Friday, 1 July 2011

We are Dal-lighted!


The very best news from the US came in overnight.... The Dalmatian Club of America has voted 305 to 253 against to accept the low-uric acid (LUA) Dalmatians, paving the way for AKC registration.  It is a victory for common sense, science and of course for the breed itself, as the dogs are identical to any other Dalmatian but do not suffer from one of the breed's biggest health problems - the build-up of crystals/sediment in the urinary tract caused by the high uric-acid levels that are ubiquitous in the breed due to a genetic defect.

Dalmatians have a double-dose of this faulty gene, making it impossible to breed away from the problem within the breed. So in the 1970s, scientist and Dalmatian breeder Bob Schaible did the unthinkable (well to some dog breeders at least): he crossed a Dalmatian with a Pointer to bring in a normal version of the gene that codes for uric acid metabolism.

The progeny of that first breeding produced pups without the defect. They didn't look much like Dalmatians but today, after 14 generations of breeding back only to purebred Dalmatians, the dogs are indistinguishable from their high-uric-acid cousins - hardly surprising given that the normal gene is just about the only thing that remains of the original Pointer.

But Schaible and other proponents of what became known as the Backcross Project  or Dalmatian Heritage Project counted without the breed purists at the Dalmatian Club of America who have essentially blocked the AKC registration of the LUA Dals for more than 20 years. Hell, the Club even banned discussion of the dogs because the subject was considered so controversial.

The wall of resistance has crumbled due to several factors:

First and foremost, there has been the incredible determination of those who believed in the LUA Dals and refused to give up the fight.

Then there was last-year's decision by the Kennel Club in the UK to allow the registration of Fiona, a LUA Dal (and more since) - despite strong opposition by the Brtish Dalmatian Club.  This undoubtedly helped pave the way.

Then, a few months ago, an expert panel appointed by the American Kennel Club came out very strongly in favour of accepting the LUA Dals. 

And finally,  there was the Internet which allows the sharing of good information and the countering of the bad just as fast as anyone can read and type. As blogger Pat Burns ("Terrierman") wrote a while back: The Internet May Yet Save the Dog

"I’m so very happy that the majority of the members of the Dalmatian Club of America have realized the importance of this issue and accepted that this is one way that we can move towards reducing and possibly at some point, eliminating urate stone disease in Dalmatians," says Mary-Lynn Jensen who is one of the Dalmatian enthusiasts who has helped address the concern and - in some cases blatant propaganda put out by the purists - with the facts. "So many people have put tremendous time, effort and love into this effort but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention first of all, Dr. Bob Schiable, without whom, none of this would have ever happened.  It’s unbelievable that it took more than 30 years, for this to happen, but wonderful that it finally has."

Campaigner Marion Mitchell also paid tribute to Bob Schaible's vision: "[His] work has finally been recognized and Dalmatians the world over are thanking him tonight," she says.

The man himself? He was just popping out (for a celebratory lunch I hope!) when I called him at home in Indiana this afternoon but hopefully I will be able to add a few words from him later.

Jim Seltzer (Willowind Dalmations) urges some caution, expressing concern about the 45.1% that voted against the motion and pointing out that a lot of work lies ahead. "It was a long battle  and well fought," says Jim. "The opposition was entrenched and seemingly impervious to efforts at logical persuasion. More troublesome, and of continuing concern, was the discovery that the understanding of fundamental principles of genetics was not to be taken for granted. The concepts of risk analysis and haplotype preservation in the vicinity of a gene conserved by selection were foreign to many if not most breeders.

"Assuming that the AKC will now proceed with the registration of the LUA Dalmatians, the next phase, that of integrating the LUA breed-line into the broader population, is not without its own set of challenges."

But that's for tomorrow. Today is a day of rightful celebration.

WELL DONE TO ALL CONCERNED!

21 comments:

  1. Excellent news! Thank you DCA members!

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  2. This victory means that maybe one day more dals won't have to suffer the way my Armstrong and so many other dals have suffered. As much of a victory as it is for Bob Schaible and the other breeders that worked so hard for this, the real victory is for the dogs.

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  3. Smart move.

    As for the 45% voting against: do they not realize the AKC is next on the chopping block for Animal Rights activists? It would be wise to stay one step ahead of them when it comes to getting the public to stay on our side.

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  4. Jemima: I TOLD ya so! -- Rod Russell, Orlando, Florida USA

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  5. I want to rejoice along with you, but part of me worries-- what will happen in 20 or 30 more generations, when continued breeding back to HUA Dals eliminates this positive trait? Is there ANY plan in motion to, every 20 generations or so, bring in Pointer? How will they keep this from happening again?

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  6. There is a genetic test that can say if a pup has one, two, or no copies of the healthy gene. This will allow breeders to select which pups to breed from in order to continue to pass on the healthy gene.

