Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Oh no, I've been outed as a championship show judge!

Tucked away on one of the old blogs is this comment just posted...

"You haven't mentioned the dog Wardens Association-they aren't going to Crufts in protest-Oh hang on a minute they never booked a stand next year so they are boycoting an event they were never going to attend anyway. Now that explans why you(A Kennel Club Championship Show judge of Bearded Collies)haven't mentioned them.Of course you ask all the exhibitors entered in the classes you judge if their dogs are fully health tested(including MDR 1).Yer like h*ll you do.I like to bet that this comment isn't shown on your blog "

Just thought I'd highlight it.

One of the reasons we campaign for a reform of the system is so that no judge will ever need to wonder if the dogs they judge are health tested. If we get what Sweden has, every dog shown will be the result of health tested parents - of sires that have been limited in the number of studs to increase genetic diversity.

Expecting judges to be the health police is a bit silly really, it will take a lot more than a wording change on a certificate to stop people rewarding exaggerations.

I haven't judged for donkey's years now, but would love to again as I do think it's important to do your bit and I love my breed with a passion. I always judge on movement primarily - I consider that much more important than any breed type issues. I reckon the farmers wanted a dog that could work all day and if it couldn't, it didn't matter how pretty their face was or how gorgeous their coat!

Pleased to hear about the Dog Wardens though - they normally go every year as poor old Cuthbert Jackson had to wear that dog suit. Wonder why they didn't tell us? Oh well we know now thanks to anonymous poster above!

And if you're wondering what MDR-1 is - here's some info from the Bearded Collie Club of America website:

You will remember that at the BCCA specialty last year Beardies were tested for the MDR-1 mutation. This is common in collies (rough and smooth), Australian Shepherds and several other breeds and renders them hypersensitive to certain drugs, most notably ivermectin, causing neurological symptoms. This is because these drugs are able to cross the so-called blood brain barrier and gain access to the Central Nervous System, which is most often protected to some extent from drugs and toxins in the general circulation.

I am happy to report that cheek swabs were collected from 97 Beardies. None of these showed the MDR-1 mutation. One sample was rejected because of insufficient cells on the sample. Given the size of the sample taken it seems unlikely that the MDR-1 mutation occurs in Bearded Collies. However, we do know that certain drugs can trigger autoimmune disease in our breed as well as many others with genetic susceptibility. One of the most commonly implicated drugs is ivermectin, so we do need to maintain our caution in using this and other drugs in our dogs.



And HOORAY - we're over the 1,000 signatures on the petition. Let's keep it going - please spread the word! 1016 as I post this.

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held at Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth, 12 noon Sunday 5th October.
Address: Packington Hill, Kegworth, Derbyshire, DE74 2DF
Telephone: (01509) 672518
Fax: (01509) 674730

Small minds and syringomyelia

We now have the details of the Special General Meeting where the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club will attempt to oust Margaret Carter from their Health Committee for revealing on the Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary that a top-winning exhibitor was breeding from a Cavalier that had been diagnosed as having syringomyelia - despite veterinary advice not to breed from this dog. This is the often very painful condition that was memorably described as like having a brain like a size 10 foot crammed into a size 6 shoe.

Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth, 12 noon Sunday 5th October.

Address: Packington Hill, Kegworth, Derbyshire, DE74 2DF
Telephone: (01509) 672518
Fax: (01509) 674730

If you are a member of this club please think long and hard about what sort of message expelling Margaret sends to the outside world. It took tremendous bravery to do what Margaret did, let's hope some people cheer her on and tell her how much her stance was appreciated by pet owners.

Don't forget the petition please - we're almost at 1,000 signatures!

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held at Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth, 12 noon Sunday 5th October.
Address: Packington Hill, Kegworth, Derbyshire, DE74 2DF
Telephone: (01509) 672518
Fax: (01509) 674730

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Birthdays and blogging

It's been such a news-packed few weeks there's been little time for more trivial blogging. I thought I'd share with you my day in prospect so when you are having a relaxing time you can think of me. My stepson is 10 next week and today he is having a party that starts at 10am and goes through to 11.30 tomorrow morning. Girls and boys.
I have the vitamin bottle to hand.
Back to dogs, in the next few weeks I have the chance to meet both Gordon Brown and David Cameron. I'm only likely to get a couple of questions in at best, what should I ask them/tell them for the greater doggie good?
And of course, please don't forget the petition... wouldn't it be great to have that grown as big as possible when I meet those politicians!
Dogs Today now has a fan page on Facebook - thank you to whoever set that up!
I think this is the link

And here's the petition... please tell everyone you meet to sign!

