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Dog showing: good form of education

Press Release 14 Jan 10

Dog showing and well-educated judges are amongst two ways forward for the world of pedigree dogs, according to the long awaited Bateson Inquiry, which was made public at 10am a week last Thursday.

The report, which began 10 months ago, also recommended a new and improved Accredited Breeders Scheme to be put into action, as well as the proposal for compulsory microchipping for all puppies before sale.

Professor Patrick Bateson, the Zoological Society of London's president, also said that he felt negligent management on puppy farms was a major welfare issue, as well as inbreeding in pure-bred dogs.

The Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust called for the report following the fallout from Pedigree Dogs Exposed, Jemima Harrison’s 2008 documentary alleging cruelty in many breeding practices concerning pedigree dogs. The aftermath saw the BBC pull out of televising Crufts, as well as the withdrawal of the RSPCA and other organisations from the event. Comments made during the programme by the RSPCA’s Chief Vet caused many dog breeders to boycott the Society completely, and many others questioned Mr Evans’ own knowledge of dogs and breeding. A subsequent complaint to Ofcom by the KC and two breed clubs was partly upheld last month.
The call for evidence by Prof. Bateson received 135 written responses, including 59 from breed clubs, 21 from breeders, 16 from veterinary surgeons, other scientists or academic institutions, 13 from dog or animal welfare charities and 10 from pet owners.

At the time, concern was expressed by many that some of the questions appeared to be ‘loaded’, and perhaps led the people taking part to answer questions in such a way it would lead to ‘required’ answers rather than genuine responses. However, many now feel that many of the questions were fair. Prof Bateson and his secretary, Mrs Heather Peck, also visited four dog shows and interviewed 50 individuals, ranging from breeders to politicians.

The report, which ran to 64 pages, contained many ideas which the KC has already embraced, with health and welfare issues of pedigree dogs cited as being of the upmost importance in any breeding plan. Professor Bateson also noted what he termed the ‘considerable efforts’ made by the KC with regard to the education and training of judges, with attention now being drawn to new guidance on welfare issues, training and monitoring and emphasis being put on the general fitness of an exhibit, as well as its appearance.

However, he did not rule out that fact that some judges may feel that they ‘have nothing to learn and resent beaurocratic interference.’ This would also put a pressure onto the KC itself, as fears that breed clubs would leave the KC if pushed to hard could be a possibility in some cases. This could potentially lead to further welfare issues in some breeds being compromised.
The intransigence and deeply-held beliefs of certain breed guardians could also pose problems for the KC, with strong opinions on either side making sensible and workable relations almost impossible in some cases.

Dog showing appeared to get a thumbs up, with Prof. Bateson admitting that he had been ‘persuaded that showing and judging constitute a powerful lever for change. This has been demonstrated clearly in the past and the documented and undisputed changes in from that have taken place over many breeds.’ This would most certainly be improved with a plan to re-train and/or update judges over time, with a theme of continuing development. He also suggested the introduction of a way of highlighting judges who consistently upheld welfare principles and showed themselves able to stay up-to-date with welfare and breed issues.

Further suggestions regarding dog showing were the idea that a judge may give any exhibitor not place his reasons. This would, said Bateson, educate not only exhibitors and other judges, but also onlookers who may have an interest in a breed.

Accredited breeders
The ABS also came out well in the report and, said Professor Bateson, it came the closest to identifying good breeders who made welfare and health of major importance in breeding plans. However, as a quality assurance for potential buyers, he still felt the ABS lacked teeth, and needed to be ‘upgraded’ slightly, particularly in terms of policing breeders who had been allowed to join. Section 7.34 of the report concluded: ‘The Kennel Club has taken steps to ensure that the premises of accredited breeders are regularly inspected and might, in the fullness of time, make the scheme compulsory for all large scale breeders who seek to register their puppies.’
His suggestions for an upgrade of the scheme would include:

1. pre-mating tests on both parents, matings would not take place if results were unsatisfactory,
buyers must always be able to view puppies with their dam, every puppy would be microchipped before sale, all pre-sale health tests would be carried out (appropriate to breed),
clear written standards with regards to welfare, socialisation and exercise would be made available to registered breeders, including advice on minimum staffing levels appropriate to number of dogs contract signed by breeder and new owner, as well as advice sheets on general puppy care registered breeders subject to inspections accolates to be awarded relating to the provision of higher welfare standards.

The KC scheme already has many of the above in place already, so the ABS seems to be working well for most.

Failure to agree to adhere or follow the terms should be followed by immediate de-registration of the breeder.

Another suggestion which may gain followers was to offer a lower fee for the registration of a puppy to those breeders who are Accredited, thereby offering an incentive to join. Other bonuses could included lower pet insurance and reduced levels of Local Authority inspection.

