Unless you’ve been on vacation in some exotic locale without access to Wi-Fi or media coverage, you’ve undoubtedly heard the controversy about the new vets checks introduced at Crufts 2012.
A lot happened in a very short time that could have profound implications on the word of purebred dogs and how they’re shown. Whatever your views, these recent developments can’t be ignored. Pure.Dog.Blog will give frequent updates on the post-Crufts fall-out and we want to hear your thoughts. But before we start, let’s look at the roots of the Crufts crisis.
Like a pot of water coming to a slow boil, the issues behind Crufts’ new vet checks have been simmering away for 25 years. If you want to pick a starting point, purebreds officially came under worldwide scrutiny in 1987, when the Council of Europe’s treaty on animal welfare introduced new measures aimed at pedigree dogs. Then it met again in 1995 … and the heat’s been on since. Here’s our recap of how Crufts hit the boiling point.
1995 The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals targets some 30 breeds for “deleterious conditions.” If not addressed, the ECPPA threatens to file cruelty to animal charges against anyone breeding dogs with exaggerated conformation features,and ban breeding of those 30 breeds. In the UK, the Kennel Club (KC) describes the convention’s report as “clearly nonsense and not based on scientific fact.”
2002 The KC sets up its own committee, now called the Breed Health & Welfare Study Group, to review the convention’s findings. The KC’s study group reduces ECPPA’s list to 14 breeds that the KC considers to be at risk due to exaggerated conformation in the UK.
On the KC’s “high profile breeds” list: the Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Dogue De Bordeaux, German Shepherd Dog, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Shar Pei, St. Bernard, French Bulldog and Pug. The Chinese Crested is later added because of concerns that shaving or hair removal for cosmetic reasons was causing skin damage.
2008 BBC-TV airs Pedigree Dogs Exposed International outrage follows.
December 2008 BBC confirms it will not broadcast Crufts 2009 following “disputes” with the Kennel Club. BBC requests that certain breeds be excluded from the show; the KC refuses and BBC withdraws its coverage.
2009 Crufts responds by adding streaming video, which becomes the most-watched YouTube channel in the U.K. during the show.
Crufts also quietly introduces concept of vet checks by ringside observers on an as-needed basis. If a Best of Breed is perceived to have exaggerated conformation or obvious health issues (e.g. lameness) during breed judging, the dog would be referred to Crufts veterinary surgeon for examination.
No breeds are excluded at Crufts in 2010 or 2011 following vet checks.
2010 KC proposes independent veterinary examination process for 15 High Profile Breeds.
2011 Vet exam procedures modified following consultation with breed clubs and veterinary surgeons. UK meets with reps from 15 high profile breeds targeted by the checks and senior judges, to explain new policy.
January 2012 Independent vet checks are made mandatory for all BOB winners, effective March 1. New procedures will debut at Crufts. Failure excludes a dog from further competition in that show. The decision to implement Veterinary checks was taken by the General Committee on the advice of the Kennel Club Dog Health Group, in order to ensure that the fifteen high profile breeds, 14 of which suffer from health issues associated with exaggerated conformation and as a result attract the greatest criticism, do not bring the whole hobby of dog showing into disrepute
March 8 Bulldog and Pekingese fail newly introduced veterinary checks. Best of Breed winners Pekingese “Palacegarden Bianca” and Bulldog “Mellowmood One in A Million” (one of the UK’s top-winning bulldogs, who’d previously cleared her health checks) are banned from representing their breeds in their respective Best in Group competitions.
March 9 Clumber Spaniel fails vet check. BOB winner “Chervood Snowsun”—a champion in 13 countries and a recent group winner at major international shows)—is barred from advancing to Gundog Best in Group competition.
AKC President Dennis Sprung takes a strong public stand against Crufts vet checks, saying: “AKC will NEVER allow any such practice to occur. Our Parent Clubs own their respective stands and we support them 100 percent. Furthermore a Judge’s decision is final and we respect that as well.”
[One month after Crufts, we’re still waiting to hear a public statement from CKC.]
March 10 Mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff become the latest casualties in high profile breed vet checks. BOB winners Mastiff “Secret Charm Avec Dibest” and Neapolitan Mastiff “Ithani” fail vet exams.
March 11 Basset hound fails Crufts vet check. No Basset advances to Hound Best in Group competition after Basset “Ch. Buzz Lightyear At Dereheath” fails independent vet check. Basset is owned by a dedicated couple, Derek and Heather Storton, members of the KC’s Assured Breeders Scheme who have complied with its every regulation.
Position Paper released by KC chair Steve Dean: “The fact that nine breeds passed the checks and that in the main, the concerns highlighted in those that failed were not linked to problems relating to lameness, skin disorders or respiratory distress, must be a reason for congratulation. It is recognised that even the breeds that failed have made huge strides forward in recent years and this progress needs to continue particularly in relation to externally visible eye disease.”
March 11 Lhasa Apso “Ch. Zentarr Elizabeth” and her breeder/owner/handler Margaret Anderson wins Crufts Best In Show.
March 13 Since KC’s rules on the new health checks require that the vet and KC keep results confidential, the KC did not initially release the reasons why 6 of the 15 high profile breeds failed their vet checks. However, KC now announces most were eliminated due to some kind of eye issue.
Social media campaigns launched protesting health checks. Facebook page called “Exhibitors Choice and Voice” signs up 3,000 members in 24 hours.
March 15 The Canine Alliance is formed, when just one week after Crufts’ opening, 300 people meet around the corner from Crufts’ NEC site to set up a steering committee to consider next steps. Canine Alliance members pass vote that KC should suspend flawed vet checks until improvements are made. Alliance also wants to bring this before KC’s membership for a vote at its annual general meeting in May.
March 28 First meeting between KC and the newly formed Canine Alliance. KC describes meeting as “positive”: “We are glad that we all share the same objective, of protecting and supporting the well-being of pedigree dogs and of ensuring that healthy dogs are rewarded in the show ring and we are committed to ensuring that fair and equitable measures are put in place to achieve this outcome.”
Canine Alliance secretary Robert Harlow is less enthusiastic: “We were delighted with the response of the Kennel Club to our request for an early meeting, and felt that our proposals were being taken seriously. However, we are disappointed that the veterinary examinations of Best of Breed winners are continuing to go ahead in their present form, the first of which are due to take place at the United Kingdom Toydog Society Show on Saturday 31st March.”
Next Canine Alliance meeting is scheduled for April 18. The KC has asked them to come back with specific proposals. Stay tuned!