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held on October 5th - more details to come on the blog as we know them.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The "extraordinary steps" at the Kennel Club...

Just thought I'd check the KC genetics website to see if Dogs Trust had been taken off the list of KC supporters. They haven't. Perhaps someone should point this out to them!

And there's another couple of letters of support up on the site, but this one caught my eye...

DOG NEWS (USA)

The BBC Attack
...Indeed more than virtually any kennel club in the world has The Kennel Club in the UK taken extraordinary steps in attempts to introduce positive breeding programs within the breeding community to help stamp out long standing health issues. It has gone so far as to controversially introduce the concept of health into a judge’s decision at the shows, something, to our knowledge, no other kennel club has ever even considered. And then to be stabbed in the back that way by both BBC and the production company is particularly upsetting and unfair.

Extraordinary steps in getting the judges to consider health! Well that certainly would be news.

Well, yes they changed the wording on the piece of paper that the judges hand out - but sadly they didn't actually tell the judges to judge any differently than before! (See my earlier post.)

I've since had copies of the correspondence between the judge and the KC and the wording (at least) is really very strong...

"Having assessed the dog and penalized any features or exaggerations which I consider detrimental to the soundness, health or welfare, I am clearly of the opinion that ... is of such outstanding merit as to be worthy of the title of Champion."

Just such a pity that this text change wasn't communicated to the judge - she only noticed it after she had awarded the CC! I think a covering letter at the very least is needed - but ideally there needs to be some training by a vet to explain how and why exaggerations are likely to be detrimental.

As I've said before, this text change is a great way of passing the buck to the judges - but if this is to be a significant change it needs to be applied properly and followed through to have any impact.


Please don't forget the petition... keep spreading the word - you're doing a great job! The petition stands at 752 as I write. See the previous post for ideas of how to reach the people who don't yet know about it.

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held on October 5th - more details to come on the blog as we know them.

(Please see the previous blog for more info!)


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Can you spread the word?

The petition is doing well - as I write we've got more than 670 people signed, which is great. But having been sent a copy of the letter Defra are sending out it would seem we're going to have to shout a lot louder if we want Government to sit up and take notice.
And from the email Dogs Trust has sent out I don't think they really appreciate the depth of this problem, either.

Here's some suggestions!
Try to tell every dog walker you meet about the petition. Maybe copy and paste the section below and hand them the blurb or tell them to Google 'Dogs Today magazine' and go to the editor's blog to find the petition - I'll have the link on here, every post. Even if they just type in "pedigree dogs petition" they'll probably find it if they know to look for it.

Be great if that can go on any physical noticeboards you can find - and don't forget the non-doggie places, too - the people who care about this issue are just the general public - literally the man, woman and child in the street and they'll be on forums to do with every single strata of society. If you or your family is a member of any group - please cross post! I even found a strand on the David Icke forum yesterday!

Here's some suggested wording if you want to copy and paste:

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

If you'd like to know more about the issues raised by the TV programme, follow the petitioner's blog for all the latest developments http://coldwetnose.blogspot.com/
For example, did you know that the Cavalier Club are holding a Special General Meeting to expel one of their members from the health committee. Had they chosen to expel the woman who knowingly bred 20 plus litters from a dog affected by syringomyelia - the disease that was so memorably described on TV as "like a having a brain like a size 10 foot stuffed into a size 6 shoe," we'd all be very happy - but still no action has been taken against that breeder who used the affected dog at stud twice more after the documentary makers confronted her on camera! But no, astonishingly, the club instead plan to expel Margaret Carter, the brave lady who revealed on camera that this dog had been diagnosed with SM and that the owner had been advised not to breed from him. The meeting will be held on October 5th - more details to come on the blog as we know them.

Below is the very disappointing Defra letter - oh dear what a dreary response it is! If we wait for DNA tests for every condition we'll not have any dogs left. They completely miss the point that the level of inbreeding is the very first thing we have to tackle, that complacency really isn't an option. That we all know very much more needs to be done. And what chance of change if the breeders have to address all the problems without strong direction from the Kennel Club? The majority of litters are bred by people having their first and only litter. We obviously need a framework that guides everyone on best practise.

I hate repetition - but even Dogs Trust have got this totally wrong - in their e-letter to supporters just sent out they say, "We know that the majority of breeders prioritise good health and temperament in their dogs and are responsible in their breeding methods."

How can they know? 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.

