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Review questions welfare report


A DAMNING review into the RSPCA commissioned report Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern? has been circulated to various governing bodies this week.

The review, carried out by Dr John Hubble, himself a Rottweiler owner and breeder, gives a detailed response to the initial report, carried out following the showing last August of Jemima harrison’s Pedigree Dogs Exposed. In it, Dr Hubble argues that claims the report was independent and scientific are misleading, and that the conclusions appear to be ‘significantly influenced by the views of the sponsor and the authors’ preconceptions’, an opinion perhaps shared by many others at the time of the report.

Dr Hubble told OUR DOGS: ‘The title of this report was framed in the form of a question: “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?” The authors claim that this represents a report that is both scientific and independent. As an experienced scientist/ engineer with over 25 year’s research experience I would suggest that the style and content of the report provide significant grounds to question both assertions.

‘There is always the possibility that “research” findings may be influenced by a researcher’s awareness of conclusions that a sponsor wishes to see supported. In the past this has been the cause of much debate regarding the desirability (or indeed ethical acceptability) of sponsorship of academic based research by both pharmaceutical and tobacco companies and the confidence that should be placed in the conclusions of such studies.

In this case the position of the RSPCA as sponsor of this work is made clear on their website:
“There is a wealth of scientific and other evidence to show that the welfare and quality of life of many pedigree dogs is seriously compromised as a result of established selective breeding practices.”

Worrying

As well as questioning the report’s independent claims, Dr Hubble also raises doubts over the scientific analysis of the report, its background and also raises his own specific areas of concern over whether or not the report adequately addressed and or collated its findings in an objective manner.

His report states: ‘The title of the RSPCA commissioned report – “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?” is framed as a question, this suggests that it proposes to test the hypothesis that: Pedigree dog breeding practices in the UK compromise the welfare of pedigree dogs.

‘It is worrying that having posed their title as a question the authors conclude the second paragraph of their introductory “Purpose and scope” with the unsupported assertion that “the report reviews what is well-recognised to be an international problem”, before moving swiftly on to state their goal to be proposing possible ways “to improve the welfare of pedigree dogs”. Having taken this apparent leap of faith before presenting their supporting evidence the authors then entitle the second section of their report: The problem and its cause!’

He suggests that statements including “there can be no doubt that numerous pedigree dogs of many different breeds now experience compromised welfare due to the direct and indirect effects of selective breeding practices” and “there is also considerable evidence that cross breed dogs have lower veterinary bills” are presented without the quantitative evidence necessary to support them.

Experts

Dr Hubble also questions the use of the words ‘a survey of experts’ in the report. His review states: ‘The authors of this report present themselves as experts, a view presumably shared by at least some in the organisation that sponsored their research. Based on my analysis of their report I would suggest that, in some of the areas covered, their level of expertise is questionable for the reasons given above, and that there is evidence to suggest that that their conclusions are excessively distorted by their subjective personal opinions.
‘While I share the authors’ subjective view that there are some bree
ds where remedial action is necessary I do not believe that the use of emotive language provides an effective alternative to quantitative analysis. There are some fundamental questions that need to be addressed:

‘i Taken collectively, are pedigree dogs less healthy than their closest living non domesticated relatives?

‘ii Taken collectively are cross breed dogs less healthy than their closest living relatives?
‘iii Taken collectively, are pedigree dogs less healthy than cross breeds?

‘iv On an individual basis how great is the health variation between individual breeds?

‘v How great are health variations across the cross breed population and how does this correlate with forbears and hybrid generation?’

Dr Hubble’s interest in the report came about from the fact that he is a scientist as well as being involved in pedigree dogs. He works at Bath University.

The full review can be viewed at

http://www.verrere.org.uk/RSPCA%20report%20critique1.pdf

 


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