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Accredited Breeders Scheme is launched at Crufts show

THE KENNEL CLUB’S ‘Accredited Breeders Scheme’ was launched to breeders with great fanfare last week at Crufts. Over a series of twice daily presentations, the KC’s Genetics Co-ordinator Jeff Sampson and Diana Brooks-Ward explained the aims of the scheme, which is the latest initiative in the KC’s drive to bring about best breeding and sale practices among breeders, and is a natural progression of the genetic testing programme begun seven years ago.

Jeff Sampson gave a PowerPoint display to the audience, explaining that the main aim of the ABS is to encourage the breeding of healthy, well adjusted puppies, which in turn will provide potential puppy buyers with an assurance that the breeder has followed good breeding practices.

Mr Sampson explained that he Scheme sets out a list of requirements which breeders must follow in order to be recognised. These include: that breeders adhere to Kennel Club policy regarding the maximum age of breeding bitches and number of litters bred from them; that they make use of health screening schemes, relevant to their breed for all breeding stock; they permanently identify breeding stock by DNA profiling, microchip or tattoo; they socialise the puppies, as well as providing written advice on socialisation, exercise, training and feeding; and they offer a ‘post-sales’ telephone advice service.

"The scheme will provide a framework which will evolve over time by harnessing the experience of breeders, breed clubs and breed councils," said Mr Sampson. "We are keen to enter into a dialogue with breeders on how best to achieve that. We recognise, of course, that many people already exceed these standards laid out in the ABS."

He added that the ABS aimed to complement the existing schemes run by Breed Clubs, and added that the KC will continue to direct potential buyers to breed clubs for advice on finding responsible breeders. The scheme would, he said, "ensure healthy, happy, well-adjusted puppies."

"Of course each breed has its own nuances, which can be incorporated into the scheme," explained Mr Sampson, "So it’s not a case of ‘One Size Fits All’.

"The ABS will be launched to mainly breeders at Crufts and to potential puppy buyers at Discover Dogs in November 2004."

Mr Sampson then took the audience through the Draft Puppy Sales wallet that had been devised to outline the ABS, and in which the framework for the minimum code of best practice was laid out (see below).

Accredited Breeders must agree to:

1. Ensure that all breeding stock is Kennel Club registered.
2. Hand over the dog's registration certificate at the time of purchase, if available, or forward it to the new owner as soon as possible and explain any endorsements that might pertain. They must also obtain written and signed confirmation from the new owners, at or before the date on which the dog is physically transferred, that the new owner(s) is aware of the endorsement(s), regardless of whether or not the endorsed registration certificate is available.
3. Follow Kennel Club policy re maximum age and number/frequency of litters.
4. Permanently identify breeding stock by DNA profiling, microchip, or tattoo. (After the first year of operation all breeding stock will be required to be DNA profiled).
5. Make use of health screening schemes, relevant to their breed, on all breeding stock: DNA testing, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and eye conditions.
6. Socialise the puppies and provide written advice, in the Puppy Sales Wallet, on continuation of socialisation, exercise and future training.
7. Provide written advice, in the Puppy Sales Wallet, on feeding and worming programmes
8. Provide a written record, in the Puppy Sales Wallet, on the immunisation measures taken.
9. Provide reasonable post-sales telephone advice.
10. Inform buyers of the requirements and the recommendations that apply to Kennel Club Accredited Breeders as well as the existence of the complaints procedure
11. Draw up a contract of sale for each puppy.

In addition to the above requirements, it is recommended that Accredited Breeders should:

1. Make sure that whelping facilities accord with good practice.

2. The contract of sale should clearly lay out to the buyer the nature and details of any guarantee given (e.g. time limit) and/or any provisions for refund or return and replacement of puppy. If endorsements are being used the contract should also mention why these have been placed and under what circumstances they would be removed (if any). This contract should be signed and dated by both breeder and purchaser, showing that both have agreed to these terms.

