Adverts: 0161 709 4576 - Editorial: 0161 709 4571
Mail Order: 0161 709 4578 - Subs: 0161 709 4575 - Webteam: 0161 709 4567

Breeders’ opinions are divided


IT IS now nearly two weeks since the programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed and already it appears the public outrage is dying down, and many of the internet sites for dog lovers certainly are returning to the more normally expected questions. This does not, of course, mean that members of the public have forgotten, since it is now in the minds of many that the only healthy dogs are mongrels.

Within twenty four hours of the program being aired one regional cavalier club rescue centre had handed in seven pet cavaliers, who no doubt are feeling lost and wondering why they are no longer in the homes they have known since puppyhood! Some breeders have reported that they have had puppy buyers cancel puppies they have booked, and this is across a number of breeds, not just those seen in the program.

The program also seems to have divided breeders, between those who believe the Kennel Club should tighten up on breeders and those who see the bigger picture, as stated by Ronnie Irving in the program, that by tightening up the rules could drive away breeders who only do a minimum of testing now, and if outside the limited control of the Kennel Club would continue to breed their dogs and more than likely with even less health testing. Breeders need to stick together and support the Kennel Club over this, if they don’t they will give free rein to the back yard breeders, puppy farmers and dog dealers, as the Kennel Club has long since realised as Bill Lambert, the Kennel Club’s Health and breeder manager, says in a statement published on the KC web site, “More than ever before it is a time for the Kennel Club to work, with the responsible breeders of ALL breeds to find ways of spreading the message that responsible breeding is the only type of breeding which is acceptable in this day and age. Now is the time to work together – because we love dogs, not because of a badly made television programme seeking to gain ratings through shock tactics”.

Having watched the program, how many readers have actually gone to the breed club web sites of breeds featured? While it might seem very straightforward for cavalier breeders to simply cut from any breeding program all dogs with health problems, it is not practical, as this might reduce the gene pool available to zero. So how do you preserve a breed with problems? You start by learning as much as possible about the condition, and hopefully tests can be developed with the backing of the breeders. This backing is not simply about getting dogs tested, it is about being honest, and it is about money! No tests can be discovered without research and this cannot be done with out funding. Most of this funding comes from the Kennel Club and the breeders, yet nowhere in the program was this made clear. This was echoed in Bill Lambert’s statement, where he speaks of the research from the Imperial College was funded and then used by the program makers,“One of the most frustrating aspects of this depressingly one-sided programme was the way in which the research on dog genetics carried out by Imperial College was used as a stick to beat the Kennel Club. What the programme failed to acknowledge was that this research was entirely enabled by the Kennel Club in the first place!”

In a further statement issued on the 22nd August Bill Lambert, pointed to the fact that the Kennel Club, “Provides in excess of £300,000 each year to UK universities and research bodies, such as the Animal Health Trust. Much of this money has been used to help develop new health tests for inherited diseases, directly benefiting pedigree dogs”.

Withheld

The problem of syringomyelia in Cavaliers was only identified some seven years ago by Clair Rusbridge who appeared in the program, other information with held from the viewing audience was that Ms Rusbridge had originally thought the problem to be much greater than the 30% affected estimate which she claimed there were, in the film. If cavalier breeders were really so keen to cover up the problems in their breed, why do they display so many articles on the health status of the breed on the club web site? Members of the Cavalier Club directed Our Dogs to the following two sites, where reports can be seen from Clair Rusbridge and other experts, www.cavalierhealth.org/syringomyelia.htm and www.cavaliers.co.uk. Both web sites make interesting reading and show that some problems are a lot more complicated than viewers were led to believe by the program makers. We should not be fooled into thinking that eradicating any problem from a gene pool is going to be easy, more often than not it is very complicated.
The cavalier breeders who have received the letters and telephone calls know only too well, exactly what Bill Lambert means in his statement released on the 20th August Bill Lamberts concludes, ““Pedigree Dogs Exposed was a slap in the face for everyone who has already put so much work into improving the health and welfare of pedigree dogs. As I said before, this is nothing new to the Kennel Club and it certainly won’t stop us from continuing our work towards our aim of making a difference for dogs”.

