Friday, 31 October 2008

Ugly smears

I have been horrified by some of the posts on a forum I wasn't a member of. I've been accused of "spreading lies" about the KC. Of having a grudge because I was "kicked out of the KC".

Click here to arrive at the offending strand... although there are others!

I have to say I've wasted such a lot of time this morning writing a response that I thought it may as well get a wider airing as I am so totally fed up with what can only be described as a propaganda campaign to discredit me.

Here's the post...

Now exactly what "lies" have I spread about the Kennel Club?

You can't accuse people of lying without evidence. That is so strong!!!

If you have evidence of "lies" I have spread about the Kennel Club as opposed to "lies" your forum has spread about me - then front them up now.

You really have to stop shooting the messenger and accept facts no matter how unpalatable. You are meant to be a Pet owners forum - why aren't you screaming for reform to protect the future health of dogs, too?

Reform of the Kennel Club is long overdue - to suggest my motivation is anything other than honest attacks me fundamentally as a human being and is both extremely hurtful and potentially damaging as it infects unprejudiced people if it goes unchallenged.

If you have any allegations - please put them to me here and I am confident I can answer them, it is just plain cowardly to say these things only when you feel there is no chance of confrontation.

I have nothing to hide - so if you have heard things which make you prejudiced - confront me.

I am feeling charitable, perhaps some of you hold these strange views out of ignorance. We haven't been introduced. I am sure after such rudeness you will allow me to tell you a little more about my background and motivation.

I do not hold grudges and my aim is to see everyone united on this issue pressing for meaningful and far reaching reform to bring us up to date - Sweden made the changes I have LONG been campaigning for 20 plus years ago. Their country should be our model. No rescue problems, no pups in pet shops, the best pet insurance in Europe, health testing mandatory before breeding, stud dogs limited in use so that genetic diversity is maintained, coefficients of inbreeding easily accessible via their website, democratic - every dog owner a voting member.

I could go on and on about what needs to change to make things better here. And it is such a relief to see change finally starting. It has been painfully slow and our dogs have been left behind and disadvantaged because of it.

Yes I worked at the KC for a few years 20 years ago. But was I sacked? Did I leave under a cloud? Am I nursing a grudge? And if you perceive that to be the case - who told you that? Why did they want you to dismiss the words I say as biased?

I started at the KC as their first Information Officer - Brian Leonard was also given this title and we shared an office. Sadly it wasn't that exciting as the regime wasn't really into giving out much info in those days and I was really just dictating letters and sorting out problems. It was okay, I was good at my job - there was often flowers or chocolates being delivered downstairs as I'd always go the extra yard to resolve a muddle, I liked helping the people who phoned in or wrote in - but I wanted to do more and took every challenge I was offered. It was an unforgiving and Victorian place in those days and there was always someone crying in the library after they had been savaged by one of the high-ups. We were defined as servants constitutionally and I think some of them rather liked that! But there were some lovely people who worked there and when a job came up on the Kennel Gazette I applied as I really wanted to get my teeth stuck in to making that more readable. I introduced some new elements that are still there to this day - the Judge's choice (where judges pick their fav dog of particular breed of all time and say why). A q&a bit with a famous judge. A problem page - that soon got clamped down on though! Bit too friendly! Interviews with famous dog owners David Blunkett, Princess Antoinette of Monaco, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Peter Cadbury, Leslie Kenton - Jilly Cooper was banned though - or anyone openly gay which I thought was odd!

I also happily accepted any extra duties going - at Crufts I started writing press releases on the day about the winners - first time that had been done - they were written on my own Amstrad computer - PCs were very new that's how long ago this was! I used to also stay in the hotel in London with the Crufts BIS winner and help them doing their TV appearances.

I would do anything anyone asked of me with enthusiasm. But I would also write reports urging them to introduce a good breeder scheme etc, a way of rewarding the good. I spent ages talking to key Kennel Club committee members trying to urge them to press for change - guess that was lobbying. But it was slow, slow going and I could see the years ticking by and while I was enjoying my work and I was appreciated I was earning a pittance and couldn't even take my dog to work - Clarges Street is still a 'no dogs' office.

They were a bit shocked when I decided to move on as I guess I looked the type who would stay forever. If there'd been a glint of light at the end of the tunnel that I could have made a difference from within I would have probably stuck it out - but back then it was even worse than it is now if you can imagine. After I left they would get the first sensible businessey KC secretary who sorted out some of the internal weirdness about working there as an employee, made it function a bit more effectively and promoted and rewarded some key workers that had dug in and stuck it out through the very grim years where it was all stick and no carrot. But my era at the KC was very Victorian and dark. It makes a good anecdote to recall the one-armed man doing the filing, the valient deaf lady operating the switchboard and the lovely girl who should have been registered blind doing my typing (on a normal machine - nothing to help her!) The KC didn't have at this stage an enlightened policy of employing disabled people, there was nothing shiny and happy about the place, the staff morale was very low indeed.

I had had the odd clash with my bosses over the years - but nothing serious. An ill judged letter to a German Shepherd owner had ended up on the front page of Dog World - got a roasting for that! Someone had posed the theoretical question when I was info officer as to if there was a perfect German Shepherd that was white and a perfectly marked
GSD that was a physical wreck which one should the judge place first. I had - perhaps naively - quoted the breed standard at them that did seem to imply that colour was of secondary importance to construction! After that I was told not to interpret if people asked questions - and every letter we all wrote after that had to be censored by our poor boss who must have died of boredom as nothing remotely contentious ever came in after that!

Can't remember anything else I got into big trouble about. One of the Chairman's friends had said something untrue in an interview I had done for the Gazette - but I was able to produce the tapes to prove it wasn't my error - I had accurately reproduced his words. I was always being told off for being too helpful. The Chairman at the time once yelled at me at a show -"Don't even try to explain the rules to them (an exhibitor was asking a question). Just point at the relevent passage!" He'd been a surgeon before he retired and he thought you couldn't hear him if he didn't yell. He once sacked a cleaner for sitting in his chair. It was an odd place. There was always someone getting sacked and then you'd hear a rumour of a settlement before the tribunal. So perhaps that's why its been assumed I got sacked, lots of people did!

I left when I was offered a much better paid job in corporate non-doggie journalism that could mean I could get on the property ladder and afford to actually have a dog with me again. It was the difference between something like £14k and £25k with bonuses. If anyone says I was sacked by the KC I will sue them, it is nothing more than a lie to distract because what I have been saying all these years has been very uncomfortable - because it is true! It is easier to dismiss facts as bias than answer real criticisms. But now they are starting to accept they needed to change - so surely this smear campaign can be stopped once and for all?

I helped train my successor, I worked out a long notice period conscientiously, I even had a send off party.... no leaving under a cloud, no falling out or being encouraged to leave. (Just remembered I had a lovely leaving present, one of my colleagues took the envelope round all the staff and I can't have been so unpopular as it got a huge present.)

I liked my job and the people I worked with, I just had a feeling that staying put on a low wage and little hope of changing a badly flawed system would have achieved nothing. I even liked several of the KC committee members making the decisions. It wasn't the individuals that was the problem - it was the system that needed reform to make it work.

The only vaguely scandalous thing about my leaving was that the man who was meant to replace me - (at a slightly higher wage, of course - he was a mainstream male journalist after all and not a dog mad young woman!) - decided not to stay and left on the same day I did - announcing this to me and the others at my leaving party! He had hated the job and the place.

It is true, we did then go on to live together for eight years, but it certainly wasn't my intention to disrupt the department by subversively making him fall in love with me! There were only two candidates for the job after all and the other one turned it down! He was Australian and we'd never met before I started training him - just in case some of you think I'm that devious!

Before the KC as a child and young person I was an accidental show person, a successful breeder and exhibitor of Beardies from the age of 11, one of the youngest ever championship show judges, at 21 I was the main Breed Club secretary for several years.

(My background should always have been seen as a positive in my stance as champion for reform as I have seen the dog world from so many angles, I know what needs to change and tried and failed with diplomacy from within. With such a stagnant and undemocratic institution I could not make inroads by writing reports and lobbying inactive members to start standing up and making waves.)

I did a degree in history writing a dissertation on the concept of cruelty in Victorian Britain and the formation of the RSPCA. Then wrote for Our Dogs for a year and then worked at Dog World for the next (even writing for Terrier World for a while, too).

After the KC, I unusually had a whole year of not doing much doggie (apart from writing a couple of dog books) but being very richly paid doing corporate journalism for BT ...and being bored stiff. And then I glimpsed the advert in the Guardian for the launch editor of Dogs Today - a new magazine for pet lovers. It ignited my imagination and when I met the proprietor (the owner of the Daily Mail) it was obvious this was my dream job. I could give the pet owner the voice they hadn't had before.

Since 1990 we have campaigned hard on so many issues - the end to quarantine, banning tail docking, reform of the DDA - from 1995 we started a crusade to get more breeders health testing, launching Dial-a-dog now rebranded The Furry Godmother. We came up with the concept for Take your Dog to Work Day, were there at the beginning of Rescue Dog of the Year with David Cavill. Invented the Wag and Bone Show, the Cold Wet Nose Show... I could go on and on... We are certainly not a one trick pony.

In 1992 my wonderful proprietor sold me the magazine for a pound and came in as my minor investor giving me the magazine I loved. He was a very wealthy and important man - but he really loved dogs and knew I would do my very best for them. A love of dogs cuts across all boundaries. He was the seventh richest man in Britain, but he knew for certain his dogs loved him not for his power or influence, it was a genuine bond and one he would value above all others.

(When he had dreadful car crash in France with his two dogs (he was driving a bashed up old Porsche for some reason - he didn't much care for the trappings of wealth) one of his beloved Akita's died and the other ran off. He sent a missive to everyone who worked for the Daily Mail that anyone who could speak French should get over to France to help search for his dog. The clever girl who found his beloved Ryu-ma was given the Hollywood reporting job as a reward.
What a brilliant bloke he was! He changed his paper's allegience to the Labour party to get rid of quarantine, kept the Home secretary almost hostage to try to get him to change the DDA. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man and the best friend for dogs you could imagine.)

But some would have you believe that the sum total of my whole life is just to make life hell for the KC by fair means or foul.

I have to say reading the earlier posts on teh Pet Owners Forum did give me a serious sense of humour failure as you might of gathered!

If you have kept reading I hope you now feel you know me a little better but if you still have any concerns or any 'lies' that you want me to substantiate - I will be happy to respond.

It's easy to see the world in tabloid terms - but I am not evil personified. I am just a dog lover - hopefully like you - trying to do my best for our best friend.

I have no grudges, all right, I am human, it still stings that Caroline Kisko accused me of making up the health problems in dogs live on GMTV - way before the documentary aired. That did upset me that she wouldn't admit the problems the KC now concede are very real. An apology is I feel rather overdue - but I'm not holding my breath.

I am not wishing I was still there - although I'd gladly try to help them sort the mess out if they'd let me. I love my job at Dogs Today. I can say exactly what I think without sanction - Caroline is paid to protect her employer and she used whatever weapons she could find to try to deflect from the damaging situation I was exposing. No, I know I much prefer my current job! No one has to pay me to have this standpoint - speaking from the heart is such a joy.

That's why I say call a truce now. Put these ugly things behind us. The focus needs to be on the future not the past, and people repeating old propaganda as fact really should be jumped on from a very great height!

Now you know my side of the story - I've been transparent - judge for yourself. Ask the KC for a statement as to why I left if you are still unsure. Let's gets this one cleared up once and forever."

So Dog World, Our Dogs - go on - go get that KC statement and print it in full. Let's get rid of this ridiculous urban myth once and for all!

I also tackled the main poster head on via private message - she/he never did reveal her name - but here is my reply to her very half-hearted and begrudging apology
- she felt that I unjustly vilify the KC and that she was only repeating what others have said.

