Wednesday, 6 April 2016

ANKC accuses scientists of "relentless attack" on pedigree dogs


The above clip is an excerpt from yesterday's ABC The Drum - a popular early evening news/current affairs programme in Australia.  It's just one of a host of pieces in the media following the publication yesterday of a new paperfrom a team at the University of Sydney, that documents the trend towards smaller, flatter-faced dogs - similar to that seen in the US and the UK, too.

Significantly, the paper (and indeed all the media coverage) highlights the fact that flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs are more susceptible to respiratory, digestive, skin and eye conditions and that on average they die four years earlier than more 'normal' breeds of dog.

It's provoked an angry response from the Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC), which has accused the researchers and others of being part of a "relentless attack on purebred dogs".

Yesterday, on its Facebook page, the ANKC published a rebuttal - although today, after it appeared to get increasingly stressed about a small number of critical comments, the whole page was taken down.

Fortunately, nothing posted on the internet ever properly disappears; you'll find a copy of the whole statement below.

Much of it falls into the category of logical fallacy - essentially, flawed reasoning used by someone trying to counter a fact or view they don't like.

• "ANKC Ltd are disappointed with the comments in the ABC article attributed to Assoc. Prof.Zuber and Dr.Crawford which continue the relentless attack on purebred dogs"

Yep... because there's got to be an anti-purebred agenda here - rather than, you know, there is actually a problem with flat-faced dogs.  After all, there is now an enormous amount of peer-reviewed science articulating the issue. 

This is an ad hominem attack on two professionals who are much more likely to be expressing their genuine concern that some dogs have problems living because of the way they've been bred - after a lifetime's experience treating them.

Both Max Zuber and Julia Crawford are senior veterinary surgeons. Implying some ulterior motive may play well with the ANKC electorate, but it will not wash with the general public.

• "...amongst some of the inaccuracies in the article is the age to which Bulldogs can live, healthy Bulldogs from caring and responsible breeders can live to in excess of 10 years."

It is true that some Bulldogs live to 10 or more (although no evidence that these are only dogs from "caring and responsible breeders")  The point is that most studies have found that the average age of death is six years old. There is also a good recent study (see here) that found that brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds die, on average, four years earlier than non-brachy breeds.

• "It is regrettable that, in articles on the state of pedigree dogs health there is no acknowledgment of the multi thousands of dollars spent by ANKC Ltd Breeders on health testing and support of ongoing research into Canine Heritable Diseases.  The Canine Research Foundation (CRF) is the official vehicle for funding ANKC Ltd research programs, it is an independent public charitable trust and is funded by a $1 levy on every puppy registered with the ANKC, A good proportion of the funds have been allocated to researchers at Sydney University a fact which Prof.Zuber and others choose not to acknowledge. Since 2000 CRF grants to researchers at Sydney University have totalled $324,000"

I certainly understand why the ANKC would like it mentioned that it funds health research - but that isn't the story here.  The story is simply that there's been a big increase in the number of these dogs being bred and that it represents a welfare issue.

Worryingly, in the listing of all the money the ANKC has given to the University, there is the heavy implication that the ANKC feels the University is biting the hand that feeds it (and indeed, there were a couple of comments to this effect on the FB page before it was taken down). Here's one - which prompted a sharp comment from another poster.



I sincerely hope the University of Sydney will not allow its scientific independence and integrity to be compromised.  Unfortunately, I know of others that have bowed to pressure from kennel clubs for those important canine research dollars and pounds.

• Of the estimated 341,000 puppies bred in Australia in 2015 only 20% (66,000) came from ANKC Ltd Breeders, it is from the 275,00 non registered puppies that most of the problems associated with BOAS are found. 

So show us the research that proves this is true... Only of course they can't because there isn't any. There are no required health tests as a condition of ANKC registration for Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs and those that win in the ring are, unfortunately, often among the most exaggerated. Indeed, there is quite a market in Australia for alternative Bulldogs with more moderate features because they often cope better with the Australian climate, but these are not recognised by the ANKC and, indeed, would be considered mongrels.

Hell, the ANKC breed standard for Bulldogs still requires that  the skull "should be very large - the larger the better"; a requirement that is clearly detrimental to health and one of the reasons why most Bulldogs are born by C-section. Before the ANKC took down its page, it defended this by pointing out that it didn't adopt the new UK Bulldog standard (which asks for a more moderate "relatively large" skull) because of resistance from Australian Bulldog breeders.