There are some wonderful breeders, but they are sharing a system with a huge number that badly need very strong guidance - urgently.

Please do everything you can to spread this petition - anyone a whizz at facebook? It's time to connect with all those people who cried, who shouted at their TVs. They still care about this issue but they don't know what they can do.
I went to the hairdressers at the weekend and a new girl cut my hair who didn't know what I did. We got onto dogs quite quickly and her sister had phoned her while the Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary was on saying she had to watch it. She had missed the start, so didn't know I'd was involved so had no reason to adapt her interpretation, but she could very clearly remember word-for-word the Chairman of the KC saying mother to son matings were okay and that he didn't want any scientists telling him what to do.
She has signed the petition and wants to tell all her customers, too.
Let's find these people and lets make the petition grow and grow so that no one can forget this issue.

Here's the depressing Defra letter... (thanks to Jan for sending on):

"The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which came into force last year, means that we now have the power to make regulations to protect the offspring of vertebrate animals. The various genetic problems suffered by pedigree dogs have long since recognised by the Veterinary profession and the Government. The Government welcomes the work being done by organisations such as the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association to address these problems. It also welcomes the work being done by the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) to bring together expert opinion on the nature of these problems and how they should be addressed.

"Advances have been made by geneticists in developing DNA based tests for some conditions. This provides breeders with the opportunity to breed responsibly and to improve the welfare of future off-spring.

"The Government accepts that there are shortcomings in the existing law on the commercial breeding of dogs. While a overhaul of these laws is required to ensure we can stamp out puppy farming, it will also provide an opportunity to put in place measures that include a requirement on commercial breeders to adhere to programmes aimed a the eventual eradication of traits that cause unnecessary suffering in dogs. However, the breeding out of such traits must be seen as a long term goal which breeders themselves must seek first to address. The Government does not see these matters as priorities for new animal welfare legislation - although it does recognise the concerns felt by many regarding breeding standards.

"The European Convention has been an important catalyst in raising animal welfare standards. The introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in England and Wales - as well as the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 - means that our laws are now consistent with the principles set out in the Convention. Nevertheless, there are aspirations in the convention, in particular the resolution on breed standards, which may not necessarily be the most effective way of promoting welfare.

"Defra is currently working with the devolved administrations to identify those areas that may cause mutual concerns and the implications were the Government to sign the Convention.

I hope this letter addresses your concerns.

Your sincerely
MB, Defra - Customer Contact Unit

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Changing the dog world... rather than just changing the words

An Albany Basset with a lot less 'furnishings' than you'll find at DFS!

The Sunday Telegraph story did indeed centre on the Albany Basset Hounds. Well done to the super sleuth Bloggers who figured that one out!

Click here to see the full Telegraph story.

For more than 50 years the Albany has had a pack of working Bassets that can still do what the original breed was designed to do. These short-legged hounds were perfect for those wanting to hunt without horses as their shorter legs made it possible for people to keep up on foot.

Here's an extract from the Albany website which explains why they split from all things Kennel Club:

"In 1972 the working branch was reorganised and renamed as the Albany Bassets. The pack was admitted to the Masters of Bassets Association (MBHA) with registered hunting country around Stamford, Lincolnshire. The Albany was formed and financially supported by members of the Basset Hound Club (BHC) to ensure that Kennel club (KC) registered Bassets should be able to work in the field as well as pose on the show bench.

This framework was to last for 30 years until 2002 when the BHC withdrew all their support and the Albany became a subscription pack with the hounds belonging to the committee. The Albany found the modern KC Basset too heavy and cumbersome to work well over winter plough, to get out of ditches and streams and lacked the drive to work hard for up to three hours.

To improve the quality of the hounds and ensure the survival of a working pack of Bassets into the 21st century the Albany outcrossed their working KC hounds with hounds registered with the MBHA, specifically the Fourshires and Huckworthy Bassets. Although the use of hounds, registered with the MBHA for breeding was written into the Albany constitution, the BHC quoted this as the reason for no longer supporting the Albany. The original principles of the BHC had been “forgotten” and there are currently no field trials for KC Bassets to test their scenting ability, stamina, voice or pack temperament."

Want to find out more? Click here for the Albany website - it's possible to join and follow their hunts - or sponsor some of their dogs.

Some of the more interesting quotes in the Telegraph piece are from KC Secretary Caroline Kisko. Here they are ...

Ms Kisko said the Kennel Club was already funding research into the dogs' health problems but admitted: "We could have started earlier."

She added: "There is no blanket solution. We have to look at it on a breed-by-breed basis."

The Kennel Club was concerned that the documentary had already prompted many puppy-buyers to turn to non-Kennel-Club-registered cross-breeders whose interests were "purely commercial", she said.

The Club had made donations to the RSPCA and felt "betrayed" by the animal welfare organisation. "We helped them and they have stabbed us in the back," Ms Kisko said.

Is that a glimmer of hope I'm detecting? An awareness that the KC should have been doing more serious stuff to safeguard the pedigree dog "a little earlier".

I guess when you look at timescales involving dinosaurs, twenty years is indeed a mere blink of an eye. But it was indeed over twenty years ago that the Nordic KC's started their sensible measures to safeguard their own pedigree dogs.

Oh you know, those audacious and wacky concepts like... mandatory health testing before breeding, limiting the overuse of popular sires and other inbreeding, working committees on avoiding unhealthy exaggerations, temperament testing... etc

As they used to say in Clarges St when I used to work there, those young Swedish upstarts and their crazy progressive ideas - after all they are novices at this KC lark - they only started in 1889.

As for the RSPCA daring to say what they think about animals suffering despite the very generous KC having given them a chunky bung of money - well it's a public outrage obviously! How dare the RSPCA not keep quiet and let the KC bumble on at a snail's pace.

And how can the KC measure this flood of silly misguided public rushing out to buy designer crossbreeds? As these breeders don't pay the KC any money - unlike those lovely puppy farmers - how can the KC monitor this shift?

And as for there being no blanket solution - maybe there's two of those 'insignificant' hereditary cataracts (that Caroline Kisko seems so untroubled by) that are clouding their vision?

Here's my manifesto for change should I get the keys to Clarges Street!

1. Limit the overuse of popular sires and stop close inbreeding. Calculate the coefficient of inbreeding for every new litter registered and display it on the the dog's registration certificate together with an explanation for what is an acceptable figure.
2. Make health testing mandatory where good existing schemes exist - eg hearts, hips, eyes etc. Ditch the discredited Accredited Breeder Scheme and make testing and good breeder behaviour the norm. Have a two-tier system that the public can easily identify so that anyone breeding who can't yet comply with the new requirements isn't completely lost to the system - but make it only the top level of reg that can produce dogs that are shown. Dogs with the lower type of reg would have to be health tested before they can be bred on from. Charge much more to register dogs that are untested instead of charging the good people a premium!
3. Stop unhealthy exaggerations being rewarded with significant changes to the system that are honestly designed to alter the way the breed looks are not just done reluctantly and cynically to deflect criticism away from the KC and onto to others.

I do get so annoyed by the KC and their PR spin, they need to honestly want to change - it's dogs lives they're messing about - it shouldn't be all about pride and losing face.

Here's an example of the sort of mealy mouthed 'reform' we're likely to get if they don't sincerely want to change.

In the run up to the documentary the KC had for them a bit of a rush at tweaking things so they didn't look quite so dreadful.

One of their cunning plans was a word change to their official Challenge Certificates (awarded to the best in sex of each breed - that coverted bit of paper that leads to dogs becoming called Champions).
It used to say:

"I am clearly of the opinion that (name of dog) owned by (name of owner) is of such outstanding merit as to be worthy of the title of Champion"


But I am told, by a very experienced judge, that the new CC she recently awarded had wording that certified that the judge found her winner to be healthy.

On the face of things that sounds a step in the right direction, but sadly the judge in question only became aware of the new wording by chance after she'd already awarded the certificate. The KC hadn't told her to judge any differently than before or indeed how to assess health - as she told me, "I'm not a vet!"

The judge was genuinely very, very concerned that she'd signed something that she couldn't possibly know to be correct.

I've just had a look at the KC's most recent published Annual report... I quote.

The Kennel Club has six key strategic objectives:
1. Ensuring that the Kennel Club is the first port of call on all canine matters.
2. Recognising the importance of canine health and welfare.
3. Popularising canine activities focusing on the retention of existing participants and
the attraction of new.
4. Achieving a widening of the Kennel Club membership base.
5. Encouraging the development of all those concerned with dogs through education
and training.
6. Encouraging more people to provide input into the Kennel Club’s decision making
process.

Well let's give them a big dose of number six - tell them to get on with their number two objective and not just 'recognise' the importance of health - start actively doing something to make it happen!

Please don't forget the petition:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

Over 450 now, please do keep spreading the word!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Bassets up to all sorts!

