhaps over a number of generations, animals will continue to be bred that are affected with painful and / or debilitating conditions.

It is important that, in the design of strategies to tackle these problems, the priorities (as outlined above) are clearly identified in each case as these will greatly influence the approach adopted. There seems to be a need for further debate about these fundamental aspects.


Appendix B Workshop Participants

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, CAWC Chairman
James Kirkwood, CAWC Workshop Chair
Sir Colin Spedding, Advisor to CAWC
Tony Birbeck, CAWC
Alan Waldron, CAWC Secretariat
Jeff Samson, Kennel Club
Clare Rusbridge, Stone Lion Veterinary Centre
Sarah Blott, Animal Health Trust
John Woolliams, The Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh University
Geoff Skerritt, Chestergates Referral Hospital
Judith Skerritt, Chestergates Referral Hospital
Nicky Paull, British Veterinary Association
Rachel Wain, British Veterinary Association

Companion Animal Welfare Council Contact details

CAWC Secretariat
The Dene
Old North Road
Bourn
Cambridge CB23 2TZ

Or as listed at CAWC website
www.cawc.org.uk
email: cawc@cawc.freeserve.co.uk






Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Look closely at your vet bill!

How much is your vet now charging you for prescriptions?
The law change at the beginning of the month means that prescriptions you take away and fill online are no longer free of charge .
What is your vet charging? Can you help us research this?
One of our readers found it varied between £10 plus VAT to £2.50 including VAT in her area per prescription. With her rescued Great Dane being on constant very expensive regular medication that is available at half the price on line compared to via her vet this extra cost at the vets is a very unwelcome change.
Click here to go to the relevant page of Dogs Today Think Tank to please add your regional price information.
And while you're at the other blog, do have a look at the other questions and see if you can add anything to the answers already in. Rocky and Rambo are certainly attracting the most comments so far.

I'm back in work today and Kieran is back in school - thanks in no small part to the pharmaceutical industry in general!