When I came back from Crufts, I went to search out some old catalogues for comparison and in doing so found an old cutting from the Bouvier des Flandres breed notes. In it Betty Baxter was exhorting everyone to rally round and fight any suggestion that breeders should be prevented from docking. This produced a real sensation of deja-vu as this was dated 1985. Of course things have moved on; breeders have been prevented from docking and now the Protection of Animals Act, if passed as it stands, will stop docking altogether.
What stuns me most is the lack of knowledge and concerted action amongst breeders and show goers. The situation verges on apathy. There are fifty nine docked breeds recognised by the Kennel Club and some of these have very large numbers of annual registrations yet the Council for Docked Breeds has less than two thousand members. Why? This is our most effective way of fighting back. We have to fight fire with fire and political lobbying is our most powerful weapon. Politicians worry about losing votes.
The RSPCA and the RCVS have their point of view, they are entitled to it as we live in a democratic society, but we dont have to support them. We are dependent on vets for healthcare of our dogs but likewise they are dependent on us for revenue. We could do a bit more investigation and vote with our feet and boycott surgeries that are actively supporting legislation which is anti-show dogs. As far as the RSPCA is concerned we dont have to support them in any way. We can start by asking the question Why are they allowed to have a stand at Crufts? when their philosophy is totally against show dogs. The Kennel Club hasnt done enough to support breeders either on the docking issue or on Breed Specific Legislation.
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is recognised as one of the most ill considered pieces of knee-jerk legislation in existence yet it is still with us. True it has been modified but it is still being used against responsible owners as recent cases reported in Our Dogs will testify. It is also legislation that can be amended to include other breeds at any time.
The situation in Germany gave birth to DARE (Dogs at Risk in Europe) which has been replaced by Domino. The Kennel Club backed DARE and is backing Domino but again there is a question of how much? Why wasnt the Domino stand at Crufts in, or at least adjacent to, the Kennel Club Village? Why is there no mention of the Domino Campaign in the Crufts catalogue? And finally why is there no description or explanation with the entry Domino in the list of Trade Stands in the catalogue?
Talking to people I find a contradiction in their attitudes. The majority seem to accept that since a large part of Europe now bans docking, it is inevitable that the UK will follow suit. But when the situation in Germany is mentioned, the same people think that it cant happen here. The German Government is pressing hard to have the EU follow suit with Breed Specific Legislation and any large breed is at risk. Although the Bouvier des Flandres does not have the reputation of the GSD or the Rottweiler, it shares many of their characteristics as a working dog and on the continent many are trained in either KNVP or Schutzhund. History can easily repeat itself with any breed if attacks are picked up by the media.
Collectively we have a voice and we need to use it.
Judy Cartwright is an exhibitor of Bouvier des Flandres and an
active opponent of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)