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Kennel Club backs dog shows and exhibitors

KC and RSPCA differences 'irreconcilable'


THE KENNEL Club came out fighting this week, following the RSPCA’s speedy response to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare’s (APGAW) inquiry, A Healthier Future for Pedigree Dogs.

Chairman of the KC, Ronnie Irving, said that he was disappointed that the RSPCA’s response was so blinkered in its approach to the subject. Hem told OUR DOGS: ‘It has virtually ignored the good work done by breed clubs, breeders and the Kennel Club over many years. After all, we have already gone a long way to achieving eleven of the fourteen major recommendations in the Society's own report on this subject. They have virtually ignored that.’

The Society’s response is largely in line with suggestions made in the APGAW report (Our Dogs December 4), however, some of its own further recommendations are already causing concern within the world of dogs, including the fact that the RSPCA makes numerous references to a panel of independent experts, which it says should oversee most decisions made concerning pedigree dogs, and not just by the KC. The report states that activities such as health screening, dog showing and even judging should all be looked at by ‘a panel of appropriate independent experts, with relevant knowledge and experience in multiple disciplines.’

Another section of the report, Dog Shows, suggests that the Society would ‘support the training of judges to ensure that they judge dogs in the show ring based in health, welfare and temperament. One option would be to monitor and test judges independently.

Dog breeders and exhibitors were unhappy with the RSPCA, and in particular its vet, Mark Evans, following the screening of Pedigree Dogs Exposed in 2008. In the programme, Mr Evans referred to some breeds a ‘mutants’ and stated that he would be happy to see the end of dogs shows, which he referred to as ‘a freakish, garish beauty pageant that has frankly nothing to do with health and welfare.’

The reaction to the programme shook the country - and the world - with many divided over whether it should have been aired at all. However, at the centre of the argument the KC did all it could to prove that the process of weeding out health problems had been going on for years, and that its main aim was, and always had been, the health of the dogs it represents. The backlash was certainly felt by the RSPCA, as thousands of people declined any more donations in an attempt to register their disgust, particularly towards Mr Evans and the ‘biased’ nature of the programme.

In fact a complaint by the KC to OFCOM also descended into farce recently, when the BBC asked that the findings of the complaint, some of which were in favour of the KC, be shelved until further notice.

Screening

On the subject of health testing, the RSPCA also agreed with the APGAW inquiry’s suggestion that dogs would only be allowed in the ring after passing relevant health tests, and said it believed that it would support compulsory health screening, again commenting that a panel of ‘appropriate independent experts’ could be used to monitor and enforce effective compliance.

Mr Irving again hit back, telling OUR DOGS: ‘On another level I see this RSPCA response as thoroughly condescending and, quite frankly, arrogant. While it does contain some sensible comments, it appears to be largely the work of narrow-minded people who obviously have a very specific and dangerous agenda against pedigree dogs. What credence can be given to a report that claims that even the revised Kennel Club breed standards are still detrimental to dog welfare, and which uses, in a feeble attempt to illustrate this, the fact that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed standard asks for the breed to have short legs? That comment reveals the uninformed and extreme mentality of those with whom we are dealing.’

The Society also cited the Pug and the Shih Tzu in its brief, saying that both revised standards still ‘compromise dog welfare’ - using the Pug’s double curl and the Shih Tzu’s short muzzle as two examples.

The RSPCA believes that a meeting should be held after a third report, (the Bateson Inquiry into Dog Breeding, funded by the Dogs Trust and the KC) is published early next year. The meeting, it says, should be to ‘discuss and agree a way forward on this complex issue.’ It also says that the meeting should be chaired independently, with the sole objective of producing an ‘action plan’ within three months of the Bateson Inquiry being published.

Calling the welfare issues of pedigree dogs ‘very serious’, the RSPCA has said again that it believes selective breeding practices and the hobby of showing are to blame for what they believe are health issues in many breeds.

The Accredited Breeder Scheme, televising dfsCrufts and the KC’s future were also rubbished and questioned, with the suggestion that the KC could face regulation ‘if other measures to improve dog breeding fail within a 12 month period.’

Patronising

Ronnie Irving continued: ‘Also the response concentrates on telling the Kennel Club what to do and patronisingly talks of giving the KC and its dog breeders one last chance - while at the same time pretty well ignoring the fact that over 50% of dogs bred in this country fall completely outside the Kennel Club’s sphere of influence.

‘It attempts to ‘rubbish’ the Kennel Club Accredited Breeder Scheme on completely inaccurate grounds. That scheme is the only benchmark scheme that currently exists for dog breeders and is growing stronger by the day.

‘It tells More 4 how to edit its TV programmes and it advises the veterinary profession on how to run its affairs as well. It even criticises APGAW just because the Group hasn’t accepted all of the RSPCA recommendations.

‘We have thought all along that the RSPCA takes an unrealistic and some might say extremist view of this issue. It completely wants rid of dog shows as we know them. The Society makes the outrageous and totally ill informed assumption that health, welfare and temperament play no part in current dog showing. It goes on to show its real view when it says ‘The Society believes that the most important change that should be made to dog shows in order to really improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs would be for the entire purpose of such shows to be changed. The Society believes that the purpose of dog shows should be to judge dogs on their health, welfare and temperament rather than appearance.’

‘The Kennel Club believes that health and temperament are absolutely paramount, and are viewed as such in the show ring, but it believes that appearance is an important factor as well. It is mainly appearance that distinguishes one breed of dog from another. That is a fundamental and irreconcilable difference that we have with the RSPCA. I believe that it shows up the RSPCA as having adopted an extreme stance that would not be shared by the vast majority of pedigree dog owners who want their chosen breed to look like their chosen breed.’

An RSPCA spokesperson told OUR DOGS: ‘We would like to reassure your readers that the RSPCA is not against all dog shows. In fact we think that if judging criteria moved away from appearance and instead focussed on health and welfare, they could be extremely positive for dogs and their owners.

‘The recommendations made in our response to the APGAW report outline some of what we think needs to be done to ensure that pedigree dogs are healthy. We hope that everyone involved - including the Kennel Club - will continue to discuss recommendations put forward by all the stakeholders as part of our common aim to ensure pedigree dogs are fit, happy and healthy.’

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