Friday, 15 May 2015

Jem's Big Ideas # 1: kiss goodbye to the KC register

Today, I start a series of Jem's Big Ideas: constructive suggestions that I feel have potential to improve dog health/ownership in the UK. They are intended for discussion and debate.

We can call it solutions-based-thinking if you want a fancy name for it. Makes it sound more important, don't you think? 

Indeed, I would be happy to spend half an hour talking about solutions-based-thinking at your organisation's annual conference. (I was top of the class in this module at college and my tutor said I was bwilliant). I can do a power-point presentation incorporating some fancy-sounding but ultimately-meaninglessly-titled slides. I can dress up some no-shit-Sherlock common sense as something new and meaningful. And then everyone can go home feeling much better about the whole thing.

You know where to find me!

Or you could just read the whole thang below with a whole lot less waffle and at a cost to your time of about two minutes. If you can spare another two minutes, please  tell me if you think it's a good or a bad idea and why. And if you think it's a half-good idea, tell me how you would improve it.


Get rid of the Kennel Club register.  Yep, scrap the very thing that brings in £12 million pounds a year into the KC coffers... that funds a whole heap of KC activities, genetic research, education and so on.

That KC-registration certificate? Gone..... That KC-pedigree for every dog the KC registers currently? Asta la vista, baby.

The reason?

• because the KC register has a massive integrity issue

• because there's a better way

Of course I don't mean that we forget about registering dogs. We definitely need a Register.  Indeed, we need to register *more* dogs - and in one place.

Just not under the KC banner.

And here's why.

When Kennel Clubs are confronted by those who feel they should be doing more to protect the health of purebred dogs, the response is often: "But we're just a registry!"

This has been a real sticking point for those who want KC registration to mean more.  They believe that if breeders had to jump through more health-hoops before the KC would register their pups, we'd have healthier dogs and it would set an example that would put the crap breeders out of business.

I argued this myself in Pedigree Dogs Exposed. And there are many other voices - including from within the Fancy - who would like to see their breeds subject to more stringent health-demands as a condition of registration.  But now I'm not so sure.

The Kennel Club here in the UK has resisted this at every turn, anyway. The KC's argument is that that breeders and puppy-buyers would simply go elsewhere and that once lost to any KC influence, things would simply get worse.  Indeed there is some evidence of this in the existence of rival registries which vary in quality from fantastic (individual breed registries) to total scam.

The response from the critics is that what the KC fears most is the loss of registration money which it relies on to survive. 

And the response to that from the KC is that this money allows it to do good things for dogs.

So pups continue to be sold with a KC certificate that in reality means nothing (as indeed the KC's small print now states quite clearly). Some pups will be OK; some won't; some will have been raised by breeders who care; some will have been born in horrific conditions on a puppy-farm.  It can be very hard to tell the difference.

The KC's half-way-house solution has been the Assured Breeder Scheme. The KC now urges people to buy their dogs through the ABS to avoid the risk of buying a puppy-farmed dog, something that has really pissed off breeders who eschew the scheme because they don't think it's good enough. 

So it's a stalemate... with many people thinking it is close to fraudulent that the KC (and indeed the AKC in the US and many others) will register just about anything with a pulse when the public is convinced that KC papers are an indication of quality.  (The KC's general register even includes puppies produced by breeders that have been chucked off the ABS for major welfare concerns.)

I've been thinking about this a lot recently - because we really do need a register of dogs for all kinds of compelling reasons. And, ideally, it needs to be a register that includes as many dogs as possible.

So here's my idea:

The Kennel Club makes the Register a separate entity and gives it a new and neutral name -  devoid of KC-branding and therefore devoid of any implicit value. It becomes simply a record of a dog's birth and ancestry - in exactly the same way as we have human ancestry records.

My suggestions:

Liberated from the KC badging and all the baggage that comes with it (while still copping the income from it), the door is then open to register many more dogs than currently - including crossbreeds/mixed breeds. 

This would  knock-out the competition in the UK - because would become THE place to register every dog and the sheer volume would bring down the cost of registration). And it has the clear potential to build into an international resource that eventually mines data from every other register in the world. 

Can you imagine how incredible this would be - in years to come to be able to follow your dog's ancestry back through the generations, regardless of breed or country boundaries? Wouldn't you be happy to pay something for that, in the same way that families love to research their own antecedents?

And, of course, it goes without saying that it would be an amazing resource for breeders, geneticists and other researchers.