I've just heard the Basset breeders or possibly even a club are ready to break away from the Kennel Club, not sure whether that's so they can avoid regulation and keep having those pointless saggy extra bits of flesh - or if they want to breed back to the way the breed used to look as shown on the TV prog.
Anyone got any info?
Any other groups of people wanting to breed back to a less exaggerated example of their breed please do get in touch. I've got a contact in Victorian Bulldogs, but would love to identify some more reformists!

Please don't forget the petition:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

Near to 400 now, please do keep spreading the word!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The KC in sheep's clothing...

It's been a huge few days in doggie history.
First we had the feisty withdrawal of the RSPCA from Crufts, all I can say is that the post-documentary talks between the KC and the RSPCA at Clarges Street obviously didn't go very well! I'd say Mark Evans was more sure than ever that things have to change.
The RSPCA announcement re-ignited the media and then the public.
Even a simple appointment to get a repeat prescription at the doctors turned into marathon. My doctor, who isn't doggie, had chanced on the documentary and had been gripped by it. So had many of her patients. She said she'd never known a programme be so talked about for so long after transmission.
As I wrote in the Times yesterday, it won't be long before other charities follow the RSPCA. Then yesterday we got the press release saying that Dogs Trust were pulling out of Crufts, Discover Dogs and even the MP's dog show Westminster Dog of the Year which was always co-organised with the KC.
Then it seemed like moments later the phones started ringing and we had news of the Kennel Club making a surprisingly radical move.
If you were hoping it was to accept all the failings and to start putting everything right you'll be disappointed.
No, the KC had decided to shoot the messenger.
They'd put in a complaint to Ofcom that the documentary was unfair. And, the note on their website said they were also reviewing their contract with the BBC to televise Crufts.
So with rumours rife of the BBC requiring significant reforms before the televising could go forward next year, was this a pre-emptive strike? (Like a 13-year-old girl dumping a boyfriend because they'd heard gossip that he was about to chuck them anyway?)
So what will be next in the week of change?
Watch this space - have rewritten whole chunks of the next magazine in the last few hours.
I probably should get more sleep, but I was daydreaming that trying to get the stubborn old KC to reform is a bit like another old favourite favourite BBC TV prog - One Man and his Dog.
We can all see the pen quite clearly (reform) - it's the obvious place for the sheep to go, we've got loads of very able people directing the sheepdog as to where the pen is - vets, scientists, welfare organisations, anyone with a brain etc.
The sheepdog (in my strained analogy) is at the moment the media.
Okay, you've probably already guessed it, the sheep are the KC.
But right now, the sheep just won't even look at that pen and have decided the very best plan is obviously to attack the sheepdog.
But it's not just one little sheepdog (ie Dogs Today) it's the worldwide bleeding media that's shouting, "Get in that pen you silly sheep!"
Obviously very few sheepdogs can actually speak, but you get my drift!
(Well there's actually some that can - the clever lady with the Rodlinglea Scruffies bred a super brainy strain that could ask for water and liver and stuff and say hello - I saw the videos... okay, you're right - time for a nap....!)

Please don't forget the petition:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

Near to 300 now, please do keep spreading the word!

POSTSCRIPT:
I wonder has anyone at the KC considered what happens if (when?) Ofcom rule they haven't got a case? How devastating will that be for them? Isn't it better to admit the problems and start putting them right without further delay?
Here's a passage from the story on the BBC website...

A spokesman for BBC Documentaries said it stood by the programme's content.

In a separate statement, the corporation said it was "seeking reassurance, on behalf of its viewers, that the objectives, practices and organisation of the breed competitions at Crufts have as a first priority the health and welfare of all dogs taking part in the competition".

An advisory panel would be set up to consider "what measures the Kennel Club should be expected to take now and commit to in the future".

It added: "The panel will be asked to give the BBC their advice quickly to enable the BBC to discuss the issues with the Kennel Club before planning begins for coverage of Crufts 2009."

Crufts has been transmitted on BBC Two since 1966.

Kennel Club spokeswoman Caroline Kisko told the BBC it was not "a tenable position" for the broadcaster to show Crufts - a programme "celebrating dogs" - when it had also aired a documentary "which was clearly so heavily biased against dogs".

"All of those dogs that were shown on the programme were taken to be to do with the Kennel Club," she said.

"The message put across by the programme was that all their disabilities, their illnesses, were caused by something which the Kennel Club had done, to the point where we were likened to Nazis."

