Monday, 6 October 2008

Could the KC be changing its spots?

The KC seem to be talking about changing.
They've announced some subtle changes to the Conservatives at their party conference and to MPs generally via briefing documents .

Here is their MPs briefing document... (Try to look past them still claiming that the vast majority of dogs are healthy...!) The red bits are my emphasis and the blue ones are my concerns.

Excuse me from not cracking open the Champagne just yet, I think they can do a lot better than this... but it's certainly a start.

Although the Kennel Club is disappointed that a recent BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed failed to acknowledge the work of the Kennel Club in tackling breed health, we are grateful that the programme brought this important issue to the forefront. While it is imperative to remember that our extensive research indicates that the vast majority of breeds and dogs are healthy, the Kennel Club is far from complacent where health is concerned and has many plans in place for the future to deal with breed health.

The Kennel Club Remit
The objective of the Kennel Club is to improve the welfare, health and general well being of all dogs, throughout every stage of their lives. To fulfil this objective the Kennel Club has long been working on the issue of breed health as a priority and is still continuing to do so – particularly in light of scientific advances. For legal reasons (a raft of competition law and sports law), the Kennel Club is not able to refuse registrations – it is because of this that the Kennel Club launched the Accredited Breeder Scheme (see below). In addition, there is nothing to prevent another dog registry being set up, or another breeder scheme of some sort. This is worrying for the Kennel Club since we are a not for profit organisation with a Charitable Trust – therefore all of the money the Kennel Club makes as a result of registrations, PetLog and Crufts, goes back into dogs. (Ed: subsidised G&Ts for members in the club don't count I guess... Where does all the money go from the KC Pet Insurance Scheme etc - I thought the balance sheet showed millions of pounds of revenue? Gosh their accountant must be amazing to get that not to show a profit!)

Kennel Club Initiatives to Improve Breed Health
The Kennel Club along with breeders and breed clubs have made a good start in improving breed health. This paper outlines the progress the Kennel Club has made to date, and also plans for the future.
• Funding research through the Kennel Club’s Charitable Trust
The Kennel Club funds research through its Charitable Trust to improve the health of dogs. A number of research projects are in hand with such bodies as the Animal Health Trust and the veterinary universities. We are currently working with Imperial College to examine the available genetic research findings, specifically relating to close matings and frequently used sires and how these matters should be addressed.
• Health Survey
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association conducted the largest canine health survey in the world in 2004, of over 52,000 dogs. It provided us with the data needed to identify breeds with health problems. (Yet the statistic for unhealthy dogs seems to have proved rather elastic)
• Breed Club Health Programmes
As a result of the health survey, the Kennel Club identified breeds in need of major health improvements. Such breeds included the Bulldog, the Chow Chow and short faced breeds including the Pug. The list of breeds requiring attention is continually reviewed and it is likely that in light of further scientific research being carried out (and funded by the Kennel Club) other breeds will be added. Work with these breed clubs is undertaken by the Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group.
I am reliably informed that the Pug was never on this list. Here's the list and the few things they thought needed changing in the breeds they have definitely reviewed... my tabs won't work on the blog so I've tried to colour code this to make it a bit easier to read... this was correct at the end of January this year. No Pugs, No German Shepherds, No Basset Hounds... And what's all this about wrinkles being the problem? How about a complete lack of face in the brachycephalic breeds??? How about falling life expectancy and cancer? All these were evidenced in their own health survey....

Breed Meetings Breed Standard Amendments Other initiatives

Bloodhound May 03, Nov 06 None Eye photo survey
Bulldog Nov 02, Jul 05 Finalised Sep 03 Club scheme
Clumber Spaniel Sep 03 Eyes amended 04 None
Chow Chow Jun 02 Eyes amended 91
Dogue de Bordeaux Jan 08 None None
Mastiff Oct 07 None None
Neapolitan Mastiff Sep 04 Finalised Mar 07 None
Pekingese Feb 03, Jan 07 Finalised Nov 04 Health check
St Bernard Nov 03 Finalised Mar 07 None
Shar Pei Apr 03, May 04, Dec 05 Finalised Mar 07 Club survey

