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European convention on pet animals being considered? -
Reports of imminent enactment of convention dismissed

THE SPECTRE of the European Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals was raised last week when a leading regional newspaper reported that breeders of ‘some of Britain's best-loved breeds including Dachshunds, Bulldogs and Basset Hounds could disappear because of new and potentially far-reaching government animal-welfare measures,’ including plans for the UK to sign up to the much-derided Convention.

According to a report by James Kirkup, Political Editor of The Scotsman, the newspaper learned that ministers in Edinburgh and London are preparing to ratify a controversial Europe-wide treaty that could set strict limits on the breeding and handling of animals.

Kirkup wrote that ‘after years of prevarication and hesitation, private talks had been taking place between the Scottish Executive and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) aimed at ratifying the treaty. Because animal welfare is devolved, Scottish ministers must agree before the UK can sign up to the accord. The convention states that animal breeders must be held accountable for any ‘anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent’.

Annexes to the document set down precise limits on physical characteristics like the length of a dog's back relative to its legs, the length of its ears and the dimensions of its head and nose.’
Kirkup’s report continues with a quote from the Scottish Kennel Club, who apparently told him that ratifying the treaty would mean that anywhere between 30 and 40 breeds would effectively be outlawed.

‘Many breeds would have so many restrictions put on them that they would effectively cease to exist,’ said Jean Fairlie, parliamentary liaison officer for the Scottish Kennel Club. ‘The convention is too broad, too sweeping - it fails to take account of scientific developments, and the work the Kennel Club and breeders have done since it was drawn up to eliminate some mutations and health problems while maintaining the consistency of the breeds.’

Not surprisingly, the report cites is Edinburgh-based animal campaign charity Advocates for Animals as one of the Convention’s strongest supporters and quotes Ross Minnett, the group’s director as saying: ‘Pedigree dogs are bred for their appearance rather than for their good health, often suffers as a result. They are being 'designed' to conform to ideal 'breed standards' which often involve exaggerated and unnatural physical characteristics that are detrimental to the dogs' health and welfare.

‘Ratifying the convention would ‘substantially modify extreme breed standards and limit the degree to which pedigree dogs are bred to be intentionally deformed in a quest to produce 'the perfect dog’,’ according to Minnett. ‘But any claims that this convention would lead to the end of pedigree breeds are scare mongering nonsense.’’

OUR DOGS spoke to the Kennel Club in London about the article and the issues raised about the European Convention. . A spokesperson commented: ‘The Kennel Club is of course encouraging UK Government against signing and ratifying the Convention. While it supports those parts of it that echo the sentiments of the Animal Welfare Act, enforcing the Convention would eradicate many breeds of dog, unjustifiably listed in the annexes as being unhealthy.

‘When the Convention was published in 1987 and then revisited again in 1995, it listed in the annexes over 30 breeds of dogs that were considered to have health problems. This was clearly a nonsense and not based on scientific fact. However, to address concerns regarding the health of a small minority of these breeds the Kennel Club founded the European Convention Study Group in 2002 (now called Breed Health & Welfare Study Group) and with the input of vets and the specialists considered breeding issues raised by the Convention and other issues of canine health. With the cooperation of KC registered breed societies and Kennel Club judge’s, vast improvements have been made.

‘Clearly there is already evidence of a positive trend amongst breeders and a determination by the Kennel Club to improve canine health and welfare by better dog breeding, obviating the need for Government to sign up to this legislation that has originated from the Council Of Europe.’
However, on Tuesday of this week, a reliable source within Scotland, close to the Kennel Club stated that, contrary to what had been reported in the Scotsman, the whole issue had NOT been considered by Ministers and it WILL NOT be considered by them until they have a new Minister after the Scottish Assembly General Election, due to be held on Thursday of this week. As the European Convention on Pet Animals will not be the new Minister’s top priority, it may be some time before the UK as a whole announces a view on whether to sign, state that they will not sign or intend to consult on whether to sign the Convention or not.

In short, the status quo remains, although all dog enthusiasts are urged to keep a close eye on any news relating to the Convention. As always, OUR DOGS will be at the forefront of reporting the true facts of any such issue.