Monday, 6 October 2008

In Margaret's own words...

A member of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club outside the Special General Meeting throwing a V sign. Such a genteel breed...
photo by Philippa Robinson

The Charge:
Members should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is a credit to the Club and ownership of Cavaliers

Margaret's defence: (the Chairman had to control the hecklers)
I have owned Cavaliers 32 years.
I served 12 years on the regional Eastern Counties committee. I was their Health Representative and helped run their rescue service for an interim period.
I was elected to the Cavalier Club committee in 1999 I have served on their health committee for eight years. I was the Health Representative for four years. I have been the Club SM spokesperson since 2003
Since 2002 there were 14 health projects detailed in the 'SUMMARY OF HEALTH INITIATIVES BY THE CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL CLUB' that featured prominently on both the Cavalier Club and the Kennel Club's website to demonstrate the Cavalier Club's commitment to health testing and research.
I initiated, or was closely involved in the organisation of 10 of these projects.
I have organised three SM seminars, DNA collection at health clinics, organised the Clubs health information table at the championship shows. I administer the voluntary MRI list.
I have supplied research information, & in some cases cavalier cell tissue, to Brendan Corcoran, Edinburgh, Nick Jeffries, Cambridge, Kate Chandler RVC, Clare Rusbridge, Stonelion Vet Centre and Sarah Blott AHT, & arranged a talk by Geoff Skerritt, Chestergate Hospital
I have been the main fund raiser fro the Lub Dub Fund (MVD) and the Research Fund (SM ) since 2002.

Members should not use any method of communication whatsoever in a way that could be considered defamatory, insulting or detrimental to another member, or the Club, or to the breed in general

I did not defame (to harm the reputation of by libel or slander) Beverley Costello, or the Club, or the breed. I stated the widely known fact that the dog has SM. It is widely known because the owner told many people in the days after he was scanned.
I was not insulting. I was factual .
What I said was not detrimental. it was the fact that the dog was being used when he had a serious genetic condition that is detrimental to the breed and to the Club.
Buyers are encouraged to seek out breeders that are members of breed clubs. Club members should have a special duty of care to pet buyers who trust them as the experts

Nor furnish information including pedigrees and photographs of dogs not owned by them without prior written consent of the owner

I did give information about the dog's SM status, but the information was not given to me in confidence, indeed Beverley herself made it known to a wide circle of friends as well as other breeders at dog shows.
This dog had produced 26 litters since his scan in 2005, one of his offspring had already been put to sleep because he had inherited it, and Beverley had been informed.
Beverley was telling people that he only had the malformation. He is a beautiful dog who has been made up to a Champion. He has produced a Champion son for a top breeder. He had the potential to end up a top producing sire & yet he had a serious genetic condition.
Beverley should have removed him from stud, as advised by the neurologist when the diagnosis was made. She could have still shown him while he still had no symptoms if she so wished. To continue to breed with him put not just Cavaliers at risk, but also the reputation of breeders and breed club.

