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‘Bad press’ does nothing to affect Crufts gate

A damning article on pedigree dog breeds and breeders did little to stem the tide of visitors to Crufts 2007 as this year’s gate swelled to a record 153,000.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on the day before the show Beverley Cuddy the Editor of Dogs Today never misses a chance to have a swipe at the establishment and her former employer the Kennel Club.

Working as an information officer in the reign of McDougall and Sinnatt in the 1980s one would assume that facts and figures would come naturally to such a verbose pen. But not so.

Headline writers and photographs apart, she could not be forgiven for being naive enough to paint a less than glowing picture of the world of dogs at time in its history that more than ever is being done to tackle hereditary disease.

Readers were treated to swipes at the media from TV to the printed word; facts and figures that were poorly researched; stories which were so old they had long white beards and the hypothesis that nothing had ever been done to curb the excesses which can affect any species, including the human race.

We even had the odd sentence ending with a preposition but I suppose that too would have gone over the writer’s head.

In response the Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko sent a letter the following day:-

‘The Kennel Club is the governing body of dogs and one of our primary concerns is the health and welfare of dogs. We were therefore very disappointed to read the article in the Daily Telegraph today as the information given was out of date, inaccurate and poorly researched.

‘It is equally disappointing that having given a lengthy interview to the Telegraph journalist on Monday afternoon, the journalist in question decided not to quote the Kennel Club. We can only deduce from this that our position would not have been in keeping with such a sensationalised story. We are surprised that a national paper did not research the facts prior to publication, or give the Kennel Club the right to reply.

‘It would take too long to correct every inaccuracy included in the copy but to give some examples:

‘The author states that ‘there are more than 30,000 genetic defects identified in pedigree dogs with a new one being discovered every month’.

This would be physically impossible since the dog has only 20,000 genes and, in fact, some 500 diseases! This compares rather favourably with man with over 3000 diseases and much work is being done, paid for by the Kennel Club and its Charitable Trust, into research into canine inherited disease.

‘The author also states that ‘It has not taken long for 100,000 years of breeding for function to be undone.’ Recent studies have shown that the wolf, from which the domestic dog has evolved, was only domesticated some 20,000 years ago and the majority of dog breeds are less than 200 years old.

‘It is also stated that mongrels live two or three times longer than pedigree dogs. It is a fact that some breeds live even longer than mongrels and the Kennel Club has genetic health screens in place for pedigree dogs that are unlikely to be able to be developed for mongrels.

‘The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has dispersed large sums of money since its inception in the late 80s in the areas of support, sentiment and science. In the latter area we have invested in genetic research, DNA profiling, hereditary disease and specialist studies. Much has been achieved in these areas and we are committed to continuing this work.

‘We believe that the Telegraph would wish to give a true picture of the facts and certainly would not want to mislead its readers. I therefore respectfully request that you print this letter in its entirety to correct the inaccuracies and make it clear that far from ignoring health problems in breeds, we are working hard, alongside breeders, to address these.’

The letter has yet to see the light of day.

But the Kennel Club had the last laugh. The Crufts stand area previously let to ‘Dogs Today’ is now occupied by a company selling odour and stain remover!