Browsing tag: Kennel Club

Crufts – the best and worst of the dog world?

Crufts starts today – the World’s Largest Dog Show – an annual dog-fest that used to be seen as a “best of British” institution, but which has become controversial in recent years. This year, three different viewpoints have been loudly expressed.

First, the Kennel Club , which is “dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs”, predictably stressing the many initiatives taken to promote good health in pedigree dogs. And there’s no doubt that innovations like the Mate Select programme, the Online Kennel Club Academy  to provide education for breeders and judges, the recently released 2014 Breed Health Survey, a range of new DNA tests and other initiatives represent useful steps forwards towards improving pedigree dog health.

Second, equally predictably, Jemima Harrison, producer of the BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” has used Crufts to promote her latest campaign against unhealthy conformation in brachycephalic dogs. CRUFFA – the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat Faced Animals – is primarily aimed at persuading the marketing, advertising and manufacturing industries to review how they use images of flat faced dogs, but the campaign is also asking judges at Crufts to reward open, wide nostrils rather than pinched, flattened airways. The photographs shared through the campaign clearly demonstrate the issue.

Image courtesy of Cambridge BOAS Research Group

Image courtesy of Cambridge BOAS Research Group

Thirdly, the RSPCA (whose chief executive famously called Crufts “a parade of mutants”) has reiterated its concerns: “We remain concerned that many dogs are still suffering because they’re bred and judged primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind”. The charity has set up its own alternative dog show, scouring the country to find the happiest and healthiest dogs of all types and backgrounds for its annual Ruffs competition.

Zara - Happiest Hound

Zara – Happiest Hound

Winners include rescue dog Zara who won the Happiest Hound category, Sab, a scarred Patterdale terrier, permanently marked after being used in badger baiting, who won the Perfectly Imperfect category…

Sab - Perfectly Imperfect

Sab – Perfectly Imperfect

…and Staffordshire Bull Terrier Buddy won the Transformation category with his transition from unwanted sickly dog to beloved healthy pet, dramatically demonstrated in his “before” and “after” photos.

Buddy - Before

Buddy – Before

Buddy - After

Buddy – After

Whether you love or hate Crufts, there’s no doubt that the event focuses attention on dogs, from the best (the agility and obedience sections offering remarkable demonstrations of canine ability) to the worst (some of the more extreme pedigree dogs in the show-ring still have health issues that cannot be ignored).

Channel Four is showing highlights of Crufts every evening for the next few days: if you have an interest in dogs, make sure you tune in to find out more.

 

Grazia: fashion news, beauty tips and terrible advice about breeding pets

Grazia is an Italian women’s magazine, first printed in 1938 when it was modelled on the USA magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. At the time, it was said to focus on traditional family values, such as cooking and child rearing. In recent years, the magazine has expanded its frontiers, now having over twenty international editions, including a British edition which started in 2005, and had a circulation of over 160000 by 2013.

So why is a vet writing a blog about a women’s magazine? Well, in the latest UK edition, Grazia has taken an ill-judged foray into the world of pet breeding. The magazine includes a feature on easy ways to earn extra income, with someone called “Ella”, said to be an estate agent, enthusing about the ease with which she makes extra cash by breeding her Ragdoll cat and Shih Tzu dogs. “Ella” seemed to give lip service to the idea of responsible breeding, saying “You want healthy animals or you get a bad rep. If you think Netmums is bad, you haven’t seen how bitchy pet forums are!”.

“Ella”, as well as the Grazia editorial team, clearly had no idea about the depth of feeling about irresponsible breeding. There has been a social media storm since the magazine was published, with Facebook, Twitter and numerous internet forums boiling with fury about the article. The RSPCA and the Kennel Club  issuing statements. The RSPCA pointed out that one in three puppy buyers no longer have their animal three years after purchase, while the Kennel Club urged all potential breeders to seek professional advice before considering starting to breed animals.

