[Ed. Note: Also read The Dark Side of Westminster.]
Earth in Transition
Dog breeders in the U.K. are bracing for what promises to be a devastating report by the BBC on British television Monday evening, March 5, 2012.
The investigation will focus on the health problems suffered by popular breeds, like spaniels, bulldogs and pugs, who are deliberately bred for distorted physical features that cause lifelong sickness, discomfort and pain.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed – Three Years On, updates a documentary, three years ago, that compared dog breeding practices to racial beliefs held by the Nazis. As a result of the report, sponsors pulled out of Crufts, the U.K. equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show, and the BBC decided to stop covering the famous dog show.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the new investigation shows these health problems to be widespread, and accuses some breed clubs of penalizing members who have expressed concerns about the problem.
One breed of dog, in particular, is singled out as being a particular victim of inbreeding: Among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (photo right), 70 per cent of dogs over the age of six years old suffer from a severe neurological condition known as syringomyelia.
The agonizing condition is believed to be caused by them being selectively bred with “attractive” skulls that are too small for their brains.
The program features Professor Nick Jeffery, a vet who led the study at the University of Cambridge, and who is quoted as saying:
The best solution overall would be to popularize mixed breed dogs as pets because they are much less likely to be afflicted with the genetic diseases that are associated with pedigree dog breeding.
Another veterinarian, Dr. Gerhard Oechtering of Germany’s Leipzig University, claims it is unethical to breed the popular pets because they are often unable to breathe properly.
The British insurance company Petplan has confirmed paying out claims worth more than $2 million in 2010, up 25 per cent in four years, specifically for surgery to help pets breathe, and in most cases flat-faced dog breeds.
Leading UK vet, Dan Brockman, a professor of small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College, told the Daily Mail he agreed with removing extreme deformities in pugs and bulldogs through cross-breeding:
We are sleepwalking into perpetuating these problems but it is within our ability to resolve these issues with a simple outbreeding program. Crossing short-nosed with long-nosed breeds would have some impact.
But pedigree breeders are most concerned with preservation of the line, while welfare experts are most concerned about quality of life. If we wait for people to do this themselves it will never happen. I believe some legislation is essential to enforce a change.
Bulldogs are shown to be so deformed that they cannot mate without human assistance nor give birth naturally. And pugs and other flat-faced dogs, who are bred to have flat faces, suffer lifelong breathing problems.
Caroline Kisko, secretary at the Kennel Club, tells the Daily Mail:
We have introduced veterinary inspections for dogs such as the bulldog and pug at Crufts and other shows, to encourage the breeding of healthy dogs. And we run the Assured Breeder Scheme which is the only one that sets standards for and monitors breeders. But unfortunately, outside the Kennel Club, there is an almost total lack of regulation to help protect dogs or to guide and educate breeders.
An independent Dog Advisory Council is is looking into the problems of dog breeding Britain, but it’s said that new laws are unlikely.
People who breed and show these troubled dogs are angry, not at the plight of the dogs, but at the fact that the BBC report is being aired just a week before this year’s dog show at Crufts.
There was a similar reaction a few weeks ago when we wrote about the plight of “purebred” dogs like Pekingese, one of whom was declared the winner of this year’s Westminster Dog Show - The Dark Side of Westminster.