The program has now been seen around the world via YouTube.com and messages of support have been received at the Kennel Club from breeders, as well as UK and overseas breed clubs. Even the social networking site Facebook has had people contacting groups there including the KC Campaigns site to discuss the program. One group on Facebook which has support from mostly students of Bristol University is called Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Vets against inhumane breeding, which currently has 152 members. If these students are veterinary students will they be at Crufts by invitation of the Kennel Club next year? Or will they decline the invitation?
One issue which remains a mystery was the fact that the KC and CAWC were not permitted to see the program before it was broadcast. The KC subsequently had to defend its breeding and registration policies with no knowledge of the program content. It was clear that Caroline Kisko was at a disadvantage on the Richard and Judy show on the Tuesday afternoon, as it appeared that the program researchers had seen the show by the sort of question asked of Jemima Harrison and Ms Kisko. Ms Harrison clearly knew she “held all the aces” whilst Ms Kisko tried to put over a different view of the KC and breeders, but as she had no chance to prepare answers to any of the questions asked was always going to be at a disadvantage, although it has to be said she did her best under such circumstances. To date the Kennel Club have not had the chance to have broadcast a reply to the program which many feel was biased against the pedigree dog breeders and the Kennel Club. Many breeders have questioned whether the BBC by airing such a program has in fact broken its charter for unbiased reporting.

To conclude we should consider Bill Lambert’s words at the end of his second statement on the KC web site which rather sums up the feelings of many breeders,

“Of course there are many more things that we do, but the programme would have you believe that we are doing nothing! Hardly a true picture! Of course good news does not make good television, and the truth is that we will never do enough until inherited disease is eliminated from all dogs. So who is going to improve the health of dogs in this country? A sensationalist television programme concerned with TV ratings, or dedicated breeders working with organisations like the Kennel Club with true passion for the dog?”


Publishers hit by documentary

The documentary has already had a visible impact on various industries linked to showing dogs. One particular sector is the book industry. Writer Elaine Everest was preparing the submission of her latest manuscript to the publishing company The Greatest in the World Ltd when she received the news that they could no longer produce the book she has written specifically for The Greatest in the World series.

Elaine is understandably shocked, describing the outcome as an ongoing ‘ripple effect’, caused by the public’s response to the BBC documentary.

When asked to comment, the company’s Managing Director, Steve Brooks, stated public opinion as the reason behind the decision. The company distributes to bookshops all over the UK and several major bookstores have already made it clear to the company’s sales team that they will not be taking on this particular title, and possibly many others like it, following the airing of the documentary.

Mr Brooks said exclusively to Our Dogs that to try to sell a book like this given the current public opinion on show dogs would be ‘suicide’ for the company. Mr Brooks stated that the publisher remains unbiased and that this was purely a commercial decision as the public are now ‘seriously opposed’ to dog shows. He then continued on to admit that the company will be ‘shelving’ the book for a further 12 months pending long term public opinion and in anticipation of possible backing from The Kennel Club.


KC logoThe Kennel Club feels that the programme, Pedigree Dogs Exposed (BBC1 19 August) missed a real opportunity to progress the cause of dog health. It appeared to have a very specific agenda repeating prejudices, providing no context for the debate, and failing to put forward any constructive proposals. It left viewers with the mistaken impression that all pedigree dogs are riddled with a wide range of health problems and that the dog community is doing little or nothing to improve the situation. This is patently not true.

Whilst the Kennel Club was shocked by the dramatic imagery used in the programme, and accepts some of the important issues raised, what it does not accept is that these problems apply widely across the 200 plus breeds in the UK. Pedigree Dogs Exposed also failed to show the real progress being made by both the Kennel Club and responsible breeders in improving dog health or to recognise that 90 percent of dogs will not suffer from health problems that have a detrimental impact on the quality of life.

