For the first time in history pretty much the whole German Shepherd world has united in a push to improve the health of their breed. Here's a copy of their open letter to Caroline Kisko, copied to all the KC General Committee.
I have to say I am in awe at this group. Are there any other breeds that are really pressing for improvement?
Did you know that in Germany all GSD have to have a breed survey before being bred from? A multi-faceted test that looks at health, temperament etc.
05 December 2008
The Kennel Club
Dear Mrs Kisko
The German Shepherd Dog Breed Council of the UK along with the two
largest and oldest GSD Breed Clubs in the UK The British Association
German Shepherds Dogs and The German Shepherd League (The Partners)
are concerned that the meeting on the 20th November sadly did not
include our reasonable request to include item No3 on the Agenda. We
simply wanted to jointly discuss specifically the GSD and
improvements to its Health and Welfare. The Partners letter of the
12th November enclosing the agenda item No3 was issued and hand
delivered with in 5 days of receiving briefing papers from yourselves
and to date, disappointingly, we still have had no response to the
letter apart from a message the night before the meeting saying our
item will not be discussed.
The meeting with the Kennel Club Health and Welfare Group( KCHWG) on
the 20th November only discussed certain perceived exaggeration in the
GSD, particularly in the hind quarters, which culminated in an
agreement to review the breed standard quickly in order to better
The Partnership of the three prime organisations who collectively
represent the vast majority of GSDs who work and show their dogs in
the UK respectfully requests that the improvement plan contained in
the previous Agenda (enclosed) which was not received by the KCHWG on
the 20th November is now discussed in an urgent meeting with the
Kennel Club (KC).
We hope that the KC will acknowledge, that the most important and
substantive threat facing Pedigree GSDs today, is without question,
the lack of mandatory Health and Welfare initiatives for GSDs
registered by the KC. To have to attend a meeting in London to deal
with subjective, unsubstantiated and adhoc comments on aspects of
conformation is “Fiddling whilst Rome burns” the meaning of which is
“to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect the priorities
during a crisis”.
The Partners conclude, that as a consequence of the lack of any
mandatory breeding regulations by the KC that the vast majority of the
12,000 plus Pedigree GSDs registered yearly by the KC cannot conform
to be classified as “Fit for Function: Fit for Life”. Furthermore the
KC will be criticised by certain parties by allowing the preconceived
idea to prevail that to purchase a KC registered Pedigree GSD implies
a guarantee of higher quality than other GSDs.
We can help. The Partnership of the GSD Breed Council and the two
main breed clubs and their members have, for a number of years,
imposed voluntary Quality Control initiatives on the GSDs under their
influence and therefore would like to share with the KC the benefits
of implementing a planned, sustainable improvement plan for KC
We would like to present to the KC the work that has been done in
improving the Health and Welfare of the GSDs controlled by the clubs.
The Breed Council and the Breed Clubs record that this initiative has
been implemented so far only by their members, members who care and
invest time, skill and devotion into choosing to enforce restrictions
on breeding themselves and which is not matched by 80% of the GSD
breeders and subsequent dogs registered by the KC.
It seems unbelievable in this day and age that no mandatory
regulatory tests are in place prior to breeders being able to KC
register over 12,000 GSDs every year. We believe this unregulated
environment leads to the consequential and wholly preventable health
problems that prevail today and variations of type which have
inevitably and unfortunately evolved.
There is some early wins we can achieve together by imposing
mandatory, stricter control on dogs being registered for breeding and
together we can make a difference which will be witnessed by the
Public and the Media.
Both the Kennel Club and all responsible Breeders need to demonstrate
that we are making progress by imposing Mandatory controls on
breeding, to simply alter the breed standard does not go anywhere near
enough to resolving the issue of continuous improvement.
We look forward to receiving confirmation of our requested meeting and
confirm our earnest desire is to work with the KC in agreeing a way
forward to implementing a step change in the Health and Welfare of the
GSD which this noble breed deserves and which will be demanded by the
Public and the Media increasingly in the future. Lets make our plans
Signed by the Partners for sustainable improvement in the GSD.
Bob Honey Chairman BAGSD
Graham Stephens Chairman GSDL
John Cullen Chairman GSD Breed Council
CC, Members of the KC General Committee
Agenda for the 2nd meeting with the Kennel Club -TBA
The GSD Health and Welfare Planned Improvement Plan
1.0 The Partners
The GSD League and BAGSD are members of the WUSV (World Union of Shepherd Dog Clubs) which has representation from 76 member countries, the two clubs are the largest and oldest national breed clubs. Collectively they work proactively with the GSD Breed Council which is the body formed by all GSD Clubs in the UK and charged as a collective group with the progressive development of our Breed within the UK. The Partnership of the GSD Breed Council, the GSDL and BAGSD without question, make up the largest critical mass of GSDs working and showing in the UK.
1.1 One voice, one aim
The Partnership would therefore like to present the following on behalf of the vast majority of working and breed clubs in the UK.