Breeders would also have to adhere to tighter legislations in order to become bona fide. Professor Bateson, however, did state clearly that the majority of serious breeders (and those who enjoy the hobby of dog showing) had very little to fear from the inquiry’s findings. Rather, he said, many problems seemed to stem from so-called ‘puppy farmers’, those breeders of pedigree dogs whose main aim is financial, and where little or no importance is put on health and welfare.
The following five factors were cited as imposing welfare costs on individual dogs:

negligent or incompetent management, with particular impact on breeding bitches;
the use of closely related breeding pairs, such that inherited disease is transmitted to offspring;
breeding from purebred or crossbred dogs with known inherited disease/s; artificial selection for extreme characteristics and, sale of dogs unsuited to conditions in which they would be kept by new owners.

The term puppy farm was fairly widely used in the report, and Professor Bateson said that problems described to him in the call for evidence were largely to do with poor health and hygiene, poor care of bitches, poor socialisation and too many litters per bitch. Added to this, he said that many puppies were not cared for or socialised properly, many had not been vaccinated and that careless selection of parents led to inbreeding and inherited disease.

Serious dog farming in the UK is prevalent in Wales, with 977 known breeding establishments at the last count (March 2009).

In the case of inbreeding, he said that ‘much evidence’ had been given to indicate that many breeds are formed from very small breeding programmes, which have arisen as a result of a) a small number of animals that founded the breed, b) small numbers of successful show dogs being used in breeding programmes, c) the use of line-breeding to fix desired characteristics and d) closed breed society stud books.

Whilst admitting that careful line-breeding could be advantageous to any given breed, Professor Bateson admitted that on balance, he had concluded that the existence of highly inbred dogs posed a welfare problem.

Breed disorders were also high on the agenda, as well as the practise of breeding for ‘extreme breed characteristics’. Claiming that this was the most contentious area of the entire inquiry, Professor Bateson claimed to have encountered ‘strong disbelief in some quarters that breed standards have changed in the past, or that some morphologies produced by artificial selection do pose welfare problems.’

Breeds which were mentioned by him included the Bulldog, the German Shepherd Dog, the Afghan Hound (for its coat), and the Mastiff.

Cavaliers also came to the fore, with reference in particular to syringomyelia (the continuing growth of the Cavalier’s brain after the skull has formed), entropian and its consequences, overly wrinkled skin and breathing difficulties in breathing for some brachycephalic breeds. Birth difficulties were evidently high in breeds with a short facial skeleton, with 38.8% of brachycephalic breeds being delivered by caesarean as opposed to only 23.8% or long muzzled breeds. In Boston Terriers 92.3% were delivered surgically, the Bulldog 86.1% and the French Bulldog 81.3.

Professor Bateson also said that much evidence pointed to dogs with flattened, brachycephalic faces having a lifespan considerably shorter than their longer-muzzled counterparts, with small cross-bred dogs having a life expectancy around two times that of its shorter-faced cousin. He also said that evidence also suggested that the heavier a breed, the shorter its lifespan, though he accepted that this did not mean a lesser quality of life for the dog.

In conclusion, Professor Bateson suggested his ways forward, a section of the report which many interested parties would have turned to first.

He said: ‘ I concluded in the last chapter that serious welfare issues do arise in dog breeding. However, it would be quite wrong to stigmatise all dog breeders as contributing to these problems. I visited breeders who have the highest standards of welfare, were passionate about caring for their dogs properly and took great trouble to ensure that their puppies went to good homes.’

What followed, he said, was most definitely not directed at them, and was written as a way of removing the worst problems arising from dog breeding.

The love of certain breeds included in the initial outcry, he said, may seem hard to understand to outsiders, but that it was a real love which he had himself witnessed. Despite an animal exhibiting health issues, he said, some people had owned the breed for years, some were attracted to the looks and some enjoyed caring for the animal. However, money-making opportunities were high on many agendas in some of these breeds, irrespective of health and welfare issues. ‘Dogs are diverse, but so too are humans,’ he said.

Motivation aside, Professor Bateson said he could see the need for Society as a whole to take a good grip of the welfare issues that have arisen in dog breeding. ‘This will require cooperation and action at many different levels and by many different people: Research scientist, specialist dog breeders and the clubs to which they belong, the veterinary profession, protection and rehoming charities, members of the public, local Authorities, central Government and devolved administrations when breaches of the law persist.

The DDA was another area targeted by Professor bateson, who said that he felt it was clear that the Act wasn’t working, and that real reforms would be needed in order for it to attain its goals. Good news for dog lovers and advocates of deed not breed.