Right. And you want us to take you seriously regarding your commitment to purebred dog health?

There were another couple of interesting posts on the ANKC page before it disappeared too - this one from Maria Karlsson, who happens to be a Swedish veterinary surgeon.



The ANKC's response:



The page disappeared shortly afterwards. It is impossible to know for sure who the author of the ANKC's comments was, but the statement itself was written by Hugh Gent, President of the ANKC. (He says so on his Facebook page).

It was also Mr Gent who posted a link to a study on BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome) in French Bulldogs, without making it clear that it was a study funded by the UK Kennel Club and nothing to do with the ANKC.  UK vet nurse Katy Price commented to point out that the study had found that almost 50 per cent of Frenchies had trouble breathing and then attempted to post a link to another study on BOAS done by researchers at the Royal Veterinary College. Her comment was removed and she was blocked.

The ANKC's rebuttal statement in full:

ANKC Ltd are disappointed with the comments in the ABC article attributed to Assoc. Prof.Zuber and Dr.Crawford which continue the relentless attack on purebred dogs, amongst some of the inaccuracies in the article is the age to which Bulldogs can live, healthy Bulldogs from caring and responsible breeders can live to in excess of 10 years.
 
It is regrettable that, in articles on the state of pedigree dogs health there is no acknowledgment of the multi thousands of dollars spent by ANKC Ltd Breeders on health testing and support of ongoing research into Canine Heritable Diseases . The Canine Research Foundation (CRF) is the official vehicle for funding ANKC Ltd research programs, it is an independent public charitable trust and is funded by a $1 levy on every puppy registered with the ANKC, A good proportion of the funds have been allocated to researchers at Sydney University a fact which Prof.Zuber and others choose not to acknowledge. Since 2000 CRF grants to researchers at Sydney University have totalled $324,000 they include: Dr Christine Griebsch for Evaluation of serial thromboelastography and platelet mapping in dogs with immunemediated haemolytic anemia treated with aspirin or clopidogrel. Assoc Professor Peter Williamson for research into Genetic management of canine lymphoma and Primary immunodeficiency in Australian German Shepherds, and a study of integrated genomics source for the health and well-being of dogs in Australia. Dr.Chris Weir for Efficacy of a personalised tumour vaccine to treat dogs with cancer. Dr.Katrina Bosward for Coxiella burnetii (Q fever): is this an important agent of disease in Australian dogs and reservoir for human infection?. Dr.P.Sheehy, Generation of ‘clinic ready’ canine induced pluripotent stem cells for regenerative medicine. Dr.Govendir Improving therapeutic control of seizures and Long term use of phenobarbitone in idiopathic epilepsy. Dr.A.Dart Magnetic resonance imaging as a predictor of stifle pathology in naturally occurring cruciate ligament disease in dogs. 
In a recent interview with the ABC on the subject of brachycephalic breeds ANKC Ltd President Hugh Gent OAM conceded that the whelping of Bulldog puppies was a problem with a large percentage requiring caesareans, however, further information on research into the problem, given to the ABC in the interview has yet to be presented. 
What is not recognised by many commentators on the health of pedigree dogs is that there are two sources for obtaining puppies, in Australia, Registered Breeders and those who are not constrained by codes of ethics regarding health testing and programs to eliminate hereditary diseases, the majority of whom sell their puppies through the Internet. Of the estimated 341,000 puppies bred in Australia in 2015 only 20% (66,000) came from ANKC Ltd Breeders, it is from the 275,00 non registered puppies that most of the problems associated with BOAS are found. A separate posting will be made regarding important research in to BOAS.

25 comments:

  1. It's just a broken record the world over from the registries and breeders of dogs which conform to obviously-flawed standards. "It's not us, it's those non-KC breeders!" "We're health testing, and they don't!" "We care about our dogs!" "We fund research!" Yet they continue to miss or detract from the most obvious point that you so successfully make post after post regarding these phenotype issues: the problems are right in front of their eyes. The problems can be alleviated simply through selecting for more moderate morphology. If they would accept that simple fact, perhaps the critics would start taking them a bit more seriously.

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    1. Nail on the head.

