Still no reply from the Kennel Club Press Office, so I think we have to assume it was a bullseye. (Don't know what we're talking abut? Click here!) I've been having a think about our KC relations and they stopped sending us press releases and stopped answering our questions shortly after we published, "The Little Black Dog Book" which went out with our July 2007 edition. (See dial-a-dog for how to order a copy)
It was a volume we were very proud of. It listed and explained every hereditary health problem for which there was a test. It was a very thorough directory and was universally well received - well with one exception - which I will come back to! It wasn't tabloid-esque, it was produced with a very straight bat. It was simply designed so that everyone could see what tests should be performed, hopefully educating the puppy buyer to be more demanding and encouraging the novice breeder to do all they could to produce healthier dogs. It removed the excuse of ignorance from the equation.
We had some amazing phone calls shortly after it came out. Many Cavalier owners were stunned. What they had previously thought was an amusing habit their dogs had of scratching into mid air and missing their ear was actually a symptom of a very serious and fast growing problem in the breed - syringomyelia. These pet owners had simply never heard of this condition – even though probably the majority of the breed suffers from it. Incidentally it is not even listed in the Kennel Club's list of known hereditary diseases - they don't even insist on heart testing Cavs - merely recommend!
As a direct result of our publication many pet dogs are now on essential pain meds and their suffering has been vastly reduced.
We received not a murmur of negativity and lots of praise from all quarters - until I got a very thick envelope from the MD of James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin. They had been the sponsors of the supplement and we had sent each page to their PR people for checking before we went to press and they had absolutely loved it. It was hence quite a shock to receive an incredibly negative and hostile letter from the boss!
The letter I received was cc'd to Rose Smart at the Kennel Club. Also enclosed was a long letter from James Wellbeloved's supremo to Rose at the KC to which I was cc'd.
Basically the letter was apologising at great length to the KC for sponsoring our supplement and saying they'd be reviewing their policy of advertising in our mag in the future as they didn't want to further upset the KC and greatly valued working with them. Reading between the lines the letter seemed to have been provoked by some sort of earlier exchange with Rose Smart at the KC as there were lots of references like "as you know" etc in the letter to her that implied a previous conversation or earlier correspondence.
No one at KC contacted us about the supplement, no one had expressed any problems with a single word of its content.
I expect the KC will have had an issue with our campaign slogan, "Stop Breeding ignorance - Reform the KC now," but if they had, they weren't sufficiently motivated to write to us even if they did feel the need to express their upset to our advertiser.
To this date James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin have refused all invitations to advertise in our mag - and they were very regular advertisers before. They continue to advertise elsewhere in the pet dog press, so it's not a change of marketing strategy.
At Christmas we had some of their treats to give away to readers, again arranged via their PR department. Just as we went to press their head office tried to stop it going out - but it was too late to pull it.
It seems too much of a co-incidence, but the publication of our very educational manual seems to have provoked the KC into a stance of trying to silence our vocal critical stance by other means than fair and reasonable debate!
I was sent some information very recently that I think maybe further explains their sudden wish not to be criticised.
I was given sight of some highly contentious notes from a meeting between KC reps and a breed council.
There was a very plausible explanation given by the senior KC rep for the hurried KC Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS). It seems there was an urgent need to be seen to be doing something to tackle health problems before Defra imposed something much more meaty.
Apparently Defra were proposing to impose the aspect of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals which would limit close dog breeding to a co-efficient of only 6%. That would mean that in future only one grandparent could be shared by two sides in a dog's pedigree. It would mean an end to line-breeding and it has to be said it would need a very complex and expensive re-writing of the KC registration software so that the KC could check out who could and could not be registered in future. (The same meeting seemed to infer that at the moment automatic checking to see if ABS breeders had indeed done the required checks wasn't yet possible.)
Is this why the KC would really like everyone to join the flawed ABS as soon as possible, as a smokescreen to decoy Defra? Is this why they are making it ridiculously easy for people to qualify?
Is this why our advertisers seem to have been lent on and our press passes were refused for Crufts?
I expect I was meant to learn my lesson, limp away and shut up. They don't seem to know me very well!
I continue to receive deeply upsetting contact from readers who have young dogs with distressing and avoidable hereditary diseases. If I waiver and consider taking the easy road and producing a bland, safe dog mag and not having to put up with all this crap I just re-read a few emails and I get all fired up again!
* Thank you to Rachel for suggesting the headline