"The problem with lies is that they are often juicy and they get repeated - especially when someone is telling you something you'd prefer not to hear. Perhaps if you see anyone else repeating similar untrue statements you could alert me via my blog?

To get the KC to start to reform we had to get them to admit they had problems. As soon as they have started reforming I have been being supportive - encouraging breeders to back a stronger KC and urge them to go further. I have always consistently supported a strong reformed KC - without one there would be chaos.

It was easier to try to discredit me than actually reform when I was one of the lone voices. When the whole world of science united to say "get your finger out" and we had a powerful BBC documentary they finally listened and we got action. But I still get people who should care just as passionately about dog's health being thoroughly mean to me! Why? They didn't move when it was done from within, from without by just a few people - they only started moving when the general public started screaming and welfare organisations started distancing themselves.
I am very aware of what they did in the past - usually the bare minimum comapred with other more dynamic registries. There are plenty of hero breeders that do every possible test, that investigated coefficients of inbreeding all on their own without direction. But they are the tiny minority. Most dogs bred are bred by people having a single litter in their lifetime. (KC's own stats). These people need firm guidance. in 30 years a pathetic 60,000 Labradors have been hip scored - 45,000 Lab pups are registered EVERY YEAR. Voluntary testing never worked and to not limit the overuse of popular sires earlier was so short sighted. It's not like there's n precedent for them to follow, others implemented these reforms years and years ago.
The KC is not a little tiny organisation, it should have been keeping abreast of change and protecting our dogs future. They had the money and the resources - just not the will.
They can change and they will, but you should not feel sorry for them and attack the messengers that move them forwards.
All the information was at their fingertips and they lacked the bravery to make the changes, they feared being unpopular. Doing nothing - or next to nothing - let dogs down.
But we move forward now and should be on the same side. The KC has millions in the bank and countless trained well paid advocates ready to defend themselves quite ably without you having a go in your spare time - and if anyone asks them why I left and if I left under a cloud you will find that that widely spread lie was just that. Who started it I don't know, but it was obviously extremely effective sabotage.
And, if you read the petition carefully you will see it seeks to give the KC the legislation it needs to implement stronger reforms - exactly what the KC itself was asking for!
Prejudice needs confronting - imagine all the people who read your words and assumed them to be true who then go on to repeat what you did.
How else do I clear my name?
If I don't confront each person that casually accuses me of evil intent how will I ever clear my name?

I'm going to post my answer on the thread as it may help explain to others why I am trying to stop these lies circulating.


Beverley Cuddy
Editor, Dogs Today


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Hill's next to leave

Hill's Petfoods have announced they will be withdrawing their sponsorship from Crufts and not having a stand.

Dog World approached other sponsors - click here to see their story. Eukanuba said they were investing in shows not pulling out and were looking at taking over the Champion stakes from Pedigree at other shows. Royal Canin, while like Pedigree owned by Mars, said what Pedigree did didn't influence them.
Interestingly - Purina - declined to comment either way. Watch this space.

Division in the ranks?

Just saw this posted by Dogs Trust on a forum...

"With the announcement that Pedigree is no longer sponsoring Crufts, many newspapers and online forums reported the news this weekend. You may have incorrectly read that the Kennel Club is working with Dogs Trust to review breeding standards for 209 species of pedigree dogs. Dogs Trust has no involvement with the review of breed standards which is currently underway; this is something the Kennel Club is conducting independently.
"Although Dogs Trust has withdrawn from Crufts and Discover Dogs, we are firmly committed to ensuring that changes are now made to safeguard the health and well being of dogs. This is why we have been in regular dialogue with the Kennel Club and have jointly called for Government support for a review into the breeding, registration and showing of all dogs. Timings and full details for this review have not yet been confirmed. We will be able to update our supporters about this review shortly."

Hmmm, perhaps not wanting to appear too cosy with the KC? Interesting to make that subtle definition - does this mean the rewriting of these breed standards isn't going to get the Dogs Trust seal of approval? We know they are being really rushed through.
And why have two reviews of the health of the nation's dogs? RSPCA are already quite a way along the line with theirs. Isn't it going to be a waste of charity money to fund a duplication? I know for a fact that the RSPCA has made this point and asked if Dogs Trust would like to join them.
Why not work together?
Shouldn't this be about what's best for dogs and not point scoring between charities.
Just think how strong that review would be if the two biggest dog welfare charities signed it off?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Mystery solved?

People who have been visiting this blog for a while will remember the mysterious story of the rat in the kitchen. One morning I came downstairs to find a dead rat, not a mark on it and the two dogs looking as confused as me! No obvious holes for a rat to enter in and no sign that one of the dogs had smuggled it in on their last trip out of the night.
On Saturday we were all sitting around the kitchen table for breakfast when something flew from one end of the kitchen to the other. At first I thought it was a bat as we have a few of those in the garage and one has been flying around at daytime and getting a bit confused. I ran off being a bit scared of fluttery things.
Husband Graham and the kids caught what turned out to be a really beautiful Blue Tit and released it outside to where its mate was waiting.
How did it get there?
Later I was boiling the kettle and I heard a lot of tweeting. The same birds were making a nest in the roof space above the kitchen. They were getting under the roof eves.
The bird had kept flying up to the holes where the lights joined the ceiling which was odd.
I looked closer and there was a bit of a gap between the plaster roses of the light surrounds and the ceilings - the lights are very heavy - previous owner of the house was a bit theatrical - so we have three chandeliers in the kitchen!!!
One of the birds must have wondered what was the other side of one of the holes in the ceiling and got a bit of a surprise.
So if a blue tit could get through that gap - and could get into the roof space in the first place, could a rat? And did it freefall to its death - explaining the total lack of teeth marks?
Must say I do tend to look up before entering the kitchen now!

For those of you following the Our Dogs Forum I'm beginning to think I've done all I can and its time to move on. There are a few people totally entrenched in believing that inbreeding is good, and nothing is ever going to change their minds!