Over the last 15 years progress has been made by the partners to implement VOLUNTARY Health and Welfare schemes for participating individuals within the breed. The facts are that none of these initiatives is endorsed by the KC and none are MANDATORY. Recognition however is made of the contribution made by the KC in the development of KC/BVA schemes so far.
2.0 Progress so far:-
• Highlighting the breeding lines responsible for epilepsy through testing by Dr P. Croft.
• Introduction of a Voluntary Hip Scoring Scheme.
• Voluntary Tattoo identification.( and Micro chipping)
• Voluntary Haemophilia testing.( males only)
• Voluntary Elbow X-rays and grading.
• Voluntary DNA Parentage identification.
• Other Parentage tests, work in progress…..
• Voluntary Breed Surveys
• Ground Breaking GSD Sieger event, for the Fourth year, where only GSDs with mandatory Health and Working qualifications are promoted to the highest awards.
• Mandatory Judges Training scheme in order to become sponsored by the GSD Breed Council judging lists, not mandatory for eligibility to Judge KC shows however.
3.0 The Opportunity
The time is right to implement the next steps and introduce mandatory improvements as part of a phased Progressive Improvement Plan. The GSD community and the KC do not want to be seen as complacent in this respect. We must work together with the KC Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG) and produce a realistic and achievable improvement plan to increase the Health and Welfare of the GSD and perhaps be a vanguard for other breeds to follow.
THE PARTNERS WHOLEHEARTEDLY SUPPORT THE KENNEL CLUBS FOLLOWING DECLERATION:-
“The Kennel Club will make full use of the measures it has within its remit and authority to ensure that all breed clubs and councils encourage their members to undertake health screening appropriate to each breed and that individual breeders reach the highest possible standards of husbandry and welfare”.
The Proposed Planned Improvement Programme
To further improve the Health and Welfare of the German Shepherd to be 'fit for purpose, fit for life' we would like to propose the following Terms of reference to build on the work already done by the KC and voluntarily by our members and produce, in agreement with the BHWSG, a mandatory sustainable Planned Improvement Programme for all registered GSDs.
4.0 Our Proposal in Summary
4.1 The breed name of German Shepherd Dog (Alsatian) should be brought into line with the rest of the World and changed to German Shepherd Dog. This will also avoid the confusion that exists with the general public who often believe that there are 2 different types/breeds - the German Shepherd Dog and the Alsatian.
4.2 Introduction of a mandatory breed survey before being allowed to be bred from.
4.3 No female under the age of 21 months should be bred from.
4.4 No male under the age of 18 months should be bred from.
4.5 Inbreeding closer than 3, 2 or 2, 3 should not be accepted.
4.6 Mandatory training scheme for Judges with a scrutiny panel of senior breed judges empowered by the KC and the Partners who will monitor judge’s adhesion to the rules, with regular forums for discussion.
4.7 Reduction of the judges list to an active register and qualified list
4.8 Line breeding to be shown on the KC pedigree in order to differentiate.
4.9 A quick win in differentiating GSDs who have had tests from those who have not would be for the KC to acknowledge international working Health and Working tests on Pedigrees. The standard of a good proportion of GSDs registered with the KC would be raised demonstrably.
4.10 Future breeding standards:-
4.11 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been hip X-rayed and have achieved a minimum status of a score of 20 ( with one side being no higher than 12 ) or a recognised overseas grade which is similar.
4.12 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been elbow X-rayed and either graded by the BVA or have achieved a recognised overseas status.
4.13 The sire of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have passed a haemophilia test if bred in the UK.
4.14 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have parents who have both been either tattooed or micro-chipped for identification purposes, in order for the individual dog to match his/her documentation.
4.15 The parents of every puppy to be registered by the Kennel Club must have had DNA identification recorded with the Kennel Club or a recognised overseas authority.
4.16 Any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should conform to the Breed Standard colour requirement.
4.17 The parents of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club must have passed a Breed Survey (in the year in which the animal attains 2 years of age - or older) either in the U.K. or with a recognised overseas authority.
4.18 The U.K. Breed Survey to be upgraded to include a fitness/endurance test similar to the ' (AD) required by International WUSV authorities.
4.19 The parents of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should have achieved either a recognised Kennel Club or WUSV working qualification, with the minimum being a Gold Kennel Club Good Citizen Test or a BH qualification.
4.20 The breeder of any puppies registered by the Kennel Club should hold a valid Kennel Club prefix.
Clearly we cannot unilaterally propose a time scale for this planned improvement programme without the absolute involvement of the KC this would be inappropriate at this time, however we see no reason if we all work together to implement item 4.10 - 4.20 from 1st January 2010.
As a registered puppy achieves certain standards of Health and welfare qualifications these should be added to their official pedigrees by application to the Kennel Club for upgrading.
6 Two Tier System
We do not fully understand why the Kennel Club must register every litter. .
With this in mind it would appear that the Kennel Club may be obliged to register those dogs that have not been tested as 'fit for purpose, fit for life'.
