Friday 19 November 2010

Launch of new Dog Advisory Council

Sheila Crispin, with her two collies in Cumbria
Today marks the official launch of the new Dog Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues in Dog Breeding.

The launch of the Council follows Pedigree Dogs Exposed two years ago and the three major reports that followed it (RSPCA, APGAW and the Bateson Report) - all of which stressed the need for an independent body.

I've been anxious about the make-up of the Council, not least because its Chair, Professor Sheila Crispin, is an honorary member of the Kennel Club and did not feel it necessary to resign her membership of the KC's own Dog Health Group following her appointment. I also felt when I interviewed Sheila for Dogs Today recently (entire interview online here) that she cut the KC too much slack and was far too focused on puppy farms - an important issue, of course, but not if it's going to let mainstream pedigree dog-breeding off the hook.   But there are some very good names here, including:

•  Dr Clare Rusbridge, who appeared in PDE speaking out strongly about syringomyelia in cavaliers. A passionate, dedicated vet who was brave enough to speak out when others in her profession zipped their lips, Clare is wonderful with the dogs and their owners in her care, and has stood her ground in the face of considerable opposition - and at times considerable unpleasantness -  from breeders.

• Lisa Collins - the lead scientist of two important recent papers on inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. The first, exploring the link between illness and breed standards, found that each of the top 50 breeds was found to have at least one aspect of its conformation predisposing it to a disorder; and 84 disorders were either directly or indirectly associated with conformation. The second, exploring health issues not related to breed standards, found a total of 312 non-conformation linked inherited disorders in the top 50 breeds.

• Dr David Sargan - co-author of the RSPCA report “Pedigree Dog Breeding in the UK: A major welfare concern?” He is a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge Veterinary School working in comparative genetics and genomics, with special interests in canine inherited disease genetics. He curates the database “Inherited Diseases in Dogs”, a reference tool that catalogues inherited defects in dogs and their underlying genetics.

No response so far from the Kennel Club to the announcement of the Council members - but then the KC did its best to scotch the Council by claiming that its own revamped Dog Health Group was perfectly adequate.

Whether the new Council can really make a difference to dogs remains a big question. The Council is purely advisory, it is short of funding and the KC - and others - are skilled at coming up with excellent-sounding reasons why things can't be done. But it deserves a chance.

Watch this space...


  1. I hope they're going to investigate the way different groups of breeders feed-in to the genetic structure of the wider dog population. At the moment I don't think anyone really knows what's going on.

    We have the show breeders who are driving selective changes via breed standards (and possibly causing accidental problems where a very popular sire is a carrier of something nasty).

    Working dog breeders whose selection is probably mostly fairly good for dogs except that some of the ones sold as pets may have miserable lives because they're too intelligent/active to cope with being left alone and not trained.

    Puppy farms who get their original stock who knows where, probably don't care about inbreeding, and presumably are multiplying up the genes of the original stock.

    Back yard breeders who are just puppy farms writ small.

    Pet owners who just want the occasional litter from a favourite bitch and may come unstuck if they don't know what health tests are important for their particular breed.

    I don't think anybody knows what proportions of all of these sources go to make up the general pet population and how they relate to each other.

  2. These sound like good people. Do you remember that scene in one of the Harry Potter movies where Dumbledor gives Neville Longbottom points for standing up to his friends? Dumbledor gave a speech about sometimes it takes more courage to stand up to your friends....

    I think that's the type of courage that people need when standing up to dog breeders who have been following the wrong path.

    Because to talk about problems in how we do things, means that a person has to have the courage to stand up to social pressure, even when it is our friends who are doing wrong.

    Isn't that the type of courage that parents try to teach their children? Just because your friends start doing drugs, that does mean that you should follow them. We say: "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you be stupid enough to jump too?"

    Just because your friend are breeding unhealthy suffering dogs, doesn't mean that you have to do it that way too.

  3. Considering you are so insistant on health issues and especially cruelty in Dog Breeding I am unable to understand your comment about Professor Crispin being to focused on puppy farmers. If you want to make a real impact on dog breeding I fail to understand why you are so reluctant to do anything about the thousands of puppy farmers who disgrace these shores. Perhaps it is because its easier to target the dog show people, instead of getting off your backside and going out and addressing the real problem. Hundreds of rescues would be more than happy to take you along and see the real issues, what are you scared of?

  4. Mostly people deliberate misconstruing my posts.

    I never said I didn't think puppy farming was an issue. It is. A huge one. But 'fixing' the pedigree dog issue at the top will, I hope, have a big impact on puppy farms, too. My concern has always been that the very people who should be doing the right thing - indeed claim they are - often aren't, either out of tradition or ignorance or, in a few cases, because their priorities are all wrong. Let's encourage, and if necessary insist, that they set such a fantastic example that it drives the puppy farmers out of business.

  5. I totally agree Jemima - those that are supposed to love the breed - and the cross breeds of those breeds, should be ensuring perfect health and perfect temprament.

    Then they - collectively - could join forces to kick the puppy farmers out of business.

    Don't slate someone who is trying to do good - who has stood up to be counted. Jemima - I wish you all the strength in the world - there are so many people behind you and grateful that you have taken the lid off problems within the dog industry. For me - its mostly sheer overbreeding and ultimate needless destruction that breaks my heart but it needs people like yourself to make a difference.

    I hope this council will make a difference to our friends - the dogs - who we are all supposed to love and treat with respect.

  6. I am Really heartbroken with this whole thing .Breeders that are supposed to love there dogs and do the best for them are treating them in this way they can not call themselves dog lovers. How can they love the breed they have chosen when they are not doing the best to keep them healthy and the strain healthy they must have gone into Breeding with there eyes closed and there bank accounts wide open because for this reason and this reason only can i see the need to interbreed the way they do and sell unhealthy puppies and willingly know of the suffering that they cause to the dog at some stage in there short lives. All Breeders should be made to Re Register with inspections on all there dogs it is made far to easy for them to keep on doing what there doing for all the suffering that they have caused they deserve nothing less that prosecution and there dogs taken off them. They can't call themselves DOG LOVERS How can they !!!!!!!!