    There will be no need to bring in a Pointer again.

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  7. Sarah says there is no need to back cross with a Pointer again, but I think WhatAmI has a good point. It may happen again and whether another cross is needed or frozen semen is kept to prevent a reoccurrence of HUA the parent club must be ready to act appropriately.

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  8. This move will not rid the breed of HUA dogs because many breeders will not use the LUA dogs. But, hopefully, consumer demand for Dalmatians that do not suffer from the defect will prove powerful force ultimately.

    Meanwhile, the guardianship of the LUA line/s is strong. Although as Jim Seltzer says, how to integrate them to the dogs' best advantage will be an ongoing challenge.

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  9. To get the LUA gene into your line is a simple process. You use a LUA dog/bitch, DNA test the puppies keep a pup with the LUA gene, carry on breeding to whatever lines you would have done anyway, and keep testing the pups so that you keep the LUA gene in ALL your future generations. Just like breeding for, let's say..good tail carriage, once you have the gene you have it and you test for it!

    Julie
    And you carry on breeding for it. It will never get lost in the gene shuffle again!

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  10. It is unlikely that the AKC Dalmatian parent club is going to be of any help in providing guidelines or educational material related to integrating LUA Dalmatians into the general population of Dals. The majority of Dalmatian Club of America board members are on record as being opposed to LUA Dalmatians. There is no way that group is going to provide the leadership that is needed. It is going to be up to forward thinking members of the club to lead the way.

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  11. This is great news. Now, any breeder who WANTS to improve the health of their dogs on this one issue can do so without interference and institutional barriers.

    While it's only one step toward clearer thinking on dogs, at least those who see the light won't be prevented from realizing positive change.

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  12. I just told Cole and Moe -- whose only resemblance to Dalmatians is that they are black and white -- and they celebrated by popping outside and peeing long and forcefully in solidarity with their one-day-will-not-be-blocked brothers.

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  13. Is there actually no mention of this on the DCA's web site, or could I just not find it?

    http://www.thedca.org/index.html

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  14. I heard for a motion to pass requires 2/3 vote -- so the 54.5% yes vote is not enough. :(
    Lynnda L in Minneapolis, MN

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  15. Bravo....this IS the intelligent move that serves the DOGS (as all breed club and KC decisions/policies should)....BRAVO! Would LOVE to see more of these moves on the part of the breed clubs and the KCs. Hopefully the breeders will have the wherewithal to make the smart genetic choices to rebuild a healthy, sustainable gene pool.

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  16. A 2/3 majority vote in not necessary to "pass". This vote was designed for AKC to see how the membership feels about the registration of LUA Dals. The majority of the DCA membership feels that it is time to register these Dalmatians. The AKC Board will use this information in making their decision. The AKC's scientific panel agrees it is time to register and now the parent club does too. There should be no more road blocks to LUA registration.

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  17. YES! I only just recently found out about these guys, so glad they were accepted. :)

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  18. Today it was announced that the AKC Board unanimously decided to authorize AKC Staff to develop, in consultation with DCA, procedures for the registration of the LUA Dalmatians.

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  19. It is fantastic news, Denise - well done to all involved.

    For those interested, here is the well-worded email from Charlie Garvin on the AKC board to the DCA member list confirming the decision.

    "At the AKC Board meeting this week, the AKC unanimously decided to authorize AKC Staff to develop, in consultation with DCA, procedures for
    the registration of the LUA Dalmatians. These dogs will have a letter indicator as part of the registration number. There will be more details available later, and the official AKC minutes will be published in about a week.

    "In my opinion, this is now a great time for all DCA members to put aside our past differences and conflicts, and work together for the benefit of
    our club and our breed. There is still lots of work to be done, and many questions about what will happen, and how things will happen, both
    short and long term. However, along the way and in the end, we will continue to demonstrate our abilities to meet various challenges in a
    collegial, cooperative fashion. We should all thank President Meg for her hard work guiding the club through this ever-changing endeavor, and
    thank all the DCA members who have patiently participated and contributed to the process. The Board should also be congratulated for representing the majority opinion of the membership over the past several years."

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  20. Without Denise putting her heart and soul into this it would never have happened. She handled the criticism and often down right meaness of the "other side" with such grace and calmness, even though those of us that know her well understood what she was going through.This last year has been far from easy and those of us involved are thankful this part is over. This is such an historic decision, the first time that a breed club has been able to use DNA to help solve a terrible health problem.

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  21. Not a Dal, not purebred, should NOT be registered in the AKC as purebred. AKC= No longer about the purebred dog. Glad I'm not in Dals as I would NOT want any of my males being used in programs with these mutts nor would I want any of my females being bred to these mutts, nor would I want to own one of these mutts.

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