Ms Kisko said the Kennel Club had recognised that "things had gone too far" with some breeds several years ago and was making efforts to address their health issues.But she added: "The fact of the matter is that the large majority of pedigree dogs in the country are healthy."

Hmm, not normally a betting woman but my money's on the BBC winning this one.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Rspca pull out of Crufts & Discover Dogs

Yes I know - it's now old news, but how refreshing to see a charity really going for it! How long before the others follow?
I would have blogged it sooner, but just as I started writing I got a call from the Times and then I had to write it for them and pick the kids up from school...

Here's the links to their pages, very efficiently already published this evening. Tomorrow's news today!

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4761471.ece

and

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4761473.ece

Don't forget the petition:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

Already over the 200 mark, please do keep spreading the word!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Pedigree Dogs Exposed official petition at last!

Please post this far and wide - 10 Downing Street have approved the wording for our petition...

Here it is:

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:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

And do please read the previous post on this blog. "Saint Margaret" from Pedigree Dogs Exposed TV show (as I've just decided to call her) is about to be pretty much burnt at the stake by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. Her crime? Daring to speak out against Beverley Costello for continuing to breed from her dog extensively after it had been diagnosed as having SM, the ghastly disease that means a Cavalier's skull is far too small for its brain. (Quote from the show on syringomyelia from top neurologist Claire Rusbridge, "If you beat your dog with a stick to cause that much pain you'd be prosecuted.")
Please do have a read...

postscript:
Just Googled Saint Margaret - "Queen Margaret was renown for her moderating and good influence and also for her devout piety and religious observance. She was a prime mover in the reform of the Church in Scotland."



Unhealthy attitudes at the Cavalier Club

I'd quite understand the Cavalier Club having a petition and a special general meeting to expel one of the Cavalier people featured on Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
I'm sure lots of people would sign to expel Beverley Costello for knowingly breeding on from a dog with SM.
But, no it's not Beverley they're after - it's Margaret Carter, the brave lady from the health committee who confirmed on camera that she'd seen the scan that showed Beverley's dog had SM.
The motion is to remove Margaret Carter from the Committee for breaking the Code of Ethics Part A Paragraph 3.
Part of the Cavalier Club code of ethics states: "Members should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is a credit to the Club and ownership of Cavaliers."
I think Margaret's actions were very much of credit to the breed and the club. Anyone who cares enough about their breed to put up with this sort of intimidation deserves all our respect.
If anyone with a legal background might read this blog and want to help Margaret please do get in touch. The meeting is on Sunday October 5th and she must provide her defence seven days before at the latest.

Postscript:
I did fleetingly wonder if we should omit the last cowardly comment calling Margaret and the TV researcher on the show a liar - being anonymous and calling people liars doesn't impress me much - what about you?
I quote so you don't have to scroll: "Lying about something that can destroy dogs and the people that have them is unethical, dishonest, stupid, and a basis to remove them from a post where they are representing the breed."
Is this cowardly wretch talking about the wrong woman here? If you want to prove Margaret is a liar and the dog in question doesn't have SM - get the original vet that did the scan to speak up. If anyone innocent stood accused of something as serious as knowingly breeding on from a dog with such a serious and painful condition as this they'd have had a statement out from teh vet clearing their name within seconds. Why hasn't this happened I wonder?
If this dog hasn't got SM that would be the obvious way to clear its name - how can you punish someone for telling the truth! Surely the Cavalier Club have to establish that what she said was untrue for it to be scandelous.
Call the neurologist who performed the original scan to clear the dog's name. Why wouldn't your vet stand up and support you if you had done nothing wrong?
And having such a strange wording in your code of ethics makes the Cavalier Club look like they have so much to hide - they look even more secretive than KC branch of the freemasons! If they are more concerned about protecting people with something to hide than the health of the breed, what hope is there?
Totally agree with the comments re the Cavalier people needing some help here, beginning to wonder which end of the lead has the brain problems.
Can I be struck off their Christmas card list for talking about the Cavalier Club without having something from writing from each and every of their members giving me their explicit approval?
Mad. If it weren't all so important, you could laugh at these oh so very, very important women being so very outraged that one of their number dared stand up and put the dogs they claim to love first. Margaret has broken their shameful code of silence. Has dared to say in a gentle, quiet voice - stop the suffering.
Let's all get behind Margaret and fight this small-minded Club madness. Oh god, the irony of that last statement.
Talk about shooting the messenger, where are these people's morals?

