Flat Coated Retriever enthusiast Liz Branscombe from Bedfordshire has been named Kennel Club Breed Health Coordinator of the Year. Liz won the public vote via an online poll in this new competition designed to reward the hard work and dedication of the Kennel Club’s network of breed health coordinators across the 217 breeds recognised in the UK.
More than 1,700 people voted in the poll and the five finalists were invited to a special Christmas lunch this week at the Kennel Club in London where the winner was presented with her award by Kennel Club Chairman, Simon Luxmoore.
Nominated by the Flat Coated Retriever Society, Liz provides confidential advice and support to owners of the breed, and in 2016 organised a highly-acclaimed health seminar. She has a health survey planned for 2017 and continues to liaise with the Animal Health Trust regarding glaucoma research, as well as with Cambridge Veterinary School concerning work being done on cancer.
Liz said: “I am thrilled to have been given this honour by the Kennel Club and wish to thank all the people who voted for me. I’d also like to thank Val Jones, who started many of the initiatives we are continuing. I hope my win will inspire others to come forward and offer their services in the name of their breed’s health. It is very rewarding work.”
The other finalists at the lunch were Sam Goldberg (Beagles), Penny Rankine-Parsons (French Bulldogs), Margaret Woods (Golden Retrievers) and Kathryne Wrigley (Gordon Setters).
Breed clubs and councils were invited to make nominations for the award and a shortlist of five candidates was chosen by an expert panel comprising world renowned canine ophthalmologist, Professor Sheila Crispin; Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, Dr Cathryn Mellersh; international championship show judge, Frank Kane; and Head of Health and Research at the Kennel Club, Aimee Llewellyn-Zaidi.
When nominating a candidate, breed clubs and councils were asked to make a submission stating why the nominee should win. Among the characteristics being looked for by the judging panel were the nominee’s ability to motivate breeders and breed clubs in relation to health matters as well as their ability to encourage participation in health surveys and research projects.
The main role of a breed health coordinator is to facilitate, over time, the communication and collection of data on the health of their chosen breed. They also act as a spokesperson on matters of health and collaborate with the Kennel Club on any health concerns the breed may have.
Simon Luxmoore, Kennel Club Chairman, said afterwards: “The role of the breed health coordinator is a very important one and involves a lot of hard work, much of it unseen. We are therefore delighted that the work of these volunteers has been highlighted by this competition and offer hearty congratulations to Liz on her success – and to the other finalists too. They were in very good company as they have all shown remarkable devotion to their individual breeds.”
More information about Kennel Club breed health coordinators can be found on the Kennel Club website.