PDSA suspends involvement in Kennel Club events
‘We welcome and support recent progress but evidence of real change is needed’ says charity
In a statement dated November 5th, the UK’s leading veterinary charity, the PDSA, announced that it was suspending its involvement in Kennel Club dog shows and events, including Crufts. The charity, which provides free veterinary care for the pets of people in need, has participated in these events for over 30 years.
After lengthy consideration, the PDSA reached its decision based on the evidence of health issues affecting some pedigree dog breeds. Despite its withdrawal from forthcoming events, the charity stresses its commitment to working with the Kennel Club and with the veterinary profession, welfare organisations and other interested parties to bring about health improvements.
The PDSA currently employs nearly one thousand veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and support staff at its 47 PetAid hospitals and branches across the UK. They are faced by the consequences of unacceptable dog breeding practices on a daily basis. These include serious health issues brought about by inherited conditions and through compliance to breed standards.
PDSA Director of Veterinary Services, Richard Hooker, said: “We believe change is needed in the way pedigree dogs are bred. Specifically, breeding should put the dogs’ quality of life before appearance and this must be reflected in the show ring. Our decision reflects the weight of opinion within our charity and among our supporters. It is consistent with our Long Live Pets campaign and sends a clear message that pedigree dog breeding needs urgent review.”
Mr Hooker added: “We welcome the Kennel Club’s recent efforts to improve the health status of pedigree dogs and will support these with our input and expertise wherever possible. We believe that our position is entirely consistent with that of the veterinary profession, including the British Veterinary Association and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association.
“PDSA will require evidence that real and sufficient progress is made in the quality of life for dogs before reconsidering this decision. While we acknowledge that most dog breeders do observe good standards, this step will help to send a very clear message to all: that the initiatives undertaken by the Kennel Club to work towards improving the health status of pedigree dogs must be taken on board, through their agreement to revised breed standards.”
Solving health problems in certain pedigree breeds means addressing public demand as well as breed supply issues, added Richard Hooker: “The information available to dog owners and prospective owners is critical. If members of the public only want dogs that are healthy and responsibly bred, then undesirable practices will cease. That is why PDSA is committed to delivering good public information and education.”
In 2007 the PDSA received £25,000 for a canine recovery ward from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. The PDSA were not at Discover Dogs last weekend either. OUR DOGS did contact the PDSA before we left for Discover Dogs but at the time of going to press there had been no response or further statements. We have posed a number of questions and hope to have answers for next weeks’ issue.
The Kennel Club quickly issued the following statement last week as the actions of the PDSA seemed to be at odds with their earlier co operation with the Kennel Club:
‘The announcement by the PDSA relating to its involvement with Kennel Club events is very disappointing. The Kennel Club recently announced the most significant shift in assuring the health and welfare of dogs in the UK through its Health and Welfare Strategy. Indeed on the back of this strategy, the first of its kind in over 100 years, the PDSA were in discussion with the Kennel Club about ways in which it could participate in this process.
‘However the Kennel Club notes the PDSA statement of support for its initiatives to improve the health status of pedigree dogs. In so doing it recognises that most breeders follow good standards but also confirms the need for breeders to work with the Kennel Club, thus supporting our call for legislative backing to ensure a healthy future for all dogs.
Veterinarian peers, Nicky Paull, President of the BVA, and Ed Hall, President of the BSAVA, as well as the PDSA itself, have endorsed the Kennel Club’s strategy. For the PDSA to walk away at this important time for dog health is extraordinary. As the PDSA has expressed in its statement and to our senior management its wish to work alongside us in the future, we find its present position conflicting and therefore confusing.
The Kennel Club cannot work alone to ensure that dogs are healthy. We thank the many organisations who are standing by us to ensure our strategy, announced last month, can be achieved.
Our Dogs has also been made aware that dog owners can no longer take their dogs into the charity shops run by the PDSA. The story developed after a reader of Dogs Today magazine was asked to leave her local PDSA shop.
The letter, written by Mrs J Murdoch and first published in Dogs Today read: ‘ I was shocked to be asked to leave my local branch of the PDSA charity shop because I was carrying my 12-week-old pug puppy, Cristal. I was told that it was their policy not to allow dogs into the shop. I was there with the sole intention of purchasing a soft collar and lead for my puppy. We were welcomed in all the other charity shops on the high street, allowed to browse their goods and all the staff cooed over my gorgeous pup.
‘I do not understand the logic behind the PDSA policy. It surely can't be for hygiene reasons, as no one knows the background of the goods in the shop. When I want to purchase items for my dogs from pet shops, I am welcomed with my animals. If the PDSA carry such goods, surely it makes sense for them to allow owners to browse with their pets? I shall not be frequenting the PDSA shop again or supporting their charity in any other capacity.’
The PDSA responded via their Head of Retail, David Facer: ‘In response to Mrs J Murdoch's letter in October's issue, I'd like to explain why PDSA, like other retailers, does not allow dogs, other than assistance dogs, into its charity shops.
‘This was not a decision taken lightly but one recommended by our veterinary surgeons, who consider that,in the majority of cases, pets are happier away from shops. After all, assistance dogs undergo rigorous training to be able to cope with retail and other situations. PDSA currently operates 179 charity shops UK-wide. They are essential to our fundraising operation but vary significantly in size and customer base.
‘To offer an equitable retail service we need clear operational policies, underpinned by hygiene and health and safety requirements. I do hope your readers will be reassured that PDSA only wants the best for dogs and our policy is in no way critical of them.’
Many people will be disappointed with this decision. One reader has told OUR DOGS, ‘I like to take my dog to the shops and have done since it was a puppy as this helped with its socialization in many sets of circumstances, in fact I see lots of happy dogs at the shops, this decision seems barmy, political correctness gone mad.’
This situation will not encourage support for the PDSA from dog breeders following their decision to withdraw from Crufts and other dog shows; their statement says, ‘ The PDSA, is suspending its involvement in Kennel Club dog shows and events, including Crufts.’
It is unclear at this moment in time whether they are disassociating themselves from any companion dog shows staged to raise money for the charity.
The PDSA has been a popular choice for fundraisers at dog shows, following disenchantment with the RSPCA ever since the ‘pile of dead dogs’ campaign in the late eighties. Now it appears that the PDSA has set itself on a collision course with dog breeders in the UK.