More than that, the programme drew upon a new study on dog genetics by Imperial College to underline its criticisms of dog breeding, without acknowledging the fact this study was entirely enabled by the Kennel Club as part of its commitment to health research. This research will now provide the Kennel Club with a valuable scientific platform to enlist the support of breeders in tackling key health problems where they occur.

Commenting, Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: “in reality the gap between some of the views expressed on the programme and those held by both the Kennel Club and most responsible breeders is very small. Over the last 20 years we have been working to develop tests and health screening schemes to identify and eradicate problems, many of which are historic. One example of this is the elimination of canine leucocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD) in Irish Setters, that caused early death in puppies which was eradicated through the concerted efforts of both the Kennel Club and Irish Setter breeders.

“However, it is important to put this into context. The Kennel Club has no legal standing, unlike some similar bodies in other countries. We have to work on these issues through partnership and persuasion – not coercion. The danger of introducing draconian measures is that some breeders could choose to operate outside the Kennel Club’s jurisdiction; with absolutely no controls. That cannot be the best way forward.

“The programme also made some sweeping, and far from accurate assertions. The Kennel Club refutes that it would put ‘looks’ above the health of pedigree dogs, in fact we actively discourage the exaggeration of features in any breed. The standards have been, and will continue to be amended when necessary to ensure the breeding of healthy, well conformed dogs. Dog show judges are also educated to judge to those standards ensuring that dogs with obvious problems that could affect their quality of life do not win, and that the rewards go to fit, healthy dogs. All of this of course is dependent on the responsibility of breeders and owners – and this is where our efforts must be concentrated.”

“We can state categorically that the majority of pedigree dogs in the UK are healthy. We increasingly have in place checks to monitor health issues going forward. In those few breeds where there are problems, including those highlighted in the programme, we have been and will continue to work with breeders to improve long term health through the development of tests and screening programmes.”

Kennel Club health initiatives include: funding research to identify problems and develop efficient screening for health, such as eye testing and hip scoring; the introduction of the Accredited Breeder Scheme, to act as a ‘kite mark’ for responsible breeders; and most recently the launch of a major campaign which seeks further to promote health improvements across breeds - ‘Fit for function – fit for life’. This, in conjunction with breed clubs, focuses on tackling unnecessary exaggeration in some breeds, whether that is of coat, weight, skin, angulation, eye formation or shortness of muzzle. All dogs should be fit for function, even if that function is to be a pet - all dogs should be able to see, breath and walk freely.

“By their lack of context, programmes such as Pedigree Dogs Exposed, far from helping the situation run the risk of damaging the work already being done. This work will not be carried out by TV production companies – but by the hard work of the Kennel Club and the country’s responsible breeders.” said Caroline Kisko.

In summary, health issues are of primary concern to the Kennel Club but changes cannot be made overnight. We are working proactively with breeders to make these changes – but we are dealing with the legacy of 100 years. What we need is the support of experts such as those featured in the programme, not their condemnation – support which we have indeed received from a number of respected bodies such as The Animal Health Trust, The Blue Cross and the British Veterinary Association.

The Kennel Club


Beverley CuddyFor many people in the show world, the content of the BBC1 documentary came as a tremendous shock. The Kennel Club may have been expecting it to be bad, but I don’t think they’d expected it to also be so very good at unifying and empowering the nation’s pet lovers.

Since the broadcast, I’ve been very aware that some in the show world have regarded the programme as ‘anti-dog’ and that those who pride themselves as being very good breeders have felt the programme, by omitting to highlight any case histories of progressive breeders, tarred them with the same rather dirty brush.

On show forums there’s been plenty of people trotting out the old chestnuts that all the health problems stem for the back yard breeders, that the documentary filmmakers should have put the boot into them and left the show world alone. That all the breeders and KC people depicted had been thrown a curve ball and had been tricked into saying what they did.

But while it was true in an hour of densely packed television there wasn’t enough time for diverting off to show that in some breeds people were really behaving quite well even without their own version of the amazing Carol Fowler, there can be no denying that the show revealed our system has evolved in a very odd way and that the KC’s fear of becoming unpopular with its breeders has led to a woeful lack of regulation that has been extremely bad for the dog’s health generally.