If anyone wants to take over, please do! Pip is doing a great job by the way. Patience of a saint.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Pedigree announcement

Further to my earlier hurried update (approx 11am) (sorry I was leaving for a meeting and heard the news from someone at the Times and just had the time to post the barest details), Pedigree have indeed pulled their sponsorship of Crufts 2009. Less than six months before the show and after they had only recently pledged their support for the event.
The KC say the show will go on, but as profit on the event is said to be £500k and the Pedigree sponsorship was rumoured to be a lot more than that (I heard 3x as much but that may have been a few years ago), then this has been the biggest blow so far. The amount of money Dogs Trust and RSPCA spent at Crufts will have been a tiny fraction of the money lost today.
Odd timing too - to go just as reform is starting, but perhaps if the KC had acted a little quicker they might have avoided this. Big firms tend to change direction very slowly - a bit like cruise ships. If they'd taken it on the chin and started reforming the very next day instead of that damaging period of complete denial maybe they now wouldn't be in this mess.
The show press are saying the Pedigree pull out it's not because of the documentary - but it's got to be a huge coincidence if not. Pedigree pulled their breeder and show service just a few days before the documentary aired - when everyone was running scared of what was going to be aired. Having a brand name of Pedigree must mean any negativity about pedigree dogs might reflect very badly on the how their brand is perceived by the public - and as the Pedigree brand is mainly a supermarket one, the public rather than breeder opinion is probably king.
Could we see a rebranding in the future - perhaps to Mongrel?
What next? Will any other sponsors follow?

Coverage in the Guardian click here
From Our Dogs:
STOP PRESS:
FRIDAY OCTOBER 24TH:
Our Dogs can confirm that PEDIGREE have pulled their sponsorship of Crufts, for commercial reasons.
More details here later or read next week’s OUR DOGS newspaper for full details and analysis.

=================================================================================================================

Pedigree has taken the surprise decision to withdraw its sponsorship of Crufts 2009, soon after withdrawing support from all breed Championship Shows in the UK and also recently reaffirming its support for Crufts. Many people have already expressed surprise at Midland Counties show (on this weekend) that the decision has been taken with only a few months to go before this hugely popular event which had an attendance of 155,000 dog lovers in March 2008.

A Mars spokesman stated: “The Pedigree brand has evolved and we are prioritising initiatives which support the broadest possible community of dog owners, such as our successful programme to help homeless dogs, the Pedigree Adoption Drive, and our online service for breeders, pedigreedirect.co.uk.
“We look forward to working with the Kennel Club on other projects in the future.”

From the KC:

The Kennel Club's Response to Pedigree's Decision to Withdraw Sponsorship from Crufts 2009
24-Oct-08
Following the decision by Pedigree to withdraw sponsorship from Crufts 2009 as part of a review of its business priorities, the Kennel Club has issued the following statement:
Rosemary Smart, Chief Executive Officer for the Kennel Club, said “Clearly we are very sad to lose Pedigree from Crufts. We have had an excellent relationship with Pedigree for many years and we wish them well and look forward to working with them in the future.
“Crufts will go ahead as planned in March 2009.”

Plus here's Dog World's coverage too: Click here

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Best laid plans and all that ....

Where do I start? The previous post was at the request of Margo, a concerned Home-a-Dog supporter.
I had received quite a few questions from bloggers as to what to say in the letters to the planners so I decided to phone Demelda at Home-A-Dog to get the full story. But I discovered that the planning issue was just the very top of an enormous iceberg.
To recap: Demelda and her husband sold up and left a profitable dog training business in Cornwall to come to Anne's aid in Wales. Anne had terminal cancer and wanted someone to ensure her excellent small-scale death row rehoming work continued. Demelda sounded perfect and Anne wrote to me to say how delighted she was and how Demelda had made her last days so much happier.
Anne offered free accommodation in exchange for help and in those early days there was also talk of Demelda being able to run her training classes from the premises, too. All should have been good. But no. Somehow the possibility of Demelda training dog on site didn't ever materialise. Demelda was teaching dog training at a local college for an hour of a week, but as she now had no external training business to promote to get any extra income this wasn't nearly enough to pay her living expenses.
When Anne died she left her land to Home-A-Dog. She left her house to a friend who was also a trustee of the charity. Two other friends were also trustees, but not Demelda.
The static caravan that Demelda and her husband had moved into was put in place by Anne just before they arrived - but without seeking proper planning consent.
The planners have ruled that the caravan must go, but that the six kennels can have a temporary reprieve despite local opposition from a faction of people that didn't get on with Anne.
If there is no caravan it would leave Demelda and husband homeless - and as they were looking after Home-A-Dog in exchange for free accommodation, it leaves the whole thing in a complete muddle.
If only Anne had left the house to the charity then Demelda could have lived there while she looked after the dogs - if the trustees allowed it, but the trustee who inherited the house (who already has another house) has already moved in and has no suggestions for what Demelda should do next.
I feel so sorry for Demelda. She was so quick to offer to be the Good Samaritan but her kindness has left her in a terrible mess. She loves the dogs and the work - but how can she go on?
One solution might have been to simply move Home-A-Dog to somewhere else where a caravan would be welcome. But the Home-A-Dog trustees don't want it to move!
Or she could simply walk away and start again doing the same thing but being in charge of her own destiny. That way the dogs are still helped and the essence of what Anne was trying to do is maintained.
From my own experience I know that cancer when it spreads can subtly change the people you know and love - often quite suddenly. My own Dad's personality and priorities changed subtly towards the end when his cancer spread to his brain. I just fear Anne may have left it too late to cross the ts and dot the eyes to make sure her vision was achieved.
Poor Demelda. If she does need to make a fresh start I hope she can rely on all of us to support her and that we will cheer her on if she so decides.
The planners may have brought things to a head, but by the sounds of things the foundations here were not quite right for the long term.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Can you write to right a wrong?

