The programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On addressed some worrying but important issues that affect dog health and welfare, which the Kennel Club is working to resolve with vets, welfare organisations, breeders and geneticists.
The vast majority of breeders care about dog welfare and the Kennel Club supports those breeders by making it clear that breeding dogs for looks and money over health and welfare is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, there is very little regulation of dog breeding in this country and the Kennel Club has no legislative power but runs its Assured Breeder Scheme to support responsible breeders.
Bill Lambert, Manager of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, said: “There are some extremely serious issues affecting dog health and welfare but sadly the vast majority of dog breeders in this country are effectively unregulated. This means that disreputable breeders can get away with breeding dogs, whether crossbreed or pedigree, for money and fashion at the expense of welfare.
“That is why the Kennel Club established its Assured Breeder Scheme in 2004, which sets high welfare standards for and monitors breeders. This is the only scheme of its kind in the country and the Kennel Club is lobbying the government to make the principles that Assured Breeders follow mandatory for all.”
Sadly, some breeders continue to breed dogs to achieve a particular look that is not supported by the Kennel Club’s Breed Standards. Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Breed Standards for pedigree dogs, which have been agreed with the veterinary profession, including the BVA, make it absolutely clear that breeding dogs with exaggerated features, such as overly short noses and heavy wrinkles, is not acceptable.”
In the absence of legislation, there is no obligation on breeders to take note of the Breed Standards which promote healthy dogs. Dog shows are the only forum where it is possible to see whether dogs are being bred with exaggerations. Judges are trained to only reward healthy dogs and to make absolutely sure that this happens the Kennel Club will be introducing veterinary checks from Crufts this year onwards.
Despite the lack of regulation, the Kennel Club is determined to give breeders the tools to help them put dog welfare first. The Kennel Club is working with geneticists at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust to research inherited diseases and to develop DNA tests so that breeders can screen dogs for certain conditions before they are bred from – the health test results for Kennel Club registered dogs are displayed on the Kennel Club website.
The Kennel Club recognises that breeders have to balance the need to select healthy dogs for breeding programmes with maintaining genetic diversity, so that breeds are as healthy as possible in the future. The Kennel Club has supported research that shows the levels of genetic diversity in different breeds, which will enable it to work with Breed Clubs to develop solutions that might include outcrossing, importing dogs from abroad or using a wider range of stud dogs. It has also developed an online service, called Mate Select, to perform complex calculations that let breeders easily see which dogs would be the best to mate according to the future health and genetic diversity of the litter.
Sarah Blott, a geneticist at the Kennel Club Canine Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust, said: “Science will completely transform dog breeding in the future, allowing breeders to make choices about which dogs to mate based on scientific information that will be available from the Kennel Club. At the moment the research is related to pedigree dogs, because we have more knowledge about their ancestry and the health issues that they are likely to face but ultimately it will help to improve the health of all dogs.”
The Kennel Club has made two films, one looking at the health issues that affect dogs and the work being done to address them www.thekennelclub.org.uk/doghealth and another looking at the lack of regulation over breeders and how puppy farmers breed dogs in terrible conditions to make money at the expense of welfare www.thekennelclub.org.uk/stoppuppyfarming.