Saturday, 21 April 2012

CA: Luddites not crusaders

Following a marathon meeting of the Canine Alliance's steering committe this week (11am - 7.30pm apparently), the new organisation issued a press release yesterday saying:
"...the main concern which members feel the Alliance should be addressing is the issue of 'puppy farming' and how puppies so produced continue to tarnish the whole profile of pedigree dogs.'
It is astonishing how concerned show breeders become about puppy farms when they feel their hobby is under threat - and yet how few can stretch to making any real effort when it comes to actions beyond keyboard ranting. A conference on puppy farming planned for last month had to be cancelled in part because only 20 or so people had actually signed up to attend it.

Anyway, the Canine Alliance's proposed solution?

"The committee felt that this was a problem that the Kennel Club should be addressing at source and resolved that it would recommend that the KC should only accept for registration puppies that have been produced from parents that have undergone – and passed - a universal basic veterinary examination once they have reached one year of age. This test would not be in any way breed-specific, but would ensure that the dog is fundamentally fit and healthy."

Of course it "ensures" no such thing and the idea is full of holes.  Many conditions don't manifest until dogs are older than one; certificates would be incredibly easy to fake; checking them impossible given the sheer number of dogs the KC registers - and, frankly, not worth the effort given how little proof they would be of a dog's real fitness to breed.

Basic veterinary exams are just that - basic, and valid only for the day they're done (as indeed, many breeders' sales contracts make very clear when they're selling their vet-checked puppies).

And what's with the vet-check being "in no way breed-specific"?  Doubtless the CA fretting about "canine discrimination", as if Pugs would mind if specific attention was paid to their ability to breathe.

The Canine Alliance seems to have forgotten that it was set up in the wake of vet checks at shows to check their dogs, not puppy farmers', and because it is their dogs, not puppy farmers', that have been found to be suffering because of exaggerations and deterimental breeding practices.

The old diversionary tactic of blaming puppy farmers simply won't wash. Sure, puppy farming is an issue -a huge issue. Sure there are phenotypical and genetic problems in puppy-farmed dogs, too.

But it's not what we're talking about here, is it?

I suspect the proposal was cobbled together in the knowledge that the KC will stick to its guns re providing a register for dogs regardless of their provenance (ergo no point in asking the KC to stop registering puppy farmed dogs). It sounds like the CA has also accepted that the KC won't make registration of all KC dogs conditional on passing the health-checks currently only demanded of ABS breeders.

A pity. Because one could take the CA much more seriously if it threw its weight behind that call.

Meanwhile, the CA's Andrew Brace takes a bizarre turn in a paranoia-fueled article he's written for the April 6 issue of US magazine Dog News in which he reveals his Saul-Paul moment at this year's Crufts.  And, according to Brace, it's vets and animal welfare campaigners who are eugenicists, not dog breeders.

"This year at Crufts show, as the well documented DQ dramas unfolded, I had a Damascus moment," writes Brace. "The reality of what was actually happening around me hit me like a thunderbolt... dark forces were at work trying to destroy the world I hold dear and for which I have limitless passion. it was time to smell the coffee and acknowledge what was going on.

"There are individuals who see the very concept of breeding and showing purebred dogs as unacceptable because of principles that we find hard to understand. They have a message and a goal, and long-term their idea of Utopia is seeing every domestic animal struggling to exist in the wild with no human intervention. For 'Utopia' read 'Choas'.

"Through subtle means, people who hold very extreme views where the canine species is concerned preach their gospel and, with the efficiency of a dripping tap, eventually manage to permeate so many important areas of our lives none more so than the veterinary profession."

"It is a fact of life that the traditional stockman veterinarian who also fostered the interests of small animals, listening to the advice offered by long-established dog breeders before coming to a meaningful conclusion, no longer exists... well not in any numbers, that's for sure.  Instead we see a steady flow of fresher vets who leave school convinced that all purebred dogs are genetic time bombs rather than living breathing individuals that may, or mau not, hve some form of imperfection. The concept of eugenics has been used to discredit the sport; in my opinion nowhere is it practised more blatantly than in the veterinary and welfare cricles where is it advocated that certain breeds should become extinct because of "physical exaggeration".

"As the realisation dawned on me at our National Exhbition Centre, I felt a sense of acute frustration that my world was actually now being destroyed from within. These were not campaigning outsiders waving banners and inciting the public to hate us for what they thought we were doing to our purebreds. This was actually our own governing body that had succumbed to public opinion and political correctness, being led by a chairman who - in the opinion of many - was demonstrating far more loyalty to his former profession than he was to the members he claimed to represent....

"There is little acknowledgement of the fact that extremists do not meet people half way - its not in their nature. Well-meaning advocates of political correctness may see trying to appease the enemy as a smart move. It isn't. It simply shows weakness, and if you give them an inch they will not rest until they get the full mile.

"For too long the world of purebred dogs has been influenced by smoke and mirrors. It is now time to wake up, smell the coffee and stand firm... before it is too late and we have no sport to fight for.

"Enough is enough."
Boy oh boy...

