Experienced breeder case study

Diane Stewart-Ritchie

Diane Stewart-Ritchie, of world acclaimed Gwendariff Irish Setters is a breeder from Co. Down, in Northern Ireland. She has been breeding dogs for more than 25 years and has bred 14 UK Champions and over 20 Champions in other countries. She became an Assured Breeder, the only dog breeders to be certified by a UKAS accredited body, after receiving an inspection visit in September 2013.

She also holds the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme Accolade of Excellence award. Diane has been the Top Breeder of Irish Setters in the UK, eight times since 2005. Here she explains why she joined the Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS), her experience of a visit and why she thinks the scheme is important.

You are a very experienced breeder. Why did you join the Assured Breeder Scheme?

Although I joined the ABS 4 years ago, I did have concerns in common with other experienced breeders, particularly because there weren't pre-joining inspections at that time.  But I was told by the Kennel Club that this was just the start and that there would be further developments to the scheme as it grew and I was reassured about the Club's vision for the future of the Scheme.

I certainly felt that the scheme was based on a good premise and with modifications it was the right way forward for puppy buyers in the future, so I wanted to be part of it.  I was proud of my reputation as a breeder, and I believed that as time progressed the scheme would serve as an even greater aid to breeders of all experience levels, in the quest to show the public that good breeders  are serious when it comes to health and welfare of our dogs and puppies. Great changes have been introduced since I joined the scheme and I believe it now has a really important role to play in helping to set good breeders apart from those who are less committed.

What do you think are the main strengths of the Assured Breeder Scheme?

Accreditation by UKAS,  a universally accepted outside agency, gives the scheme enormous credibility, as there is no other comparable standard   for dog breeders to adopt.. The recent changes whereby every member is required to have full inspections has been  welcomed by Breeders like myself who already have high standards and I believe it also demonstrates a greater degree of commitment to dog health and welfare by both breeders and the Kennel Club .

It is important that the scheme is not simply the preserve of the most experienced, and it is important that new breeders set about doing things in the right way; and the AB scheme helps those committed to responsible breeding to do just that.  The Accolade of Excellence is an acknowledgement that helps the puppy buyer to differentiate between the novice and experienced breeder, and it provides something that breeders can strive for, in addition to the overall aim that every member shares, to breed high quality, healthy puppies.

How did you find the inspection process?

I had a degree of uncertainty beforehand because I felt that my standards were impeccable, but, I was not sure that I would be able to embrace an assessor from the Scheme who may not perhaps, have been  as successful or experienced as I.  However, I found the whole process to be excellent. It was both useful and non-intrusive, the assessor was polite and professional and as a dog breeder herself, clearly understood dogs and their needs and clearly knew what she was talking about.  She completed her assessments and could not have been more complimentary.

She praised the information packs that I gave to puppy buyers but suggested a very small tweak that I could make. Whilst this was only a minor point, I, consider myself a perfectionist, and used this as the stimulus to spend hours writing an entirely new puppy manual for my new owners, which I found quite rewarding!  It showed me that even though I believed that I had fulfilled all the criteria, a fresh pair of eyes from the Inspector, helped to improve my ideas also.

The Scheme is constantly developing and is now even more professional.  I am happy to be a part of it and can only see that if all good and responsible breeders come together as one, with a governing body who is supportive and has extremely high standards, we can all help to eradicate the puppy farms of today.


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