Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Dogs Trust's comment on the BBC documentary about breeding

The following is a statement from Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust:

It was horrifying to watch last night's Pedigree Dogs Exposed programme on BBC1. I am very aware that the Kennel Club has been making significant efforts in the recent past to persuade breed clubs that they need to make more effort to eradicate genetic disease and carefully control inbreeding. We hope this programme provides them with the impetus and muscle to accelerate their plans.

Dogs Trust is aware that there are many genetic defects in pedigree dogs which cause significant health and welfare problems. We see many afflicted dogs in our Rehoming Centres and deal with the consequences. Not just the physical problems but also the mental anguish. Dogs Trust recognises that the majority of breeders are responsible and prioritise the welfare of their dogs but we believe that the following four steps would help reduce the suffering of some pedigree dogs.

1. Existing legislation needs to be changed to prevent inappropriate breeding practices such as those highlighted in the programme.

2. There needs to be genetic screening of all breeding stock and the assured integrity of such a process.

3. Breed standards need to be reviewed and where necessary revised to ensure they are firmly focused on the health and well being of the dog, not the aesthetics of the breed. Breeders and show judges must adhere to these revised breed standards.

4. When people buy a dog, they need to think about where they are buying it from. Although we always urge people to first consider a rescue dog, if they do want a pedigree, people should buy from a Kennel Club accredited breeder. They must find out the dogs genetic heritage and get a screen test before buying. Let's not pander to uncaring breeders.

We will be working with the Kennel Club and DEFRA on these points, but I urge Dogs Trust supporters who watched the documentary and want to help bring about constructive change to write to Lord Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health at Defra requesting the above steps. Similarly we would welcome our supporters’ suggestions of how the situation can be improved.


Jems said...

I watched this documentary and it was a real shocker. I could not believe this goes on in the breeding world.
I am massive dog lover and I could not believe what pain our canine pals are being put in just because of interbreeding.
Interbreeding should be banned, thats what has been done in Sweden so its time the Kennel Club followed there lead.
If this interbreeding doesnt stop, where gonna loose our canine friends forever and a world without dogs is a lonely world indeed.

Anonymous said...

I CAN NOT believe the Dogs Trust is recommending people buy not only from the very breeders the program was discusing, but also the fact that there are plenty of pedigrees in rescue to choose from up and down the country. I have to say I'm more than a little disapointted in your response.

Maybe instead of trying to keep everyone happy you need to look at what is best of the dogs currently alive in the UK.

Dogs Trust said...

Thank you for your comment. You'll notice that our first point of recommendation for people thinking of getting a dog is to visit a rescue centre where both pedigree and cross breeds are available.

It is a fact that people will continue to buy pedigree dogs rather than rehome a rescue dogs. Although last night’s programme exposed some shocking and unacceptable practices it is worth stressing that 90% of Pedigree dogs are healthy and the majority of accredited breeders do put their dogs’ welfare first. We would prefer potential dog owners to visit accredited breeders where they can see puppies with their mothers and understand a puppy’s genetic history rather than going to a pet shop, back street breeder or worse still a puppy farm.

Please also note that the accredited breeder scheme run by the Kennel Club goes beyond ordinary registration and has the following requirement:

Make use of health screening schemes, relevant to their breed, on all breeding stock. These schemes include DNA testing, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and inherited eye conditions.

nutmeg said...

I think Dogs trust should also focus on promoting ownership of crossbreed dogs, mongrels, "muts", whatever you like to call them. There is far too much blind acceptance of the pedigree dog as the ideal. I am not sure how this can be achieved, but maybe with more specific mention of the merits of crossbreeds in Dogs Trust adverts would be a start. I, for one, advertise their merits every time me and mine go out for a walk! They are beautiful, healthy and UNIQUE! And the gene pool available to create them is huge!!

Anonymous said...

Further to the last comment, people often go for pedigree dogs because they can see puppies with their parents, at a young age, etc. & generally gauge their temperment. I don't think it's all about the look of a breed for everyone. However I do agree that crossbreeds have many merits & rehoming a dog is a great choice of dog ownership.
I really hope that night's programme made people take note. Heathy puppies should not be put down simply because they do not fit the breed description, such as the ridgebacks on the documentary. Furthermore interbreeding is obviously reducing gene pools. Wake up! Some action needs to be taken!

Hayley said...

This exposure has been long overdue. Having spent three years aspiring to be a responsible breeder I was deeply shocked and saddened to see firsthand the deceitful, self-preservation behaviour of top breeders. I became increasingly disillusioned with the show scene, and 'type’ worship and its effects on bloodlines. The Dogs Trust suggestion to only buy from accredited breeders has left me aghast. Worth noting to your supporters that The Kennel Club’s accredited breeder scheme is based on recommendation of health testing, not a requirement, it’s an umbrella used to further falsify the health and ‘quality’ of the dogs produced. Frequently, clubs and breeders within them place blame on the back yard breeder and puppy farmer, although poor practice is undeniably a potential factor, the difference between the breeders at the bottom of the pile who bred without health tests, is those at the top who health test but often bred regardless of the results, we are supposed to look up to and respect the latter yet they know exactly the damage their doing. Furthermore to rely on health testing is fundamentally flawed, modern population genetics has taught us that inbreeding/linebreeding is a far greater problem. Why are we ignoring science that has been around for ten years in favour of the lesser beneficial effect of health testing the small portion of the five hundred heredity diseases currently affecting our dogs. This could be a golden opportunity to improve things but recommending buyers seek out a KC accredited breeder is certainly not the way to go in the current climate, which leads me to the question whether any of us, in the current climate, can justify breeding when the current overpopulation crisis leads us to destroy excess dogs week in and week out.