Business as usual
The KC’s stance last Friday was very upbeat and it was very much a case of business as usual for Ronnie Irving and co. Several ideas for moving Professor Bateson’s proposals on were already being discussed, indeed many are already well underway, particularly with regards to the ABS and the encouragement of clubs to work together with the KC.

In a statement to the press on monday, the KC issued its reaction to the inquiry: ‘The Independent Inquiry into dog breeding has been broadly welcomed by the Kennel Club, which commissioned and funded the report, in conjunction with Dogs Trust.

‘The Kennel Club believes that good breeders have nothing to fear from the report. The report focuses on those breeders whose actions bring the rest of the responsible dog community into disrepute and this is an emphasis that the Kennel Club welcomes on behalf of all of those good breeders that it represents. It also focuses on both pedigree and cross breed dogs and how to therefore protect the health and welfare of all dogs.

‘The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, as the two leading organisations devoted solely to dog welfare, have announced that they will now arrange a meeting with all relevant parties to discuss the detail of Professor Bateson’s report along with the issues raised in the APGAW and RSPCA reports into dog breeding and the practical aspects of the way forward.

‘Advisory Council: The Kennel Club is keen to harness as much knowledge as possible for the benefit of dogs so we welcome the principle of an advisory council whose members will work with the Kennel Club to advise on decisions about breeding and health.

‘A structure already exists in the form of the Kennel Club’s Dog Health Group, which recently replaced the former KC Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group. It now has a broader remit and additional independent experts. This group includes canine and human geneticists, veterinary surgeons and an epidemiologist.

‘The group, in its former guise, had already carried out a great deal of valuable work, not least in reviewing all breed standards and revising them where necessary with the agreement of the veterinary profession, liaising with breed clubs, proposing changes to the requirements of the Accredited Breeder Scheme and advising and directing the Kennel Club on various scientific and technical issues such as health screening and genetics policies.

‘The Kennel Club will use this group, in its new form, to move forward and it has agreed with Dogs Trust, whose representative will sit on the group, that Professor Sheila Crispin, former President of the RCVS will be its Independent Chairman. Using the existing group will ensure continuity of progress and avoid unnecessary additional expense.

‘We are very open to harnessing all expertise and opinions and the General Committee already has in its number a wide range of experienced dog experts such as breeders, veterinary surgeons, dog trainers, animal welfare charity trustees, educationalists, legal experts etc. However, it is the Kennel Club Dog Health Group, helped by its various Sub Groups, that directly and almost exclusively deals with the health and welfare concerns detailed in the Bateson report .
‘The Kennel Club has already made it clear that it is happy to extend and welcome further outside involvement in that group, which is the appropriate forum for such representation, rather than the General Committee.

‘We are glad that the report specifically recognises that the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme is the closest model to the kind of scheme that Professor Bateson believes to be ideal. He also indicates that it has made a good start in its efforts to unite responsible breeders within the scheme, for the benefit of puppies and puppy buyers. We strongly believe that this is the model for moving forward and would like to see all responsible breeders becoming part of the scheme.

There are a number of minimum requirements that Professor Bateson identifies as being essential for an accredited breeder scheme and many of these the Kennel Club’s own scheme already fulfils. In particular, the Kennel Club is currently working towards independent UKAS* accreditation, as suggested in the report.

There are some other recommendations for the scheme with which the Kennel Club is very happy to move forward and has already made progress in this direction.’

These would include the pre-mating tests, not breeding from health compromised parents, seeing a puppy with its mother, identification by microchip, pre-sale testing of puppies and de-registration of any member who flouts the rules.

Club will add recommended additional tests to certain breeds as appropriate and available.
‘If accolades are awarded to any breeder under an accredited Breeder Scheme they should apply clearly and solely to the provision of higher welfare standards – High welfare standards are the very foundations upon which the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme is built and every member must apply high welfare standards in order to remain part of the scheme. We do not believe that it would be sensible to give further accolades for welfare – membership of the scheme itself is accolade enough on that count. Our accolade system provides important indicators to puppy buyers who want to choose a breeder that meets their additional aspirations and expectations and is an additional tool to providing assistance in making these most important choices.

The Kennel Club also welcomed the view that Local Authorities should be given additional resources and training in order to ensure that they can effectively fulfil their obligation to give and revoke breeding licences in accord with welfare standards. The Kennel Club agreed also that there is a great variation in the ability of Local Authorities effectively to fulfil this role and thinks that this is enabling many puppy farmers to continue unchecked.