Here's the address for the Chairman of the Cavalier Club - just realised she's really local to our magazine:

Mrs L Jupp,
60 Roundway,
Camberley,
Surrey, GU15 1NU

Monday, 8 September 2008

Pedigree Dogs Exposed - avoiding inbreeding for those who can't do the math

Moving forward...

Here's a very simple idea from Professor David Balding of Imperial College London. This is great for anyone struggling to calculate the coefficients of inbreeding.

How not to buy an inbred pup.
Check any prospective dog's pedigree and make sure all of the dog's grandparents are different and that they are not descended from each other, either.

Any duplication - simply walk away.

Well done everyone...

You can all stop emailing Woman of the year....!

Just had the lovely phone call. Turns out the president of the Woman of the Year lunch is Joan Armatrading and she had seen the documentary and was just so moved by it so was delighted to have the nomination. So they needed no persuading and said yes on the first approach. Both Jemima and Carol are invited.

It's October 13th at the Guildhall - so thank you everyone. Will be a lovely day out and much deserved.

What next? An OBE? Sure the Queen would approve as she's a dog lover!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Pedigree dogs exposed, transported and petitioned

This baby Chihuahua has found transport from Newcastle to Kent and is arriving with his new owner Wendy on Monday evening. He's going to be living with a load of Standard Poodles. Wonder if he'll grow up thinking that's what he is?

And if you've just read the latest magazine and are here to find out about the Pedigree Dogs Exposed e-Petition to Downing Street, unfortunately we're still trying to get the wording okayed. And no that's not because we can't help swearing so much because we're all so angry about the lack of KC action!
The PM was away on holiday when the TV prog aired and you couldn't submit any new petitions until he came back, and I was away when that was due to happen. I thought we had it covered, as one of my team was poised ready to submit our wording the minute Gordon came back and the site went live. But then Jen, our person who was charged with keeping an eye on the 10 Downing Street site, had a freak dancing-related ankle injury followed by a 24 hour sickness bug and understandably checking the 10 Downing Street website hourly must have dropped down her priority list for a small window of time. (Hard to run to the loo with a broken ankle.) Poor Jen! (I did wonder if there could have been a KC supporter responsible for tripping her up while she was throwing some shapes at her neighbour's spontanious post-pub dance-fest... but perhaps that's just me being paranoid and Kisko is probably a very common surname in Yorkshire!)
As luck would have it, someone else got in first with a petition related to the TV show, but that would still have been cool if the wording had been good - but sadly it isn't ideal.
There's a really weird bit about asking the PM to legislate that people have to travel a certain distance to use a stud dog. It would be so hard to enforce and misses the point that one of the biggest causes of inbreeding is so many people travelling to use the same top winning stud dog and rendering much of the core population instantly half brother and sister.
We'll be resubmitting new wording until we succeed and trying to differentiate ours from the existing one, but it a slow old process as it takes a while for them to read and reject!

In the meantime - here are some other petitions you might like to sign and letters/email you may want to write to keep the pressure on.

Here's one to change breed standards
And one from TV vet Joe Inglis

Here is the address of some people to write to if you feel moved:

Dogs Trust are suggesting you write to:
Lord Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health at Defra,
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR

However - while Dogs Trust has posted quite a robust message on their website (click here to see their message) in support of the TV programme the following little tiny easily missed message has appeared on the expensive, glossy and impotent KC genetics website...

"the KC has received messages supporting the work the KC is undertaking, with breeders, to improve the health of pedigree dogs, from organizations including Dogs Trust...."

So a line to Dogs Trust might be worthwhile, too as they seem to be wanting to keep everyone happy with quiet low-key support of the KC's lack of action yet public condemnation of them at the same time to keep their supporters happy!
(It must have disappointed a lot of the dog lovers who give Dogs Trust their £40 million pounds of donations each year not see them more proactive on this vital subject when the RSPCA by contrast were so brave and outspoken.)

Dogs Trust 17 Wakley Street London EC1V 7RQ

I've had an email from a Dogs Trust supporter who did write to them and they got a reply saying that the KC had refused to print their actual letter in full on their website. Will dig out the full letter and paste here when I'm back at work and can find it.

If you want to write to your MP, here's how... go to this website to find out their name and contact details - just type in a postcode.

On of our readers' tells us her Jack Russells will be boycotting Pedigree Gravy Bones until they take down their message of support on the KC genetics website. She's written to Pedigree to tell them.

Pedigree Pet Foods Mill Street Melton Mowbray Leicestershire LE13 1BB

Click here to see other supporters of the KC stance who may also like to hear from you! A relatively new supporter is Roger Helmer an MEP.