If you are feeling upset about the backlash from programme why not use that emotion to actually start to change things? If you think that the public probably now wrongly perceives all breeders in the same negative light you need to lobby the KC to change that with rapid, radical and strategic change.

And that does not mean PR. The fancy, expensive dog genetics website is fooling no one and just reiterates what they’ve already done - ie too little, too late. When among other like minded individuals its easy to imagine that everyone who breeds dogs is similarly good and does all the tests (and tales notice of the results of course!), to believe that the good breeders are in the
majority. But it simply isn’t true. Most of the litters registered at the Kennel Club are bred by people who will only produce one litter in their entire lives.

Without a firm KC giving clear messages to these novices, how will they ever realise what good practise means? And health testing and keeping an eye on inbreeding and exaggerations will be meaningless if only a minority of experts bother.

So sadly, it is the case that the majority at the moment are poor breeders. Just look at health testing figures for Labs. We all know they have trouble with their hips, yet even though the KC register 45k Labradors every year the pathetic number ever hip scored is just 60,000 dogs over 30 years! The KC really needs to start setting sensible standards that the public can trust to restore everyone’s image. In any case the good breeders shouldn’t have to pay extra if they test!
Good practise should be rewarded or at least be considered the norm. Anyone who doesn’t test should be charged a lot more to use the system and the public should be able to easily differentiate the good from the mediocre with a two tier system that encourages the more passive breeders to test.

In the last week I have been approached by many open-minded progressive breeders who would really like to see radical change at the Kennel Club to reflect the latest scientific information and reassure the public that not all breeders are as short-sighted as those depicted in the documentary. It sometimes requires a degree of bravery to be a reformer, but the more
people that take those brave steps forward, the easier it will get for the people who follow.
I believe that there are many breeders who would welcome the KC adopting much tougher measures. The Kennel Club needs to hear from as many you as possible if they are to have the confidence to make the necessary changes that they may previously have shied away from fearing them to be unpopular.

Please speak up now and make the KC stronger. So what if the puppy farmers take their money to a less caring registry - why would that be such a bad thing? If the good and the bad become much more distinct it will be possible for the KC to honestly court deserved positive publicity and make registration the mark of quality that the public used to wrongly assume it was.
Now is not the time for recriminations, witch-hunts or spin. It’s the time to absorb the information that research has revealed and some of the ugly and uncomfortable truths displayed in this insightful documentary and start putting it right.

We have to acknowledge there is a problem before it can get better.

Reforming the Kennel Club is the only logical next step. Others more radical are calling for a breakaway organisation that does firmly put health first, but the first choice must be to first mend the one we have and make it stronger.

Beverley Cuddy,
Editor Dogs Today


Jemima Harrison‘The programme was carefully researched over the course of two years. We felt that the scale of the health and welfare concerns in pedigree dogs justified the programme’s emphasis on problems. The programme’s aim was to provoke debate which it is hoped will lead to measurable improvements in the health and welfare of pedigree dogs. We are of course aware that there are breeders out there doing their best for their breeds. We hope not only that they will continue to be ambassadors for health within their breeds but that this film will give them the ammunition they need to encourage everyone within their breed communities to make health and welfare the number one priority.

‘Re the showing of distressing footage: Both the film-makers and the BBC were aware that viewers could find some footage in the film distressing – particularly the images of the cavalier with syringomyelia and the boxer with epilepsy. After careful consideration, the decision to include this footage was taken because it was a very powerful way to convey the suffering endured by many dogs as a result of inherited disease.

‘Both these dogs were filmed by their owners, not the film-crew and so did not suffer any additional stress as a result of the filming process. Additionally, their owners were keen for the footage to be shown in order to highlight what ordinary pet owners go through.

‘Finally, there was a warning immediately prior to transmission that the film contained images of animals in distress.”

