Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stockholm here I come

Reasons to be cheerful...

This morning's email brought more details of the the 1st International Workshop on Enhancement of Genetic Health in Purebred Dogs being hosted by the Swedish Kennel Club in Stockhom in early June.

I am inordinately excited about attending the workshop because of its remit - which is not to to try and convince anyone there are problems, but to find practical and collaborative ways forward to improve the genetic health of our dogs.

The 140 attendees - comprised mainly of scientists, vets and representatives of various international Kennel Clubs - include some big names in the world of purebred dogs from more than 20 different countries.

There are 13 national Kennel Clubs attending -  the UK, Sweden, USA, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Latvia, Denmark, Mexico, Estonia, Finland and Uruguay, plus several representatives from the FCI, including Kari Järvinen (often to be found judging here in the UK) and Nicolas Schwab from the FCI Breeding Commission.

From the UK, there are Steve Dean and Aimee Llewellyn from the Kennel Club, vets Bruce Fogle and Bob Gore, geneticists David Sargan (University of Cambridge), Cathryn Mellersh and Tom Lewis (AHT), and Rowena Packer from the Royal Veterinary College. From the US, there is Danika Bannasch (UC Davis),  Jerry Bell (Tufts), Bernard Unti (HSUS), Urs Giger (UPenn), Shila Nordone (AKC Canine Health Foundation) and Fran Smith (President OFA). Australia, meanwhile, is represented by Clare Wade (University of Sydney) and Karyn Orzeszko (Dogs Victoria). 

Companies/commercial organisations attending include Optigen, Nestle Purina, Agria and Mars Veterinary.

I have either met or corresponded with many taking part and it makes my spirits soar to see so many key people attending. Big congratulations to Åke Hedhammer and Sophia Malm from the Swedish Kennel Club for organising the workshop, which they announced at the HSUS conference in Washington a year ago. The difference here, of course, is the buy-in from so many international Kennel Clubs (noticeable by their absence at the Washington conference because of the concern regarding its host) and other key dog figures. 

I am attending not as a reporter, but as a delegate hoping to contribute usefully in various ways, including on the role of the media, but will blog highlights from the Workshop as appropriate.

34 comments:

  1. This is great news. Now, if only everybody will just listen to you and do what you ask! Unfortunately, there is too much money behind groups like AKC to listen to a reasonable person who is actually trying to help dogs be healthy. :-( But at least this is a good way to affect other, more reasonable KCs and other groups.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what is your role as a "delegate"? a shame that the HSUS a radical animal rights group bent on the elimination of ALL domestic pets is attending, Hopefully they will be drowned out by facts and reason instead of emotion and hate for the pedigreed dog breder

    “Animals for the most part just need to be left alone." Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2008

    “I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals…To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal. I like them and I pet them and I’m kind to them, but there’s no special bond between me and other animals.” Wayne Pacelle.. HSUS.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great! But it is not held in stockholm ;-).But in Visby on the island of gotland,wich is much nicer than Stockhom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Canine and Feline Genomics conference just before it is in Visby, but the Workshop is in Stockholm.

      Jemima

      Delete
  4. That is so encouraging that the KC people are attending.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm from Mexico and it makes me proud to hear my country will be there too, Pedigree dogs are not that big here but where they are dogs are imported from europe so many of the genetic illness are very severe but people get charged lots of money for a puppy who will only get sick and suffer, there are regulations but many breeders seem to think that European lines are always the best.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So are you going to the conference or justteh work shop? I see the RSPCA who funded the HSUS event havnt contributed to this one, which I fear says more about the RSPCA's ability to judge the "Pedigree" of organisation instead of its hunger for influence.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting conference. I just hope the delegates will also be discussing the need to differentiate between breeds based on their genetic history instead of a one-size-fits-all approach:

    What may look like a reduction in inbreeding levels over a few generations can sometimes in fact turn out to be one giant inbred line when going back, say, 15 generations, which in return decreases genetic diversity and genotype variability in those "outcrossed" dogs, thereby reducing the selection base for health-conscious breeders.

