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RSPCA pulls out of Crufts show

Crufts, the UK’s most prestigious and popular dog show, is taking some heat as it prepares for its 118th annual show next spring.

Yesterday, the RSPCA, which has long operated booths at Crufts, announced it was pulling out of the show because of concerns that the show is contributing to thousands of pedigree dogs suffering from genetic defects, purposefully bred into them in the name of looks.

And the BBC, which has broadcast the show for 40 years, is also thought to be on the verge of deciding whether to halt its coverage.

The RSPCA’s decision to relinquish its stand at Crufts in March next year follows a BBC documentary, broadcast last month, that highlighted breeding practices that result in unhealthy genetic side-effects.

Chief veterinary adviser for the RSPCA, Mark Evans, called for a shift in emphasis away from looks and towards health, welfare and temperament.

“Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals,” he said. “From a dog health and welfare perspective, such shows are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favors. Intentionally breeding deformed and disabled animals is morally unjustifiable and has to stop.”

The BBC program, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” featured boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs that were unable to mate.

Mike Flynn, chief superintendent of the SSPCA, said hundreds of Scottish owners had called the organization after the program featured a Cavalier King Charles spaniel with syringomylia – a breeding-related condition where the brain is pushed back into the spinal chord.

The program documented other unhealthy changes, brought about by inbreeding and a quest for arbitrary standards for what certain breeds should look like: Dachsund’s have been elongated, and their legs made smaller, leading to serious back problems. They have difficulty running and jumping and are prone to epilepsy and deafness. Bulldogs have seen their muzzles shortened, creating breathing problems, and their heads have become broader; most now have to be born by Caesarean section.

“The Kennel Club is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of dogs through responsible breeding,” Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokeswoman, said in response to the developments. “The fact that the RSPCA continues to make such unhelpful statements … is extremely regrettable but we will continue to endeavour to work with them despite their stated position, for the benefit of dogs.”