‘My first flatcoat, Fred, lived a very long and happy life. When he died, aged 15, I discovered that I had been lucky. Fifty per cent of flatcoats will develop cancer by the age of 7/8. This figure is too high – and of course it’s even worse in other breeds such as the Bernese Mountain Dogs. Our films always have science at their heart and so I started to look at why the cancer rate in flatties was so high. It was clear that inbreeding and popular sires played a role. This, and the wealth of evidence already out there about inherited disease and phenotypic problems in pedigree dogs, was enough to secure a commission from the BBC.

‘When we started out, the intention WAS to explore in more illustrative terms how science could help make pedigree dogs healthier. The focus of the film did change as we progressed because we became increasingly alarmed at the level of problems we found and how little effective action was being taken to tackle them; particularly the level at which science was being ignored because its findings don’t suit the dog fancy. We were also aware that, often the Kennel Club is beholden to the breed clubs and that pressure needs to be put on them too to accept change. The decision was taken, therefore, to use this one hour of programming to highlight the issues. We have never suggested that the Kennel Club is doing nothing – just that not enough is being done to ensure that pedigree dogs lead long, healthy, uncompromised lives.

‘The film spells out very clearly indeed that inbreeding and the influence of popular sires are a massive issue – and this claim is fully-supported by the latest research from Imperial College, London which raises the alarm about the degree of genetic impoverishment in the 10 breeds of dog they looked at. . We were particularly surprised to hear Kennel Club’s Caroline Kisko claim on the Today programme that the Imperial findings had only been published two days earlier, hence why they hadn’t acted on them. This research was, in fact, published in May 2008 and submitted for publication in November 2007, with the Kennel Club’s Jeff Sampson as a co-author on the paper. In other words, the Kennel Club has known about its findings for a year or more and there have been no KC initiatives to tackle inbreeding – or, even, to acknowledge it is a major issue for today’s pedigree dogs This must change – for the sake of the dogs.’

Jemima Harrison, producer Pedigree Dogs Exposed.


CKCS Club‘By the nature of its advance publicity, I was expecting the BBC documentary to be editorially biased, and this proved to be the case. But when I watched the programme, more than anything else, I was struck by the almost complete lack of credit given to the extensive work carried out by The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, and many other regional clubs, to address health issues and support research.

‘For the past 20 years or more, we have conducted numerous health clinics and health programmes across the country, all involving ophthalmologists and cardiologists. Ian Mason, an ophthalmologist, recently said that eye problems in the breed have been greatly reduced, due in large measure to this initiative. Ian was interviewed by the film crew during our last Championship show, but this achievement was apparently considered insufficiently newsworthy to warrant mention on the programme. Other breed societies have also organised health screening schemes, some of which have been very successful. Again none of these were mentioned.

‘Syringomyelia first came to light approximately five years ago. Since then, the Club has consistently endeavoured to educate and inform its members on the condition. Numerous research schemes have been established and assisted funding provided for MRI scans. Many seminars have been held, including the first International conference on SM, held at the Royal Veterinary College in 2006. None of this was mentioned on the programme.

‘The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has supported many club research projects. £24,000 was raised jointly by cavalier clubs, to fund MVD research at Edinburgh University. The Kennel Club matched this funding and the research is now in its fourth year. Again, this initiative was not mentioned during the programme.

‘I genuinely believe that no club could reasonably have done more than the work carried out by the CKCSC. Our efforts were not inspired by the CAWC meeting earlier this year, but have been in progress for at least 25 years! Sadly, health research is a slow process. There can be no quick miracle cures for historic conditions in the breed. It should also be noted that only a minority of cavaliers registered are bred by members of cavalier breed clubs.

‘The club has no mandatory powers to impose breeding regulations on its members, only the capacity to influence, educate and persuade. This we have done to the best of our ability. This was not, however, reflected in the programme, even though its producers were aware of our efforts. As I watched the programme, it became very apparent that this did not coincide with the image they wished to promote.

‘Finally, some reasons to be positive!

