This year has seen a significant change for Crufts and the Kennel Club. In 2008 a TV show “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” was shown on BBC One, which exposed the health and welfare problems faced by pedigree dogs in the UK. More astonishingly, it revealed that unhealthy dogs were being presented with prizes for Best of Breed, Best of Group and even Best In Show at Crufts! Experienced and qualified judges were rewarding breeders and owners of unhealthy, suffering dogs and Crufts was parading these dogs around while trying to vouch that they were “for dogs”. This year, Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On was broadcast reviewing what has changed since the exposure.
The new Kennel Club & Crufts
A number of changes have been made by the Kennel Club over the last three years and this year particularly at Crufts we can see a substantial change and emphasis on the health and welfare of dogs! I think this is mostly the action of the new Chairman of the Kennel Club, Professor Steve Dean who was elected in June 2011.
So what has changed?
- Jan 2009 – Kennel Club Breed Standards were revised and a new set was published with veterinary influence. Breed Standards are guidelines set by the Kennel Club as to how breeds should appear and behave. These standards are used when judging dog breeds in shows. The new standards strongly empathise that features should not be over-exaggerated and mention appearances that should NOT appear. However some changes are quite minute and open to interpretation. http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2223
- Jan 2009 – Reviewed the Fit For Function: Fit For Life campaign by introducing a new rule that bans close relative breeding. Genetic problems are sometimes caused by breeding close relatives which narrows gene diversity, but is popularly done to produce strong breed specimens. Any breeders registered with the Kennel Club shall now be unable to breed close relatives. http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2234/23/5/3
- 2012 – Vet Checks for 15 High Profile Breeds: Introduced to Crufts 2012. The big one! The Kennel Club have listed 15 breeds that are considered high profile due to severity of health issues as a result of exaggerated features.
The Best of Breed winner for each of these high profile breeds will have to be checked and approved by an independent vet before the dog is allowed to compete for Best of Group. If the Best of Breed fails the check by the vet then no dog will represent that breed in the Best of Group. The reserve dog will not replace the winner.
This is a bold statement by the Kennel Club that I admire. In my interpretation they are saying “No, we are not shying the failed dog away and bringing out another. The best of the breed is not healthy, therefore no example of the breed will be represented”. Almost as a punishment to the judge and breeders, and an incentive for them to do better. It also strongly highlights to members of the public that health issues are present and something needs to be done, and is being done.
The 15 High Profile Breeds are: Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Dogue De Bordeaux, Chinese Crested, French Bulldog, German Shepherd Dog, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Pug, Shar Pei, and St Bernard.
Personally I would have like to seen the Cavalier King Charles & Dalmation also on this list, if not more, due to the serious health issues they get due to bad breeding. However it is a start & the vet check is quite limited, therefore possibly unable to identify any internal health issues.
- Crufts on TV – The TV coverage of Crufts this year has already discussed and shown the issue of health and welfare of pedigree dogs and what changes are being made. They are promoting the less exaggerated look of breeds and general health of dogs. This intense coverage can be argued as the Kennel Club trying to regain their reputation and stand up for themselves, but it is also helping to educate the public and display no denial of the problems, only slow solutions.
In total 6 of the 15 high profile Best of Breed winners have failed their vet checks. The Pekingese, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff & Bassett Hound. The Kennel Club have not published the reason for this but judgements can be made based on photos of the dogs. Also today the owner of the Clumber Spaniel that failed has spoken out in an interview with Dogs World and revealed the vets judgement, according to her that is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ubTCBN_l1E&feature=player_embedded
Politics or Genuine?
These 6 dogs failing has resulted in upset, anger and scepticism. Some people feel that perfectly healthy dogs that have been refused in order to make a statement and positive image of the Kennel Club. However looking at each dog from photos you can see evidence of health issues that should not be present in a dog that is to be promoted as best of breed. Also confidence in vets still remains, and the British Vet Association supported Pedigree Dogs Exposed, making it unlikely that a vet would fail a healthy dog.
Will This Help?
Yes, to an extent. The change of breed standards, the ban of close relative mating, the introduction of vet check to high profile breeds and the media publicity will and have started to improve the health of pedigree dogs. It takes a long time to change a breed and change the acceptable, recognised breed standard. However there is clear evidence of Bulldog breeders, for example, already changing the appearance of their dogs within four generations and the education of the problems and awareness has strongly influenced these decisions.
Unfortunately many breeders are refusing and strongly protesting against these changes. The Kennel Club has no law enforcement and can only introduce new guidelines and requests to breeders registered with them. Only in Crufts can they introduce the new rules and vet checks and the reality is that many breeders and people that show dogs will avoid Crufts and continue to enter, and possibly win prizes, at other dog shows. Even the breeders who are working actively to improve the breed and reduce exaggated features still want to keep the distinguished appearance of the breed and I feel like the improvements, although good! will only be slight. It is doubtful that breeds like the Bulldog will ever change back to how they used to be a mere 100 years ago.
However little by little the education and influence will make some change to how we see and treat pedigree dogs, particularly the high profile breeds.
Although I find it disgusting that it took the broadcast of Pedigree Dogs Exposed for the Kennel Club to realise and react to the problem, I applaud them for the work they have done so far to tackle the issue. Let’s see the improvement of pedigree dog health!
For more information regarding Pedigree Dogs, changes being made and updates I strongly recommend that you view and follow Pedigree Dogs Exposed – The Blog, the beginning and reason behind the fix.
All views and opinions expressed in this post are solely the authors and in no way represent view, opinions and statements of the Kennel Club, British Vets Association and/or any other dog owners, breeders, judges or anyone else involved in dogs.