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Weighing sparks controversy

IN YET another move to discredit pedigree dog owners, breeders and exhibitors, Jemima Harrison, the person behind last year’s pedigree Dogs Exposed, has hit out at, amongst other breeds, the Miniature Dachshund.

In an interview with several newspapers, Ms Harrison criticises exhibitors for alleged tactics such as withholding food and water from certain breeds of dog which must meet strict weight limits in order to gain placings.

The Kennel Club banned weigh-ins for Miniature Dachshunds at Crufts in response to suggestions that owners were denying food and water to dogs in the hours before they were due on the scales. It has also relaxed the regulations for other shows, leaving it to individual judges to choose whether to hold a weigh-in or not. It recommends that bowls of water be provided to prevent the dogs from dehydrating but critics say this has done nothing to stop the problem.

Harrison claims to have been ‘inundated with owners and judges who say they are seeing dehydrated or malnourished dogs on the scales, all for the sake of a rosette. It sounds funny to think of dogs having the same issues as fashion models but it is a serious welfare issue. For these owners it is all about winning and nothing else.’

Andrew Brace had previously stated in a critique of Miniature Dachshunds that some were ‘far too thin for their frames.’ He wrote: ‘I am well aware of the strength of feeling of the Miniature people about the need to maintain the scales, but I believe that this is not helping the breed one bit.’
Derek Smith, who judged the Miniatures at last year’s City of Birmingham told us: ‘In my entry at the show I found none of the dogs to be underweight.’

Ian Seath, the Dachshund Breed Council Chairman, said: ‘The breed standard clearly states that exhibits which appear thin and under-nourished should be severely penalised. We do not disqualify dogs just because they do not meet the weight guidelines. Many people support the weighing of miniatures, which is important because it distinguishes Miniatures from Standard Dachshunds and prevents the gradual change in size that has been seen in some other countries.’

Ms Harrison, whose production company Passionate Productions, is now working on a follow-up programme to be shown this summer, rejected claims by the Kennel Club that there was no evidence of deliberate malnutrition at weigh-ins. ‘I have testimonies from those who say it is happening,’ she said. ‘Placing water bowls at shows is pointless because the owners keep the dogs on leads. It doesn’t achieve anything.’

She stressed that the purpose of her second programme would not be to shock viewers but to ‘inspire breeders to rise to the challenge of breeding healthier, long-lived pedigree dogs.’
Mr Seath of the Dachshund breed council said: ‘There have been no formal complaints made to the Kennel Club or breed clubs about dogs being thin at shows. If there were, they would be acted upon. We simply cannot react to hearsay or anecdotes and there is a formal system in place for issues to be raised and investigated. The real health issue that needs to be addressed is that of puppy farming, where no account is taken of the Breed Standard or recommended health screening that we have put in place with the Kennel Club and where animals are raised in appalling conditions.

‘People who show their Dachshunds are in the minority breeders and it is the show community, with the breed clubs, that have led the way with efforts to improve health and welfare (whereas the puppy farmers blatantly ignore these issues). It would not be possible to win top honours in the show ring with unhealthy or temperamentally unsound dogs.’

He continued: ‘The Dachshund Breed Council supports the Kennel Club's continuing efforts to ensure the improvement in health and welfare of all pedigree dogs. The decision to weigh Miniature Dachshunds will continue to be a matter for discussion and mutual agreement between the show offering a judging appointment and the prospective judge. The majority of judges have been fully supportive of the weighing of Miniatures as they understand the importance of distinguishing Miniatures from Standards and not permitting the drift in size that has been seen in some other countries.’

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