      Crickey weren't he rude to Maria Karrison!

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    2. Excellent post Merrie.

      "selecting for more moderate morphology" should be the standard catch cry for all breeders of all dogs.
      Just a few major obstacles to overcome - the inclination for extremes to be rewarded in the show ring and the penchant for some of the dog loving public for extreme features. Sigh. The battle is such a huge one,but every small step such as this TV segment is a victory.
      It will be interesting to see if "A separate posting will be made regarding important research in to BOAS" ever appears.

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  2. People love to scream that they are being attacked when anyone else points out unpleasant truths.

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    1. Anna that's because Anti-Purebred people like Jemima and ilk ARE attacking purebred dogs,purebred dog breeders and show people such as myself. You won't be happy until purebreds no longer exist and all dogs are medium sized, prick eared,brown mutts.

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    2. No, my Celtic Warrioress, Jemima and her ilk love purebred dogs they simply don't like how people have damaged their purebreds by breeding for extreme forms. These people are quite happy to Not breed only archetypal dogs but dogs of many different forms and personalities.
      Julie Pear

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    3. Sorry to burst your bubble, Celtic, but most of us commenting here, myself included, have purebred dogs & love them very much (& I have several different breeds, both as pets & as working animals, ranging in size from 9 pounds to 130 pounds, so I certainly don't want all dogs to be the same type!). Because we love them, we want to see them bred in such a way that we can continue to own them. That is increasingly difficult when they are selected for more & more extreme phenotypes that destroy both their quality & quantity of life!

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    4. As long as the ears aren't extreme prick ears or hacked that way by unscrupulous breeders as in the case of Great Danes Dobermans etc in America?

      You're tilting at windmills Warrioress. Don't you want healthy happy pedigree dogs?

      If you do, how do you see that happening when dogs are being selected for unhealthy traits that cause real pain and suffering? When dogs are bred in a way that causes genetic disease?

      The problem is many people want a healthy happy pedigree dog but find it almost impossible to find one. Wouldn't it be fantastic to look up a breed and not find pitfall lists of diseases and problems you're almost certainly going to have to deal with?

      For many people this is when they realise somethings up.

      They either help try and change things or get a working bred line dog or a mixed breed, or simply ignore the pain and suffering and pretend everythings just fine.

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    5. River P,

      I have two healthy happy pedigreed,show bred long-haired Dachshunds laying right beside me as I type. One is a mini who is my current show dog, he is higher on the leg than alot of Dachshunds you see in the show ring but I prefer a bit longer legs,he can go up and down stairs without bumping his chest or manly bits,he can go over branches,etc with no problem as well,& has prey drive out the wazoo. My other is a neutered retired champion who is the shorter legged type, the only problem he has is a bad coat which he developed after being neutered. Would I like to see the German type Dachshund become more the standard here in USA you betcha. Heck the DCA can't even agree if Minis and Standards should be made different breeds or on the Piebald question either lol. Would I like to see brachies with more snout yep I would. Am I ticked at what I see happening to the breed that is dearest to my heart,my one true love the GSD you fricking betcha, that's why I chose my next favorite breed to show and possibly breed. I also don't go near the GSD ring when at shows because I wouldn't be able to control my mouth if I did. Therefore I make do with my two doxies and my rescue Pit Bull mix.

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    6. I think you scored then!

      But yes absolutely. In fact working Teckels are incredible little things, fully fit for purpose. The miniature teckle has to be the darling of vermin control IMO, LOL. Those game little beady eyes and whiskers are completely irresistible.

      They don't make such good pets though as you're likely to lose them to ground at the very first opportunity.

      Interesting how none the less die hard parsons type JRT people will still tell you short JRTs are all wrong and shouldn't even be called JRTs and yet....A proportionally diminutive JRT is as much dynamite as a working Teckle is. And the cross somewhere along the line is not at all a bad thing. This is in fact where many smaller rectangular in shape game JRTs came from. Not all from working lines obviously, though. Im still a sucker for all white with a tail spot and head markings what ever they look like.

      Heavy big headed achondroplastic JRTs with big deep chests, long bodies and feet going east west are of course a different matter. Ooops got a bit side tracked here, but actually I haven't seen a JRT of that type for many many years. Last was in Swaziland in the early 90s where that size is in fact even something of an advantage given what borrows or permanently lives down the majority of holes there. I think basset hound was distantly involved there. As game as they can be with a very good nose they seem to have for the most part vanished entirely.

