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Breed Councils and KC tackle convention


THE KENNEL Club is hosting a meeting for representatives of all canine breed councils for those breeds under possible threat if the British Government becomes a signatory to the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, writes Nick Mays.

The meeting is due to take place next Thursday, February 13th under the aegis of the special Study Group set up in 2002, consisting of representatives from the General Committee, KC/BSAVA Scientific Committee, the Breed Standards and Stud Book Sub-Committee and staff members.

Initiatives to obviate the need to sign up to the Convention have been devised. These include the identification of changes made to Breed Standards over the last 20 years to safeguard health and welfare, as well as new additions to the faults clauses of all Breed Standards and Kennel Club
judging publications, to stress the importance of considering the health aspects of dogs being judged.

Next week’s meeting will hear the views of parties involved with those breeds under possible threat of restriction or banning, as has been the case in many EU countries which have accepted and signed the Convention.

A spokesperson for the KC Press Office told OUR DOGS: ‘As per the Kennel Club press release of 18 June 2002, the Kennel Club is currently involved in the process of inviting particular breeds mentioned in the Convention to actively participate in considering the situation. A report on the progress that has been made by the Study Group will be issued later on this year.’

The Kennel Club has in recent months been giving close consideration to the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which has already been adopted by many European Union member states. As yet, the UK government has not signed up to the Convention, and the Kennel Club recently had the opportunity to put forward its views on the matter to DEFRA Minister, Mr Elliot Morley, as has recently been reported in the canine press.

For many years, when Breed Standards have been reviewed by the Kennel Club, health and welfare aspects have always been carefully considered. A detailed consultation process has been established to facilitate feedback from Breed Clubs/Councils and generally promote better awareness of these aspects.

Breed Clubs themselves have taken steps to further this by incorporating statements on healthy breeding into their Codes of Ethics.

A great deal has therefore already been achieved. However, over the course of the next few months, particular breeds highlighted within the Convention will receive individual consideration, in which Breed Clubs/Councils will be invited to actively participate, as is the case with the meeting staged at Clarges Street next week.

In a press statement issued in 2002 the KC said: ‘The Kennel Club is endeavouring to persuade the government that it has suitable mechanisms in place to ensure that the breeds it recognises and supports remain healthy. In so doing, any need for the adoption of far-reaching European legislation, which could potentially threaten the future of some breeds, will be totally unwarranted.’

Last year the Government reviewed whether or not the UK should sign the European Convention of Pet Animals. Plans to adopt the Convention via the proposed Animal Welfare Bill have been seriously considered by DEFRA .

The convention, originally adopted in 1987 contains a number of clauses which are causing great concern to dog breeders, as well as fanciers from many other livestock fancies. The council of Docked Breeds has previously stated that, if ratified, the Convention could see the banning of up to 100 breeds of dog and many breeds of cat.

The convention is being considered by the Minister for Animal Health and Welfare, Elliot Morley. Quoted last summer, Mr Morley said that while he was ‘sensitive’ to the concerns of animal breeders that some breeds were under threat, he considered parts of the Convention to be ‘logical’. ‘If the breeding of some animals is causing suffering it is an issue to consider’, said Mr Morley.

The Kennel Club wrote to Mr Morley to express its concerns over the issue and to seek clarification on his and the Government's standpoint of the signing of the Convention and have since met with Mr Morley on this matter. The minister is said to have ‘an open mind’, but is still drawn to many of the clauses contained in the Convention.

Reassurance

As well as several dog and cat breeds being at risk due to ‘abnormalities’ of their physique, another clause would seek to ban 'surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal or for other non-curative purpose', which would see an end to tail docking and the removal of dew claws.

Mr Morley said he was seeking clarification on some aspects of the Convention and attempted to give breeders some reassurance, saying: "We are well aware of the implications to some breeds and are obviously sensitive to that issue," he said. ‘The majority of the Convention is fine and we have no objections to it but we do want to be sure that we are not prohibiting certain established breeds by signing it.’

The Minister added that he will ‘consult widely’ on the convention and seek the views of the KC and "all mainstream groups" who were ‘welcome to contact him’.

‘I would like to get it sorted out as quickly as possible so we know where we stand on it. I am not being pressured to do so but there are animal welfare groups who are keen for us to sign it. Formal consultation will take place later, but I have no time scale I can give you.’ added Mr Morley.

The issue of the Convention was raised in 2000 when the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons took it upon themselves to ‘seek views’ on the issue of signing the Convention from a large number of animal fancies, groups and welfare organisations and to bring pressure on the Government to ratify the Convention. However, they were inundated with responses from many groups who totally opposed the Convention and the RCVS' interference in the matter. Eventually, the RCVS was forced into a humiliating climb-down on the issue, and were aided out of their self-inflicted entrenchment by the KC.

Already news of the latest 'review' of the convention has sparked concern amongst many animal fanciers, and the Internet has been buzzing with messages to oppose the signing of the convention. Moves are already afoot for officials from all of the mainstream animal fancies – which would also include Rabbits, Fancy Rats, Hamsters and other rodent species – to stage a meeting along with the Kennel Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and present a united front to the Government on the issue.

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the KC told OUR DOGS previously: ‘All dog owners, and owners of cats, rats and other small rodents should be concerned regarding this issue, as it will have wide -ranging implications for many. When the RCVS raised the matter in consultation in 2000, we received a huge postbag, predominantly from Breed Clubs, representing potentially over 70,000 dissatisfied parties.’