Last week, I posted a video of Swedish judge Åke Cronander awarding Excellent to a Pug in clear respiratory distress.
The video is on Facebook, too, and has been seen by thousands of people in the dog world. Almost everyone who has seen it has expressed dismay - but there has been a small minority that has sought to defend Mr Cronander. They maintain that the sounds the Pug was making were "anxiety sounds", not evidence of breathing difficulty. Last weekend, a video was posted on social media showing the same Pug going for a long walk and clearly managing perfectly well. Never mind that it was a good 10 degrees cooler this week than it was on the day the video was shot (11ºC as opposed to 23º on the day of the show).
The Swedish KC (SKK) has taken its time to respond. I have no doubt that its first instinct would be to back one of its judges. However, the SKK's considerable commitment to health has prevailed. Today, it issued a strong statement expressing its disappointment that one of its judges could have made such an error of judgement and committed to ensuring it would never happen again. Judge Cronander's actions are now the subject of an SKC review.
The SKKhas also confirmed its commitment to working with vets and national authorities to ensure a better deal for brachycephalics. New measures being discussed include a puppy-health certificate to focus more on "constitutional aspects of health" and new breeding rules that require an assessment of dam and sire's breathing ability.
Well done the Swedish Kennel Club!
The SKK's statement in full:
The Swedish Kennel Club (SKK) has worked intensively on the education of show judges on how to handle exaggerated anatomical features in their duties. Breathing has been in focus both in general and specific texts within the Nordic Breed Specific Instructions (http://www.skk.se/Global/Dokument/Utstallning/special-breed-specific-instructions-A8.pdf). There is also a video production specifically focused on breathing difficulties available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ_3f4bLkME&feature=youtu.be
The SKK board therefore deeply regrets the scenario depictured on YouTube regarding the examination and rewarding a Pug with clinical signs of distress related to breathing at a dog show in Sweden this summer.
The judge on duty has been asked to explain and motivate his actions according to procedures to be followed when situations like this are brought to our attention. That process is not yet completed.
SKK expects that such scenarios shown in the film clip are not going to happen again. SKK’s ambition is to make sure that every judge at shows in Sweden will fully comply with BSI and the importance of the health aspects in the evaluation of exaggerated anatomical features. This incident very clearly shows the continuous need for attention towards exaggerations in anatomical features and the importance to continue the work with the Breed Specific Instructions, BSI.
To make sure that potential breeding stock in brachycephalic breeds meets expected criteria regarding breathing SKK have developed collaborative efforts in Sweden with, the veterinary profession and national authorities. Within this collaborative framework there are six focus areas:
a) An update on nationally and internationally available data on the prevalence of unhealthy related to a brachycephalic constitution.
b) Investigate the possibilities to centrally register diagnoses and surgical procedures related to exaggerated anatomical features.
c) Revision of the puppy health certificate, mandatory to all puppies sold by members of SKK, to include more focus on constitutional aspect on health.
d) Develop a protocol and veterinary certificate for potential breeding stock on breathing capacity intended as a merit and if necessary be made compulsory before breeding.
e) Further training of judges, veterinarians and breeders related to exaggerated anatomical features.
f) Consumer education on health risks related to a brachycephalic constitution.