      For the most part showing smooth,rough or long haired Dachshunds in all sizes are a mess, though. The mini smooth seems to be the most game (IMO), but racked with horrific problems of the spine and a few other things.

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    7. I don't hate all purebreds, I just hate those breeders breeding for dog shows. My favourite breed is the border collie but the show type makes me cringe - I wish the breed had never entered the KC.

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  3. Wow, good discussion on mainstream TV. Glad to see experts speaking candidly about the dangers of extreme breeding (brachycephaly). It seems the dam has a crack in it. Now we just need to let that crack widen.

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    1. Yes, heartening stuff isn't it.

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  4. Meanwhile NKK (Norwegian Kennel Club) posts this yesterday :
    http://web2.nkk.no/no/nyheter/Fokus+p%C3%A5+kortsnutede+raser.b7C_wlHK4R.ips

    I'm sorry it's only in Norwegian.

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    1. This is amazing... if I can get it in English, will blog separately about it.

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  5. The link to the study on longevity of brachycephalic breeds seems to be broken, at least it doen't work for me.

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    1. My fault. Should be working now. It's this:

      http://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40575-015-0023-8

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  6. For ANKC to say 'show me the science' on the issue of brachy construction defects seems beyond belief, tell Mr Hugh Gent to try Googling Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome - here is a starter for him http://kleintierklinik.uni-leipzig.de/cms/en/abteilungen/E/brachyzephalie/faq

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    1. Being Australian Mr Hugh Gent could very well be linguistically challenged so I thought I should mention that The Leipzig Small Animal Veterinarian University's abstract on Brachycephly is in English.

      Interesting that they in effect call for tougher laws to stop qualzucht breeding. In fact the entire abstract is quite far reaching which is a very positive. Here are some points taken from the epilogue........

      So-called ’stress tests’ that require the dog to walk for 10 minutes without difficulty, are definitely not suitable for determining whether an animal is fit for breed-ing, and even less so for correcting the mistakes made in past decades.
      ~
      The current state of health of many pure-bred dogs is alarming. It is obvious that the concept of dog breeding in the last 100 years has not worked and has opened the door to mistakes with serious consequences.
      ~
      Current veterinary medicine is complicit in the practice of maintaining dogs of breeds with inherited defects healthy and suitable for breeding.
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      The veterinary community must work harder in this area and law makers must realise that current laws are completely inadequate to halt the vanities involved in dog breeding.
      ~
      Considering all the mistakes that have been made in pure-bred dog breeding, it may be necessary to discuss whether breeding and selling of dogs should be licensed.
      ~
      The concept of dog shows must also be revised. Many judges and those involved in the selection of show judges have not served dog breeds well. Numerous judges still place an absurd emphasis on external characteristics, which in turn greatly influences breeders to strive for the same. For example, even today a pug or bulldog with a “visible” nose has no chance of winning in the show ring.
      ~
      The production of unhealthy dogs will continue as long as international breed standards (Fédération Cynologique Internationale, FCI) tolerate unhealthy breed characteristics.

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  7. Dog breeders and their clubs "playing the victim",as usual!!

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  8. It's like the Daily Show joke: Reality has a well-known liberal bias. And reality also has a well-known anti-inbreeding, anti-pedigree-as-an-end-in-itself, anti-lousy-physiology bias. Reality sucks.

    Reality will get better for them when the keeping and breeding of flat-faced dogs becomes such a vanishingly small niche that people notice the dogs about as much as they do waltzing mice.

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  9. Well, If you don't see yourself as just another part of your environment, but as some thing distinct and separate so no need to respond, of course you must be a victim.

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  10. I'm a bit bemused by the underlying research under discussion - what does the data demonstrate? I've looked at all the models...but I can't quite see how this relates to the conclusion (couldn't they have got that by just counting the relevant registrations?). Does the data analysis say anything about whether the health of flat faced dogs registered by the AKC is getting better or worse? Or does it just say people are buying more of of these dogs?

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  11. A link to the English page of the Norwegian Kennel Club:
    http://web2.nkk.no/en/news/news/Focus+on+brachycephalic+breeds.b7C_wlHMWm.ips

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