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APGAW gives Kennel Club and breed clubs a year to change

The report claimed that many pet owners had submitted their experiences to the enquiry highlighting how they had bought a puppy from a ‘reputable show breeder – very often a member of the Accredited Breeder Scheme’, and the puppy has suffered from an inherited disease which manifested a few years later.
It also said that despite the breeder being informed of this, they continued to breed from the same lines....

After the broadcast of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the report said, the Kennel Club claimed that 90 per cent of purebred and pedigree Dogs were healthy, “...it has been difficult to find the evidence to support this...’ the report says.

“The members of the enquiry are in no doubt there is a serious problem with the health and welfare of many pedigree Dogs and that further measures can be implemented to improve the situation,” the report states. “However, there is a lack of information available about the scale of the problem which makes it difficult to obtain a clear picture of what percentage of Dogs are affected. As the Royal Veterinary College has shown that the problem is widespread to different degrees of severity in the most popular breeds, we believe further action must be taken immediately.”

While members of the enquiry welcomed the fact that the KC had banned close matings, they said this did not help the Dogs not registered with the KC.

“We therefore believe that any regulations concerning the breeding of Dogs should impose clear restrictions on the breeding of closely-related Dogs,” the report said.

“The enquiry also recognises that there is no restriction placed on the number of times a sire can be used for breeding, which compounds the problem of inbreeding. We believe that a limit should be placed on the number of times a sire can be used and that this should be determined following advice from geneticists and dog welfare experts.”

It was also concluded that health screening was not being used to its full potential and should ‘legally be made necessary for the selection of sires and dams for commercial breeding’. If health testing was used to its full extent there would also be a need to review the tests to add new ones or remove irrelevant ones, it stated.

“It is necessary to develop specific breeding strategies for different breeds of Dogs based on genetic advice and supported by tools to reduce the occurrence of health and welfare problems over time,” the report stated. “The enquiry believes this should involve the KC, breed clubs, geneticists, vets, behaviourists, welfare scientists and key welfare organisations such as Dogs Trust, the RSPCA and the Companion Animal Welfare Council working collectively to form effective strategies.”

The enquiry recommended the KC to ‘strongly advise’ all breeders to health test their Dogs if the tests were available.
“While this is not currently stipulated under Government regulation, those Dogs who are not tested should be recorded on the registration documents so that judges, potential buyers and other breeders are aware that particular animal has not been screened to ensure consumers can make informed choices,” the report reads.

“The KC should ensure that breed clubs enforce their code of ethics effectively. Any breeder failing to meet the KC code of ethics should not be selling those puppies as KC-registered pedigrees and the breed clubs should be reporting to the KC on their management of this issue. The failure of a member of a breed club to abide by the code of ethics should result in action being taken against them.

“While recognising the work carried out over the last year, we further believe that the KC should make the decision about whether registering Dogs or dog health and welfare is their primary objective and focus their attentions more precisely on this when taking this issue forward.”

On the subject of breed Standards, the enquiry recommended that they should be concentrated on whether a dog was fit for purpose, rather than on its appearance.
Turning to the Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS), APGAW members felt that ‘the word pedigree should be tied to a high standard of breeding for health and welfare across the board with the KC not just with the few that decide to join the ABS’.

“If breeders are unable to adhere to a requested high standard for the welfare of their Dogs then they should not be part of an organisation which states that they are ‘the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs’.

“The KC should do random checks on breeders registering Dogs and should enforce such schemes much more robustly. The enquiry has heard that low standards of breeding practice have been discovered by some breeders registered under the ABS. This suggests the public may be falsely led into thinking a puppy they buy from an accredited breeder will have no health or welfare problems associated with its breeding history.”

Puppy farmers

The real problem, the report says, lies with the fact that many breeders were not registered at all, and that puppy farmers were breeding with no regulation.

“While APGAW has focused its attention on Dogs registered with the KC, it is not possible to ignore the issue of puppy farming and irresponsible dog breeding,” the report stated.
The positive action taken by some breed clubs and councils was acknowledged, and this should be used as an example to others.

“We further recommend that the KC identify these examples and set out exactly how they have done it as good practice guidance, and send that information to all other clubs and societies.”

The KC’s changes to breed Standards were also welcomed, but the report said: “It is not yet clear how these revisions will be interpreted in the show ring and it is felt by many welfare organisations that there needs to be more control over how Standards are set and how a dog is judged at a show.”

An important section of the report said it was recognised that the KC performed a role in relation to showing and registration.
“It is arguably in the best position to improve breeding practice in this area,” it states. “We recommend that the KC should state that no dog will be given the title of champion unless it has been health screened for diseases known to be associated with that specific breed and proof of that has been provided.”

It is also recommended that championship show judges should demand proof that Dogs have passed health tests before awarding places.
“Judges need to be confident that Dogs used for breeding are healthy and are unlikely to pass on genetic diseases.”

Moving to Crufts, APGAW members said they were disappointed that More4 was to screen the show.
“We feel that until the problems of health and welfare are dealt with, the showing of certain Dogs with health and welfare problems associated with inappropriate breed Standards is wrong,” the report said. “We hope that More4 will bear this in mind and will strongly focus on educating the viewers on health and welfare taking opinions from all stake holders including veterinarians and welfarists.”

Attention moved to the KC’s General Committee. The majority of organisations and individuals who responded to the enquiry had criticised the KC, the report said, and it was felt that improvements could be made by changing the General Committee.

“The General Committee, in theory, makes the key decisions concerning the promotion of dog health and welfare for the KC. To become a member of this committee you have to be recommended by existing members, and consequently it is currently mainly made up of breeders and judges who, some believe, have self-interest at the heart of their decisions or who find it difficult to impose change in fear of losing support from breed clubs and membership.”

The General Committee was closed to anyone who did not operate within the ‘top echelon’ of the showing and breeding community, the report continued.

“We feel it would make the KC appear more of an open organisation if it opened up the membership of this committee,” it reported.
Room should be made on the General Committee for those with experience of canine hereditary diseases.

“Ultimately they should seek to be transparent, open to scrutiny and willing to engage with outside bodies and individuals who may have experience to offer to the debate on health and welfare.

“The enquiry believes that the KC can win back trust by showing it is willing to take responsibility for Dogs registered with them and that they are willing to lose members who do not meet high standards.”

The KC should also insist on permanent identification of all registered Dogs ‘to help identify the breed line more accurately and help monitor those lines and any health problems they suffer from’.

APGAW recommended that an independent advisory body comprising geneticists, vets, behaviourists, breeders and animal welfare scientists should be set up to provide advice and make recommendations through the KC to breed clubs.

“This body would be well placed to offer informed and scientific advice on the setting of breed Standards which takes into account any issue of conformation which may lead to pain and discomfort,” the report stated.

On the subject it concluded: “The KC and breed clubs should be open to this advice, which should be published independently so that all stakeholders are able to see whether it has been taken into account. If there is a failure to implement the changes set out by the KC over the next year we believe that the independent body would be well placed to advise the Government on the need for further action.”

APGAW wants vets to keep up to date with genetic information and to educate their clients on the subject.

“The enquiry believes it would be beneficial if any future regulation stipulated a dog be checked by a vet for possible identified hereditary diseases before it is used for breeding,” the report said. “Additionally, if the resulting puppies were sold with a certificate or contract of sale with the health information of the sire and dam on it it should be issued by a vet in the same manner as a vaccination certificate.”

It added “We would also like to see licensing authorities seeking veterinary advice and involvement with licensed breeding facilities and pressuring those breeders to provide evidence of close working with veterinary clinics to ensure the puppies they sell are in good health.”

DEFRA was waiting for the results of the APGAW and the KC/Dogs Trust enquiries before deciding what to do, the report stated, and the KC and breed clubs should be given time to implement measures and improve problems outlined by the enquiry in the time leading up to the general election. Following this, all interested parties should meet to assess whether any progress has been made.

Consumer rights

“The enquiry recommends that the issue of consumer rights is investigated … and the impact on the public of low health and welfare standards in dog breeding is recognised by the Government...,” the report states. “We recommend that a puppy sale contract is an excellent means to tackle the issues raised head-on. The practicality of having a health certificate for every puppy should be investigated by DEFRA, and in the meantime the KC should work with the BVA, the RSPCA and others to develop this further...

“The consumer should be protected and the enquiry believes that DEFRA should take forward a public awareness campaign on the disadvantages of buying a puppy without careful consideration...”

APGAW members acknowledged that asking the more conscientious breeders to health test and ensure high standards could lead to less ethical breeders selling a puppy of the same breed for less money.

“If public education and stronger controls over breeders through the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 fail then there may be a case for Government legislation enforcing certain standards,” the report concluded.