A year or so ago I launched an appeal to find someone to take over Home-A-Dog, the brilliant little Death Row rescue charity in Wales run by Anne Fowler. Anne had terminal cancer and had written a very brave letter saying how much she wanted her vital work to continue after she was gone and we launched a search to find someone who could help her as she got weaker - someone who would eventually take over.
Anne wrote to me again a couple of months ago so say what a tremendous comfort finding Demelda Penkitty had been. Demelda and her husband had read about Anne's quest on my blog and had sold their home in Cornwall to rush to Anne's side, staying in a static caravan on Anne's land and taking over the essential day to day care of the dogs and Home-A-Dog generally.
I knew Anne must be near the end to write the letter and I was so delighted that this brave lady seemed to be content - that what she started was going to continue.
She put off going into hospital as long as possible and slipped away a couple of weeks back.
But it seems Anne's last wishes are now being trampled on by a load of bureaucrats.
It seems that although Home-a-Dog had been quietly getting on with rehoming a very few dogs at a time, proper planning consent had not been sought and that the presence of a caravan on the land was also now being denied.
There are no neighbour problems and the local community seem very supportive of Anne's life's work. She lived in a remote area of Wales, where dogs seem to be a natural part of life.
Below is the person to write to, to express your disgust at this short-sighted decision to wreck a little project that has done so very much good without upsetting seemingly anyone apart from the planning committee.
Without your help there is a very great possibility that Home-A-Dog and the lovely Demelda and her husband will be themselves homeless.

Please address your best letters to:

Mr Aled Sturkey, Chief Planning Officer
Planning and Culture
National Park Planning Authority
Penrhyndeudraeth
Gwynedd
LL48 6LS

Or alternatively email: parc@eryi-npa.gov.uk

Been told this email address is bouncing - try this one!

aled.sturkey@eryri-npa.gov.uk

Home-A-Dog only ever took in a few dogs in at a time that were in council pounds on their seventh day, facing destruction. The dogs were carefully trained and rehomed and 300 plus dogs have been saved over many years.
If you can write to Aled, tell the local media, pass the word on through other forums please do.
Anne would just be so devasted to know that her life work hung by a thread and that she had encouraged lovely Demelda to relocate only for the whole plan to be totally destroyed by the council.
Alternatively, should you be able to help with a new home for the organisation or funding please contact me and I'll put you in touch with Demelda. We found Demelda for Anne, let's see if it we can also find a solution to this terrible situation.
I can't help but think how many puppy farms have been licenced in Wales in beautiful rural areas, yet this tiny, efficient rehoming charity is being destroyed.
Anne never wanted a fuss at her funeral, no flowers.
Instead can we all send letters of support? Please, please cross post.

Invitation to a mauling

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

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

United rather than divided?

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

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Divided we fail

I've been following a thread on the Our Dogs forum.
For those who don't know much about dog shows, Our Dogs is one of the two weekly papers for dog show exhibitors and breeders.
(Confession to newcomers to this blog: When I was young (oh dear that feels a very long time ago!) I used to write for Our Dogs and my next job was a year in the office of the other show paper Dog World. When I was a child, I was a really serious dog show person/breeder... There are embarrassing photos of me in very old breed books and show newspaper archives showing me wearing the uniform - a brightly coloured man-made fibre trouser suit - so there's no point in denying my past!)
Anyway, back to the forum.
I didn't realise when I joined (to correct David Cavill who had claimed I'd prevented him from commenting on this blog - free speech always welcome here David - do join in!) that I would continue to receive emails every time anyone said anything.
I started to witness some quite horrid bullying and I've been mulling over what to do or say. It's not like seeing someone being assaulted in the street, you're just overhearing a conversation - at what point do you join in and become part of it?
We have one very enthusiastic pet owner in one corner who has lost a beloved dog to a distressing disease trying to persuade the hard core dog breeders to get a bit more enthusiastic in the fight to improve all our dogs' health.
We have a load of dog show types pretty much saying, "Who the hell are you - clear off our forum."
This sort of tribalism may be natural - but isn't it rather disappointing?
We need to look at what joins us together rather than what divides us - and we all should be pulling in the same direction. Ultimately pet or show person should want the same thing - healthy dogs.
I'm still receiving reactionary emails from the odd breeder who still claims all this fuss is just nonsense, bias - that there's simply nothing wrong with inbreeding - or line breeding as they like to call it.
These are people who genuinely seem not to be able to grasp the correlation between declining effective population sizes and the increasing levels and weird and disturbing conditions popping up in all breeds. I reason with these people for ages hoping for a breakthrough, but it's still far too easy from they to say I'm just biased rather than just think about it logically for a moment.
How can these people ignore Professor Balding and all the other scientists and simply think that it's okay to breed ever closer regardless?
Could it reveal that perhaps some of these people might have lost sight of the special bond between dogs and their owners, that they can no longer honestly empathise with the person's grief at the loss of just one dog. When you have 14 more in the kennel perhaps you become slightly dulled to one popping off early?
I was once a show person. I know how everyone uses "pet quality" as a euphemism for "rubbish". Where someone showing a pet dog is dismissed with a roll of the eyes.
I remember many successful breeders that had obviously stopped loving their individual dogs, they hardly touched them if they weren't grooming, showing or exercising them. The lottery ticket effect of chasing winners spawned its own vocabulary and morals. For eg "Passengers" - dogs that didn't win and were too old to be bred from.
Dogs that didn't deliver were frequently rehomed or "bumped". I remember one person in my breed putting chalk marks on kennel doors and calling the vet in when numbers got too high. "Thinning out" with a lethal injection was a regular occurrence. Another saved the vet bill and shot the dogs herself.
It's morally reprehensible - but if we are honest and we live or have lived in the show world we probably know several people in every breed that fit the profile of someone who shows dogs but doesn't feel that attached to them individually any more.
Those sorts of people need driving out in my opinion.
There are plenty of other breeders that do still love their dogs and they need to be brave and hound out those dinosaurs that often spout the ridiculous doctrine of, "proper show people won't be told what to do by a bunch of scientists."
It's time for the caring people to come out of the closet and say they unashamedly love their dogs and that they care about their health - whether or not they are show or pet people.
Leave those miserable people who don't care out on a limb and start supporting each other.
Let's try to form a central movement of dog lovers who welcome progress: breeders, show people and pet people - everyone who loves dogs with a passion.
The majority of dogs are bred by pet owners in any case, if you look at the KC's own stats. Most litters are bred by people who only breed one litter in their lives.
It's time for pet and show people to start getting on with each other.
I feel the pet owners voices should be listened to by the hard core show people. That lone voice talking sense to people who don't want to hear may well make a breakthrough with some of the less entrenched.
Maybe I'll start joining in on the Our Dogs forum... care to join me?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Dog of the Year 2009

Thank you all so much for voting! Watch the Daily Mail for news of the winner or wait for the official calendar with the December issue of the magazine out early November!