3. Commit to help, if necessary, with the re-homing of a dog, for whatever reason, throughout the dog's lifetime.

Examining Points 4 and 5 particularly, Mr Sampson said that the use of identifying good breeding stock ultimately by DNA profile and the making use of health screening programmes was designed to improve the health of dogs now and in the future.

On Point 4m DNA profiling would be a ‘must have’ requirement off the scheme after one year and all breeding dogs will have to be profiled. "DNA produces a unique signature and can verify that the dog’s registered parents are its biological parents, and thus prevent any incorrect registrations," explained Mr Sampson, adding that the KC’s scheme would run alongside current breed registries.

On Point 5 he added that more genetic tests would be available for breed specific hereditary health conditions in future. Therefore by careful selective breeding, these conditions can be eliminated from breeds within 3 to 4 generations.

Mr Sampson added that by the end of April 2004, the Animal Health Trust will have a purpose built DNA test centre to receive all DNA samples sent in, whilst the genetic ‘markers’ used to run the tests will conform to the international standard laid down by the International Council of Animal Genetics.

The owners themselves would take the genetic material sample from their own dogs by using a Buccal smear swab and storage tube which is then sent off in a padded envelope to the AHT to be tested. A certificate would then be issued and the details stored on a database.

Mr Sampson added that 92% of swabs would test successful first time and that the turnaround time would be 10 days in the lab. "Altogether, it takes about two months from application for testing to getting a certificate," he said. "If the sample does not work then it can be taken again. Should this second sample fail, then the owner can opt for a blood test provided via their vet, which will be 100% successful, as blood is always successful for DNA testing."

Currently the cost per test was set at £15, although it was hoped that as the volume of DNA tests go up, so the prove will come down over time. There was also an annual fee for joining the scheme of £15 for one year. A joined up accredited breeder would get "a number" of puppy sales wallets and a certificate from the KC stating that he or she was an accredited breeder. An annual renewal fee of £10 would also include a further pack of puppy sales wallets, or further wallets could be purchased as required at cost price.

"If you don’t breed a litter every year, you can take a gap and still renew your ABS membership at renewal cost," said Mr Sampson.

He explained that the scheme would be ‘policed’ via the KC registration database and questionnaires filled in by the new owner of any puppy sold under the ABS. There would also be random surveys of buyers.

If complaints were received, the KC would initiate an investigation, via a letter first going to the breeder to seek an explanation. First offenders would most likely get a warning, but persistent offenders – i.e. those deliberately falsifying information and not adhering to the terms of the ABS would be suspended from the scheme whilst an investigation was carried out. Serious offenders would be expelled from the scheme and would therefore not be able to sell puppies with any kind of official KC backing.

Mr Sampson then took a variety of questions from the various breeders present, some of whom had obvious axes to grind, but others had serious concerns and valid queries for the operation of the scheme.

Both Mr Sampson and Mrs Brooks-Ward were quick to point out that the information pack was only at draft stage, and alterations would be made via feedback from breeders. One serious omission that was pointed out was that the KC’s own policy of potential buyers seeing the dam with her litter had not been included, this being one of the central planks of encouraging responsible breeding and ownership.

After the presentation, Mr Sampson told OUR DOGS that the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association had signed up to the Accredited Breeders Scheme which was a big step forward, as they, of all people, needed to ensure that they were breeding the best possible dogs that were fit for the purpose.

The Exchange & Mart newspaper was set to carry an advert for the ABS in every issue, pending discussions with the KC.

A new website dedicated to canine genetic health issues may be found at: www.doggentichealth.org

The Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme recognises good practices in dog breeding and encourages compliance with such practices. It does not guarantee the health or disposition of a dog. Compliance is the responsibility of the breeder and the Kennel Club maintains a grievance procedure for referral of complaints. The purchaser retains his/her statutory and contractual rights. The Kennel Club disclaims any liability relating to the health or disposition of a dog or the conduct of Accredited Breeders.