It's hard to know where to start with this level of misplaced indignation.

But I'll have a go.

Mr Brace, there is a threat to your hobby - and dog breeding generally - from animal rights extremists, but that threat is mainly in the US. For now.

Sure, there are a few ARs among the UK animal welfare lobbyists and probably even in the veterinary profession - but none in the Kennnel Club. To accuse Chairman Steve Dean of batting for the "dark forces" is... well, stupid.

Additionally, Mr Brace, and although you don't seem to be aware of it  - there are many animal welfarists (and that includes me) who are passionate about purebred dogs and will fight tooth and nail alongside breeders to stop the extremists getting a grip here in the UK.  That does not mean, however, keeping our mouths shut when there is a problem.

This is one reason why I didn't disappear with the closing credits of Pedigree Dogs Exposed. I could see the risk and wanted to stick around to fend off the nut jobs.

None of us wants an end to dog breeding or dog breeds. We just want an end to the unacceptable physical burdens sometimes placed on them in pursuit of ribbons.

We don't want an end to dog shows. We just want them to find a way to truly reward good health.

And we don't feel that the problem with the way show dogs are bred is good enough reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.

But it will be if you don't wake up and smell the coffee and realise that the dog world must embrace reform with genuine gusto - or it will perish.

And so the biggest threat, Mr Brace, comes from your continued denial that there is a case to answer; in continuing to lay the problem at the doors of others. 

The Kennel Club has now, mostly, woken up to this and there is a much more considered article (well, apart from the increasingly-tiresome accusation that I am an anti-purebred dog extremist) by Ronnie Irving in the same issue of Dogs News . In it, Ronnie explains that it was the threat of the European Convention that prompted the KC to be more proactive re the health of certain breeds. He then goes on to make the point that it isn't animal rights activitists driving the reforms; it is often legitimate concerns from the veterinary profession, welfare bodies, campaigners and the public. The Kennel Club, he insists, is acting to safeguard dog showing and breeding. 

I am sure that the KC has sympathy with dog breeders reeling from the shock of the vet checks and the many changes introduced. I do too. But, equally, I believe the way the CA is at the moment is seen as an embarrassment by the Kennel Club.

Worse, it is letting down dogs and those breeders who have seen the light.

What's really needed if show breeders want us all to be proud of their "sport" (as they call it) is a lobby that:

• recognises the problems
• is commited to reform
• doesn't attempt to divert attention to other welfare concerns
• acknowledges that dog shows need to evolve
• wants to make British dogs not just the most beautiful but the healthiest and fittest in the world.


• recognises that is not possible without treading on quite a few toes.

That would be a force to be reckoned with.

Now I am sure Brace + Co see themselves as canine crusaders. But they're not. They're canine Luddites.

You can write and tell them that, if you like:

Download link to yesterday's press release from the CA  here.


  1. Hi Jemima why don't you go and meet the Canine Alliance and see if you can re direct them and get them on track?

  2. Appassionata! Bravo!

  3. Interesting if you look on the KC Health Checker for the dogs shown and owned by Gadsby, Spavin etc, very few have any health check recorded if any, inded the two named people dont have any, check for yourself.

    1. To clarify, the KC database only shows results for KC/BVA schemes, eye - elbow - hip and these are not a requirement for all breeds. Other breed specific tests (BAER, Doppler, Kidney function etc) are NOT recorded on the database but that doesn't mean they are not done.

    2. BAER Test are recorded on the KC Site

    3. Anonymous 04:46 am

      Whereabouts on the KC website are BAER results recorded? Certainly not on the health check pages, and as far as I know, nowhere.

    4. Dialynne Maximus 303 puppies from 58 litters have been registered with this dog as the sire caring breeder......or a quick buck?

  4. I have a total of 5 tests done on all my breeding dogs but according to KC database I only have 1! The KC only list results for schemes they run with the BVA and are required for a particular breed. Many of us actually wait to do any testing UNTIL a dog is mature enough to be suitable for breeding conformation wise, my dogs don't get hipscored before 3 yrs old.


  5. Well said, Jemima!

  6. Mr Brace, there is a threat to your hobby - and dog breeding generally - from animal rights extremists, but that threat is mainly in the US. For now.

    Sure, there are a few ARs among the UK animal welfare lobbyists and probably even in the veterinary profession - but none in the Kennnel Club. To accuse Chairman Steve Dean of batting for the "dark forces" is... well, stupid.

    Additionally, Mr Brace, and although you don't seem to be aware of it - there are many animal welfarists (and that includes me) who are passionate about purebred dogs and will fight tooth and nail alongside breeders to stop the extremists getting a grip here in the UK.

    says the blogger..

    LOL.. I had to check the date to make sure it was not April 1st...the animal right movement BEGAN in the UK.. you are the one who needs to 'get a grip" and do a little self introspection if you think you do not support the ARA's. The rest of us are fully aware which side your bread is buttered on. The truth may be "tiresome" to you but that does no make it any less the truth.

  7. • acknowledges that dog shows need to evolve

    says the blogger.. really?? Like this?