On the basis that all puppies must receive a registration by the Kennel Club, the alternative could be a two tier system wherein that puppies complying with the above requirements receive green registration documents and pedigree certificates with the additional information contained thereon, and that all other non-complying puppies are issued with 'blue' registration documents and pedigree certificates.
There are further fundamental issues that need to be addressed i.e. The amount of puppies being born annually with multiple lines to known epileptic dogs which information is held by our breed archivist. We would refer you to the article by Mrs. Chris Hazell on page 22 of the 2008 Our Dogs Sieger Supplement. Can you imagine the distress caused to innocent purchasers of a puppy when, at around 18 months of age, as a fully integrated member of their family, their young dog begins to 'fit' and most often has to be euthanized because of multiple epileptic fits. Surely the Kennel Club cannot condone this disgraceful situation.
The unsoundness in movement of a GSD shown on the recent BBC television programme was not the Best of Breed Winner at Crufts but the C.C. winner at an earlier all breed Championship Show.
It is important that judges of the German Shepherd have knowledge of sound movement, as well as correct construction, required in this breed. Unfortunately those organisers of all breed shows only have the current Judges List to work from - this needs to be reviewed urgently.
To prove the ability of the judge they should be required to justify their placings after the end of each class by giving verbal critiques to be followed up within 4 weeks of date of show by a written critique to be published by the in the canine press.
It is sincerely hoped that the Kennel Club will approve and incorporate the above proposals, as we feel that by doing so it can only improve the 'fit for purpose, fit for life' requirement for the German Shepherd Dog.
To all GSD lovers, a Partnership Statement.
The GSD League and BAGSD are members of the WUSV (World Union of Shepherd Dog Clubs) which has representation from 76 member countries, the two clubs are the largest and oldest national breed clubs. Collectively they work proactively with the GSD Breed Council which is the body formed by all GSD Clubs in the UK and charged as a collective group with the progressive development of our Breed within the UK. This Partnership of the GSD Breed Council, the GSDL and BAGSD without question, make up the largest critical mass of GSDs working and showing in the UK.
One voice, one aim
Over the last 15 years progress has been made by the partners individually to implement VOLUNTARY Health and Welfare schemes for participating individuals within the breed. The facts are that none of these initiatives is endorsed by the KC and none are MANDATORY. Recognition however is made of the contribution made by the KC in the development of KC/BVA schemes so far.
Over the years the Partners have independently made representations to the KC in order to try and increase the Health and Welfare of the 12,000 GSDs registered by the KC with no real success. It is clear that there has been no demonstrable improvement in the health and welfare of the GSD to date.
The KC have always maintained that they have no powers to implement mandatory breeding controls and prefer to register any/all dog regardless of physical and hereditary problems without any regards whatsoever to inbreeding and allow so called breeders to basically do as they wish with guidance notes and non mandatorty initiatives like the breeders charter etc. .
The Partnership has recently been formed specifically to make the most robust of representations to the KC on the issue of the lack of mandatory control regarding the Health and Welfare of the GSD.
The joint national clubs and the Breed Council have been not taken seriously by the KC as previously we had been guilty of being fractious and not bringing a coherent plan to the KC to date. This has now changed, the Executives of each organisation have come together to represent the largest body of GSDs in the UK and want only one thing and that is to see the measurable improvement in the Health and Welfare of our beloved breed.
The Partners want to work in harmony with the KC to continuously improve the breed and have together devised a Improvement Plan for the GSDs which has been sent to the KC and is included for your information along with a letter which sets the scene for evolution.
The Partners realise that the improvement plan requires further work but we must do this with the KC and establish realistic and deliverable timescales. Without question the breed will only move forward with the KC agreeing to implement mandatory measures and allow registration to only dogs who can prove that they are satisfying the improvement criteria which will lead to healthier GSDs.
The KC have argued that this type of control will only drive some GSD breeders away from the KC sphere of influence and that their past passive measures of “ influencing” not “raising the standard” has been effective.
If we all believe that the GSD is better now as a consequence of this route then just look at the statistics which will show GSDs are still suffer from a legacy of wholly preventable diseases like epilepsy, haemophilia still prevalent today as they have always been with no control on incest matings etc.
With the sustained press and public focus on the issue of Pedigree Dogs Health and Welfare the time is right now to implement change and the KC must realise that and not just advise breeders to change. The KC truly need to listen to the ground swell of GSD lovers and through the Partnership we wish to create a powerful joined up lobby to the KC on the issue of improvement in the Health and Welfare of the GSD.
As such we welcome your views to your clubs on this issue or post your comments on the following websites.
The Partnership makes a commitment to its members to robustly represent them with the KC and seek to implement a planned improvement plan which we can all look back on when we demonstrate improvement in the reduction of epilepsy rates, the abolition of incest matings and other inbreeding horrors, the unique identification of individual animals and the incremental mandatory breeding tests to be implemented in the future.
The Kennel Club registered GSD of the future will truly be a healthier dog and therefore able to reclaim its place as one of the noblest and most sought after breeds because “true quality doesn’t cost it pays”.