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The Kennel Club KC , the governing body of pedigree dogs in the UK which runs the prestigious dog breed show Crufts , was criticised for allowing breed standards, judging standards and breeding practices to compromise the health of pedigree dogs.
The programme generated much criticism of the Kennel Club. It also caused various sponsors and trade exhibitors to withdraw their participation from Crufts and other Kennel Club events.
The BBC—which has broadcast Crufts for 42 years—withdrew its coverage of Crufts for , and chose not to renew it for It also lodged a complaint with broadcasting regulator Ofcom , claiming unfair treatment and editing.
Due to strong public opinion, it later rolled out new health plans and reviewed breed standards for every breed. Some breeders have condemned the Club for overreacting.
Three separate health reports were commissioned as a result of the programme. Reports by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals , Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and Sir Patrick Bateson funded by the KC and Dogs Trust concluded that current breeding practices are detrimental to the welfare of pedigree dogs and made various recommendations that can be taken by the Kennel Club and breeders to improve pedigree dog health.
A follow-up program, Pedigree Dogs Exposed: A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was shown to be in agony due to a condition known as syringomyelia , which occurs as a result of the skull being too small for the brain.
Another problem that plagues the breed is heart disease. Cardiologist Simon Swift explained that about half of all Cavaliers aged 5 would have heart murmurs and the rate increases, such that by age 10 to 11 almost all Cavaliers would have the condition.
Leading geneticist Steve Jones attributed one of the key problems to inbreeding. The German Shepherd used in the show ring was contrasted with the working German Shepherd, which still looks much like the German Shepherd of old.
Crufts Judge Terry Hannan insisted that the working German Shepherds are anatomically incorrect, and that it is the show dog that conforms to the breed standard.
When it was put to the Chairman of the Basset Hound Club that they were breeding deformed congenital dwarfs, he rejected that accusation, claiming that current Basset Hounds look very much like those of the s.
When shown a photo of a Basset Hound from sixty years ago, he was less than impressed. The boxer breed was presented as suffering from heart diseases and high rate of cancer, one boxer was shown having an epileptic seizure.
According to the programme, dogs were initially bred for practical functions such as hunting and guarding, but, in the middle of the 19th century they became a status symbol, and dog breeding became a sport.
The function of the dog then became secondary to appearance. A Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder interviewed on the programme advocated the culling of healthy ridgeless puppies because breed standards forbid ridgelessness in the breed.
The Chairman of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club stated that she considered ridgelessness a genetic fault. The ridge is a genetic trait, the presence of which is claimed to make the dog more prone to suffer from dermoid sinus.
The programme mistakenly claims that the ridge itself is a mild form of spina bifida , and a complaint was lodged with Ofcom about this error see below.
One in twenty puppies is born ridgeless. A section of the code of ethics of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club was shown to state that "Ridgeless puppies shall be culled.
When asked about the practice of culling healthy puppies with the implication that killing them was what was meant , Kennel Club chairman Ronnie Irving denied knowledge of such practices and said that they were not acceptable.
It was shown that after the interview, the Kennel Club wrote to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club condemning the practice and requested that the club review their code of ethics.
The breed club said that the Kennel Club knew about the code of ethics, as they have to be ratified by the Kennel Club every year. Apart from Ridgebacks, other examples of culling for cosmetic reasons that were mentioned included Great Danes with nonstandard markings, white German Shepherds, and white Boxers, although it was mentioned that culling by slaughter is not as common as before, as more breeders choose to neuter individuals who do not meet breed standards.
There is high and lucrative demand for pure-bred dogs as neutered pets at a lower cost that breedable show specimens. Aside from the culling issues, the programme pointed out that selectively bred dogs were in poorer health than mongrels.
For more information, see Hybrid vigor. Deliberate inbreeding, including mother-to-son, father-to-daughter and brother-to-sister matings was said to result in serious genetic disease being perpetuated in many breeds.
A report by Companion Animal Welfare Council called for major changes, stating that "inbreeding needs to be controlled" and that "animals with genetic defects should be barred from breed shows.
