|© Catherine Southwell|
The latest news on the Cavalier front is that some influential breeders apparently find it unacceptable that the results of dogs scanned under the new official syringomyelia (SM) screening programme should be made public. Worse, it seems that the Kennel Club has given in to them.
This is the behind-the-scenes story of a Dog World report this week about a recent meeting to discuss Cavalier health, attended by national and regional Cavalier club reps, the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust.
The KC/AHT have a problem. It is that the much-heralded Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for Cavaliers, designed to help improve breed health, are not ready for launch (after two years hard graft) because not enough MRI scans have been submitted to ensure the scheme is robust (ie predictive).
There isn't a shortage of cavaliers - despite the fact that registration figures have dropped considerably since PDE (down from over 11,000 in 2008 to just over 8,000 last year). The issue is that many breeders are still reluctant to a) scan and b) submit the results - hence the "proposal".
"The need for a proposal arose because it was clear that there was a need to encourage participation in the new scheme and aid speedy data collection,” a spokesperson for the KC told Dog World. “Simply following the way in which other BVA/KC scheme data is recorded and published is unlikely to achieve this at this time.”
In other words, breeders threatened to vote down the scheme - an embarrassment for the Kennel Club and a disaster for the breed. But, believe me, the answer does not lie in giving in to the Cavalier Coven that continually stirs the cauldron of denial. Not if you want to convince the world that you care about the dogs.
So let me say this loud and clear. Keeping hidden the results of the new screening scheme would set a dangerous and completely unacceptable precedent. The results of every other BVA/KC health scheme are rightly and freely available via the KC's online Health Test Finder. We need more transparency, not less. The KC needs to man-up, here.
No doubt the Cavalier naysayers are arguing that the results of MRI scans for syringomyelia are not totally clearcut - that clear dogs can throw pups with SM and vice versa. This is true. There are few absolutes when it comes to living things. But there is now good evidence that the chances of having an unaffected pup is considerably increased if the dam and sire have been screened clear or only marginally affected by this horrendous condition. [Details included in this presentation by Dr Clare Rusbridge]
This applies equally to the BVA/KC Hip and Elbow Schemes. Dogs with great hip scores can occasionally throw severely-affected pups, and the other way round. But you don't hear Labrador breeders whinging that it's unfair to publish their dogs' hip scores because they know that the more information at their disposable, the better breeding decisions they can make.
If this rotten core of Cavalier breeders gets its way, only the fact that the dog has been MRI-scanned will be made public. So what's to stop them just-plain lying to puppy-buyers about what those scans reveal? Er, nothing. It is incredibly hard for most puppy buyers to ask to see health certificates and way too easy for breeders to field plausible excuses.
I sincerely hope the BVA won't accede to what is a totally unreasonable demand by a handful of Cavalier breeders who continue to play fast and loose with the Cavalier's future. With SM and mitral-valve near-fixed in the breed, the only hope is for an end to the dreadful infighting and for those who campaign for better health through transparency and honesty to stop being seen as the bloody enemy.
This now seems to include the national Club's health rep, Maggie Ford who, unbelievably, wasn't allowed to attend the recent meeting at the KC's Stoneleigh Building to discuss the new scheme and whose future on the Committee is apparently now in doubt. Her crime? She's gone over to the dark side. The dark side being the side where you recognise that the breed is in big trouble and want more to be done to save it.
The heart-breaking picture at the top of this blog, so full of suffering, is of Poppy, just one of the thousands of cavaliers diagnosed with syringomyelia. Her sad story is told on the syringomyelia awareness site Two Little Cavaliers.
More information re the new "proposal" (as the Cavalier Club and Kennel Club are euphemistically calling this shameful compromise) is available on the Cavalier Club website.
If you have a KC registered cavalier, there are several ways you can really help the research - see the Cavalier Campaign website for details.
[Edited 13/2/11 to clarify re Dog World report and add Cavalier Campaign link]