It could also include lots more information (and pictures) of individual dogs; not just when they were born or their pedigree, but their health, their temperaments, something about their lives, when they died. This information that could be inputted by owners who would be given a log-in code that allows them access and add to an individual dog's records when the dog is registered; or even (with an owner's permission) link to the VetCompass data already being gathered in the UK. 

At the vets in 2030: "Aha, Jemima... I can see that Jake's grandparents on both sides of his family suffered from Cushing's Disease.. making it all the more likely that the excessive thirst and bald patches on Jake's tummy are due to Cushing's".

What happens to the KC? Nothing. This is just a re-branding  - and of course a commercial expansion that should boost income considerably and allow the KC to spend more money to support its claim that it is now primarily a "dog welfare" organisation.

So the KC continues to do everything it does at the moment; free of the criticism that it affords KC-registration to sub-standard dogs.  And it continues to develop the ABS which becomes more like Debretts for elite dogs - a bit anachronistic in this day and age, but something which should appeal to the Fancy.

Of course, this doesn't solve the solution of sub-standard dogs being sold to a gullible public - you need more than one Big Idea for that. But it does resolve one big current problem,  is a massive boost to dog traceability and has the potential to give us some great epidemiological data/dog demographics - something that all agree is needed.

And the reason I would trust the KC to do this when I'm their greatest critic? Because it is already set-up to do it and because I believe that when the KC's master is not just the purebred dog, but all dogs, everyone - and every dog - will benefit.

Let me know what you think...


* Those domain names? Mine... all mine...


  1. Like most genius, simples!, get going!

  2. The best URL is already taken by a VDT: :)

  3. How would you register mixed breeds? I can see how it would work for known crosses from breeders who keep records, but would you antipicate registering puppies where only the bitch is known, or where the parents are known but are of unknown ancestry?

    1. All dogs - with as much pedigree info as is possible. If that means only parents, or even just one parent, so be it. If the parents are of unknown ancestry, the suspected breed/cross/mix is listed.

      If, say, a Wisdom Panel test is done on the pup later, the info could be added.

    2. A link with BVA may be good, a recognised and respected authority, some way of puppies only registered after a year when any health problems start to appear, possibly later for smaller breeds. An area on the registration form which assures the new owner that there would be redress if a problem arose with reasonable expectations (to be defined) "signed off" by the BVA and KC. I think the KC should be used but they must accept the huge sums of money received for "nothing but a cheap piece of paper in reality" would have to be shared to implement the scheme. The breeders would be less vulnerable to litigation and THE PUPPIES PRODUCED MUCH HEALTHIER WITH BETTER LIFE QUALITY, hopefully. Obvious breeds would be the first challenge and if the breed clubs were to be made to participate (but preferably voluntarily) the dogs would benefit hugely. The scheme would need huge goodwill from BVA/Breeders/KC but if the KC refused to participate they leave the way wide open for a JH registry of ALL and ANY dogs to ensure that future generations of dogs are healthier and new owners reassured that the best interest of the dogs is the true ethos of the "JH Organisation". The KC have led themselves up a blind alley, the BIS this year and the handling were dreadful to witness and they refused to withdraw the award, even people I know who are dogless, never had a dog, but watched the programme and were horrified. Definitely 2015 is a year of change, from Gvt to KC one has recognised it and it's now over to the KC to join the New World.

  4. To: All Stakeholders.
    From: Director of Very Deep Thinking.
    Subject: Leveraging Kennel Club Heuristics Going Forward.

    Going forward, all stakeholders will be tasked to proactively think outside the box and produce a synergistic vision for leveraging Kennel Club heuristics. Our organizing principle is that all parties are implicated in the low quality of both performance and health-based metrics, and so no hierarchy of change players need be established and, in fact, it is important that it not be established in order to maximum the buy-in for minimal change.

    This is a ground-breaking chance to get behind this concept 120% and to idea-shower strategies for leveraging our Very Deep Think. We want to incentivize dynamic solutions in order to evolve a set of win-win deliverables to add value to this high-value debate over putative canine imperfections.

    We need to recognize that some will continue to engage in "blame game" framing, which is why we need to be proactive and self-actualizing in order to pick the low-hanging fruit and have values-based deliverables based on disappearing baseline metrics which we will operationalize in such a way as to show progress based on non-linear motion..

    I trust we stand united behind this values-based approach that recognizes that a demonstrated core in-competency in buying, training, working, and breeding dogs is a prerequisite for leadership at this critical time, and that science-based thinking will likely lead to an endgame which might produce detrimental results that will supercycle us into change which would be anathema to the economic and political empowerment of the stakeholder collective.

