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GSD community hits back at Kennel Club

THE KENNEL Club has spoken out again this week on the German Shepherd Dog debate, and said that a vocal minority within the breed are continuing to distract attention from the KC’s main concerns regarding soundness in the breed.

In the statement, which was issued to the press on Monday morning, the KC said that it remained in no doubt that currently the single biggest threat to the reputation and interest of the breed is the lack of soundness in hindquarters, particularly the hocks.

The release continued: ‘The presence of this unsoundness in GSDs is generally recognised by most people in dogs except by some with vested interests in the GSD breed, who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem in this area. The Kennel Club remains frustrated that something so patently obvious to many dog people - even those with a limited knowledge of dogs - is being ignored and denied by some people in the breed. Indeed the recent Bateson Inquiry singled out the GSD as an example of a breed ‘where drastic action is required’ to address conformation and movement.

‘The GSD community has commendably introduced a number of valuable voluntary health testing schemes addressing issues such as haemophilia, hip dysplasia and others. The Kennel Club has supported this voluntary testing and will continue to support all responsible breeders who put the health of their animals first. These tests are undeniably important, but crucially they do not address the most important current issue – lack of soundness in the hindquarters and hocks.’
However, the GSD Partnership immediately hit back, saying that there had been no attempt from anyone in the GSD community to distract attention from any matter that impacts on the health issues of the breed. In its reply, the Partnership stated: ‘The Kennel Club is well aware from the long discussions that have taken place with the GSD Partnership, that the issue of soundness in the hocks is one which has been acknowledged as requiring particular attention. They have chosen to ignore the representation from the Partnership as the collective group who represent all the GSD Clubs and go direct to the clubs.’

However, the Kennel Club says that the GSD Partnership has repeatedly claimed that the Kennel Club is not accepting its proposed Breed Improvement Programme and its requests that the Programme forms the basis of a mandatory requirement for showing and breeding. The fact remains, accorting to the KC, that no part of the proposed Programme acknowledges, let alone addresses, the issue of soundness in the hindquarters and hocks.

David Payne of the Videx GSD told OUR DOGS: ‘I can categorically state the GSD breed has been tackling unsoundness of the hocks for many decades. This problem can never be eliminated, it needs controlling, in a similar way hip dysplasia and other diseases cannot be eliminated but need controlling. The GSD breed does not need lectures, threats, or intimidation from the Kennel Club on the subject of unsound hocks or any other health screening issues. The Kennel Club can be taught a huge amount on these issues by the GSD fraternity.’


The Kennel Club says it believes that the health and soundness of dogs should be the fundamental and overriding concern of breeders. The improvement of soundness in the GSD lies with GSD breeders, owners and judges all working towards the same goal. The judge’s role is a vital one in the development of many aspects of a breed, but one of their primary responsibilities is to ensure that unsound dogs are not rewarded in the show ring.

‘This issue of soundness is not a simple difference of opinion, it is the fundamental issue of the breed’s essential conformation and movement,’ the KC said.

All GSD breed clubs have been asked by the Kennel Club to sign a formal Undertaking that ‘accepts that there is a degree of unsoundness in the hindquarters of the breed and in particular in the hocks of some dogs and that these problems are to be penalised at shows.’ They have further been asked to undertake positive action to address this unsoundness issue. The KC says that GSD owners and breeders have the chance now to make a positive impact on the future of their breed by supporting the Kennel Club’s measures to address this essential factor. Owners and breeders should make their views known to the breed clubs that represent them and ask that the Undertakings be signed for the future protection and welfare of this breed.

Joe Summerhill, GSD Partnership co-ordinator remains unconvinced: ‘It is amazing that the KC still say the GSD Partnership and Community are doing nothing about their concern when on the 21st November 2009 the GSDP held a forum attended by over 100 GSD enthusiasts who debated the issue and confirmed to the KC in writing on the 26th November 2009 that they acknowledged their issue and, among other initiatives, agreed to run a Judges seminar to highlight the point.
‘It is intriguing that the KC has not responded to the letter despite two reminders, as to do so would clearly undermine their current tactics of falsely stating that there has been no action from the GSD Community. Some members of the GSD Community are looking forward to alternative showing of demonstrably healthy animals who have passed mandatory health tests, outside the KC control.

‘The KC have been put under notice by both the APGAW and Bateson reports that if the KC does not impose mandatory health requirements for dogs they register then other organisations will. It has started.

‘The time for the KC to realise they are overseeing a business critical period in their existence and that to simply push mandatory health requirement “upstairs” by lobbying the government is a tactic that may ultimately see them lose the position they currently uniquely have. Alternative registration initiatives and showing of dogs outside KC licensed shows for animals who have passed mandatory health requirements for their breed has started and will continue as long as the KC continue on avoiding the opportunity they have to change.

‘We have again this week written to ask for a meeting on the KCs progress on implementing Mandatory health restrictions for all KC registered pedigree GSDs.’


Mo Lakin of the Mascani GSDs, told OUR DOGS: ‘ Firstly, I would comment that this is the first time I have ever seen the KC write any issue on our breed that has not had the word (Alsation) in brackets after its name. The KC speaks of a vocal minority attempting to distract from the issue on unsoundness - and this being the Kennel Club’s main concern! Now we are talking turkey!

‘Unsoundness is really undesirable, and there is not a breeder in the land that would say otherwise. but what percentage of the breed is the Kennel Club considering to be unsound? All of them? 50% - 25% - all show dogs? They are all being promoted in some way or another by the K.C, are they registering these dogs? Are they going to continue to register these dogs, once found? Can they de-register a dog that becomes unsound - what about the veteran classes and our lovely oldies coming out for the day? the kennel club must behave in a more professional manner, this is not about unsoundness, it is clearly being seen to be doing something about some issue that doesn't cost you money on registrations. It’s about bullying a set of pro-active people that are addressing health issues much more than themselves, and not wanting to take an initiative because it will cost too many registration fees.

‘The KC needs to address hip dysplasia. Stop registering un-scored or unfavourable scores - give the puppy farmers something to worry about - start making all the health tests that concerned and caring breeders pay good money to do, count.

‘Also, the KC needs to get a grip of haemophilia, to make sure every male dog has to be tested to be shown or used. The list goes on, but that list costs registration money and "unsound" dogs have no particular test to give a clinical overview - so our KC is safe - they can register the newborns from us all, because there is never going to be a test that can conclude that this dog should not be shown. There is every opportunity to do that right now - cut the risk of hip dysplasia right down - I put it to the KC to stop registering un-checked animals - even give a date as to when this action will start - but make it within our lifetime... then you will get credibility from the people that really care and strive to do the right thing.

‘We are asked by the Kennel Club to sign a formal Undertaking that ‘accepts that there is a degree of unsoundness in the hindquarters of the breed.’No clinical evidence, no percentages given? No proof that the issue is as big as the KC would like the public to think to cover its own tracks of instability on the health issue side of the GSD. No thank you!


‘The letter was, in my opinion, a threat. it went severely wrong because we are not people sitting in offices, we are people passionate about our breed and have not taken the letter sitting down –many of us are professional people in our own right and know the limits of conduct and, as this letter has not given the result the KC thought it would, is why you they are calling us vocal. The KC has found a little niche in unsoundness and has played on it without giving us any answers.
‘The KC says that it supports the GSD community in their voluntary health tests - and will continue to support us. How? It then goes on the say that ‘These tests are undeniably important, but crucially they do not address the most important current issue – lack of soundness in the hindquarters and hocks.’ Where is the KC coming from? Have any of them seen a dog or an owner in dire distress from dealing with hip dysplasia or a status epilepticus? Have they seen a dog that has a degree of unsoundness? Try to compare the two.

‘The GSD Partnership is a band of very well respected business people, respected in all walks of life, except, it would seem by the KC. The KC states: ‘This issue of soundness is not a simple difference of opinion, it is the fundamental issue of the breed’s essential conformation and movement.’ We agree. We also know that it is not 100% and rising, it is a problem that is no more prevalent in our breed than in some others, and a problem that can and is being dealt with by breeding programmes and by surveying animals and of course hopefully by judging, although the KC approve the judges.

‘Some of us in the breed are now saying OK, keep your CCs, because if that’s our governing body, do we need it. The answer is no.

‘I personally feel that the letter is flawed and dictatorial. In the main, GSD people are thrilled with the Bateson report, we have even gone to the length of writing to Mr Bateson’s secretary to see how soon it can be implemented.

‘I want to give the KC a challenge. Contact the Media - let us have a serious debate with the best of the KC’s and the best of ours - let there be a mediator, keeping us to health issues - I would talk to the KC any day in front of Joe public and I would be happy to put my concerns to the test.’
David Payne concluded: ‘The National GSD Breed Warden, Reinhardt Meyer, of the SV in Germany, addressed a meeting of all GSD Breed judges within Germany in January 2009 and told them that unsoundness of the hocks (and GSD size) must be more strenuously dealt with and all judges must penalise dogs so affected, by degree, and place them “down the line” at shows. This “instruction” has resonated around the GSD world.


‘The GSD world community, of which ‘we’ in the UK are very active members, do not need the Kennel Club to bully our breed into submission on any health issue. Our record is second to none. Can anyone imagine the GSD breed, which introduced the BVA/KC hip scheme into the United Kingdom, needing any lessons on health or apparent health issues related to the German Shepherd Dog?

‘In my opinion, The Kennel Club continues to attempt to distract from the most serious health concerns of GSD and all Pedigree Dogs, which are proven hereditary diseases, for which there are “health screening” available, mainly through the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

‘Unsound hocks have no known health related diseases. They may, in the extreme, cause premature tiredness in a working dog, and as such it needs to be addressed, but unsound hocks are hardly in the same league of health issues as Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Haemophilia or Juvenile Renal Dysplasia, all of which have scientific health screening available.

‘As for the Kennel Club stating that the GSD Partnership (GSDP) proposed “Planned Improvement Programme” (PIP) did not address the issue of soundness in the hocks, this is complete nonsense. The GSDP could very easily have included it, and the Kennel Club know this and they could have asked for it to be included, they did not. The Kennel Club simply failed to enter into meaningful discussions with the GSDP.

‘The Kennel Club are also failing, in my opinion, to satisfactorily answer many very genuine concerns that have arisen from the “undertaking” – apparently preferring GSD Clubs to sign under duress. I have over 30 year of considerable knowledge and experience in the GSD breed. I am a Championship Show Judge, I have judged our GSD breed throughout the world, and written many articles on the breed.

‘I believe the Kennel Club has missed a golden opportunity to explore and embrace many exciting proposals and ideas emanating from the GSD community.’


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