    Like every other kind of selection, selection for health is based on genotype variability in one's available breeding population - and in some breeds, breeding for short-term reductions of inbreeding coefficients will reduce this variability rather dramatically. This mostly applies to breeds with small breeding populations though: I'm certainly not talking GSD's or Labradors, but short-term inbreeding reduction can prove to be quite disastrous for less common breeds.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am heartened to learn about this. It does sound encouraging. My greatest concern is that too much time will be wasted on reaching an agreement over the severity of the situation.

    I'm glad the AKC aren't attending - the difference between their concern for the health of pedigree dogs, when compared with the Swedish KC, is too great.

    I would like to see date of death and the reason, for each registered dog being recorded and made public. This kind of information gives the general public a better idea of the illnesses which beset certain breeds and the breed's longevity. Even deaths that could be seen as owner error - being hit by a car - can be useful to know, so that this kind of thing can be avoided in the future. I realise there are logistical problems with this, but I think it can be done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would like to see this data recorded too...at least we would be working with facts.
      Wish I was going and cant wait for the feedback !

      Delete
    2. umm the AKC IS attending as for your request.. do you have any sense of privacy or is everything to be an open book to you? Perhaps you woud like us to know how many times you have had sex.. or how many times you expell gas per day..when you die would you like everyone to know the details so the "general public' have access to your personal information?

      Delete
    3. You are entirely missing the point Anonymous. The published data being asked for here should be in the public realm, no question. Reason? Because puppies are being sold in a market, to members of the public. Stud dogs are being offered to other breeders for a fee or similar. If you are a breeder that never lets your pups go to anyone other than yourself, or who never allows your stock to be used in matings by other breeders then by all means feel free to keep all the data pertaining to the health of your lines secret. Otherwise put up. There are much wider responsibilities here, of which fortunately really enlightened breeders are aware.

      Delete
    4. "I'm glad the AKC aren't attending - the difference between their concern for the health of pedigree dogs, when compared with the Swedish KC, is too great. "

      Could you explain why? Has the AKC done more than the Swedish KC or the other way round?

      /Maria

      Delete
    5. People. people! calm down!. the akc canine health foundation is apart of akc.. soo i think that means that akc is attending this event?? Your free to correct me Ms. Harrison if I miss understood.
      Sorry about the possible mis types.. I'm tired and its late where i am.

      - Fang.

      Delete
    6. really? so if my dog is run over by a car it should be public? I think not..
      meanwhile what breeders do bewteen themselves is no business of yours. If you buy a puppy then ask for test results.. if they don't have them, go eleswhere..or if you are dissatified you can always go to the local shelter where you can get a dog of NO known background or health status of either the dog in question or the parents..you do have a choice.
      test results can be interpereted in many ways most of which the "public" has no idea of how understand....

      Delete
    7. Anonymouse of 22:42, You remind me of an old English anecdote about a politician in apoor area some one hundred years ago, who cheerfully adressed his audience by saying, "I can see you´re a dense crowd! Now, if you will listen-"
      To which a Cockney voice responded loudly, "We´re not as dense as all that, gov!"

      I think that a fair number of the belittled "public" have an idea of how to interprete basic health tests. Judging by the quite obtuse comments following Cruft´s, it would seem that certain breeders don´t.
      I´m also quite convinced that all breed clubs could teach both breeders and the public to understand. Don´t you agree?

      Delete
    8. Genetic heritage is not just a matter of parents or even grandparents. So what the breeders do between themselves affects wellbeing of dogs several generations down the line at which point the original breeders may not be around anymore (death, moves, lost interest) to ask for information. Beacause what is happening now is breeders - even with the best intentions - breeding dogs with risk for "insert name of hereditary illness" because they have no access to information about what their dog's grandparents / greatgrandparents and so on were like healthwise. In that case the breeder may be as honest as can be about what s/he knows and yet the puppy buyer is left with incomplete picture of what the risks are re that puppy. That is why it is not just the breeders' business at that particular moment: what dogs they use for breeding and what they tell about those dogs' health / illnesses has impact later down the line.