The Grazia article is certain to have caused damage. Impressionable and naive readers will be reconsidering having their pets neutered and spayed, mistakenly believing the spiel about how easy it will be to earn cash from their pets. The article made no mention of the need to breed responsibly, with careful selection of breeding partners, pre-breeding health checks, and post-breeding successful rearing of healthy and well-socialised puppies and kittens. The article will have undone years of careful public relations by responsible groups who stress the need to control puppy and kitten breeding.

The magazine has now apologised for any harm caused, but as the coming weeks pass, thousands of readers, at home and in waiting rooms across the UK, will be reading about “Ella” and her scheme for making easy money. The damage to cultural attitudes around pet breeding has been done and will continue to be done. Grazia need to do more than just saying sorry.

Perhaps a friend of “Ella” could write an article about the importance of responsible breeding in a future edition?

Pedigree Dogs Exposed: five years on, do dogs suffer less?

It’s hard to believe that it’s already five years since the BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, was first broadcast. The programme stirred up unprecedented controversy about the practice of breeding and showing pedigree dogs in the UK. In the aftermath, the BBC cancelled its long standing high profile coverage of Crufts, and major sponsors backed out of supporting the Kennel Club’s flagship event. Promises were made that “things would change”, investigating committees were set up and reports were issued.

Five years is a significant period of time, so it’s an appropriate benchmark to pause, and to ask the question: are things better than they were? After all the talk, have things improved?

Perhaps predictably, the answer to this question depends on one’s perspective.

Jemima Harrison, the producer of the documentary, has continued to campaign for the Kennel Club to make more changes, more rapidly. She is clear about her opinion: “Five years on from Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club is still in denial about the extent of the problems. It is unethical to continue to breed dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs which have such flat faces that they cannot breathe – and yet the Kennel Club registers these breeds in their growing thousands and these dogs continue to be celebrated at Kennel Club shows. The Kennel Club has done too little to tackle the suffering these and many other breeds endure, despite an increasing amount of science which both articulates the issues and offers solutions. The dogs continue to pay a huge price.”

The RSPCA seems to take a more conciliatory stance, acknowledging the progress made by the Kennel Club and dog breeders, including the development of DNA and health screening tests for hereditary diseases and the introduction of veterinary checks on ‘high profile’ breeds but the charity still believes that much more should have been done. The charity is running a “Born To Suffer campaign and petition“, calling for breed standards to be changed even more than they have been to date, “so that they prioritise the health, welfare and temperament of a dog over its looks.”

Meanwhile the Kennel Club itself, on its own website, disagrees, maintaining that “for many years, the Kennel Club has devoted itself to improving the health and welfare of dogs and is committed to ensuring that every dog’s life is as healthy and happy as it can possibly be.” Furthermore, “the Kennel Club has introduced a large number of initiatives to help improve the lives of thousands of dogs and continues to develop new programmes and educational resources to progress dog health in the future.”

Is it possible to find a middle ground viewpoint? The Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding should surely be listened to: this independent group was set up specifically to analyse the issues brought to the fore by Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The Advisory Council has released a statement that is worth reading, giving a detailed update of progress that has been made, acknowledging that while some of the RSPCA’s “wish list” should be addressed, others ( such as the RSPCA’s call for a ban on registration of dogs born from a dam’s second caesarean) would be a step too far.

By the way, I don’t want to accuse Jemima Harrison of being over-critical of the Kennel Club: in  a recent blog post she even acknowledges that it could be “half-true” that the Kennel Club is now seen “as part of the solution”. She does give credit when she believes credit is due. In her latest blog post, published this week, Jemima compares the situation in the UK with that in Germany, where the second anniversary has just taken place of the airing of the German equivalent of Pedigree Dogs Exposed. She explains that the German programme “did not provoke the reform in Germany that Pedigree Dogs Exposed triggered here in the UK”, and that the follow up programme, broadcast last week, “holds up the UK Kennel Club as something of an exemplar”.

So while it would be very wrong to be complacent, and while the world of pedigree dogs may sometimes still seem bleak in the UK, it’s perhaps at least somewhat reassuring to reflect that it could be much, much worse.

http://www.dogadvisorycouncil.com/resources/comment%20on%20RSPCA%20report.pdf

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