To coincide with the start of Crufts 2006, the world’s biggest pedigree dog show, Advocates for Animals released a scientific report examining the welfare problems caused by pedigree dog breeding.
The Price of a Pedigree
Dog breed standards and breed-related illness, examines the vast number of inherited diseases affecting pedigree dog breeds.
These genetic diseases cause suffering and reduced quality of life for dogs and worry and expense for their owners.
The report calls for the UK Government, the Kennel Club and other breed societies, veterinarians and members of the public to take positive action to address these serious welfare issues.
The majority, three quarters, of the UK’s estimated 6.5 million dogs, are pedigrees from one of the diverse range of approximately 400 dog breeds that have been created by humans to date, all of them originating from the grey wolf.
Today, dogs are increasingly being bred for their looks and are required to conform to an ideal ‘breed standard’ of appearance. Such breed standards often involve exaggerated and unnatural physical characteristics that are detrimental to the dogs’ health and welfare.
These include extremes of size, backs that are too long in proportion to the legs, flattened faces and abnormally short jaws and noses, loose skin and skin folds and bulging eyes.
Common diseases pedigree dogs suffer from include:
Hereditary hip and elbow dysplasia (e.g. German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever);
Inherited eye diseases (e.g. Pekinese, Basset Hound, Border Collie);
Heart and respiratory disease (e.g. Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel);
Breed-related skin diseases (e.g. West Highland White Terrier, Cocker Spaniel);
Inherited skeletal problems of small and long-backed breeds (e.g. Dachshund, Chihuahua);
Bone tumours in large and giant dog breeds (e.g. Rottweiler, Great Dane);
and hereditary deafness (e.g. Doberman, Border Collie).
There is a danger that current trends will only intensify as dogs are increasingly seen as fashion accessories and new breeds are created to meet the demand for a novel or ‘perfect’ dog.
Irresponsible and unethical practices in dog breeding, including close inbreeding and developments in cloning, emphasise the need for better regulation of the pedigree dog breeding business.
Although scientists and veterinarians have long been aware of breed-related diseases, there is currently a lack of accessible information on their prevalence.
This may mean that members of the public buy pedigree dogs in ignorance of the health status of the breed.
The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals has been signed by 24 and ratified by 22 European countries, but not by the UK.
It states that: ‘Any person who selects a pet animal for breeding shall be responsible for having regard to the anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent.’
Advocates for Animals believes that the following steps should be taken to reverse the damage caused by inappropriate pedigree breeding and to improve the welfare of dogs:
The UK should sign and ratify the European Convention on Pet Animals.
This would substantially modify, or eliminate, extreme breed standards.
The Kennel Club and other breed societies should require compulsory screening of dogs for known breed-related disorders before any dog is used for breeding.
Registration of puppies should be made dependent on health screening of parent dogs.
Breeders should make the health of the dogs the primary goal of their breeding policies.
In addition, Advocates for Animals believes that veterinarians and the public each have an important role in improving dog health and welfare.
Veterinarians to educate owners and potential owners of pedigree dogs about potential welfare issues.
Members of the public to avoid buying pedigree dogs or attending pedigree dog shows.
Everyone who is thinking of becoming a dog owner to choose to give a home to a mixed-breed dog from a rescue
centre, or to a pedigree dog from one of the many breed rescue organisations.
Celebrity TV vet Emma Milne, star of BBC’s Vets in Practice,
“Like many people in my profession I entered it because I had a strong desire to help animals and their owners.
Also like many in the profession I still want that.
At vet school you quickly start to get taught about ‘breed predisposition’ to disease. This association between breed, conformation and disease is so strong that even before you qualify you are starting to question whether this should be acceptable.
After a very short time in practice the reality becomes all too clear.
I am sick of seeing animals that are suffering in the name of the breed standard and I see it every day.
It is high time we stopped accepting that animals are ‘supposed’ to look like this and stopped genetically modifying one of the most successful species on the planet into a collection of deformed animals whose welfare is compromised from the moment they are born.”
Advocates’ Director, Ross Minett, added:
“Members of the public are led to believe that when they buy a pedigree puppy they are buying the highest quality and healthiest dog. But pedigree dogs are bred for their appearance rather than for their good health, which often suffers as a result.
Inherited diseases cause suffering and reduced quality of life for dogs and worry and expense for their owners.
We believe that many vets are concerned about the health and welfare implications of pedigree breeding but feel unable to voice these concerns in public, since a large proportion of the dogs they treat are pedigrees.
Current pedigree dog breeding practices that damage welfare cannot be seen as ethical or acceptable.
Members of the public who buy pedigree dogs or attend pedigree dog shows are, unintentionally, supporting a breeding system that surely cannot be justified on animal welfare grounds.
There is an urgent need to reform pedigree dog breeding goals and practices to reverse the damage done by inappropriate breeding standards and inbreeding.
Signing up to the European Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals would be a good first step towards reducing the suffering we are knowingly causing to ‘man’s best friend’.”
don't sit back and allow this to continue. Do something to promote
change - now.
Veto the organisations that promote cruelty - don't be fooled by their lies and motivation.
These people are not guardians of animals, they claim to be but they are in it for themselves.
Spread the word and campaign for change.
Fight for compassion. Step up to the line and make your voice heard.
Treat your companions as you would like to be treated yourself.