      Finnish KC lists causes of death (voluntary announcement by owner) and it has become very clear that the most common cause of death of young dogs in my breed is being hit by a car. So while that is not hereditary the dogs of this breed have inherited qualities which make death by a car hit whole lot more likely than in another breed. Our breed club cautions owners about this so that they would not have to deal with untimely loss of their dog. It is too short timeframe to measure the impact of this (the Finnish KC has been collecting causes of death just a couple of years). But if the owners did no tell that their dog was killed by a car the breed club or breeders would not be able to caution owners (backed by real numbers not just a "feeling").

      Maija Vilppo
      Finland

      Delete
    9. LOL .. you are kidding.. right.. it is the breeds fault the dog was hit by a car.. LOL that really is funny what breed do you have.. attached to cars breed? a breed that does not respond to fences.. leashes or containment.. you really must be kidding if you think that the dog inherited qualities that make it being hit by a car more likely than other breeds..how about watch where you are going with your car.. and keep you dog ( regardless of breed) fenced in

      Delete
    10. WHAT?? your breed is more likely to be hit by a a car? and you tell people this?.. all people who sell dogs should tell people.. HEY PEOPLE>. don't let your dog be run over by a car.. DUH

      Delete
    11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcU4t6zRAKg

      LOL.. this applies.. make sure your breed has a front that does not fall off..

      Delete
    12. You anonymice - are you for real, or did Jemima make up your posts?
      You don´t understand that there are breeds more likely to be run over BECAUSE THE WILL TO CHASE/HERD fast-moving things WAS BRED INTO THEM?
      Truly, you don´t get it?
      I´ll let you in on something. In this country, certain breeds are MUCH more likely to be in trouble from elks every year, and guess what? IT AINT´T THE PUGS! IT´S THE ELKHOUNDS!
      Now why on earth should that be? You take your time to figure it out, then welcome back with an answer....

      Delete
  9. Yay, and welcome to Sweden! :D

    I am also wondering (like Anonymous 16:45) about the HSUS - I find it a little odd that they're attending. (I may be mistaken but anything I find on them is that they are a wannabe-PETA...)

    ReplyDelete
  10. A delegate with no authority or influence, and a closed view as PDE2 showed now with no backing of the BBC either, but perhaps they need someone to make the tea?

    ReplyDelete
  11. HSUS is attending because they are besties with Jemima, who is a "Delegate" - but for what? Perhaps she represents "People who've never bred but feel qualified to tell everyone else how to"? Or "Pretend journalists snowed by the rest of the AR's." Or maybe they just feel they have to throw her a bone, and HSUS/Petaphiles too? Sad really, because that will be the downfall of what otherwise could have been a useful conference.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Probably I am completely naive, but is it just possible that if people are willing to spend time and money travelling to a conference in Sweden on dog health, it is because they are simply deeply interested in and concerned about dog health? That they have a lot of knowledge to share and a willingness to learn more?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you, dalriach

      Further: whenever judging arguments that are being hotly contested - one is always well advised to be skeptical of opinion coming from self interested sources.

      Breeders - and breed clubs are probably the last place on earth one would find intellectually honest discussion about any of these issues.

      Dog lovers who DON'T breed - are much more likely to base their opinions on the information at hand and the analysis which they find most compelling.