  5. In itself this does little for the health of dogs. You need to subdivide the registry so you only get a full entry if both parents are known, and have both had all relevant health checks, and the parents are not closely related. If you can't fulfil these conditions then you only get an associate registration rather than a full one. Make full registration cheaper than associate registration to convince breeders to do the right thing.



  6. Hmmm still thinking.

    I can perhaps see how this idea might appeal to the registries of working and landrace type breeds already outside the KC, AKC, AKCS, KCB and etc. Complete pictorial international online and physical data basis are enormously time consuming and expensive to operate...

    Centres of excellence, best practises, so much more you could have done to convince me of Burns's low hanging fruit, though....erm that might take quite a load of convincing.


    1. there are already registries for working dogs and herding dogs in the USA. There are also pedigree data bases with photos of almost all of the ancestors and places where you can add whatever testing breeding info, siblings etc.. pretty easy to find and free for the most part.. or minimal fees. you can add your own dogs easily. rather than try to remake the KC why not do your own registry? think of all of the money you could make.. and if you didn't at least you would be doing it for the "good of the dogs". Who cares about profit.. it is nasty and should be shunned whenever it comes to dogs.. right?

    2. Yes there are and across the world. The better ones charge or rather are freely available to paying members of associations/clubs whatever. Anyone can be a paying member dog owner or not. The associations need the cash to help improve breeds, fund research, organise events, seminars, performance testing, appraisals, news letters, results whatever. Litter registration income only goes a certain distance etc.

      I bet though many would gladly hand over the task and data base to an indisputable authority for a big hefty price, even though a dog would only enter the stud books as such after a physical performance test etc. The KC in this hypothesis would have to run seperate registries and open stud books for these associations.....breeders often find registration fees costly so if it would actualy work out any cheaper for owners is a question.

  7. I think most people not blinded by bigotry realize something like this is the way to go. Unfortunately, the breed clubs will not allow anything like this to be implemented. The KC would be threatened with a withdrawal of fees as "" get's set up by concerned parties "concerned with all dogs" in much the same way the canine alliance was set up, initially for "all dogs" but the "all dogs" part that didn't last long.

    1. why would the KC care/ Peopel have a choice. let Jemima do her registry I think the KC will still be in business for sometime..but it is called competition..

  8. Frankly, I may be stupid, but I do not see the point. Landrace and other types of dogs have existed for thousands of years without a registry.

    1. Yes, Dorothea, they have. I think the point that Jemima is wanting to make is that since we DO have registries, they should cut the crap and just be what they claim to be in the first instance.

    2. Yes they have/did but registries are a good thing for so many reasons but primarily today so we can make sure we aren't breeding inbred crippled messes.

      Its all very well breeding for performance but you can still end up with an inbred mess?

  9. A central clearing house for information that buyers and breeders (researching potential crosses) can browse is a good thing.

    Any tier system for registration will likely lead to a genetic bottleneck (heath checked dogs will only be crossed with health checked dogs eliminating those genes in dogs owned by breeders who do not value health checks).

    FYI: Profit on registration fees has been one of the biggest funding sources for research to locate genes responsible for mutations (and ultimately genetic tests) in many breeds.

    A central clearing house for DNA samples, phenotype information on each dog, and owner contact information would greatly facilitate genetic research.

  10. The stumbling block of all alternative registries is the 'mutual agreement' system with the registries in other countries. If you want to export a dog, the kennel club in the destination country will only accept its pedigree if it is registered with the Kennel Club. It is, in effect, a monopoly, because if you don't register a dog, you cannot easily register anything descended from it. The only alternative registry that is currently viable is the ISDS, and only because the KC will register Border Collies registered on it. In terms of international registries, some breeds thanks to admirable work by people who support them, do have extensive databases furnished with pedigree information from the national registries and also including disease occurrence and health test results far better than anything the KC can offer. And yes, registries are important, because permanent records allows things like inbreeding and disease occurrence to be monitored.

    1. Yes it helps if a breed association has a country base and chapters across the world with an international data base and registration, appraisal, performance testing,open stud book system etc already in place.

      But why would they turn to the KC, or any national or international all dog club? The only reason would be to lower costs of course and make make things easier at the same time.

      Someone was saying international data bases online and physical are not time consuming or costly but I'm afraid to say they are. You need to employ an IT specialist you need to keep records both online and off line you need offices. Its vital it's accurate and not some Wikidata-base affair.

      I think the KC for example is set up for such, if they could lower the costs involved and wanted to go global it might be attractive I'm sure.

      The idea that the KC and its pedigree papers equals health, quality etc should be once and for all put to bed forever.