The health initiatives Margaret was involved in...
  1. I arranged for Dr Clare Rusbridge to give talk to Cavalier Club committee and wrote flier to go out to all members with details of syringomyelia
  2. 2002 Fund raising for Lub Dub Fund, with competitions, Xmas cards, postcard draws, festive greetings scheme, received donations, administered donors lists. I was co-signatory for the bank account
  3. MVD Research project with Lub Dub student, his fees paid by the Lub Dub Fund. Lub Dub Fund raised £24,000, KC matched it.
  4. I was one of the team to set up the Healthy Heart Partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, & the only Club representative to work with Clare Rusbridge & Penny Knowler setting up DNA collection for Genome scan. I received the names of those that wanted to go on the DNA donors list
  5. The three low cost scanning centres were not Cavalier Club schemes, but I made sure they was publicised on our website & designed fliers for our health clinics
  6. I initiated the scheme to sponsor 24 free scans for research, I wrote the application forms, drew up the rules for the selection of participants, & all costs were paid by the Research Fund from money raised by myself & Jeanne Boyd (Club Health Representative at that time)
  7. I assisted with the arrangements of this RVC conference but was not the main organiser. Research fund money raised by Jeanne & myself helped pay for this
  8. My initiative, which was to ask for research bids from a few researchers, as there was money in the Research Fund. In the event, the KC Charitable Trust agreed to fund all three projects, with a £1000 contribution from our fund. Sarah Blott's optimisation project also agreed
  9. This was single handed. I initiated the scheme to get 10 deceased cavaliers to Cambridge, I carried out all the planning, arranged the collection of the bodies, the post mortems & the individual cremations. Paid for by Research Fund money raised by Jeanne & myself..
  10. £100 voucher scheme for MRI scans. Still ongoing. This was my suggestion. I wrote the forms, drew up the rules and the Research Fund is paying
Why did Margaret give the interview to Pedigree Dogs Exposed?
I found out my top stud dog had sired SM in 2001.
When I was told about the symptoms I realised there were other unrelated, top stud dogs siring affected offspring as well. I realised that because of these dogs the genes for this condition would be spreading throughout the Cavalier population in the UK and abroad.
I thought that other Cavalier breeders would realise the significant threat that this would hold for the breed and they would join in to try & stop the condition spreading
I was on the Cavalier Club committee, well placed to raise awareness of the problem & to help the researchers investigate the problem. This I did for the next five years
The Cavalier Club gave their backing to SM research and there were some notable breeders that supported the collection of DNA & later MRI scanned their cavaliers & bred to the unofficial guidelines, but the top breeding & showing kennels were antagonistic from the start, denying there was any problem.
As time went on talks and seminars were arranged by some of the clubs and later there were some subsidised scanning schemes, although it was mainly the smaller hobby breeders that attended. The successful showing & breeding kennels were not represented.
I saw my own Cavaliers, descendants of my stud dog, develop SM symptoms and had calls from people that had my dog’s affected offspring and grandchildren. Over these five years I also received many distressing calls from owners of unrelated SM diagnosed dogs, some that had to be put to sleep at less than a year old.
Last year I started a scheme to deliver cavaliers that had died to Cambridge for post mortem. Nearly all had died of MVD, two were seven year olds that dropped dead from heart failure. It made me start questioning how many breeders did actually test their cavalier’s heart before breeding. I realised that we had a breeding protocol that we had only paid lip service to for years, as it was too inconvenient to follow in it’s entirety. I had not done so with Monty, & I could think of only one person who did actually follow it..
Early illness & death from MVD has become accepted as the norm, no longer something to be shocked at, and it is easily explained away to those that have bought cavalier puppies.
It seemed to me that the same attitude was beginning to develop in regards to syringomyelia
At the Club Championship show this year the dog that won BIS was widely known to have SM. I had been very disturbed late last year when someone told me they planned to mate him to two of their bitches. When I suggested she asked to see his scans, she said that the owner had assured her that he only had the malformation & that suggestions that he had SM were part of a witch hunt. With that BIS win, and considering that some of the most successful breeders were using him & he already had one champion son, I knew he could well end up as a top stud dog.
I knew from first hand what harm that would do.
There was a SM workshop meeting called by the Companion Animal Welfare Council. Some breeders & Cavalier Club committee members were invited. At that point some of the regional club committees became very concerned and indignant that they were not all being represented. The CAWC meeting agreement included the recommendation that there should be a meeting between KC, Researchers and Cavalier Club to develop schemes for Estimated Breed Values (EBVs) and a grading panel for MRI scans. I found that although I was the Club SM spokesperson and the only Cavalier committee member with extensive knowledge of the condition, I was not to be included because of objections, either actual or anticipated, from regional representatives.
All these points, the hostility of the successful breeders, the denial of the extent of the problem, the lip service paid to the MVD protocol, and the acceptance of early illness & death from MVD, the prospect that it would become acceptable that an affected dog could be used outside of the recommended guidelines, and the knowledge that pressure had successfully been used to remove the person best qualified to help the club take planned initiatives forward, made me realise that the will to make changes did not exist in the Cavalier world. For most of the people involved in breeding and showing Cavaliers, or in running breed clubs, the welfare of individual Cavaliers, that may live very painful lives, & their owners who would have to pay the emotional & financial cost was not a priority.
I made the decision to give an interview for the documentary because I had become convinced that the only way things were going to change was for the pet buying public to know that there were serious inherited problems in the breed, and that they must see evidence that breeders have health-tested their Cavaliers.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club have sent me a press release, too - so here it is:


On 2nd September the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (CKCSC) received a written requisition from 234 of its UK membership requesting a Special General Meeting to consider the following proposal:

“To remove Margaret Carter from the Committee of the above club for breaking the Code of Ethics Part A Paragraph 3 –
Members should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is a credit to the Club and ownership of Cavaliers. Members should not use any method of communication whatsoever in a way that could be considered defamatory, insulting or detrimental to another member, or the Club, or the breed in general, nor furnish information including pedigrees and photographs of dogs not owned by them without prior written consent of the owner”.

The CKCSC was founded in 1928 and this was the first time that a Special General Meeting had been called. The SGM was held on Sunday 5th October at Kegworth in Derbyshire and attended by 239 Members. At the close of the debate, the motion was carried by a substantial majority of members present.

The controversy that caused the meeting was generated by the BBC’s documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”. The CKCSC, its Committee and Members, are very aware of the health issues within the breed. The Cavalier Club, with the Kennel Club and other supporters, has allocated in excess of £200,000 over the last 10 years towards Cavalier health issues and continues to be foremost in promoting health research.

Dr Sarah Blott of The Animal Health Trust is working on an exciting new project and the Cavalier will be the first breed to benefit. Groundbreaking research is being conducted to produce an internet-based breeding programme of “estimated breeding values”. This has the full support of all Cavalier breed clubs. Estimated breeding value system has been successfully used in cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens. The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has provided funding of £120,000 towards this project and Sarah already has a large database of pedigrees and the results from heart tests and MRI scans. Each regional cavalier club is making arrangements with Sarah to give talks in their area, to explain “EBVs”. Sarah will also give talks at the CKCSC Championship show and other locations not covered by the regional clubs.

As soon as syringomyelia became an apparent problem, the Club jointly with the Southern regional club asked Claire Rusbridge to give a presentation to its membership in December 2003. Since then the CKCSC has endeavoured to educate and inform its members on the condition. It has held many seminars including the first International Conference on Syringomyelia, held at the Royal Veterinary College in 2006. Many Cavalier breed clubs have subsidized the cost of MRI scans in the effort to encourage as many of their members as possible to have their stock scanned.
Following discussions between Cavalier clubs and the AHT, a panel of neurologists and radiologists will be appointed. This will standardise the certification of MRI scans. Initially this will be a CKCSC scheme for which the club has received financial and practical assistance from The Kennel Club.

We are not forgetting hearts – the cardiologist Simon Swift, continues his research on Mitral Valve Disease in the Cavalier. He is also involved in the exciting LUPA project that has been funded by the EU (580,000 euros) to unravel the genetic background of specific canine diseases which includes MVD in the Cavalier. Brendan Corcoran, at Edinburgh University, is in the forth year of research on mitral valve ‘structure’ and why it fails.

The CKCSC has just held another successful health clinic in Leicestershire with 112 Cavaliers presented to Simon Swift for heart certificates and 55 eye certificates being issued by Mr McPherson. Micro-chipping facility was also provided. This health clinic was on the calendar a year ago! Furthermore we shall continue to hold health clinics, to promote heart and eye testing and DNA sampling. In conjunction with the other Cavalier breed clubs we are now promoting the permanent identification of health certificated dogs, and the collection of cheek swabs. It is shameful that the BBC documentary gave no recognition to the extensive work that is being done by CKCSC and regional breed clubs.

The committee of the CKCSC combines a good cross section of the Cavalier world. Many of its members have a wealth of experience of dog breeding or have other talents that enable the management of the club to function effectively. All that the club has achieved, on promoting health issues, has been on the basis of a collective responsibility by the committee. It is essential, for any club, that this collective responsibility is maintained. By the outcome of the SGM, members of the Cavalier Club have determined that this will continue to be so. The Club now hopes that members can move forward together and put this sadly divisive event behind them.

Don't forget the petition... we need it more than ever.

In my opinion Margaret has acted with so much class in the face of such dreadful treatment. I am sure there are thousands probably millions of people who would praise her for her bravery.

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:

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