      Delete
  13. Dalriach to find such people look up and down this country to the dozens of breed club and KC health seminare run every month, but none of them have either a set publicity agenda or need to blow their own trumpet, they just get on with it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. They may be run ...but are they well attended?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yes, the are very well attended, but held without benefit of all the razzmataz of an international conference, with big busineess funding/attendees, entertainment, dinners and cocktail parties etc. They are help in places like community halls and sports centres and atteneded(usually to capacity) by those who love, breed and care for dogs on a day to day basis, and who are quietly working towards producing the healthiest dogs possible. The same people who are denigrated and vilified by PDE &PDE2. You know, the people who spends hundreds of pounds on health checks and tests for their dogs, who spend hours of their own time researching pedigrees and health results.

    ReplyDelete
  16. ". . . and who are quietly working towards producing the healthiest dogs possible. The same people who are denigrated and vilified by PDE &PDE2. You know, the people who spends hundreds of pounds on health checks and tests for their dogs, who spend hours of their own time researching pedigrees and health results."

    Funny. I know many of these, and support them by spending my own cash on health checking dogs they've bred, and then reporting the results back . . . but the ones I know don't feel denigrated or vilified by PDE or PDE2.:)

    This is because the obvious message of PDE and PDE2 was supportive of these breeders, whilst spotlighting others running amongst who are doing much less.

    Kary

    ReplyDelete
  17. I agree with Anon 14 May 17:34. I don't breed, but my dogs' breeders do ample health testing, and I test my dogs to add to their pool of data. These breeders' dogs are all house-pets who live routinely to 15-16 years old, and so have the dogs I've bought from them. I definitely don't think PDE is against breeders like the ones I know. It is against breeders that ignore health testing, or cherry-pick and test only things they know they will pass... while breeding dogs for exaggerated dewlaps, skin folds, ectropion, entropion, heart murmurs, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Well what a shame the programmes did not make those points, The view given to the general public is that show breeders are, by definition, bad. Show dogs are unhealthy and inbred. Ergo, pet bred dogs are healthy, so go buy a pup from someone who has no idea about testing, as never having been near a show ring it is guaranteed healthy. Or from a puppy farm who have cottoned on to this as a great marketing tool. Where on earth do you think the dogs come from who are routinely submitted for health tests?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Annie Macfarlane16 May 2012 11:44

    I have every respect for breeders that health test their breeding stock but that is not all that is needed. Anybody breeding needs to know what lies behind their breeding stock and make ethical decisions on whether they really want to reproduce some pretty horrific health issues in innocent puppies. Health testing is not the be all and end all. I know people who health test and have good results with their dogs...but the dogs behind them have hereditary disease that they are perpetuating by using such combinations. I feel that is the cause of such terrible pedigree dog health in some breeds....not the lack of health testing. Breeders are under no obligation to tell you of anything that lies behind these bloodlines and while this continues then I believe that nothing will really change.

    Breeders invest a lot of time, effort and money into purchasing what they perceive to be healthy stock. If it turns out that the bloodline has a particularly serious complaint....sometimes those that are not as interested in the breed as we may be led to believe, just continue to breed from their stock anyways.....because they have decent health test results. If we had a "register" that showed births, "marriages" and deaths then we would be able to get a better picture of what lies behind any dog we are purchasing....until that happens then we are having to trust the people we buy our dogs from.....and some of them have too much to lose by removing a dog from their breeding programmes.

    I'm being realistic here. We all know who they are in our relative breeds...and most of them are backed by their relative breed clubs. It's sad..because if the breed clubs actually ousted this type of breeder we would have so much more confidence in them. I would love to see that happen....and I applaud the UK KC for attending. Their recent decision to stand firm on the health check debacle...is very refreshing.

    I know that PDE and PDE2 was not aimed at the hundreds of excellent breeders who do everything they can to produce health, happy puppies with great conformation and temperament. I know it was trying to highlight the problems I've stated above.....how do we solve that problem as the newly formed Canine Alliance appears to be another organisation that is simply welcoming them aboard. No criteria for members...you pays your money....welcome aboard!

    It does nothing really to promote an organisation "responsible for pedigree dogs".

    I'll look forward to the feedback from the workshop.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Looks great! Thanks for sharing the post.

    ReplyDelete