|Breed standards revision call
European vets have called on the FCI and the Kennel Club to revise breeding standards for breeds with 'extreme conformation' and have suggested 'outcrossing' if necessary.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) have produced a paper about 'the effect of selective breeding on the health and welfare of dogs.' They argue that, 'Health and Welfare should go before looks.'
In particular they say, 'Breeding organisations should revise the breeding standards to help prevent selection for excessive conformational traits. The requirements and recommendations should not mbe open to interpretation allowing traits with a negative impact on the health and welfare of the dogs.
'Breed standards should preferably include evidence-based limits on physical features (e.g. muzzle length). If needed, approaches such as outcrossing should be considered.'
They also call for show judges to accept healthy animals and not to, 'Reward extreme breeding features at shows.'
The paper suggests a two pronged approach to improve the health and welfare of breeds with conformational issues.
'The first is to curb the demand: to educate the public, not to choose a breed or type of dog that will likely suffer severe health and welfare issues. The second is to improve the quality of the dogs supplied: to encourage breeding practices that put the health and welfare of the dogs first.'
Genetic diversity is called for and they say, 'The selection of unhealthy phenotypes and genotypes must be discouraged and exaggerated physical traits predisposing to health or welfare problems must be avoided.
'The most important selection criterion should be the health and welfare of the dog. A moderation of selection against extreme morphology predisposing to disease is recommended. Solutions such as evidence-based cross-breeding programs should be considered, in particular for breeds with a narrow gene pool.
'Together with other experts in the field veterinarians should be involved giving advice regarding potential breeding stock.'
To deter unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers they suggest that there should be, 'the mandatory permanent identification and mandatory registration of all dogs in Europe.' It is believed by the vets that this will, 'ensure traceability, combat fraud, avoid public health risks and to help eliminate or reduce genetic disorders.'
Law makers are encouraged to provide an adequate punishment to, 'Breeders who knowingly produce unhealthy dogs.' They say there should be, 'harsh penalties,' and that there should be an effective deterrent to anyone who breaches these breeding rules.
As part of this campaign they they want vets to collaborate with the FCI or the KC to breed, 'functionally healthy dogs.' Dog breeders are requested to, 'speak out against other breeders, traders and other parties that would endanger animal health and welfare.'
Speaking at a meeting at the European Parliament about extreme breeding Monique Megens, FECAVA representative on the UEVP/FVE animal welfare working group, said,
'Extreme breeding is the selection of animals for a particular look to the point of animal suffering. Health and welfare should go before looks.
'As vets, we should speak up: the most important breeding selection criteria should be the health and welfare of dogs. It's time to act!'
Kristin Prestud of the Norwegian Kennel Club said, 'By definition, selection and improvement is opposed to genetic variation.
'This means only limited selection is possible with today's system of closed stud books. In shows, the 'ideal' is that all same-breed dogs should preferably look alike.'
However, over time she argues that breeds have become more exaggerated, 'short legs have become shorter, heavy bodies heavier, long ears longer and so on. This is not how it was meant to be originally. Where is the limit for functional anatomy?'
Rony Doedijns from the Dutch Kennel Club said, 'We must prevent extremes in any form.'