Happy dogs come first, say Kennel Club

In the wake of the ‘mutant’ pedigree-dog scandal five years ago, the Kennel Club (KC) has provided breed clubs with additional guidance on the steps they can take to ensure that the animals they represent are happy and healthy. At the moment, 14 ‘highprofile’ breeds are being monitored by the KC for visible conditions caused by extreme selective breeding,including basset hounds, whose wrinkly skin makes them vulnerable to dermatitis, and German shepherds, some of whom have shrunken hindquarters that give them a ‘half-dog, half-frog’ look.

In 2008, the BBC’s documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed shone a spotlight on controversial formdriven breeding practices-viewers were horrified by the footage of a wheezing pug, an overheating Pekingese that had to sit on an ice pillow and a boxer suffering traumatic epileptic fits. In the aftermath of the broadcast, the KC cracked breed standards and creating a requirement for all breeds on the high-profile list to submit to regular health checks at shows.

* Subscribe to Country Life; Country Life on Ipad

In order to be removed from the list, breed representatives must demonstrate that they’re making progress with doghealth initiatives, and that show judges are taking into account animals’ overall health before making decisions. It has also recommended that DNA testing be carried out to decrease the likelihood of hereditary conditions being passed on. To date, only the Chinese Crested has been given the all-clear by the KC-concerns had been raised about the shaving of dogs for exhibition, causing skin damage, but assessors are now satisfied that the issue has been addressed.

‘The criteria guidance has been developed to provide breed representatives with the support necessary to develop and sustain the health improvements already made,’ explains KC secretary Caroline Kisko. ‘We believe that a collaborative approach involving breeders, exhibitors, veterinary surgeons and the Kennel Club will ensure a happy and healthy future for these breeds.’

Other breeds on the high-profile list are the bloodhound, bulldog, chow-chow, Clumber spaniel, Dogue de Bordeaux, French bulldog, mastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, Pekingese, pug, St Bernard and shar pei.

For more information and to view the Dog Health Group’s annual reports, visit www.thekennelclub. org.uk/highprofilebreeds or email KC’s list co-ordinator Charlotte McNamara (charlotte.mcnamara@thekennelclub.org.uk)

* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter