Sunday, 12 October 2008

Time for a truce?

With the whole nation already unsettled by the economic crisis, there is still no place on earth experiencing more turbulent times than the dog world.
It's unsurprising as normally there is gradual, organic evolution rather than huge leaps of progress. But sadly, many decades ago, the Kennel Club chose the path of extreme conservatism and those doddery old fools are now long gone . But they set the culture of a snail’s pace for change and built a regime that lacked direction and spark. There’s so much catching up that needs to be done in such a very desperate hurry.
This period of change will inevitably be quite rough around the edges, as the KC will be learning to govern after years of being relatively hands off. And as they are learning they are having to change, too - patterns of behaviour that are self-destructive and short term. In recent months they've done far more spinning than we've ever seen on Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice combined!
Along the way they may well trample on a few toes, flatten a few egos – but there is not going to be time to explain why or how high everyone needs to jump to avoid the runaway train that has now broken free.
Think of it like the difference between how Government behaves in a war and at peacetime. Everyone is meant to get behind the PM when there is a serious threat and opposition parties call an amnesty on point scoring, too.
This is life and death for many of the breeds that have become genetically or physically compromised and it’s not too dramatic to say this is also a fight for survival for the hobby of dog showing, too. You can’t underestimate this. The public has been awoken and they aren't going to get back into their box no matter how many breeders roll up their copies of Dog World and shout.
The documentary dragged some real shockers out of the show world’s closet and they were undeniably ghastly when we all saw them pin sharp on our TV screens. A wake-up call was needed and there are still areas of warped logic that need urgent, radical questioning and reform before the public will trust that the show world will stop doing things that are undeniably cruel.
It’s time to welcome the new broom – take action before they are outed and start saving themselves.
It’s time for the show world to clean up their act and stop the ancient and perverse anomalies dragging everyone else down. They shouldn't bitch about the KC making them change – they need to start volunteering to evolve.
I am confident that the majority of people who show dogs will appreciate the new era of KC rule when they got over the shock of the new. That they would welcome a system where good practice is the norm – where they aren't rubbing shoulders with puppy farmers.
But for this to happen it needs to be a genuine, deep clean of the system and not a cosmetic one.
We and they know the failings of the Accredited Breeder Scheme all too well and they need to be tackled before membership of the scheme becomes compulsory if the new improved KC is to have any credibility.
The KC appears to have admitted it has a massive problem to resolve, they sound like they are now intent on getting on with it - so I think we should all give them all our support. And when I say we, I mean everyone who loves dogs – no matter whether they be show or pet owners.
It is hard to accept the KC can have had such an abrupt light bulb moment of realisation, but forensic examination of their motivation for such a dramatic conversion is pretty pointless.
The announcement of working with the Dogs Trust on a complete review of the dog world is pretty obviously the catalyst.
While Dogs Trust is obviously the softer option to work with - at least it is someone with a reputation to lose will be keeping an eye on them. But Dogs Trust are going to have to wake up and smell the coffee if they're going to do the job properly. That email sent out to supporters telling them they were pulling out of Crufts is still giving me the shivers...

"We know that the majority of breeders prioritise good health and temperament in their dogs and are responsible in their breeding methods."

That is patently not the case and if they aren't going to question misleading statistics they're going to be a pretty useless guard dog. (To recap: When only 60,000 Labradors have ever been tested for hip dysplasia in the 30 years the scheme has been going - bearing in mind the KC registers 45,000 new Labs every year that's a huge scary majority untested in a breed with a huge problem! Only 6% of Gundogs registered in the last quarter were from the flawed Accredited Breeder scheme... it's the vast majority bred that are from completely untested stock.)
But now is not the time for splinter groups and breakaways. Other nations who have ended up with multiple registries now have even worse problems than we do. Countries with strong progressive KCs seem almost idyllic on every dog welfare issue.
If our Kennel Club continues to reform and governs the world of dogs with health and welfare as their first priority we should all get behind it.
But if this is just a cynical new improved version of PR spin then they will have let our best friends down so incredibly badly this time. It will be so totally unforgivable - a million times worse than simply not doing something sensible in the first place.
If there is even a small chance that this new improved KC is genuine, I’m going to stop shooting and call a truce. This is the KC’s big chance to step up to the mark and make 2008 the most significant year in its history.
I suggest we try to minimize our grumbles at how bumpy the ride might be and just be pleased they’ve finally got the blooming car started!

Keep signing the petition though... I may be an optimist, but I do favour a back-up plan!

If you would like to add your name to this petition please go to this link:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

7 comments:

Jan said...

I agree with this. Having sent an earlier letter the the KC regarding their response to Pedigree Dogs Exposed I have just sent another one, to say that I am pleased about their more recent reponse.

I hope that we can now start working together, but I will be watching closely to see how this develops. I'd like some geneticists on their working party for a start!

