Just had a phone call from the Times. The BBC has decided not to show Crufts this year. They will review the subject again for the 2010 show.
It makes sense and it does mean the BBC haven't been dazzled by the frenetic burst of activity initiated by the KC in the last few months.
Twenty years of overdue reform could never be achieved in a few months.
The rush to reword all the breed standards, to compile lists of hereditary diseases that may all had the scent of panic, rather than of a sensible strategy.
And that panic seemed to be more about what the BBC might think, rather than the long term betterment of dogs. If not - why the rush, why not do this organically over the last twenty years like Sweden did?
This decision gives the KC a bit longer to get their act together, before the possibility of BBC Crufts coverage is reviewed again.
Let's hope the KC will now take a deep breath and aim to do it really properly. A thorough deep clean and that means looking at inbreeding not just doing word changes and testing for existing conditions - possibly the most significant thing they can do for the future of pedigree dog health.
While it will be disappointing for many not to see dogs on TV this will focus the KC's mind and hopefully ensure that meaningful reform will happen.
From Jemima Harrison, Director of Pedigree Dogs Exposed:
"The decision vindicates the film and no one will be more delighted than me if Crufts can return at some time in the future with healthier dogs. It was ridiculous to try to undo 50 years of damage in the six months between the documentary airing and Crufts. For example, Rolo the Cavalier with SM is still qualified to compete at Crufts, to be bred on from. The dog's owner is still yet to be censured in any way for breeding on from a dog with a known hereditary condition. Although the KC have been making welcome efforts to change things of late they have yet to put anything in place to deal with genetic diversity. On their website dated November 24th they say they are working with Imperial College on this subject - but they've not been in touch with the College for some months and there is definitely no on-going collaboration. The point of the film is we never said every pedigree dog was buggered - but too many are. Hopefully the film and all that happens next will prove to be a catalyst for meaningful change."
From the RSPCA:
"The RSPCA believes the BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts reflects deep scientific and public concern about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease affecting pedigree dogs.
"In the wake of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed the RSPCA decided not to attend Crufts 2009 in order to send a clear message that urgent action must be taken to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs. Several other leading animal welfare charities and show sponsors have since followed suit.
"The RSPCA’s Mark Evans said: “The BBC’s decision not to televise Crufts clearly reflects serious scientific and public concern about pedigree dog welfare. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are vulnerable to pain, suffering and disease because they’re primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament as the main focus.
“Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favours. They allow and encourage both the breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals. This is morally unjustifiable and has to stop.”
The RSPCA wants to see the emphasis of dog shows shifted away from arbitrary appearance, so that health, welfare and temperament are considered first and foremost. The Society wants to help ensure that pedigree dogs have the best possible chance of being fit, healthy and happy and well suited to the lives they will lead as pets.
The RSPCA has commissioned an independent review of the science in this field, which will be published in the New Year. Amongst a raft of specific recommendations, the following general themes have been identified as possible ways forward:
• An overhaul of the rules and requirements for pedigree dog registration and competitive dog showing (including breed standards). Health, welfare and temperament should be prioritised over appearance.
• The development and implementation of health and welfare-focussed breeding strategies for individual breeds. This should include pro-active steps to increase the genetic diversity of dog breeds.
• More data collection and scientific analysis on causes of disease and death in dogs.
• Education, especially of would-be owners, to encourage demand for dogs which have the best possible chance of leading healthy, happy lives as pets.
For the KC's perspective click here