‘Most cavaliers lead happy, normal lives and some Vets say they do not encounter SM. Eye problems are being eradicated. Brendan Corcoran, at Edinburgh University, is conducting the first investigation of the mitral valve ‘structure’ and why it fails. Simon Swift, at Liverpool University, has conducted cardiology clinics at our club events for 18 years, following Peter Darke’s retirement. Simon is involved with the exciting LUPA project, which is funded by the EU (580,000 euros) to unravel the genetic background of specific canine diseases, one of which is MVD in the cavalier. The project has access to the top scientists in the field.

‘Sarah Bott at Animal Health Trust is conducting groundbreaking research to produce an internet-based breeding programme of Estimated Breeding Values. This is a science that has been used successfully for cattle and pigs. In the near future, cavalier breeders will be first to be given the opportunity to use this programme to breed healthier dogs. Sarah has received substantial sponsorship from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. Perhaps just as importantly, she also has the enthusiastic support of all cavalier breed clubs. This bodes well.

‘Additionally, breed clubs are currently in discussion with the AHT, on the appointment of a panel of neurologists and radiologists, for standardising the certification of MRI scans. Currently, scans are assessed by individual neurologists and this inevitably results in differing opinions. The new panel should resolve this problem and will provide for an ‘appeal’ system to be established. Initially, this will be a Cavalier Club scheme for which we have received financial and practical assistance from the Kennel Club.

‘Furthermore, we shall continue to hold health clinics, to promote heart testing, eye testing and blood sampling. We intend, in unison with other cavalier clubs, to promote the permanent identification of dogs and cheek swabs.

‘A summary of the health projects initiated by the Cavalier Club during the past 25 years is available on our website www.thecavalierclub.co.uk

‘May I repeat: In my view, the club could not reasonably have been expected to do more.’

Lesley Jupp, Chairman,
The Cavalier King
Charles Spaniel Club


Ridgeback club The Rhodesian Ridgeback was introduced as a dog with a ridge which “serves no purpose”. This is absolute nonsense as the ridge defines the breed from any other large brown dog without a ridge which might be considered a crossbred i.e. mastiff x pitbull or boxer x mastiff.

‘Professor Serpell states “dogs were essentially bred for function ………dogs that did the job well were bred to dogs that did the job well”. This is exactly how and why the Ridgeback breed evolved; from mixed packs of pioneers’ breeds, mongrels and the Hottentot ridged dog came the ridged dog who was noted for a particular reason - to hunt, guard and accompany their owners (often on horseback).

‘The ridge is NOT “a mild form of Spina Bifida” Some Vets/Scientists believe that the dermoid sinus condition found in Rhodesian Ridgebacks is related to the human condition. Dermoid sinus can be palpated shortly after a puppy is born – it does not “burrow down to the spine or skull” but is the result of malformation of skin tissue development in utero.

‘Despite being requested to, the programme chose not to quote the Code of Ethics clause referring to ridgeless puppies in entirety ie “Any mismarked puppy shall be described as such and sold not to be shown or bred from. This should be reflected in the price. Ridgeless puppies shall be culled at birth; if a breeder finds this morally impossible the puppy shall be homed, without a pedigree certificate at rearing cost only, with an understanding that it is to be neutered. Registration documents for all puppies referred to in this paragraph shall be suitably endorsed.”
‘It has never been MANDATORY to put a ridgeless puppy to sleep.

‘Ms Harrison was also well aware that the Club’s Code of Ethics was drawn up 20 years ago, and in the light of changing attitudes members had been reviewing this for the past 12 months with particular reference to the sensitive issue of ridgeless puppies, but again, she chose not to include this information in the programme.

‘There are no statistics in the UK for dermoid sinus or ridgeless in the breed. The statements “1 in 20 ridgless puppies, and 10% of puppies with dermoid sinus are born” and “dogs born without a ridge do not suffer from dermoid sinus”refer to results of research in Sweden, and in no way represents the breed in UK.

‘No mention was made of the information that dermoid sinus has been confirmed in a ridgeless puppy in the UK, and indeed that this condition is found in other breeds without a ridge eg. Dobermans, Boxers and humans.