  11. On the face of it sounds like a great idea. The purpose is afterall to aid and ensure the future of dogs - as a whole. Once this is up and running and the creases ironed out, we need to once and for all sort out the breed specs. There's a reason they are so vague. Then is the more difficult - the education. There is still the assumption that pedigree means quality and guarantee, why not use heritage instead. There are so many good breeders out there and too many of the bad. Yes puppy factories, back yard breeders and then those that just do it because they can, not because they should. In this day and age, I still talk to people who are buying or have bought and took no research in the breed, let alone breeder. It's a big issue, but if we don't start somewhere, we only have ourselves to blame.

  12. Interesting idea. But IMO it would be better if the KC, AKC, ANKC, etc. would all follow the example of the Finns and keep a registry that records health facts, including age and cause of death and test results . . . and displayed the results in a transparent manner.
    I disagree that keeping a database is an extremely expensive matter. Loads of small businesses keep extensive databases on their customers. The software for database management has gotten much easier to work with and there are a lot of people who know how to use the software. My experience with kennel clubs is that they are wedded to their old ways of doing things, and digital methods don't come easy.

    Note, international coordination is important. You cannot do meaningful COI calculations if all imports are assumed to be total outcrosses (as the UK system does).

  13. I think this is a great idea, a global registery would be amazing for the future of dog health and breeding. I don't really see the KC driving this though, how would you get them to not just try this, but be energised enough to push this on a global scale?

  14. Then there is the sad issue of dog showing and how dogs are bred to standards to win these dog shows and which dogs win under the KC.

    While a rebranded KC registry will be nothing more than a registry, its other unbranded division would be happily organising freak shows for in-bred dogs that can't breath etc. I don't think this would sit so well with many who are already objecting.

    The KC rebranded registry would have to be a completely different company, sold off to the highest bidder. Its the only way the association with the "old" KC can be obliterated decently enough to be appealing enough.

    So a sell off of a rebranded KC registry? Not a bad idea. What will be left is Crufts with the surrounding dog show circuit licensing under the KC? While it won't solve the problem for dogs it will solve some problems for some people.

    1. I meant of course "its 'remaining KC branded' division would still be happily organising freak shows for in bred dogs...."

      All be they not too closely inbred according to the new KC rules, they might still have suffocating stenotic nares and be tripping over their own eyelids, though.

      Im thinking it might be quite important to have a single large org like the KC championing the health and welfare of dogs using it's registration authority and show licensing to push through or leverage welfare reforms in how dogs are bred across the board.

      The tricky bit is getting them to be that organisation, to modernise and face the challenge head on and to stop being afraid they will lose out as a consequence. As far as I can see it the momentum and balance is such that there is more to gain by doing so than there is to gain by not doing so.

      So what if they lose the French Bulldog Club of England they might gain many more and Im sure the Belgian French Bulldog Club for one example would happily represent the breed at Crufts instead.

      Taken from the BFBC standard:

      Neus: breed, zeer kort, wipneus, goed geopende en symmetrisch geplaatste neusgaten, schuin naar achter liggend. De schuine stand van de neusgaten evenals de wipneus moet echter altijd de normale neusademhaling mogelijk maken......

      Nose: broad, short, upturned, well opened and symmetrically placed nostrils, tipping backwards. The degree of the slopping of the nostrils and the nose must never impede normal breathing.

      Sigh. Of relief Im sure.

      Yesterday I saw a French bulldogs with the shortest back I've ever seen it was also missing a tail. The poor animal looked like a crab only it couldn't walk quite as well as one. It had a hole instead of a tail. It could breathe at least as its nares were open and its nose was of a decent length, that was something. Looked American and probably was as it was "cream", a show reject, nose too long?

    2. Ooops don't look at the BFBC gallery and results it seems their dogs haven't yet reached the required in progress?

  15. A rose by any other still a rose!

  16. Here in the U.S.A certain breeds have health/genetic testing required before the dog can be registered. Even more intense testing is required before breeding. So let's say you are putting a Australian Shepherd dog out to stud... you need $2000 worth of testing so the litter/pups can be registered.

    Contrary to thought in the UK KC... this has not turned breeders away, but rather, has strengthened breeds, ensuring that healthy animals reach the ring.... and dog shows are a booming business here 😊

    1. I do not think you are right here, Stephanie - at least if you're talking about AKC registration. Unless you're signed up to the AKC's new H.E.A.R.T breeder scheme (soft-launched recently with very little fanfare), I believe the AKC will register anything with a pulse as long as its parents are registered. (And actually they don't check for a pulse either...)

    2. Oooops there goes my tall mocha skinny expresso latte all over my desk.... (: