|Sheila Crispin, with her two collies in Cumbria|
The launch of the Council follows Pedigree Dogs Exposed two years ago and the three major reports that followed it (RSPCA, APGAW and the Bateson Report) - all of which stressed the need for an independent body.
I've been anxious about the make-up of the Council, not least because its Chair, Professor Sheila Crispin, is an honorary member of the Kennel Club and did not feel it necessary to resign her membership of the KC's own Dog Health Group following her appointment. I also felt when I interviewed Sheila for Dogs Today recently (entire interview online here) that she cut the KC too much slack and was far too focused on puppy farms - an important issue, of course, but not if it's going to let mainstream pedigree dog-breeding off the hook. But there are some very good names here, including:
• Dr Clare Rusbridge, who appeared in PDE speaking out strongly about syringomyelia in cavaliers. A passionate, dedicated vet who was brave enough to speak out when others in her profession zipped their lips, Clare is wonderful with the dogs and their owners in her care, and has stood her ground in the face of considerable opposition - and at times considerable unpleasantness - from breeders.
• Lisa Collins - the lead scientist of two important recent papers on inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. The first, exploring the link between illness and breed standards, found that each of the top 50 breeds was found to have at least one aspect of its conformation predisposing it to a disorder; and 84 disorders were either directly or indirectly associated with conformation. The second, exploring health issues not related to breed standards, found a total of 312 non-conformation linked inherited disorders in the top 50 breeds.
• Dr David Sargan - co-author of the RSPCA report “Pedigree Dog Breeding in the UK: A major welfare concern?” He is a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge Veterinary School working in comparative genetics and genomics, with special interests in canine inherited disease genetics. He curates the database “Inherited Diseases in Dogs”, a reference tool that catalogues inherited defects in dogs and their underlying genetics.
No response so far from the Kennel Club to the announcement of the Council members - but then the KC did its best to scotch the Council by claiming that its own revamped Dog Health Group was perfectly adequate.
Whether the new Council can really make a difference to dogs remains a big question. The Council is purely advisory, it is short of funding and the KC - and others - are skilled at coming up with excellent-sounding reasons why things can't be done. But it deserves a chance.
Watch this space...