‘This Club does not feel there is any reason to change the Rhodesian Ridgeback Breed Standard on the results of the incomplete Swedish research. We have helped to fund this project in the hope that results will assist members in future breeding programmes.

‘This club holds educational health seminars – Dr Sampson was a speaker some years ago when we attempted to set up dermoid sinus project – and recommends hip scoring, dermoid sinus checks for puppies, identification by microchip and/or DNA and/or Tattoo for breeding stock.

‘In general the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a healthy hound that is still bred for functionality, and most dogs live to enjoy old age.’

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain


“I assumed, when asked for an interview, that this programme would be a balanced view on Hereditary Canine conditions and that responsible work and actions taken in Rhodesian Ridgeback circles would be of use.

“Dermoid Sinus, a form of spina bifida, is a problem we have inherited. It is no longer widespread and only in very rare, very slight form does it escape our searches and the affected puppies are humanely put to sleep at birth. It is very upsetting.

“In the 1960’s we raised funds for Mann and Stratton’s research into the mode of inheritance. Recently we have helped fund research in Sweden which is not yet complete but now the canine genome mapping is complete, this research is to find the DNA marker and eventually a DNA test for the condition.

“None of this was mentioned in the programme.

“The research in Sweden was specific and consequently only 9 ridgeless puppies and 11 dermoid sinus positive dogs were used. As it happens none of the ridgeless dogs carried the genes for Dermoid Sinus and on these false grounds Ms Harrison revealed her true agenda against putting to sleep ridgeless puppies. We witnessed the deliberate and somewhat hysterical demonising of breeders breeding in a “deformity” (which has been around at least 500 years.) We were told authoritively and incorrectly that the “deformity”, the ridge, caused the Dermoid Sinus condition which was sensationalised with muddled, half understood information, and that we should use ridgeless stock to get rid of this problem. Nice to be such experts!

“Further to our goal of eliminating Dermoid Sinus help came from Australia some years ago where data was collected from a large number of litters produced using various forms of Folic Acid/placebos. So promising were the results that it is used here and it would seem successfully. This information on the benefit of Folic acid was just dismissed by Ms Harrison on the grounds that she had a scientific background and that the numbers were insufficient and there has been no update. Well, in human medicine where the original tests evolved the results were so conclusive it was not considered necessary to do further trials and indeed was considered unethical to withhold the benefits from the mothers being given the placebo.

“Ms Harrison failed to mention any of this.

“Very much worse was that she was told very clearly that Dermoid Sinuses had been found in ridgeless puppies. I would suggest it was totally immoral and unethical for a scientific mind to hide these truths, however inconvenient to the story line.

“Returning to Ms Harrison’s own real agenda, I gave my reasons, which were not aired, why a breeder might feel it a kinder option to humanely put to sleep a ridgeless puppy however upsetting or horrid the task and touch wood I have not been in this position. Our problems are knowing the conflicting needs of this breed and some of modern society. Times have changed and instant gratification, unstable partnerships, busy lifestyles, limited patience and the throwaway society jeopardise safe, permanent, suitable homes. If you need to be 100% certain for your puppies well being you have to be 200% certain for any ridgeless one and it can become impossible. After the over emotional desire to help the dog has faded and the dog becomes either an inconvenience or disappointment it is dumped, and being ridgeless it is devalued and becomes a second class citizen. The necessary care in choosing a new home will not be repeated, the dog has to go and we are given no time. To this intensely loyal pack animal, too intelligent, and very sensitive this is a disaster and is too often repeated in a downward spiral. As we in the breed know, at the bottom are the loathsome dog fighter and the unsupervised morons in the Guard dog trade who think Ridgebacks kill lions or that such a dog is a Pit Bull. To allow this possibility is certainly highly immoral and unethical. What we ask from the veterinary profession, who we pay, is a degree of support and acceptance that we do know what is best and are trying to do the right thing and however much they may hold an alternative viewpoint it is ultimately our responsibility.”

Ann Woodrow,
Mirengo Rhodesian Ridgebacks