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Breed health and welfare

In recent years, the work of the Kennel Club to safeguard breed health and welfare has accelerated, partly due to the ongoing desire to encourage the breeding of healthy dogs and to promote participation in canine activities and also due to the threat of legislation which could adversely affect some of our long established breeds, says a Kennel Club press release.

Much has been achieved in these areas so far in promoting the health and welfare aspects of dog breeding. However, there is no room for complacency and with the likely advent of the Animal Welfare Bill within the next two years, with legislation on breeding being passed, continued work with breeds remains imperative, to maintain the current momentum. The Kennel Club is therefore calling on all dog owners to help meet its overall objective to promote in every way the general improvement of dogs and become more involved in the health of their breed.

The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals

Internally, the Kennel Club has taken a proactive approach to the health issues highlighted by the Convention. Firstly, a study group was set up in January 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 were devised and these included 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.

Over the course of 2002, particular breeds highlighted within the Convention received individual consideration. Breed Clubs and Councils were invited to participate, the Bulldog and Pekingese being the first to become involved. Proposals to amend the Breed Standards were made and the feedback received has been positive. Further breeds including the Shar Pei, Bloodhound and St Bernard will be coming to Clarges Street during 2004 and developments from these meetings will be published in due course.

Through the above steps, and others, the Kennel Club continues to persuade 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.

The Kennel Club was immensely encouraged by the comments made by Mr Ben Bradshaw MP, the Minister responsible for the Animal Welfare Bill and Animal Welfare in general, who, on his recent visit to Crufts, made it clear that he was not in favour of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. The Minister went on record to say, "I don’t want to use legislation if it isn’t necessary. It would be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I will be working with the Kennel Club and breed organisations to find a more sensible way forward. The KC is already changing Standards accordingly, such as the Bulldog’s."

This announcement was made after DEFRA had been lobbied for some time on the Convention and the work that had already been implemented had been publicised.

Said Caroline Kisko, Secretary to the Kennel Club," The Kennel Club and dog owners in general should feel pleased with the Minister’s recent comments. He has clearly taken on board all the efforts made, to improve breed health and welfare, although continued work with breeds remains imperative. We shall be working closely with the relevant Breed Clubs during 2004 and shall of course continue to liaise with DEFRA."

Watch for the one-to-one interview with Minister Ben Bradshaw in OUR DOGS soon