THE KC has written to a number of MPs in the House of Commons to explain to them the health benefits of dog showing, as well as the many other benefits which dog exhibitors and breeders feel may be under threat from the recent furore over the hobby.
The letter, entitled Dog Showing and Health, clearly puts forward all the measures which the KC has taken recently to ensure that the health of pedigree dogs is at the core of its endeavours, and that it is also of paramount importance to serious dog breeders too. It explains in detail the objectives of the club, which is to improve the welfare, health and general well being of all dogs, throughout every stage of their lives. To fulfil this objective, the Kennel Club stated it had been working for many years on the issue of breed health as a priority and is still continuing to do so – particularly in light of scientific advances.
Whilst Government interference in the breeding of pedigree dogs seems likely to some, it seems that most responsible dog breeders and breed clubs simply need to show that they have been tackling health and welfare issues constructively for many years, alongside the Kennel Club.
The letter, signed by KC Secretary Caroline Kisko, continued: ‘There is no single answer to improving dog health, a range of factors (some within our control, some not) will all play an important part. They are: Dog Showing, Education of Dog Breeders and Puppy Buyers, Scientific Advances and Tighter Regulations Governing the Breeding of all dogs.
In recent years dog showing has become the scapegoat for a number of canine health problems with little recourse, by its accusers, to rigorous scientific examination of the true facts. Despite being purely a hobby the Kennel Club believes that dog showing is one of the most effective methods for driving improvements in dog health. This is because it is in this forum alone that breed standards hold the authority to achieve progress. It should be noted that just some 1% of the dogs registered with the Kennel Club will end up in the show ring at any one time, but it is from the breeders and exhibitors of such dogs and the more than 700 Kennel Club registered Breed Clubs that the impetus for positive future change has come in the past and will come in the future.
Dogs exhibited at the thousands of show - both here and abroad - are judged against standards which describe the breed’s defining appearance, characteristics and very importantly temperament, which were created with the dog’s original function in mind. The KC’s revision of some Standards should ‘ensure that they contain nothing which might encourage the breeding of exaggerated features which could be detrimental to a dog’s health’.
The letter cites the amount of winning dogs at Crufts which were bred by KC Accredited Breeders, dogs bred in marked contrast to the kind of breeding carried out by puppy farmers, who breed purely for profit or fashion with no concern for health and welfare.
It also urged MPs to think carefully about the fact that money generated from dog shows is reinvested into canine health – fed back into canine health research and initiatives for all dogs, not just registered pedigree dogs. It is also believed those who are involved in dog showing and breeding are the ones likely to invest their time, money and expertise in driving forward improvements in their breed.
Dog show were also ideal platforms to socialise dogs, educate the public and stress the responsibilities of both breeders and owners.
In conclusion the letter states: ‘The Kennel Club believes that if left to the non-showing/non-competing dog breeder or owner to eradicate canine disease caused by conformation or other problems, there will simply be no incentive for them to do so. Without the competitive showing element and the hard work of responsible breeders and breed clubs working to eradicate health problems through careful breeding, little progress will be made.’
The letter followed a meeting which took place last week as part of the Association Parliamentary group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) enquiry into pedigree dog welfare, which is causing some concern to breeders and exhibitors.
APGAW is now in the middle of taking evidence, so far they heard from Nicky Paull President of the British Veterinary Association, James Kirkwood representing CAWC and UFAW, Ed Hall from the British Small Animals Veterinary Association, and The Dog's Trust.
Marisa Heath who is in charge of the administration of the APGAW committee told Our Dogs that Steve Dean, Chief Veterinary surgeon at Crufts, Caroline Kisko, secretary of The Kennel Club and others have given oral evidence outlining the health testing that has been done over the past few years and of new health testing developments giving the committee a clear and balanced picture of the efforts being put into health testing by responsible and caring breeders.
Among others to give evidence are Carol Fowler, Margaret Carter who featured on Pedigree Dogs Exposed, David Sargan, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University and Clare Rusbridge, neurologist working with the Cavalier Club on syringomelia. Jemima Harrison Producer of Pedigree Dogs Exposed was given a short slot to speak in, to inform the committee why she decided to make the documentary.
This week the committee will be hearing evidence from Jane Kennedy MP, Minister for DeFRA. In the following weeks evidence will be heard from the RSPCA and, following that, there will be the chance for breeders and breed clubs to put their evidence to the committee. It is hoped that at the end of June the committee will be ready to draft their report, which they would hope to publish by September.
Marisa Heath again emphasised that breeders can be assured that their evidence will be taken seriously, as it is only fair to hear all sides of the debate, and as Jemima Harrison has had the chance to put her views over it is only fair that breeders will get the same opportunity. In order that the committee will be able to establish a true picture of what is happening, it should be made clear that ‘we are taking the dog breeders accounts as seriously as any other because of course we cannot take the documentary as given and we want to establish whether there really was a problem and how the breeders have been combating it.’
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