A disappointed DT supporter.

Anonymous said...

At long last this has been exposed. The programme held back on naming other breeds with illnesses or deformities such as Staffs, Sharpei's Rotties, Dobes etc. The kennel Club is a money making organisation who charge a fee for every pup registered, they issue a 'Breed Record Suppliment' which tells you the details of every litter registered from every breed so they know exactly who is breeding what and with what mate. Anyone can breed dogs and many who do are unlicensed by local councils so anything goes, kennel Club gets their fees & nobody askes any questions. Why are so many show owners experts in dogs? many have never owned any other type of livestock, and never even bred a litter of pups, yet, they seem to think they know better than science & facts, talk about only seeing what they want to see! Do they argue with science when it comes to their own health? Ie: cancer tests, heart problems and the like? I would wager not. The programme WAS based on scientific FACT but both the Kennel Club & breeders could not come up with a good reason why they rubished the claims made by the programme. Sadly I fear that the damage done to the pedigree dog can never be reversed all thanks to the so-called experts.

Dogs Trust said...


Thank you for your comment and for adding your personal experience to this topic.

If you follow the link posted in an earlier comment, you'll see that health checks are listed as a requirement as well as a recommendation.

Having said that, we urge supporters to contact Lord Rooker to push for a change in allowable breeding practices and a thorough review of breeding standards.

Anonymous said...

I have been animal mad for as long as I can remember and find the idea of paying money for any living creature abhorrent. I have kept dogs from the age of 16 and have only ever chosen rescue dogs, there are so many little souls out there that need loving homes why perpetuate this shocking situation by lining the pockets of these breeders. As for the KC, I naively thought they prevented in-breeding rather like the Panda breeding programmes we have, sourcing genetically safe breeding pairs, how wrong was I? I won't mention Crufts - this is now a dirty word in my household and until both the KC and Crufts clean up their act I will be boycotting everything and anything to do with them and I'll be persuading everyone I know in the entire world to do the same. Lets all start looking after the best interests and welfare of our animal cousins - if we don't do it who will?

Jo Youl, Redditch

Hayley said...

@ Dogs Trust

If you have looked into the KC then you will know, what they say they do, and actually do, are two very different things. There are plenty of KC accredited breeders who do not carry out health tests including the ones the KC suggest are a requirement – Hip/elbow scores and eye tests. Many of those who do health test continue to breed regardless of the results. Genuine responsible breeders are very few and far between and are fighting a losing battle against the larger portion of other KC accredited breeders and the KC.

Anonymous said...

If you missed the programme you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer here, until 10pm on the 26th of August.

Anonymous said...

What breeders are doing to our dogs is grotesque. The early Basset Hound for example looked like a characterful, very able and proud animal that would be a real pleasure. The champion dog shown on the programme was a ghastly disabled and impractical animal that hardly looked fit enough for an active family pet let alone a working animal. This trend in breeding is disgusting, morally wrong and should be criminalised. I would like to see sponsors pulling out of shows until the industry puts their house in order.

A dog should be a joy not a toy

Anonymous said...

There's an interesting blog post by a british vet examining some of the issues discussed in the BBC documentary over at - they suggest a lot of the same solutions as Dogs Trusts' press release. Surely there can be some consensus between the veterinary world and welfare organisations like Dog's Trust and the RSPCA to start moving on these issues, sidelining the Kennel Club once and for all if necessary?

Anonymous said...

I am saddened because some genuinely good points were made, and some awful practises were exposed, all tainted by the ghastly sensationalist one-sided journalism we see so often today.

Anonymous said...

This was a truly distressing programme to watch: as a 12yr old I used to watch my beloved German Shepherd, Tasha,a 2 yr old rescue dog with obvious genetic problems, having fits, until diagnosed with a brain tumour, & put to sleep.

I see my Mum living with her adored rescue Cavalier, Lucy, who has every health problem in the book, & yet was bred from several times before my mother rescued her.I'm now concerned that Lucy's very low IQ has a more sinister cause...

I myself now have cross breeds- I have 2 Patterdale/Lakeland crosses who are healthy, bonny & true friends. How anyone who has ever bonded with an animal could countenance breeding those with a brain disease that could have them thrashing about in agony is beyond belief...I had both my dogs neutered, especially as my beautiful girl, Darcey, is a nervous dog, & I felt that no matter how intelligent (very) she is, or good looking (she's gorgeous) it wasn't right to pass this on.

We need to back to the hilt those campaigning for change. How about a new movement of breeding 'heritage' type dogs, that can be recognised by the old pictures? Why not start some 'new' breeds : the Rhodesian Ridgeless for one?

havenjm said...

Show breeding to a solely physical standard is the root of all this evil. IT IS NOT individual breeders who are abusing the system. It IS the system itself. Breeding to a physical breed standard will result in this form of cruelty every time. It is a disgusting practice that should be put to rest.