The statement went on: ‘The Kennel Club does feel that the report could have gone further in terms of dealing with those irresponsible breeders who fall outside of any control because they are not part of the KC Accredited Breeder Scheme and because they breed less than five litters per year, so are consequently outside of Local Authority control. The Kennel Club would have liked to have seen some form of statutory control introduced over these breeders which is why it recently handed a 15,000 strong petition into Downing Street, asking that welfare principles, similar to those used by Kennel Club Accredited Breeders, be made a statutory requirement for all breeders.

‘It is clearly hoped that legislation can be brought in over time that will help to address these breeders, but in the meantime it is clear that the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme is seen as the best way to ensure higher welfare standards. The Kennel Club welcomes Professor Bateson’s idea that those who are part of the scheme may be subject to ‘reduced levels of Local Authority control’ as an incentive for responsible breeders to join the scheme. We are also pleased that Professor Bateson states that licensing ‘enforcement authorities should be able to take account of accredited status under an appropriately enforced and audited accreditation scheme’. We believe that augurs well for the future of the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme.’

The Kennel Club has long recognised that genetic diversity plays a crucial role in safeguarding the health of dogs and the report recognised that the Kennel Club has already banned very close matings. However, the Kennel Club thinks that the report was right only to suggest Professor Bateson’s broad guidelines on matings and that decisions should be based upon scientific knowledge and be made on a breed by breed basis. It also believes it was right not to suggest that the Kennel Club should introduce any further blanket rules across all breeds.’

‘The Kennel Club’s primary consideration is that healthy dogs are mated and the healthy genes are passed down through the gene pool. Our new Mate Select programme which is now being developed will help breeders to find suitable mating pairs, which are most likely to produce healthy offspring. It is hoped that in the longer term this will also be able to be used on an advisory basis to achieve a slowing up of any gene pool attrition.’

Dog Showing
The report highlights the importance of public education in order to combat the worst excesses of poor breeding practice. ‘The Kennel Club believes that the show ring is the best forum for this and is glad that the report recognises that ‘dog showing and judging are a powerful lever for change’. The Kennel Club is dedicated to ensuring that only the healthiest dogs are rewarded at shows and is particularly pleased that DFS Crufts 2010 will be televised on More4, so as to demonstrate the valuable contribution that dog shows play in improving the health and welfare of dogs. It is –pleasing to note that Professor Bateson, on being questioned on this at the launch of his report, confirmed his view that such a broadcast can be sensibly used to educate the puppy buying public.’

‘The Kennel Club is also pleased that the report recognised the ‘considerable effort that the Kennel Club has made in the education and training of judges’. The Kennel Club is already working on Professor Bateson’s recommendation that judges are given continual professional development and runs judges education programmes in order to ensure that they judge to the highest welfare standards.

‘The Kennel Club agrees that in order to move forward and to continue improving dog health much more comprehensive data is required about canine health. Current data are sadly lacking in providing statistically valid prevalence information. The Kennel Club welcomes any initiatives that will improve this. However it feels that the collection of ‘anonymised’ data by veterinary surgeons will be only of limited value and that the report could have gone further by suggesting that this data should be attributable to individual dogs. The knowledge that (say) 15% of a given breed suffers from a given problem is a start but it is much more important in solving the problem to know which 15% of the breed is affected.

‘The Kennel Club, which conducted the world’s largest survey into pure bred dog health in 2004, is already well on the way to developing a new database which will revolutionise the way that we record dog health data.

‘This data will be attributable to individual dogs and will give us a better picture of the health of pedigrees and crossbreeds. Such knowledge is critical and will enable us to provide information to breeders, vets, geneticists and ultimately the puppy buyer.’

‘The Kennel Club warmly welcomes Professor Bateson’s recommendation that changes should be made to the current Dangerous Dogs legislation and this is something that it has been campaigning for over many years. We are in complete agreement that focus should be directed towards those dogs that display dangerous behaviour rather than on specified breeds.

‘We absolutely agree that public education is vital in order to ensure that only responsible breeders thrive in the market place. The Kennel Club is committed to working with all other relevant welfare organisations and professions in order to ensure that puppy buyers have access to all of the information that they need.

‘The Kennel Club already runs Discover Dogs and this is the perfect platform for educating prospective and existing puppy buyers about how to choose, buy and care for a dog.
‘Furthermore, events such as DFS Crufts which is this year being televised by More4, will enable us to engage and further educate puppy buyers. The effort however needs to be a sustained one, with all organisations working together throughout the whole year.’

*The United Kingdom Accreditation Service is the sole national accreditation body recognised by government to assess, against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services.

Accreditation by UKAS demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these evaluators.

UKAS is a non-profit-distributing company, limited by guarantee, appointed as the national accreditation body by statutory instrument (No 3155/2009) and operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government through the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Dogs - (Correct at time of publication) for more information contact the Kennel Club tel: 0870 606 6750

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