I was also heartened at their support of Margaret Carter, as sadly, many breeders in the Cavalier world have been very unpleasant to her over this. I have asked the KC when Cavaliers are going to be looked at, as given the reaction from some members of the CKCS Club I think it is urgent!

Lets see what happens next......

Julie Hill said...

Beverley, I think all you've posted today is right. Like you I hope this is really a change for the better, but it does seem like it. I think we do need to support them in this, because some show dog breeders are so enraged by "That Programme" as they call it, that they too are developing an at war mentality. There are mutterings about marching healthy dogs through the streets of London en masse to show they are healthy!(I can email you the website I've been following if you like.) The last thing the KC need if they are trying to genuinely change is attacks from those who want change as well as those who don't!
We need to encourage and monitor genuine reform at the KC, and I think there are turbulent times ahead in the dog world one way or another.

Jan said...

Page 16 Sunday telegraph 12 October - article about Margaret Carter being 'hounded out' of the Cavalier King Charles Club.

Lovely photo of Margareta and three Cavaliers, and a sensible article stating the facts.

Beverley Cuddy said...

Think of it less like having the Kennel Club nationalised, or indeed the old KC having police powers. I'm envisaging a new improved KC being exempt from monopoly legislation and having power to control breeding standards - in much the same way the RSPCA have the power to deal with cruelty. At the moment councils licence breeding establishments with varying degree of success. Also we have other regional differences on the way we deal with strays etc. Imagine a more powerful, more efficient and caring KC and you could see something much, much better future for dogs in the country. But reforms need to take place within and without and we need someone who has a clear idea of where we need to head.
I'm not yet sure if that someone has been identified within teh structure - hopefully Dogs Trust will help guide them and we need to be encouraging both institutions by sign posting the direction we'd like them to take.
I see this as a huge opportunity for creating a much better world for dogs - how great would it be if we're the country others look to for direction in the future.
There will be many choices in the next year, we have to make sure that the right ones are taken.

Stray said...

I agree that the KC are a shambles, and most of your article is good sense.

However, when you begin with statements like "there is still no place on earth experiencing more turbulent times than the dog world" you weaken your argument and become hard to take seriously.

You may not have noticed but half the world's population live with war, famine and disease ravaging their countries. There was an earthquake this weekend in Chechnya. I expect the people affected by this would argue that they were definitely experiencing more turbulent times than the dog world.

Leave out the hyperbole and stick to your otherwise very solid argument and I'm sure you'll garner more support from people like myself who agree with your principles but find any hysteria off-putting.

The BBC documentary was excellent in many respects, but the comparison with the Nazis made me desperately sad that journalists and film makers clearly don't trust the public to simply hear the story and understand it without having to hype it up beyond credibility.

What the KC are currently doing is just plain dishonest and cruel. My KC registered boxer has a heart problem (I adopted her knowing this was the case after her original owner rejected her after the first vet visit). Fortunately I'm a responsible owner who would never breed from a dog with a hereditary problem. I find it odd that we don't simply have a second registration event when the pup is six months or older at which they are registered as a fit parent.

I hope you'll understand this comment in the way it is intended. I believe your thoughts about the KC are ethically and logically extremely well founded, but to move the argument out of the show-going minority and into the mainstream we need a calmer discourse.

Beverley Cuddy said...

Ouch! I didn't mean to insult anyone’s suffering or diminish the value of disturbance in any other sphere, but from a purely historical point of view – the last year has definitely been the most turbulent for the normally stagnant dog show world. If you read Dog World and Our Dogs you'd get the picture... I've had emails suggesting it could be the end of the (dog show) world... so it's not me being a drama queen!

And the eugenics strand was real enough in the documentary - ‘racial’ purity was the goal of the early Kennel Clubbers rather than invading Poland, and it’s that dodgy philosophy that has led to the the horrendous levels of inbreeding that have left many breeds dreadfully genetically compromised. Inbreeding is the greatest threat to the health of our beloved dogs and we need to recognise closing those gene pools all those years ago and then line breeding and the cult of over-using popular sires was a road with a dead end. It has led to all sorts of nasties, declining life expectancies and emerging recessive problems. It's obviously wrong and its just historical fact that the KC was the product of the eugenics movement. It wasn't just mentioned as a metaphor.

My main message was to call a cease fire and start building the road out of here and that means putting aside any petty differences we all may have and pooling our joint objectives instead of saving our best friend and putting the wrongs right.

No need for added drama - the science is frightening enough as it is without spin! Have you read the Balding report on inbreeding?

Chapstaff said...

I'm not clever with words, so I'd just like to say that at last there is hope that we can all pull together for the common aim, for however many mistakes the KC has made I do believe they want healthy breeds as much as anyone else. They just need some encouragement & help to achieve this.

I know I'm being a bit naive here, but I would love to see the KC, the Government, the local councils, breeders, the show world, working dogs, dog rescues & pet dog owners all working together, & helping the KC, instead of the "them & us" mentality that there seems to be at the moment.

What strength we would have.