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Report On Pedigree Dog Health Standards To Be Released

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From BBC News

A report recommending new standards of pedigree dog health, following concerns about problems caused by breeding for shows, is to be released later.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust funded an independent inquiry after concerns highlighted in a BBC documentary.
In 2008, the RSPCA pulled out of Crufts saying breeding to exaggerate certain features, such as bulldogs’ jowls, had led to painful deformities.

The Kennel Club introduced new standards for 209 breeds last year.

The report’s findings will be announced by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, a Cambridge University professor and president of the Zoological Society of London.

‘Bred for looks’

The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, changed its guidelines defining which features dogs should have in order to be classed as pedigree in January 2009.

It said standards had been revised to exclude “anything that could in any way be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog breathing, walking and seeing freely”.

In August 2008, the Kennel Club was featured in a BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which looked at health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs.

It said physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards, such as short faces and dwarfism, led to inherent health problems and claimed many dogs suffered because owners bred them for looks.

The programme also identified the Rhodesian ridgeback and cavalier spaniel as having serious congenital issues.
It showed spaniels with brains too big for their skulls and boxer dogs that suffered from epilepsy.

Following its airing, the BBC pulled out of broadcasting Crufts in 2009.

The Kennel Club lodged a complaint about the programme with Ofcom, accusing the documentary of bias.
It said the programme was unfairly edited and did not properly reflect its “deep commitment to the health and welfare of dogs”.

The media regulator ruled the programme was not unfairly edited, but criticised some elements of the show and said the club had not been given “a proper opportunity” to respond to the allegations.

Changes introduced by the Kennel Club at the start of last year said bulldogs had to be leaner and would no longer be encouraged to have heavy jowls and deep, overhanging wrinkles.

Other breeds whose standards were altered included German shepherds, whose forelegs should not be weak and overlong because they would “affect a dog’s working ability”, and chow chows which “must not have so much coat as to impede activity or cause distress in hot weather”.

‘Urgent action’

Judges at licensed dog shows were instructed to choose only the healthiest dogs as champions. At Crufts it was ruled animals that showed signs of ill-health should be expelled.

At the time, RSPCA chief veterinary adviser Mark Evans said the ban on incestuous breeding was “brilliant news,” but the changes “didn’t appear to be radical enough to really make a difference”.

In November, an all-party parliamentary group report found many pedigree dogs suffered from serious health and welfare problems and recommended good breeding practices such as health screening and restrictions on the breeding of closely-related dogs.

It advised no dog be given champion status at a show unless it had been cleared for all potential diseases associated with that breed.

In February 2009, the RSPCA called for urgent action to safeguard the welfare and future of pedigree dogs as the result of an independent report into their well-being.

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