*
Here's what he says in support of the KC....

Roger Helmer

"The BBC programme about pedigree dogs was a pure piece of tabloid sensationalism, and a hatchet-job so far as the Kennel Club is concerned. It is certainly true that a number of breeds have experienced problems, but the Kennel Club has been at the forefront of work to correct problems and to ensure that pedigree breeds are healthy. I sincerely believe that the great majority of pedigree dogs are healthy and well-cared for.

The fact is that the BBC chose to highlight a few cases of sick animals -- sadly there will always be sick animals -- and largely to ignore the responses of the Kennel Club.

Having on occasion done some work with the Kennel Club, I have no doubts about their concern for animal welfare. Sadly, it is also the case that some breeders do not always live up to the high standards that the Club recommends.

Of course there is much that needs to be done on the animal welfare front, and we cannot afford to be complacent, but I think people are perhaps worrying more than they need to.

Roger Helmer MEP"

If you think we're not 'worrying more than we need to', perhaps you might like to drop him a line. Someone must have voted for him - if you're in his constituency why not get in touch and ask him to reflect your views in future? And what exactly was the 'work' he did with the KC? Doesn't seem to fit his responsibilities listed on his website...

Roger Helmer MEP
Boswell House
9 Prospect Court
Courteen Hall RD
Blisworth
Northhamptonshire
NN7 3DG

Telephone: 01604 859728
Email: rhelmer@europarl.eu.int
rogerhelmer@tory.org

Website: www.rogerhelmer.org.uk
Responsibilities: Member of Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy Committee

And if you were moved by the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Documentary do you think that the director, editor, writer Jemima Harrison deserves some reward and recognition for bringing these important issues to the public's attention?
How about we all nominate her for a Woman of the Year award. Here's how...
Jemima took two years to make this film and it really was a labour of love. Her other projects always stick to budget, but this one certainly didn't!
While you're at it, maybe fill in a form for Carol Fowler, too? Another inspirational lady. And why not the very brave Margaret who had the stud dog that developed SM late in life. Must have took some guts to decide to be a whistleblower and speak out on the programme and reveal that Beverley Costello's winning dog had SM. Those Cav committee ladies were really very scary weren't they!

And here's a link to the existing Downing Street epetition with the dodgy stud dog distance wording, as other bits of it were okay... click here

Friday, 5 September 2008

To do list? Can you help?

Just had a flurry of emails which I need to share.
Hope you can help with some of them!

1. Can anyone help transport a Chihuahua from Newcastle to Kent? I'll pass on the details!

2. Were you moved by the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Documentary? Do you think that the director, editor, writer Jemima Harrison deserves some reward and recognition for bringing these important issues to the public's attention?
Just had an email in suggesting we all nominate her for a Woman of the Year award. Here's how...
Jemima took two years to make this film and it really was a labour of love. Her other projects stick to budget, but this one certainly didn't!
While you're at it, maybe fill in a form for Carol Fowler, too? Another inspirational lady.

3. Got room for a Rolo? Got this email from Mina while I was on holiday and sadly couldn't copy and paste on my Blackberry or see the pix.


"I realise your blog is very busy right now, but if you find a space for a dog that needs a home, please consider Rolo. Normally I wouldn't ask, but he was turfed out of his original home along with his three brothers and three breeding bitches three days before Christmas last year as they were having visitors Christmas day and the alternative to rescue was to be euthanized I took in Rolo and Pongo (Click here for more pix), although Rolo moved to another foster as they were so scared of life that they had to be separated. All the boys found a home early this year, but Rolo's new owner went into hospital and he was returned to a different foster home. He's been moved around between foster homes ever since, although I knew none of this until last week when I heard he had to be moved again. He's a medium height muttley with a Staffy head and a lurcher body! He's very placid and quiet, and so sweet natured! He's lived with kids as young as five and with other dogs.
(Click here for more details)

Home and straight back to it

I'm about to do a radio interview about a really difficult subject. A lady awoke from sleep thinking she was being attacked by an intruder. She needed 40 stitches in her face. But there was no intruder, the injury had been caused by her six-year-old rescued Greyhound which has nw been put to sleep.
What happened? Maybe the owner had a seizure? Maybe the dog had a brain tumour? Something must have been different that night when all those before were peaceful.
Am holding waiting to speak. One in seven us share a bed with our dogs, this is something I have never heard of before.
All this before my first cup of peppermint tea. Ugh!
Any ideas?