    "The world will still turn on its axis if there are no more dog shows"

    Dr Skipper.. Crufts assigned veterinarian

    1. ""The world will still turn on its axis if there are no more dog shows""

      This comment does not actually indicate an objection to the existence of dog shows, just that they are not really that important.

    2. you mean like... "The world will still turn on it axis if there is no more PDE".. got to agree with you there..

    3. there are many animal welfarists (and that includes me) who are passionate about purebred dogs .."
      what is an "animal welfarist"? and if you are 'passionate about purebred dogs" then why do you only own one in the midst of the others in your household?
      I think what you are passionate about is control and criticism..because it makes for "good press" for your business.

  8. Anonymous 09.08 I don't see that can hold JH responsible for the opinions of others - thank God. I believe she said of the Alliance - 'acknowledges that dog shows need to evolve, and Dr Skipper made the statement you quoted. Your point?? Though talking of points Dr Skipper has a valid one that can hardly be disputed.

    The Canine Alliance are so obviously trying to protect their own self interests. It is a shame, they could be a force for good, but clearly not with such immature approaches and ridiculous worthless concepts. It is as transparent as glass. BTW I am sure vets are surely plotting with ARA to turn out all domestic animals into the wild and thus put themselves out of business.

    Frankly Brace comes across as a total nut job..dark forces...Damascus.. JH had it right when she said 'Boy oh Boy'

  9. Jemima, while the task at hand for you isn't necessarily difficult - with regard to addressing Brace's drivel - it certainly is tedious.

    Like trying to evaluate a grade school student's report on the parallels to reality of a Rowling's novel.

  10. 'Boy oh boy' is correct. If any organization needs a publicist it's the CA. How to erode any credibility, especially when you have so little to begin with, by using phrases like 'dark forces were at work trying to destroy the world' and '..our breeds' and other such juvenile and self centered frill.

  11. were have you been for nearly over a month i had hoped you and your band of PETA freaks had dropped off the face of the earth, pity

  12. ,
    I was reading an article by J Bragg. Population Genetics In Practice ( Its On The net and it occurred to me that the crux of the problem is that breeders are competing with each other rather than co operation for the good of the breed. To reverse the genetic decline of breeds and increase diversity to healthy levels will require the cooperation of a large number of breeders. Showing, racing, or any other activity that brings out peoples competitive instinct will work against such co operation Went to many working terrier shows in the 90s and noticed that as the working terrier show thing got bigger some people started breeding dogs towards them instead of working ability. Human nature I guess.Now working terriers is banned. I suppose there will be a drift to strange conformations like most of the KC breeds have .Ps I am NOT an AR , couple of clues above.

  13. The main thing to concentrate upon is the need to reverse the breeding of exaggerations which cause pain and discomfort and the KC have made a start in this direction. So for heavens sake don't be tempted to indulge in petty debate which distracts from the main aim. At the same time action needs to be affordable and expedient and therefore relatively simple procedures not elaborate ones need to be installed. mAlso lets not be distarcted by other issues such as "puppy farming".

  14. Agree with above.. I do show my dogs but I'm sure we have all seen the wrong 'type' being placed over face. It judging was transparent and open, maybe the critique had to justify placing but including why a fault was overlooked. This is what used to happen when doing the initial seminar to become a judge, you had to justify your line up. That may be time consuming but a lot cheaper than having to have a number of vets checking standards.

  15. Crufts Dog showing has achieved what it has intended to do in the first place. That is, to provide a spring board to prospective show dog's line and sell for a premium price based on CH titles. However, it has been hi jacked by unscrupulous breeders and judges. Nobody police them so now they are so big and influential that if they could only silence Jemima Harrison, they will do. They've been exposed and believed that what they do are the gold standard for the breed.

  16. • wants to make British dogs not just the most beautiful but the healthiest and fittest in the world.

    Breeding dogs based on their physical 'beauty' the problem.Breeding dogs to satisfy your own pride is wrong.How did national British pride slip in there?Did the beautiful,healthy and fittest non-British dogs get your memo?

    Impress the dog the showline studbooks to ,once again,include racing greyhounds.That would be a step in the right direction for any animal welfare activist.Where's your national pride for them?Nowhere to be seen.

    There is a movement happening in the British dog breeding world that could benefit every breed on every studbook in the world.Let's not screw up what great good should come of it by flapping off nationalistic propaganda that the dogs don't give a hoot about and never got a choice to begin with.Dogs know neither what breed they are....nor what country or studbook they originate from.That has always been left to breeders choice and far too often breeders made the wrong choices.

    Being British,in and of itself,will not make dogs the most beautiful,healthiest and fit.Keeping out those that can breed beautiful,healthy and fit dogs will.Made in Britain,stamped on a dog, is going to be a measure of soundness?Good luck with that.Many breeds are held to the types of standards that this revolution doesn't make the 'average' specimens of their breed better.The average dog,bred to their breed standard,is what the general public owns when they venture into the registered purebred dog world.What the public gets from the studbooks is a long way from a beautiful,healthy and fit dog.Now they have to worry about it's nationality....rubbish in,rubbish out.