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Tag: breed standards

Crufts 2016: Another choice of scandals

Just like last year, Crufts offered up a choice for discerning scandal mongers as the world’s most prestigious dog show came to a close in the UK over the weekend.

Before the dog hair had been cleared away from the NEC in Birmingham, charges of nepotism were swirling after it was revealed judge Di Arrowsmith awarded best gundog to a Gordon setter partly owned and bred by her sister, Josie Baddely.

And animal advocates and others were raising a stink about the Kennel Club judges awarding best in breed to a German shepherd who would have been a walking exemplar of the direction breeders had long been trying to take the breed in — that slinky appearance, with a sloped back and hind legs that seem to trail far behind the rest of the animal.

He would have been an exemplar of that, at least, had the dog had been able to walk.

First, because it’s a little more clear-cut, we’ll deal with the nepotism.

Arrowsmith insisted she awarded the prize on the dog’s merits.

“When I adjudicate, I do so without fear or favor,” she told the Daily Mail. “The Gordon setter was the best dog in the ring on that night. It would have been dishonest not to give the award to him.”

The Telegraph reported that criticism was running rampant on dog breeder forums on the Internet.

“Most exhibitors who adhere to decent standards of behavior don’t enter under judges who are related to them,” one said. “The decent thing to do is withdraw from the group judging,” said another. A third said: “This is yet another Crufts controversy that will only harm the competition.”

The Kennel Club, which runs the show, insisted no rules were broken.

Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club, insisted the winning gundog won the prize on his merits. In a statement, she said: “It is important to clarify that no rules were broken here. Any dog that is chosen as a winner is done so because of the judge’s honest opinion on the day and is judged with integrity.”

The statement goes on, at length, with trademark bluster, to defend the decision — even though that’s really not the point.

Whether it’s Miss America pageants, Nobel Prizes or dog shows, you just don’t allow people to serve as judges in competitions in which their family members are entered. Fathers shouldn’t be judging sons. Sisters shouldn’t be judging sisters — even sisters who don’t get along (as is reportedly the case here.)

But does the Kennel Club say, “Yeah, you’re right, that was pretty stupid of us?” No, they spin and defend, manipulating the truth much like breeders and breed standards have manipulated dog breeds.

Which brings us back to the deformed, mutant German shepherd.

Sure, it could have been a case of nerves, or health problems unrelated to genetics that led her to stumble her way through the spotlight at Crufts.

But I suspect it has something to do with a limited gene pool. Design a human whose feet aren’t under his butt and he’d have trouble going through the paces, too.

Just as close relatives shouldn’t be judging each other in contests, they shouldn’t be breeding with each other — especially when the sole goal of those overseeing the breeding is to produce an offspring that accentuates some silly, and often unhealthy, physical characteristic that the latest breed standards deem “desirable.”

As seen in the video at the top of this post, the dog named best in breed, Cruaghaire Catoria, is barely able to trot across the arena floor. It’s as if her front legs and rear legs are operating independently of each other.

Why then award her best in breed? For one thing, her shape conforms to what, until recent years, was considered the ideal (when in reality it was unhealthy, prone to causing hip problems, and gave the breed the appearance of a skulking, runaway felon).

Correcting that, just like achieving it, takes some time — and that’s if there’s consensus among the breeders and all those smug kennel club types who have trouble ever admitting they were wrong.

If Cruaghaire Catoria is any indication, that consensus doesn’t exist.

(Photo: James, the Gordon setter chosen best gun dog; ASC/ZDS/Anthony Stanley / WENN.com)

Report calls for changes in breeding practices

An independent investigation launched after a BBC documentary raised concerns about purebred breeding practices concludes the health of many animals is being put at risk by some breeders.

Britain’s Kennel Club and Dogs Trust funded the inquiry, which looked at puppy farms, inbreeding, and breeding for extreme features.

Cambridge University professor Sir Patrick Bateson, who is president of the Zoological Society of London, said the report concludes that conditions of some puppy farms was “not good” and “probably in breach of the Animal Welfare Act”.

Also, the report says, some  breeders were responsible for “too much” inbreeding, creating “all sorts of health problems,” such as the “very big head of the bulldog” that necessitated about 90% of them giving birth through Caesarian section, according to the BBC.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust funded the independent inquiry after concerns highlighted in the 2008 BBC documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” which reported that breeders, in an attempt to meet Kennel Club standards and win dog shows, exaggerated the features of breeds at the expense of dogs’ health.

The BBC report, which led the Royal SPCA to pull out of Crufts, said many physical traits called for by the Kennel Club’s breed standards, such as short faces and dwarfism, led to inherent health problems.

The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, changed many of its breed standards in January 2009 to exclude “anything that could in any way be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog breathing, walking and seeing freely.”

Specific changes included calling for leaner, less wrinkly bulldogs; shortening the forelegs of German shepherds which, through breeding, had gotten overly long and weak; and less fluffy coats on chow chows so they wouldn’t become distressed in hot weather.