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/

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

No it's not April 1st, the KC seems to be on the same side as us!

Is it just me or has someone slipped the KC something or has someone replaced them with sensible folk that look just the same?

Would you believe me if I said they'd come down on Margaret's side...? (They've not told me this, hell hasn't frozen over or anything - we're still not receiving press releases from them or anything civilised like that.)

They've told Ryan at K9.

I quote... (and please make sure you're sitting down)...

The Kennel Club is concerned about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club’s decision to remove breeder, Margaret Carter, from its committee.

Mrs Carter appeared to speak for those very aims that the Kennel Club and the Cavalier King Charles Club itself supports, which is reflected in the vast amount of effort that the breed club has put into ensuring that the health of the breed is progressed. Mrs Carter’s intentions appeared to be honourable and her will to ensure that the health of the breed is maintained, through responsible breeding practices, is one that the Kennel Club fully supports.


As this is such a big day, here's a quote from the lady who appears to have finally made the KC listen, after years and years of people like me trying to make them change.

Jemima Harrison, Director and Editor of Pedigree Dogs Exposed told me earlier:

“I am genuinely delighted to see that the Kennel Club has announced so many important new initiatives to tackle health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs. It vindicates the hard-hitting approach we took in Pedigree Dogs Exposed and of course, the real winners are the dogs. Getting a better deal for them was always the film’s primary objective.

“I am very disappointed that the Kennel Club has not acted immediately to ban the mating of first-degree relatives but, for the first time, there is mention of the importance of genetic diversity, which is hugely encouraging. There are going to be howls of protest from some breed clubs and it remains to be seen how much genuine change will result . But well done to the KC for finally admitting the scale of the problem and initiating at least some of the change that is needed.”

So everyone - do raise a glass to Jemima, to Carol Fowler and especially to Margaret this evening. There's still a long way to go, but I for one look forward to the day I don't have to be on the other side to the Kennel Club biting their ankles, when we can be sure they'll do their very best for our best friend the dog.

Still not time to forget the petition - and it seems they may now want to grasp the nettle and get the power to do the job properly, so there's no reason NOT to sign this petition if you love dogs as it will give them the power they say they want. Looks like we're all going to be on the same side if the KC does come up with the goods. We need the inbreeding issue to move up the agenda pronto.... but the glass is half full tonight.

Here's the link to the petition:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ReformtheKC/

And while we're in jolly mood - please spare a thought for these three waifs and strays in desperate need of a home....


Here's the message received from Emma late last night...

Attached are some pictures of some dogs that I am taking in tomorrow. Because Charlie the loon is here at home they will all have to stay at the boarding kennels I work at.

Can you put them on your blog? I know the pics are too small for your magazine (except maybe the GSD old boy as I have got the original of him) but I would love all the extra help I can get as they only have limited kennel funds (two weeks to find a home before kennel fees dry up.)

As time goes on and assessments are done I can update with names and character profiles.

Old GSD - Approx 10 years old. Found as a stray and never claimed. Due to be vaccinated, neutered and microchipped.

Scared GSD x - Approx 1 year old. Picked up as a stray and never claimed. Scared of absolutely everything, but we are hoping to change that. Due to be vaccinated, neutered and microchipped.

Staffie cross - Approx 1.5 years old. Picked up as a stray and never claimed. A bit nervy, but I am sure she will come round. Due to be vaccinated, neutered and microchipped.

Arrival date - 07/10/08

(Any help appreciated as always.)

Emma (Furry Friends Animal Rescue) - Surrey 020 8407 1080/0797 356 9371 Email: Adrs@aol.com

You read it here first...

....and now it's on the KC website, too!

Let's hope this really is a sincere attempt at improving doggie health and not just a quick bit of lipstick to stop Crufts being ostracised.... Let's keep nipping at their heels to make sure they do this properly. Getting a survival plan for 209 breeds before Christmas sounds a very tall order indeed - certainly it would be if you wanted to do it properly. Don't forget the petition though.... without pressure I can't imagine we'd ever have seen even 1% of this action. Bizarrely we're asking to give the KC precisely what they are now asking for - legislation so they can get tougher... it's a funny old world isn't it!

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/

Kennel Club to Clamp Down on Breeders to Safeguard Health of Pedigree Dogs

07-Oct-08

The Kennel Club is launching a complete review of every pedigree dog breed in the UK in a move that will have far-reaching benefits for the health of many breeds. It has also called on the government to give it the statutory powers to clamp down on breeders who fail to make a dog’s health their top priority.

A breed health plan will be coordinated for each of the UK’s 209 pedigree breeds and will benefit from the extensive research that has been funded by the Kennel Club in conjunction with renowned veterinary research centres over the past 40+ years. This will include updated breed standards to ensure that no dog is bred for features that might prevent it from seeing, walking and breathing freely. Judges will be fully briefed on the new breed standards so that only the healthiest dogs are rewarded in the show ring.

The Kennel Club is releasing the first of these new breed standards today, for the Pekingese, and has taken a tough line with the breed following extensive and abortive consultations. This is set to radically improve the health of the Pekingese which for nearly a hundred years was bred to have a flat face; a feature which can lead to breathing problems; under the new health plan the breed will be required to have a defined muzzle.

