The Kennel Club has released a film, narrated by Clare Balding, which looks at the issues affecting dog health and wellbeing in this country and what is being done in 2012 to help ensure that dog welfare stays at the top of the agenda.
The film, ‘Dogs – A Healthy Future’, focuses on the main issues that affect dog health and welfare, including hereditary diseases, issues created by breeding dogs for the way that they look and the problem of cruel puppy farms that breed dogs for profit without regard for their health and welfare.
The film explores the steps that have already been taken to address these issues and the need for united action in order to ensure that the progress continues in 2012.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The New Year is a good time for reflection, looking back at what has been done and what more can still be done to safeguard the health of dogs.
“Huge strides have been made to improve dog health, particularly with the knowledge that has been gained in recent years thanks to the advancement of genetic science, but there is still more to do. We particularly need to address the issue of people breeding dogs for money at the expense of health and for looks, whether these be pedigree or crossbreeds.
“The Kennel Club would like to see tighter regulations governing the way people breed their dogs in order to help clamp down on cruel puppy farms, and we ask people to sign our petition asking the government to act.
“As we look towards Crufts 2012 we look forward to introducing even tighter measures to ensure that dog shows play their part in driving change by rewarding, and so encouraging, the breeding of healthy dogs.”
Sheila Crispin, Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, said: “We are supposedly a nation of dog lovers and the issue of what we can do to improve dog health is close to the hearts of those that really do care.
“This film looks at the progress that has been made by the Kennel Club as well as other organisations and committed individuals to help address the complicated issues surrounding dog health and welfare, in addition to looking at what more needs to be done, through collaboration and united effort, to create an even better future for dogs.”
What is being done in 2012?
The Kennel Club will continue to campaign for an end to the cruel puppy farming trade. It is urging people to sign a petition that asks that principles and standards similar to those followed by members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme are made mandatory for all breeders, as most breeders are currently effectively unregulated.
From 2012, the Kennel Club will not register more than four litters from a single bitch in its lifetime. The legal limit is currently six litters per bitch but the Kennel Club is concerned that this number could be detrimental to a bitch’s welfare.
The Kennel Club will refuse to register any further puppies born to a bitch that has previously had two caesarean sections, as this could indicate an underlying health problem that means they should not be having more puppies.
Breeding for looks and fashion
Although the Kennel Club breed standards, which are a description of the appearance, characteristics and temperament of pedigree dogs, make clear that health must come before looks, some breeders continue to breed for looks and fashion. Dog shows can be a powerful lever for change, by rewarding and encouraging the breeding of healthy dogs.
The Kennel Club is introducing further changes to dog shows in 2012 to ensure that unhealthy dogs are not rewarded in the show ring. This includes introducing vet checks for each of the 15 high profile breeds so that Best of Breed awards are not given to any dogs that show signs of health problems.
The Kennel Club has asked the British Veterinary Association to nominate a vet to carry out the inspections on the high profile breeds at Crufts in 2012.
The Kennel Club Breed Watch programme continues, allowing breeders and judges to report back to the Kennel Club any changes which occur within breeds which may affect their health.
The new craze for fashionable ‘designer’ dogs, such as crossbreeds like Labradoodles and micropets, means that some breeders are cashing in on demand and breeding for looks at the expense of health.
The Kennel Club urges people to ensure that the parents of their new purebred or crossbreed puppy have had all of the health tests relevant to their breed or breeds, before they buy. Health test results for all Kennel Club registered dogs can be found online here.
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has invested £1.2 million into a five year project for research into a number of inherited diseases, at its Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust.
Where possible, DNA tests are being developed for each disease so that breeders can identify carriers of conditions and make responsible decisions to help ensure that future generations are not affected. Over the last three years, five different mutations associated with diseases in 21 different breeds have been identified.
This has resulted in the development of five DNA tests and more than 14,000 dogs being tested. Work currently being undertaken involves idiopathic epilepsy in Border Collies and hereditary cataract and progressive retinal atrophy in many breeds, including Siberian Huskies, Miniature Schnauzers and Tibetan Spaniels.
Mate Select, the Kennel Club’s new program that helps breeders to assess the impact that their proposed mating will have on genetic diversity within different breeds, will be extended.
Currently, breeders can undertake a virtual mating online so that they can see if that mating will have a detrimental impact on genetic diversity, and increase the risk of inherited diseases.
The Kennel Club is working with the Animal Health Trust to include Estimated Breeding Values into the system and optimum contribution ratings, which give information about how many times a sire has been used at stud and whether it is advisable to use him again. It is hoped that these will be demonstrated at Crufts in 2012, with EBVs launching later in 2012, and optimum contributions following in 2013.
The Kennel Club Cancer Centre at the Animal Health Trust should open its doors in summer 2012. The facility will be a leading centre for caring for dogs with cancer and researching the disease, looking particularly at genetic causes.
Cancer is the most common cause of death in dogs and The Kennel Club Cancer Centre at the AHT will bring together the study of cancers, their causes, and hopefully aid earlier diagnosis, treatment, and the prevention of some forms of the disease.