Friday, 3 October 2008

How other publications treat Pedigree Dogs Exposed...

I see I'm mentioned in the star letter of the week in Dog World. The lucky writer, Julia Carr, was bragging about how she'd written me a strongly worded letter and she was encouraging other breeders to write to us to complain at our "one-sided bias".
She's mentioned our petition - which is kind of her. She says, "I am concerned legislation will only serve to hinder responsible breeders, leaving the gate open for unscrupulous 'puppy farmers' to flourish as no law will ever stop some people breeding dogs in whatever way they choose."
I wrote back to her explaining that the legislation we request would probably do more than anything before to get rid of puppy farmers. Elevating the standards would stop the KC from being able to take the puppy farmers money for a start - and if only quality pups are registered by the KC the public will come to regard KC registration as a mark of quality and best health.
I received an almost identical letter from someone living next door but one to Julia and I noted this woman (Lynn Fagg) also had a letter published in Dog World this week.
When I wrote back to them I combined my responses as they seemed to share the same view as well as the same computer!
I spent quite some time explaining why we should all be on the same side, but one of the ladies still decided to give me a call to give me a piece of her mind.
I do rather relish these calls as I do get some joy from attempting to turn someone from being an imagined enemy to an ally. It's so easy when science is on your side!
The lady was quite astounded to find she actually agreed with me on several points! She too wanted mandatory health testing and to limit the overuse of popular sires. Turns out she was just very upset about people abusing her in the street post documentary and calling her one of those bad breeders.
She trotted out one of the
KCs most popular criticisms of the documentary - that it had increased the breeding of designer crosses like the Labradoodle.
As some of the hard-core show dog people are probably as irrationally allergic to the word "
Labradoodle" as they are the word "Cuddy" this argument can be guaranteed to really get people all fired up!
Oh well, 20 minutes well spent, still not sure she'll sign the petition or that she'll ever admit to her neighbour that we found some common ground!
The latest Veterinary Times and Your Dog have very similar stances on Pedigree Dogs Exposed. Editorially neither printed anything supportive of the documentary - Vet Times called it a "Divisive" documentary and had a piece from Nick Blayney the head of the BVA at the time saying what he didn't like about it. Your Dog had a DPS of KC secretary Caroline Kisko questions and answers. Apparently according to Caroline it's illegal for the KC to refuse to register a litter!
So I suppose all those people breeding from under or over age bitches better send the police round to Clarges Street as for many years the KC has illegally prevented them from registering the progeny.
Both publications are dominated with letters from their readers supporting the documentary and not even a slightly pro-KC letter appearing in either publication.
Why the reluctance to speak out editorially when so many of their readers so obviously support change? What are these editors so afraid of?
Here's one of the interesting vet letters as I suspect not many of you will get to see Vet Times...

We should campaign for
end to current practices

Dear editor,
I would like to add some further commentary regarding the film
Pedigree Dogs Exposed, shown on BBC1 on August 19. In contrast to Nick Blayney [Ed note: BVA president at time documentary aired and featured in the
documentary being very supportive of the KC
] (September 1 issue), I thought
the programme was
a reasonable presentation to the general public of the facts
associ
ated with pedigree dog breeding. No doubt, many will have been
surprised – or even shocked – at the evidence of ill health in pedigree
dogs, although the existence of widespread breed-associated disease
is common knowledge among veterinary professionals.
I was also interviewed at length for the programme. The producers
told me an important obstacle they encountered was a reluctance
of vets, and especially those in academia, to speak freely about
The Kennel Club (KC), because of the potential risk of losing future
research funding from the organisation. This certainly is a quandary,
because of the extreme paucity of funds available in this country for
clinical research in dogs. Indeed, I have been a recipient of KC fund-
ing, so publicly questioning the KC could appear disloyal. However,
as vets our foremost professional loyalty must be to the animals we
have pledged to serve. I believe the time has now come to abandon
the pusillanimous approach to the more questionable aspects of dog
breeding in this country. I would liken the need for the veterinary
profession to unite and present an alternative point of view to the KC
to that of a person who is alarmed by the errant behaviour of a close
friend or relative and who must eventually speak out.
The whole issue of dog breeding practice merits an article in itself,
but of the points raised by Mr Blayney in the article, science – and its
role in providing solutions – is, of course, of key importance. There
are, however, two aspects to the control of breed-associated disease.
Firstly, there are dogs that are obviously conformationally unsound:
there is little need for scientific research to understand that animals
that are unable to breathe without distress, to walk for any reasonable
distance or to breed unaided – all prevalent in specific breeds – are
not humane end points of in-breeding.
As a veterinary educator, I find it difficult to explain to students
the claim that the KC is safeguarding the health and welfare of
pedigree dogs while this is permitted. It also often begs questions
from students about why it is so important that the KC remains
“in control” of dog breeding?
Secondly, there are breeds that are conformationally basically
sound, but carry a high risk for specific breed-associated genetic
disease. For these, the present approach – rightly developed by
the KC – of attempting to identify and eliminate disease-associated
genes may be appropriate: there are many extremely conscientious
breeders who wish to do all they can to preserve the health of their
breeds. However, these individuals often feel their efforts are poorly
recognised and supported. Therefore, in addition to establishing
appropriate genetic testing methodology, very vigorous support of
these breeders from both the KC and the veterinary organisations is
imperative if these programmes are to successfully achieve their aims.
Even so, some breed-associated diseases will likely prove refractory
to this type of approach – most notably those that are caused by
multiple genetic abnormalities. Furthermore, elimination of individuals
carrying one specific genetic abnormality may also limit the remaining
available gene pool to an unrealistic degree.
Finally, it has been noted that current breeding practice will inevi-
tably shrink gene pools, meaning it will be unsustainable in the long
term for all breeds. It was disappointing that this was pointed out
in the television programme by a geneticist rather than a veterinar-
ian. Clearly, there are many issues regarding dog breeding that the
veterinary profession as a whole could, and should, provide analysis
and advice on. It may be necessary for more obvious and radical
approaches to be adopted. For instance, it could be argued that the
greatest contribution the veterinary profession could make to improv-
ing the welfare of domestic dogs would be to campaign for an end to
selective breeding in the form it is currently practised.
Yours faithfully,
NICK JEFFERY, BVSc, PhD, CertSAO, DSAS(soft tissue),
DECVN, DECVS, FRCVS,
Professor of veterinary clinical studies,
Department of Veterinary Medicine,
University of Cambridge, Madingley Road,
Cambridge CB3 0ES.

I'm going to highlight another petition...

Encourage the BBC to stop televising Crufts

and don't forget our one...

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held at Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth, 12 noon Sunday 5th October.
Address: Packington Hill, Kegworth, Derbyshire, DE74 2DF
Telephone: (01509) 672518
Fax: (01509) 674730

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent letter by the Cambridge Vet! Thanks for printing it, as most people wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

Chapstaff said...

Phew - that all took a bit of reading & digesting.
Thanks for caring Beverley, & for spending so much of your free time campaigning for common sense to prevail.

[Dogs Today just gets better & better, especially love this month's copy]