The breed health plans, which are scheduled to be completed by early next year, will also incorporate the results of a thorough, ongoing analysis of the health status and genetic diversity of each breed, drawing on results from the world’s largest dog health survey, conducted by the Animal Health Trust and funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust in 2004. This will ensure that breeders and buyers are aware of the health tests that should be carried out for each breed. The final part of the plans will look at ways breeders can expand the gene pool of the breed.

In order to ensure that the plans are effective and reach all dogs, the Kennel Club has called on the government to give it statutory powers to make its established Accredited Breeder Scheme compulsory throughout the country. If successful, this would mean that all breeders who are not part of the scheme and who have not officially confirmed their willingness to follow the health standards set by the Kennel Club would be unable to produce or sell puppies within the law.

Additionally, breed clubs are now required to adopt the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics, to ensure that their practices fall in line with Kennel Club policy for putting the health and welfare of puppies first. This includes a clause that explicitly forbids the compulsory culling of healthy puppies.

To complement these steps the Kennel Club is developing plans for a new Canine Genetics Centre. This will be run in conjunction with the Animal Health Trust, confirming the Kennel Club’s commitment to research into inherited diseases and the provision of DNA testing programmes which identify the genes underlying inherited health problems.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The groundswell of public attention on the very important matters surrounding dog breeding is a welcomed momentum that will enable us to drive through, with added urgency, new and extended initiatives that will help to safeguard the health of our pedigree dogs. We have been listening and agree with the general public’s view that more needs to be done.

“Steps such as our breed health plans will enable us to ensure that the health of every dog is the number one priority and we are taking a tougher line with breed clubs by adjusting those breed standards that fail to promote good health. By asking the government for statutory powers we will be able to take a tougher line with all breeders and breed clubs that fail to abide by our high standards. This in turn will enable us to extend the reach of our Accredited Breeder Scheme, which is the quality control mechanism within our registration process, so that all dogs will be bred by people who abide by our stringent rules and regulations for the breeding of healthy, happy dogs.

“We have been working hard in recent years to identify and address health problems that exist in dogs, and we are taking advantage of the opportunities that advances in science have given us to improve dog health. We look forward to continuing our work with various institutions and organisations that share the same objective: to protect the health and welfare of all dogs.”

Monday, 6 October 2008

Could the KC be changing its spots?

The KC seem to be talking about changing.
They've announced some subtle changes to the Conservatives at their party conference and to MPs generally via briefing documents .

Here is their MPs briefing document... (Try to look past them still claiming that the vast majority of dogs are healthy...!) The red bits are my emphasis and the blue ones are my concerns.

Excuse me from not cracking open the Champagne just yet, I think they can do a lot better than this... but it's certainly a start.

Introduction
Although the Kennel Club is disappointed that a recent BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed failed to acknowledge the work of the Kennel Club in tackling breed health, we are grateful that the programme brought this important issue to the forefront. While it is imperative to remember that our extensive research indicates that the vast majority of breeds and dogs are healthy, the Kennel Club is far from complacent where health is concerned and has many plans in place for the future to deal with breed health.

The Kennel Club Remit
The objective of the Kennel Club is to improve the welfare, health and general well being of all dogs, throughout every stage of their lives. To fulfil this objective the Kennel Club has long been working on the issue of breed health as a priority and is still continuing to do so – particularly in light of scientific advances. For legal reasons (a raft of competition law and sports law), the Kennel Club is not able to refuse registrations – it is because of this that the Kennel Club launched the Accredited Breeder Scheme (see below). In addition, there is nothing to prevent another dog registry being set up, or another breeder scheme of some sort. This is worrying for the Kennel Club since we are a not for profit organisation with a Charitable Trust – therefore all of the money the Kennel Club makes as a result of registrations, PetLog and Crufts, goes back into dogs. (Ed: subsidised G&Ts for members in the club don't count I guess... Where does all the money go from the KC Pet Insurance Scheme etc - I thought the balance sheet showed millions of pounds of revenue? Gosh their accountant must be amazing to get that not to show a profit!)

Kennel Club Initiatives to Improve Breed Health
The Kennel Club along with breeders and breed clubs have made a good start in improving breed health. This paper outlines the progress the Kennel Club has made to date, and also plans for the future.
• Funding research through the Kennel Club’s Charitable Trust
The Kennel Club funds research through its Charitable Trust to improve the health of dogs. A number of research projects are in hand with such bodies as the Animal Health Trust and the veterinary universities. We are currently working with Imperial College to examine the available genetic research findings, specifically relating to close matings and frequently used sires and how these matters should be addressed.
• Health Survey
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association conducted the largest canine health survey in the world in 2004, of over 52,000 dogs. It provided us with the data needed to identify breeds with health problems. (Yet the statistic for unhealthy dogs seems to have proved rather elastic)
• Breed Club Health Programmes
As a result of the health survey, the Kennel Club identified breeds in need of major health improvements. Such breeds included the Bulldog, the Chow Chow and short faced breeds including the Pug. The list of breeds requiring attention is continually reviewed and it is likely that in light of further scientific research being carried out (and funded by the Kennel Club) other breeds will be added. Work with these breed clubs is undertaken by the Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group.
I am reliably informed that the Pug was never on this list. Here's the list and the few things they thought needed changing in the breeds they have definitely reviewed... my tabs won't work on the blog so I've tried to colour code this to make it a bit easier to read... this was correct at the end of January this year. No Pugs, No German Shepherds, No Basset Hounds... And what's all this about wrinkles being the problem? How about a complete lack of face in the brachycephalic breeds??? How about falling life expectancy and cancer? All these were evidenced in their own health survey....

