• Kennel Club actions to improve dog health

Kennel Club actions to improve dog health

 

Raising the standards of dog breeding and dog health

The Kennel Club is committed to ensuring that all dogs have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy lives, with responsible owners.

It has taken numerous significant actions, in association with the veterinary profession, the canine scientific world, dog welfare organisations and breed experts, in order to achieve this aim.  Many of these actions were started before 2009, many have been accelerated since that time and some have come on board more recently. But looking after the health and welfare of dogs is not a static job and the Kennel Club will continue to do all it can for its part - and influence others where this is needed - to ensure that the health and welfare of dogs is protected in the future.

The Kennel Club's Dog Health Group, oversees and directs the health related work carried out by the Kennel Club. Actions taken relate to improving breeding practices, resolving issues surrounding genetic diversity, research into dog health and ensuring that dog showing is  a positive force for change.  The Group is guided by the recommendations in the 2010 Bateson Report - which the Kennel Club asked to be established, in conjunction with the Dogs Trust.

These actions will benefit pedigree dogs but it is also hoped that many of the actions will benefit all dogs, including crossbreeds and mixed breeds in the future. Pedigree dogs are selectively bred to have predictable characteristics, temperaments and needs, in terms of exercise and grooming requirements. This does bring challenges, in so far and it means that they come from smaller gene pools and so the risk of inheriting identical sets of genes from both parents - either good or bad - are increased, and so the risk of certain diseases is higher. But it also means, because we know their ancestry, that we know which conditions they are the most prone to, and can health test for these conditions in a way that we can't for dogs whose ancestry is unknown.

The actions taken have been significant but it is recognised that there is still much to do and the Kennel Club is committed to continuing its work in this field.

Commitment to raising the quality of breeding

Assured Breeder Scheme (formerly Accredited Breeder Scheme)

- The Assured Breeder Scheme is the single most important scheme for breeders and puppy owners who are committed to improving and maintaining excellent breeding standards. It is the only scheme of its kind that exists in the UK, which monitors its members and sets standards for the breeding of puppies.

- The Kennel Club has continued updating and extending our Assured Breeder Scheme and it now has UKAS accreditation to certify breeders against the rules of this scheme.

- Continual expansion the network of regional advisors which now includes 24 people across the country.

- 6 monthly review of health requirements and recommendations to ensure that they reflect the health concerns and realities of the different breeds.

- The Kennel Club handed a 15,000 signature petition to Downing Street asking that the principles of the AB scheme be made mandatory for all breeders but in the meantime education is key. We need to educate those breeders who remain outside the scheme about the importance of ensuring that all good breeders stand together as one group, and ensuring that puppy buyers go to members of this scheme.

General Breeding and welfare

- The Kennel Club now refuses to register more than four litters from a bitch in a lifetime on its registers. The legal limit for the number of litters a bitch can breed is six, but the Kennel Club feels that this does not go for enough in protecting the welfare of breeding bitches.

- The Kennel Club announced that from January 1st2012, it will no longer register any puppies born from any bitch which has previously had two caesarean sections, except for scientifically proven welfare reasons and in such cases normally provided that the application is made prior to mating. This is in order to ensure that the welfare of breeding bitches is protected.

Educate buyers

- Continue to educate buyers about how they can buy from a responsible breeder and choose a dog responsibly. Events such as DFS Crufts (which is televised on More4 and streamed live online)  and Discover Dogs are central to achieving this.

- The Breed Information Centre on the Kennel Club website, includes everything you will need to know about a breed, including its exercise and grooming needs and the health tests that are available for it. There is even an application that enables puppy buyers to answer questions that will help them determine whether their favourite breed is a good match for them. The Breed Information Centre also includes a Kennel Club Assured Breeder application that gives potential owners a list of responsible breeders in their area; and a Health Test Results Finder, which gives details of the health test results for any Kennel Club registered dog.

- National Puppy Awareness Week - A new Kennel Club initiative that aims to help raise awareness amongst puppy buyers about the importance of buying the right breed, from the right breeder and then caring for it properly once it is in its new home.

Limiting the decline of genetic diversity

- Mate Select is a revolutionary new database that was launched by the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust, to show breeders the impact a potential mating will have on genetic diversity in the breed, enabling them to make informed decisions. Not only does it show the inbreeding coefficients of individual dogs, and breeds, but also of the puppies of potential matings. The Kennel Club and Animal Health Trust are also looking at Estimated Effective Population sizes, which will show how many genetically different dogs are contributing to specific breeds.

This information will enable informed decisions to be made not only by individual breeders but also about how to whole breeds can be protected. This will include making decisions about whether outcrossing or the banning of second degree matings is appropriate for certain breeds. Actions taken must not be counterproductive and the need to prevent the loss of genetic diversity should be balanced with the need to keep healthy dogs in the breeding population.

- Encouraging outcrossing where this is advantageous to the breedFor example, an application was accepted to register an imported Dalmatian produced from a breeding programme, which was originated with an intentional Pointer/Dalmatian cross. This cross-breeding was carried out in the USA as part of a programme aimed at introducing the low (or normal) uric acid gene into the Dalmatian breed.

Other examples of where outcrossing has been accepted and beneficial is the interbreeding of Bull Terriers and Miniature bull Terriers to overcome PLL in Minis; the introduction of a pack Bloodhound to a KC registered Bloodhound line to improve health and the interbreeding of Belgian Shepherd Dog varieties to increase their gene pools.

- Registration of dogs of unverified parentage is now permissible (the ancestry of the dog and how it originated may not be known but if it is judged to look like a particular breed it is admitted to the register in order to increase diversity.)

