Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Invitation to a mauling

I've posted a new thread on Our Dogs forum. Click here to tune in - I know I'm likely to get a good kicking, but I'm an eternal optimist who knows we might find common ground - it must be the Bearded Collie in me! (They keep trying to be friends with even the most grumpy dog in the park! I loved that about Cleo - one of my old Beardies now no longer here - she would still wag her tail even with another dog hanging off her nose... no grudges in Bearded Collie land.)

Here's what I wrote in case you can't access..

United rather than divided?

Since I joined this forum (to correct something David had said in error about my blog - thanks for the apology David) I've been reading all the new posts popping into my inbox and have been wondering if we can find some way to find a middle ground between what pet owners who have lost their pets to ghastly diseases want and what people who show and breed want.
From a distance everyone's objectives should be exactly the same, and from the thread "Are we bad breeders?" it would seem that many of you are very proud to be pet owners as well as dog show exhibitors and breeders.
Yet you are giving someone advocating more emphasis on health a very hard time here and I have to say from a PR perspective that looks really ugly. I know you're going to be just as touchy with me, but I think it's worth engaging in the debate as I still can't see why you don't think we're all on the same side here.
While I can understand that many of you felt Pedigree Dogs Exposed inadvertently tarnished all breeders as bad, and it did show some terribly shocking things you must agree, but now is the time to look forward and start rebuilding that reputation and embracing the changes the KC are proposing and urging them to go even further.
The majority of you are probably excellent breeders - but sadly the vast majority of people registering litters aren't. I don't believe they are bad people, I just think they are inexperienced and lack guidance. The majority of litters are registered by people having just one litter in their lifetime. Without firm rules they will not have a clue what good practise is.
If you look at the stats. I'm sure you'll agree you'd be nuts not to hip test a Labrador at the very least before breeding. Yet in 30 years there has been a scheme only 60,000 Labs have ever been scored. Yet every year 45,000 Labrador pups are registered by the KC.
You good breeders should want the system tightened up so that stops as those people give the good people a bad name.
Reform of the system should be the way to go - don't you agree. Give people firm guidelines so they know what's expected of them.
To say there isn't any problem is to ignore all the weight of scientific research that is screaming - yes there is! The "it's all just biased" dismissal is obviously a tack that the KC have now abandoned, too.
While the wake-up call wasn't welcomed, I think the KC are now seeing it as just in time.
Yes, there have been measures put in place, but just not enough. The bigger picture is one where all breeds are heading for more and more problems if the increasing lack of genetic diversity isn't attended to.
Everyone has to agree that urgent action is needed on a number of fronts and that change can only be good news for all our dogs and for the continuance of showing and breeding dogs fro whom that is their passion.
It may be the opportunity to clean up lots of other troublesome areas to do with dogs, too - with more regulation hopefully puppy farming will at last become unecomomic - or at least we will see the really bad breeders not rubbing shoulders with the good in the same registry so the public can quickly tell the difference
The recent Professor Balding report on inbreeding just underlined what we all must have known in our hearts. That the overuse of popular sires and close breeding (dressed up in the more palatable and familar term Line-breeding) has decimated the effective population sizes of nearly every breed. As much of the new generation is mated to the top stud dog things get worse and worse and with line breeding all sorts of unexpected nasty problems get fixed into the lines - things not visible - but like the perfect head or the best shoulders they are silently passed on.
This is how the ghastly heart problems probably got into the Cavalier - one or two top sires 15-20 years used extensively.
All you need is a nasty recessive problem in a popular sire used extensively and you have a huge problem. Many years ago the Swedish KC limited the amount of times a stud dog could be used - what foresight. It seems so obvious a precaution. It isn't just people doing daft things like mother to son, it's what the majority of people do that is the problem in this case.
Caring breeders need to start listening with an open mind to the scientists saying the more difficult to accept messages, urging for the sorts of measures the Swedish Kennel Club put in place 20 plus years ago to become the norm here so our beautiful dogs can be with us for many many years to come.
If you access the Swedish KC site the coefficient of inbreeding is instantly calculated on any dog you key in, you can see 10 years of average COI in every breed.
In this country these subjects are so very rarely discussed, and they need to be.
These are not radical, untried reforms - just ones that are long overdue.
Please be a bit nicer to well-meaning pet owners that are brave enough to visit here - they obviously care about these issues very much, and they are the majority of the owners of your breeds.
United you would be a huge force for good and you should have so much in common.
Can we put down the instruments of war and fight the real enemy - the genetic threat that looms for all our dogs if we don't take swift action.

1 comment:

Julie Hill said...

Why are some breeders/organisations so dismissive of "mere" pet owners? I'd have thought a few of them would be glad of some what they clearly see as "mugs" to palm any less than perfect dogs off onto.
Sorry, but I find that patronising "just a pet owner" thing soooooooo annoying!