Breed Meetings Breed Standard Amendments Other initiatives

Bloodhound May 03, Nov 06 None Eye photo survey
Bulldog Nov 02, Jul 05 Finalised Sep 03 Club scheme
Clumber Spaniel Sep 03 Eyes amended 04 None
Chow Chow Jun 02 Eyes amended 91
Dogue de Bordeaux Jan 08 None None
Mastiff Oct 07 None None
Neapolitan Mastiff Sep 04 Finalised Mar 07 None
Pekingese Feb 03, Jan 07 Finalised Nov 04 Health check
St Bernard Nov 03 Finalised Mar 07 None
Shar Pei Apr 03, May 04, Dec 05 Finalised Mar 07 Club survey

Health conditions identified

Bloodhound Eyes; Wrinkle
Bulldog Breathing; wrinkle; head size; eyes
Clumber Spaniel Eyes; hips; backs; skin
Chow Chow Eyes
Dogue de Bordeaux Wrinkle
Mastiff Cruciate Ligaments
Neapolitan Mastiff Eyes; skin, movement
Pekingese Eyes; breathing; head size, nose wrinkle
St Bernard Eyes, head size, hock angulation
Shar Pei Eyes; wrinkle

• The Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group (BHWSG)
The BHWSG consists of Kennel Club representatives and independent experts with extensive veterinary and genetics knowledge and was established to take forward the breed club health programmes. A Breed Health Plan for all 209 Kennel Club recognised breeds will be in place by the end of 2008, to ensure that health continues to be the top priority in breeding all pedigree dogs. (wonder who is on this committee - anyone got any clues? Thank you bloggers... here is this committee, apparently first set up to fight the European Convention... not a geneticist in sight....not going to sleep quite so peacefully tonight.... and has anyone in any of the 209 breed clubs yet been approached about the Breed Health Plan? As its October they'll have to rush to get this done. We'd prefer it to be a breed conservation plan and rather than a generic one we'd prefer something more meaningful.
Here's the committee that is meant to save our pedigree dogs from extinction... even the KC's own geneticist Jeff Sampson isn't on this list! Are the breeds safe in these people's hands - how many of them agree with the Chairman that's father daughter matings are okay....? Herrtage and Crispin would have a mountain to climb to overturn the majority of KC insiders packing this committee!!!
* Dr Ruth Barbour, BA., MB ChB, FRCGP (Chairman) KC member
* Prof. Mike Herrtage, MA, BVSc, DVR, DVD, DSAM, DECVIM, DECVDI, MRCVS, Dean of Cambridge Veterinary School
* Prof. Sheila Crispin, MA,VetMB, BSc, PhD, DVA, DVOpthal, DipECVO, FRCVS, Past President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
* Frank Kane, Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee
KC member
* Meg Purnell-Carpenter, Vice-Chairman Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee KC member
* Ronnie Irving, Kennel Club Chairman KC member
* Caroline Kisko, BSc, Kennel Club Secretary) KC member

Breed Standards
Breed standards have been changed to stress health issues and highlight the need to avoid exaggerations. These standards remain under review. In line with the changes that have been made to breed standards, all now include an amended ‘Faults’ clause to say “the fault should be regarded in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog”. The standards are currently undergoing a further complete review by veterinary and breed experts.
• Judges
Kennel Club regulations have had the following clause added: “In assessing dogs, judges must penalise any features or exaggerations which they consider would be detrimental to the soundness, health or well being of the dog”. In addition to training judges, the Kennel Club assesses judges and conducts random spot checks to ensure they judge with health and welfare in mind. A conference of leading judges is to be held to reinforce the many actions already taken to emphasise the paramount importance of health and welfare issues. In addition to this a panel of independent veterinarians is planned to be set up across the country to conduct random spot checks on Best of Breed winners at Championship Shows to ensure that the dogs are fit and healthy. (see my earlier blog - a top judge complained to us recently that they received no training on this change and only discovered the new wording when holding the winner's certificate for her as she did a lap of honour!)
• Veterinary passports
The Kennel Club plans to introduce mandatory veterinary passports, so breeds identified by the BHWSG as having health problems would only be able to enter Crufts and other shows if they had veterinary approval.
• Health Initiatives in Partnership With the Veterinary Profession
The Kennel Club has a policy agreed with veterinary surgeons - whereby operations which alter the natural conformation of the dog – such as corrective surgery for entropion – must be reported to the Kennel Club by the vet concerned. As a result they can not be shown at Kennel Club licensed events which discourages breeders from using them in their breeding programme.
(dare I ask what about soft palate resections in Pekingese?)
• Health Screening Programmes and DNA tests
The Kennel Club in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association has developed breed specific health screening programmes to monitor conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and various eye conditions. Information regarding available health tests per breed will shortly be included with registration documents and as part of the Kennel Club Puppy Sales Register information pack. (No word about mandatory testing for all - we all know the Accredited Breeder Scheme has allowed people to breed on from dogs that have failed serious health tests, and we've also discovered Accredited breeders that didn't health test in breeds that stated they should have been tested,)
• Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS)
The ABS was established with the primary aim of improving the overall standards of breeding all dogs in order that dogs are ‘Fit for Function: Fit for Life’ (see www.doggenetichealth.com). Accredited Breeders are required to make use of health screening schemes relevant to their breed on all breeding stock. The requirements of the ABS are constantly under review and are becoming ever more stringent. The ABS has over 3000 members – the standards set are rigorously upheld and anyone found wanting is removed from the scheme.To be effective, the scheme must be supported by all responsible dog breeders.
(We've yet to see any evidence of them raising the bar...)

Proposed way forward
Although the Kennel Club is working towards improving breed health, there is arguably a need for further improvement and to enable changes to happen more quickly by way of legislation. The Kennel Club currently operates under the constant threat of legal action for ‘overstepping the mark’ and other less stringent schemes being established for breeders not meeting ABS standards. We believe that the Kennel Club should be given statutory powers to make all breeders accredited. This would mean that every puppy sold to future dog owners, and indeed, every dog in the show ring (born in the UK) would have had to bred by an accredited breeder, and therefore with health as a priority, and with the appropriate health screening tests carried out.

As one of our blog regulars Jan suggested - sounds like they should sign our petition! Talking of which...

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/