Health conditions identified

Bloodhound Eyes; Wrinkle
Bulldog Breathing; wrinkle; head size; eyes
Clumber Spaniel Eyes; hips; backs; skin
Chow Chow Eyes
Dogue de Bordeaux Wrinkle
Mastiff Cruciate Ligaments
Neapolitan Mastiff Eyes; skin, movement
Pekingese Eyes; breathing; head size, nose wrinkle
St Bernard Eyes, head size, hock angulation
Shar Pei Eyes; wrinkle

• The Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG)
The BHWSG consists of Kennel Club representatives and independent experts with extensive veterinary and genetics knowledge and was established to take forward the breed club health programmes. A Breed Health Plan for all 209 Kennel Club recognised breeds will be in place by the end of 2008, to ensure that health continues to be the top priority in breeding all pedigree dogs. (wonder who is on this committee - anyone got any clues? Thank you bloggers... here is this committee, apparently first set up to fight the European Convention... not a geneticist in sight....not going to sleep quite so peacefully tonight.... and has anyone in any of the 209 breed clubs yet been approached about the Breed Health Plan? As its October they'll have to rush to get this done. We'd prefer it to be a breed conservation plan and rather than a generic one we'd prefer something more meaningful.
Here's the committee that is meant to save our pedigree dogs from extinction... even the KC's own geneticist Jeff Sampson isn't on this list! Are the breeds safe in these people's hands - how many of them agree with the Chairman that's father daughter matings are okay....? Herrtage and Crispin would have a mountain to climb to overturn the majority of KC insiders packing this committee!!!
* Dr Ruth Barbour, BA., MB ChB, FRCGP (Chairman) KC member
* Prof. Mike Herrtage, MA, BVSc, DVR, DVD, DSAM, DECVIM, DECVDI, MRCVS, Dean of Cambridge Veterinary School
* Prof. Sheila Crispin, MA,VetMB, BSc, PhD, DVA, DVOpthal, DipECVO, FRCVS, Past President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
* Frank Kane, Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee
KC member
* Meg Purnell-Carpenter, Vice-Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee KC member
* Ronnie Irving, Kennel Club Chairman KC member
* Caroline Kisko, BSc, Kennel Club Secretary) KC member

Breed Standards
Breed standards have been changed to stress health issues and highlight the need to avoid exaggerations. These standards remain under review. In line with the changes that have been made to breed standards, all now include an amended ‘Faults’ clause to say “the fault should be regarded in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog”. The standards are currently undergoing a further complete review by veterinary and breed experts.
• Judges
Kennel Club regulations have had the following clause added: “In assessing dogs, judges must penalise any features or exaggerations which they consider would be detrimental to the soundness, health or well being of the dog”. In addition to training judges, the Kennel Club assesses judges and conducts random spot checks to ensure they judge with health and welfare in mind. A conference of leading judges is to be held to reinforce the many actions already taken to emphasise the paramount importance of health and welfare issues. In addition to this a panel of independent veterinarians is planned to be set up across the country to conduct random spot checks on Best of Breed winners at Championship Shows to ensure that the dogs are fit and healthy. (see my earlier blog - a top judge complained to us recently that they received no training on this change and only discovered the new wording when holding the winner's certificate for her as she did a lap of honour!)
• Veterinary passports
The Kennel Club plans to introduce mandatory veterinary passports, so breeds identified by the BHWSG as having health problems would only be able to enter Crufts and other shows if they had veterinary approval.
• Health Initiatives in Partnership With the Veterinary Profession
The Kennel Club has a policy agreed with veterinary surgeons - whereby operations which alter the natural conformation of the dog – such as corrective surgery for entropion – must be reported to the Kennel Club by the vet concerned. As a result they can not be shown at Kennel Club licensed events which discourages breeders from using them in their breeding programme.
(dare I ask what about soft palate resections in Pekingese?)
• Health Screening Programmes and DNA tests
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association has developed breed specific health screening programmes to monitor conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and various eye conditions. Information regarding available health tests per breed will shortly be included with registration documents and as part of the Kennel Club Puppy Sales Register information pack. (No word about mandatory testing for all - we all know the Accredited Breeder Scheme has allowed people to breed on from dogs that have failed serious health tests, and we've also discovered Accredited breeders that didn't health test in breeds that stated they should have been tested,)
• Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS)
The ABS was established with the primary aim of improving the overall standards of breeding all dogs in order that dogs are ‘Fit for Function: Fit for Life’ (see Accredited Breeders are required to make use of health screening schemes relevant to their breed on all breeding stock. The requirements of the ABS are constantly under review and are becoming ever more stringent. The ABS has over 3000 members – the standards set are rigorously upheld and anyone found wanting is removed from the scheme.To be effective, the scheme must be supported by all responsible dog breeders.
(We've yet to see any evidence of them raising the bar...)