Health research and testing

- Kennel Club Charitable Trust and Canine Genetics Centre in March 2009, the Kennel Club created a Canine Genetics Centre with the Animal Health Trust, which will accelerate research into inherited canine disease. DNA tests are being developed that enable breeders to test for certain conditions in their breed so that the can select healthy dogs to breed from. One example of how this has helped is in the elimination of canine leucocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD) in Irish Setters that caused early death in puppies and which was eradicated through the concerted efforts of both the Kennel Club and Irish Setter breeders.

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust invests into research into dog diseases. For example, it recently gave £35,500 to research and develop a DNA test for multifocal retinal dysplasia in Golden Retrievers and £250,000 to look into inherited eye disease.

The Kennel Club also runs health testing schemes, in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association, for hip and elbow dysplasia and eye diseases.

As further commitment to the importance of health testing, the Kennel Club will only register puppies from parents that have been health screened, and who have acceptable results, under its Assured Breeder Scheme. The Assured Breeder Scheme is different from the general Kennel Club register, as it is a membership scheme for breeders, which requires certain actions from them and the Kennel Club always recommends that people buy from an Assured Breeder. The Kennel Club register is a record of a puppy's birth and ancestry, so that people know that they are buying a true pedigree, with the predictable temperament and care needs that they would expect from it. Whilst health screening is not obligatory in order for the Kennel Club to register the birth of a puppy, which would lead to incomplete records, information about whether a health test has been carried out or not, and the results of that test, are available online for all to see. The Kennel Club always uses the contact that its register provides with breeders to educate them about the importance of health testing

Breed standards and exaggerations

- Review of Breed Standards - The Breed Standards describe the typical look, characteristics and temperament of a breed, and are subject to continual monitoring and review. In 2009 there was a comprehensive review, conducted in conjunction with a large body of experts, including vets, to ensure that they encourage the breeding of healthy dogs. In this review every Breed Standard was written to make it explicitly clear that the process of exaggerating features because they are seen to look good, when this at the expense of the dog's health, in not in any way acceptable. The biggest problem lies with those breeder who do not refer to the Breed Standards and who continue to breed dogs with exaggerated features because there is puppy buyer demand for a certain look.

- Breed Watchdeveloped so that judges at dog shows and breeders can report back any changes in the form of a reed that give them cause for concern. This feedback system enables the Kennel Club to continually review the state of breed health and to amend the breed standards or to initiate action accordingly.

- Appointment of Breed health Coordinators - the people who are part of the breed clubs are the people on the ground who are the experts in their breed. The network of Breed Health Coordintors enables the Kennel Club to continually monitor any problems within breeds that may arise.

Dog Showing

- The Kennel Club agrees with the conclusions in Professor Sir Patrick Bateson's Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding in January 2010, which highlighted dog shows as a potential positive lever for change. Whilst only two percent of dogs are shown in the UK,  the Kennel Club is committed to ensuring that dog shows reward only healthy dogs and so plays its part in rewarding and encouraging good breeding practice. It is also determined that in those breeds, where improvements need to be made, are highlighted rather than abandoned.

- The role of judges at dog shows are to look at dog's appearance, temperament and whether it is in good condition in terms of its teeth and coat, whilst also making sure that there are no visible signs of poor health. The rules make it absolutely clear that only healthy dogs should win prizes and independent vets are appointed to help ensure that this is the case. Dogs can be reported to the vet by show monitors and judges at any time and every winning dog within the fourteen high profile breeds most prone to health conditions due to exaggerations must have a veterinary examination before going on in the competition. Urgent action needs to be taken outside of the show ring to stop unscrupulous breeders breeding dogs with unacceptable exaggerations for fashion and profit.

Commitment to working with others

  • Advisory Council - The Kennel Club and other key stakeholders (including the BSAVA, BVA, Dogs Trust, RSPCA and Defra) discussed the recommendations in the Bateson report and as a result an Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding was formed.  The Council has met on a number of occasions and will report in due course.
  • Vets - The Kennel Club wants to continue working even more closely with vets and has developed a new communications strategy to ensure that dogs benefit from an effective two way flow of information between the Kennel Club and veterinary profession. The Kennel Club has produced a Veterinary manual that will help to ensure that vets have all of the necessary information about the different breeds and the health tests that the Kennel Club recommends for them. Similarly, it also hopes for a better two way flow of information as vets will have the ability to feed information about the dogs they treat into the Kennel Club's new database.

Commitment to campaigning for dog welfare

  • The Kennel Club campaigns on wide range of dog welfare issues from revising the Dangerous Dogs legislation to banning the use of Electric Shock Collars on dogs. After four years of campaigning the Kennel Club has succeeded in seeing Wales' Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones AM announce  that, subject to approval by the National Assembly for Wales, the use of electric shock collars will be banned in Wales. The ban will be the first of its kind in the UK.

What more needs to be done

Much remains to be done but some of the key actions to tackle include:

  • Guidance for puppy buyers -More signposting from all organisations to breeders of the Assured Breeder Scheme, as Bateson recommended that puppy buyers be directed to such a scheme when UKAS accreditation is achieved. Puppy buyers need positive guidance about where to go for the best chance of a healthy, well-bred puppy, as well as warnings about what to avoid.
  • Legislation - Update legislations regarding dog breeding to ensure tougher restrictions on rogue breeders. This could include ensuring that all breeders follow standards similar to those in the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.
  • More research -The Kennel Club is continuing its research to understand the mode of inheritance of dog diseases, that will benefit all dogs. It would like vets, rescue homes, insurance companies and other organisations to work together to pool vital information.

 

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