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KC responds to CAWCs report

THE KENNEL Club this week issued a press release in response to the Companion Animal Welfare Council’s recent report on Breeding and Welfare in Companion Animals.

The press release,which echoes many of the points raised in David Cavill’s Speakers’ Corner of June 16, reads: ‘The Kennel Club is acutely aware of most of the welfare issues raised in CAWC’s report, ‘Breeding and Welfare in Companion Animals’ and shares many of the concerns raised.

Indeed the Kennel Club is already in the forefront of demonstrating how a large number of CAWC’s more sensible recommendations should be carried out.

‘Having said that, the KC does however also believe that the report, perhaps inevitably, takes a somewhat simplistic view of many of the issues involved. It is the KC’s view that much of what is included in the CAWC Report could be described as being of a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ nature; too often it refers to the past rather than the present; and much of it is not adequately backed by scientific evidence. To that extent the Kennel Club would take issue with what it considers to be some of the report’s less appropriate conclusions

‘Certainly the Kennel Club’s view is that legislation on, or Government interference in, such matters would not be the best way to move forward. Neither does the Kennel Club believe that registration bans or exhibition bans would automatically mean that breeders would stop breeding the types of dogs that cause concern. On the contrary such initiatives would cause the Kennel Club to lose all influence over such breeders and would remove any possibility of it being able to change their attitudes and practices. Rather, the Kennel Club feels that it has to be helped firstly to work closely with those who breed dogs, and those who judge them, so as to be able to encourage them to take health and welfare issues seriously.

In the canine world, only as a last resort, or when breed societies are not considered to be acting responsibly, should a more dictatorial approach be taken The KC is pleased to note that CAWC itself appears to recognise this when it firmly makes the point that "it is important that those involved in breeding companion animals should maintain breeding records". This is precisely why organisations such as the Kennel Club, registration with which is currently entirely voluntary, ought to be supported by Government, the veterinary profession and animal welfare organisations alike. Without such organisations and accurate record keeping, the opportunity to correct problems created in the past would be seriously reduced.

‘Many of the problems of inherited disease will be more easily resolved when the Kennel Club has specific DNA technology available for breeders to use and then use selective breeding to reduce disease frequency. The number of disease specific DNA tests is increasing at a considerable pace and the KC has appropriate measures in place to encourage breeders to make the best use of them and breed conditions out in a relatively short period of time. Our experience thus far of breeders’ use of such technology is that problems can be readily reduced to the point of irrelevance if everyone involved (breeders, breed clubs and the Kennel Club work together.

The Kennel Club has also carried out a major survey of canine health issues on which much positive action will be taken in future. It has already changed a number of breed standards and has several projects underway to work with those breeds where it believes that breed standard requirements may still cause welfare issues for the breeds concerned. Breed standards have been and are being changed to remove the problems and judges are being educated to take note of health and welfare issues when they judge dogs.

‘The Kennel Club feels that progress on such health and welfare issues can be further guaranteed if all stakeholders work together to ensure that breeders do everything within their power to produce future generations of dogs that live healthier lives. This can be done without necessarily jettisoning some of the key aspects which makes a breed a breed. The stakeholders involved will include breeders, breed clubs, kennel clubs, veterinarians and the scientific community – all working together for the benefit of dogs.

‘CAWC has, in many respects, simply stated the obvious. The Kennel Club, without being complacent, believes that as far as canine issues are concerned, it is moving things forward in the most effective way consistent with achieving the stated objective of CAWC and the Council of Europe Convention - namely that "No one should breed companion animals without careful regard to characteristics (anatomical, physiological and behavioural) that may put at risk the health and welfare of the offspring or the female parent.’