Kennel Club initiatives to improve breed health

While it is imperative to remember that extensive research indicates that the vast majority of breeds and dogs are healthy, the Kennel Club is far from complacent where health is concerned and has many plans in place to deal with breed health. The Kennel Club, along with breeders and breed clubs, is continuing in its work to improve breed health. Below outlines some of the progress the Kennel Club has made to date, and also plans for the future.

Funding Research through the Kennel Club's Charitable Trust

The Kennel Club funds research through its Charitable Trust to improve the health of dogs. A number of research projects are underway with bodies including the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and veterinary universities including an investment of £1.2 million for the Genetics Centre and over £600,000 in other AHT projects. Find out more about the Kennel Club Charitable Trust here.

  • Mate Select - The Kennel Club's Mate Select programme is a tool to enable breeders to select mating pairs which will maximise the chances of producing healthy puppies whilst having the optimum impact on the breed's genetic diversity. Developed in conjunction with scientists at the Animal Health Trust (AHT), Mate Select is now available via The service, in addition to calculating inbreeding coefficients, will also be aligned to the Kennel Club's Health Test Results Finder, enabling breeders and puppy buyers to view the health test results for all Kennel Club registered dogs so that they can, as far as possible, ensure the good health of the puppies that they produce. The service is intended to safeguard the future of pedigree breeds.
  • Breed Club Health Programmes - As a result of the Breed Club Health Survey, the Kennel Club identified breeds in need of major health improvements. The list of breeds requiring attention is continually reviewed and as further Kennel Club funded scientific research is carried out, other breeds may be added. Work with these breed clubs is undertaken by the Dog Health Group.
  • The Dog Health Group (DHG) - The DHG consists of Kennel Club representatives and independent experts with extensive veterinary knowledge and was established to take forward the breed club health programmes. A network of breed health coordinators has been established to ensure that health continues to be the top priority in breeding all pedigree dogs.
  • Breed Standards - Breed standards have been changed to stress health issues and highlight the need to avoid exaggerations. These standards remain under review and are updated as new research and information becomes available.  Information of breed standards can be found here.
  • Judges - Kennel Club judging regulations have had the following clause added: "In assessing dogs, judges must penalise any features or exaggerations which they consider would be detrimental to the soundness, health or wellbeing of the dog". To reinforce this, judges' seminars take place throughout the year to emphasise the many actions already taken to promote the paramount importance of health and welfare issues. As well as training judges, the Kennel Club assesses judges and conducts checks both on judges and winning dogs.
  • Health Initiatives in Partnership with the Veterinary Profession - The Kennel Club has a policy agreed with veterinary surgeons whereby operations which alter the natural conformation of the dog, such as corrective surgery for entropion, must be reported to the Kennel Club by the vet concerned. Dogs which have had their natural conformation altered may not be shown, which discourages breeders from using them in their breeding programmes.
  • Health Screening Programmes and DNA Tests - The Kennel Club, in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association, has developed breed specific health screening programmes to monitor conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and various eye conditions. Information regarding available health tests is now included with registration documents for all breeds and as part of the Kennel Club puppy information pack.
  • Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS) - The ABS, the only scheme of it's kind, was established with the primary aim of improving the standards of breeding in all dogs and works on the basis of registering breeders rather than the puppies themselves. as part of the scheme the Kennel Club is accredited by UKAS to inspect breeders. Assured Breeders are required to make use of health screening schemes relevant to their breed on all breeding stock. The requirements of the ABS are constantly under review and are becoming ever more stringent. The ABS has over 7,000 members, the standards set are rigorously upheld and anyone found wanting is removed from the scheme. To be effective, the scheme must be supported by all responsible dog breeders. More information on the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme can be found here.
  • Crossbreeds - The Kennel Club's newly developed Mate Select programme will ultimately be available to mixed and crossbreed dogs as a way of improving the chances of breeding healthy litters and as health information becomes available. Problems stem from the inability to know the heritage of mixed breeds, meaning that the chances of having a healthy or unhealthy dog can be much like a lottery. It is possible to exacerbate the chances of health defects by breeding from two breeds prone to health defects. The Kennel Club believes it is important to look at health and breeding of all dogs, whether pedigree, mixed breeds or crossbreed.

Proposed Way Forward

Although the Kennel Club is continuing its work to improve breed health, there is arguably a need for ensured improvement by way of legislation and education. The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 (as amended by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999) seeks to prohibit the worst aspects of indiscriminate breeding and puppy farming. However, the extent to which this is being enforced varies significantly from area to area. As the Kennel Club has no statutory powers, it believes a minimum set of standards similar to those of the Assured Breeder Scheme should be made compulsory so that ANY breeder wishing to produce or sell puppies (pedigree and non-pedigree) would be required to comply.

This would improve standards of breeding and therefore the health and welfare of puppies, whilst also going some way to tackle the cruel trade of puppy farming. In suuport of this campaign, the Kennel Club presented a petition to Downing Street urging the government to make the principles and standards of the Assured Breeder Scheme mandatory for all breeders. The petition was signed by 15,000 people and asks that breeders put the health and welfare of their puppies first, for example giving their dogs the required health tests for their breed and ensuring that potential buyers see the puppies with their mothers and in their home environment.


More information

Tools & Services

Related Topics

Dog Health
Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2019. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.