It was shown that of the more than two hundred breeds registered by the Kennel Club, compulsory health tests exist only for the Irish Setter and Irish Red and White Setter.
The Kennel Club defended the lack of health testing requirements, saying that it would drive breeders away from the Club. The president of the British Veterinary Association Nick Blayney agreed with the Kennel Club, stating that "if it becomes too reactionary and loses the support of the majority, it would cease to have any influence.
They are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation. The programme pointed out that no official system for recording hereditary diseases exists, and claimed that any health screens that exist are "often inadequate or ineffective.
The Kennel Club defended the lack of improvement, stating that things could have been worse had nothing been done. It also acknowledged that Chairman Ronnie Irving had spoken out about exaggerated traits in some breeds.
Instead of a "massive head," the new breed standard calls for a "large head. But the programme warned that all that would come to naught if breeders continued to deny the need for change, or interpret breed standards any way they like.
The programme showed examples of individuals with serious inherited diseases being crowned show champions. Such individuals are not forbidden from being bred and some go on to produce offspring who inherit the same diseases.
It was reported that the Crufts champion — a Pekingese — had to sit on an ice pack to have its photo taken. The programme explained that the breed tends to overheat due to its inability to breathe properly, as a result of its flattened face.
The dog was revealed to have undergone a soft palate resection earlier, to fix a problem caused by the flattened face.
Professor Dan Brockman from the Royal Veterinary College explained that the condition is inherited and is very likely to be passed down to later generations.
Despite that, the Crufts champion had sired 18 litters. The programme stated that people in the dog world who try to do the right thing find it tough going against "a system that often rewards doing the wrong thing.
It also pointed out that because of her proactive approach to the Syringomyelia issue, Cavalier owner Carol Fowler had been subject to vitriolic attacks in online mailing lists.
A Cavalier that won a Best-in-Show was revealed by Carter to have the condition. One and a half months after the programme aired, Carter was removed from the Cavalier Club Committee for this "breach of confidentiality".
Despite veterinarian advice not to breed from the dog, the dog went on to sire 26 litters, adding to the 8 litters sired before the diagnosis.
Claire Rusbridge expressed her incredulity: When told that the Kennel Club was not doing enough, Irving rejected the claim that many breeds were in trouble, and stated that the Kennel Club and its Charitable Trust are doing much to fix the problems in "some breeds.
The programme, which spanned a production period of two years, was watched by 3. Before the programme aired, the Kennel Club issued a statement warning that the programme may be highly biased.
Regarding the code of ethics statement which says "Ridgeless puppies shall be culled at birth", the Club points to the statement that follows, "if a breeder finds this morally impossible the puppy shall be homed".
The RSPCA stated that it is "concerned about the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and disease affecting pedigree dogs". Carter told The Times: The top showing people and breeders are the ones most threatened by health testing.
Some people would have found it very difficult to work with her". As a consequence of the programme, cat breeders have too come under pressure from veterinary and animal welfare associations, with breeds such as the Persian , Scottish Fold and Munchkin being singled out.
After the programme aired, BBC, which has broadcast Crufts for 42 years, announced that it was considering cutting its ties with the show.
The Club too was considering their association with BBC, saying that they are confident of finding another broadcaster should things turn sour. Their request to drop 12 "at-risk" breeds from the main event was rejected by the Kennel Club, who called the request "unreasonable" and said that it would compromise their "contractual obligations" and "general responsibility to dog exhibitors and our audience".
On 7 October the Kennel Club announced that it is rolling out new health plans. Breed standards for every breed are under review and show judges will be required to take health into judging considerations.
It has also requested regulatory powers from the Government, which would allow the club to take actions against breeders who do not comply with health standards.
On 12 January, the Kennel Club released the revised breed standards, which will "not include anything that could in any way be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog from breathing, walking and seeing freely".
Show rules have been changed to state "more clearly than ever" that judges should only "reward those dogs that are healthy representatives of their breed".
Judges will also have the authority to eject unhealthy dogs from competitions. Pedigree Dogs Exposed producer Jemima Harrison calls the change "long overdue".
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