Proposed way forward
Although the Kennel Club is working towards improving breed health, there is arguably a need for further improvement and to enable changes to happen more quickly by way of legislation. The Kennel Club currently operates under the constant threat of legal action for ‘overstepping the mark’ and other less stringent schemes being established for breeders not meeting ABS standards. We believe that the Kennel Club should be given statutory powers to make all breeders accredited. This would mean that every puppy sold to future dog owners, and indeed, every dog in the show ring (born in the UK) would have had to bred by an accredited breeder, and therefore with health as a priority, and with the appropriate health screening tests carried out.

As one of our blog regulars Jan suggested - sounds like they should sign our petition! Talking of which...

Were you moved by Pedigree Dogs Exposed?
(the distressing documentary about the health of dogs shown on BBC1 in August?)

You may have heard that the RSPCA and Dogs Trust have since pulled out of Crufts in an attempt to encourage the Kennel Club to reform. If you would like to send a clear message to both the Kennel Club and to Government that change is urgently needed to stop future dogs from suffering then please sign this e-petition on the official 10 Downing Street site. The latest letters sent out from DEFRA suggest they haven't yet heard from enough of the general public to make this issue significant. Please do all you can to change their perspective!

Here's the petition wording:

Following the powerful Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary on
BBC1 the Kennel Club still seems reluctant to grasp the nettle,
face the problems and reform itself. The program revealed it
urgently needs to bring in mandatory minimum standards on
levels of inbreeding, make health testing mandatory, prevent
unhealthy physical exaggerations being rewarded and stop the
culling of healthy non-standard pups by changing breed
standards. The KC continually complains that it lacks the
backing of legislation to bring in these urgent and much needed
reforms, so we the undersigned urge the Prime Minister please
instigate legislation to ensure pedigree dogs are saved from
unnecessary future suffering.

If you would like to add your name to this petition please go to this link:


alfmcmalf said...

This is the membership of the committee as I understand it. Please see bog entry "Applause for the Kennel Club...."

The Kennel Club Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG) will continue to play a major role in this. It consists of a number of people as follows:

Dr Ruth Barbour, BA., MB ChB, FRCGP (Chairman)
Prof. Mike Herrtage, MA, BVSc, DVR, DVD, DSAM, DECVIM, DECVDI, MRCVS, Dean of Cambridge Veterinary School
Prof. Sheila Crispin, MA,VetMB, BSc, PhD, DVA, DVOpthal, DipECVO, FRCVS, Past President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Frank Kane, Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee
Meg Purnell-Carpenter, Vice-Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee
Ronnie Irving, Kennel Club Chairman
Caroline Kisko, BSc, Kennel Club Secretary
KC Health Department

Dr Jeff Sampson, BSc DPhil, Genetics Advisor
Bill Lambert, Health & Information Manager
Diana Brooks-Ward, BSc, Health Co-ordinator

I know it must have been a moment of madness.

alfmcmalf said...

PS Beverley.

I see they say that they are now for the improvement of ALL dogs. I still believe they mean SHOW dogs.

Could they please explain to me what they do for the popular labrador/poodle crosses AKA Labradoodles? Where exactly do those dogs fall into their scheme of things?

Jan said...

I think this is a step in the right direction, but am worried about the lack of geneticists on the BHWSG.

Will have to wait and see what happens next, but in the meantime, another letter or two to write......