Judges at licensed dog shows were instructed to choose only the healthiest dogs as champions, and expel any dogs that showed signs of ill-health from the Crufts show.

New from the folks at Neuticles: Ear implants

apronThe man who invented Neuticles — those artificial testicles designed to keep a neutered dog’s manly pride and appearance intact — is back with a new product, this one designed to keep a dog’s ears erect.

Missouri inventor Gregg Miller has created ear implants for use in dogs who have had their ears cropped, only to have them flop again.

Ear cropping — generally frowned upon by the animal welfare community — is a procedure conducted mostly at the behest of breeders and the dog show crowd to get a dog’s ears to stand up straight, as called for in some kennel club breed standards.

Because the cropping process doesn’t always take, or injuries can cause an erect ear to go floppy, Miller felt the need to create a product that, once surgically implanted, would keep a dogs ears straight — something dogs probably could care less about, though their owners sometimes do.

“PermaStay Ear Implants”  are now available on Miller’s website, Neuticles.com, along with the polypropolene testicular implants (available in original, natural and ultra plus) and silicone eye implants for cats, dogs and horses.

“The direction I’m taking now is that I want to create whatever implantable device there is for pets,” Miller told Gatehouse News Service. “Then everybody will know my company is the implant company, the eyes, the ears, the testicles, and God knows whatever else.”

Miller said he began working on the ear implants about five years ago, after requests from customers.

The ear implant is a patch of  thin surgical mesh, with a plastic spine that helps support the ear. The ear implants, like Neuticles, must be installed surgically, so that the dog’s tissue actually grows around the prosthetic.

Miller admitted there was a lot of trial and error in developing the product.

“Everything would go fine at first, five or six weeks,” Miller says. “After that, these hideous infections would develop. The ear would swell up and blood and puss would spurt out. It was horrible.”

But he (sarcasm alert) bravely (end sarcasm) pressed on, and found that by using surgical mesh, further infections were avoided. The device is $400. The surgery cost is from $300 to $600. About 40 dogs have gotten the ear implants. “The dog doesn’t even know it’s there, it’s so humane,” he said.

earings01Miller, a former newspaper editor and reporter, created Neuticles about 15 years ago. The Neuticles website also features a line of merchandise, from barbecue aprons (pictured above) to earrings made out of Neuticles.

Now there’s a gift that says … God only knows.

And one you probably need about as much as your dog needs ear implants and Neuticles.

Docking, cropping and other acts of barbarism

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, a Doberman pinscher should have a docked tail and “cropped and erect” ears — an appearance (above right) of “alertness,” albeit one achieved through surgery, rubber bands, tape and splints.

The altered appearance of the Doberman is one we’ve seen so often that we’ve come to accept it as normal, even though an unalderated Doberman (above left) has floppy ears and a whip-like tail.

Why do we do it — not just to the Doberman, but about 50 other breeds that are still commonly docked and cropped?

Mainly because of the aforementioned standards, based on traditions — barbaric, silly traditions, but traditions all the same.

Docking Dobermans goes all the way back to the man who created them, Louis Dobermann, who mixed a handful of breeds in hopes of coming up with a medium-sized guard dog. Being guards, they needed to look alert. Hence, the tail docking and ear cropping.

With breed standards under fire — primarily those that have led to inbreeding and genetic health defects among some breeds — the practice of docking tails and cropping ears should be re-examined, too 

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which had long recommended against docking and cropping for cosmetic purposes, came down harder on the practice in a new policy adopted last year, calling for them both to removed from breed standards.

The AKC, in response to the AVMA policy change, said that “mislabeling these procedures as ‘cosmetic’ is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs … These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at Police Departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field.”

That high and mighty stance came close to painting those who might oppose docking and cropping as unpatriotic. I’m pretty sure letting dogs keep their tails is not going to compromise national security, or lead to more crime.

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Nightline re-exposes pedigree problems

ABC News has boldly gone where BBC went before, airing a Nightline episode last night that looked at the world of purebred dogs and dog shows — and how some of the former are suffering for the sake of the latter.

The Nightline segment didn’t really pick up where “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” left off — it was more of a rehash — but it does signify, at least, some attention to a controversial issue that, for the most part, has been far less likely to surface on American shores.

“The Westminster Dog Show is the showpiece for a multi-billion dollar industry, a festival of primped pooches, prestigious prizes and perfect pedigrees. This year’s big winner, a Sussex Spaniel called Stump, became an instant celebrity,” the piece began. “The owners love it. But whether such competitive shows are good for the dogs is debatable.”

A bulldog is the first to be featured, shown being sprayed with a cooling mist backstage at Westminster to keep him from overheating.

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Are dog shows hurting dogs?

The question that has become all the rage in London — but hardly even gets asked in the U.S. — got some ink in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, and with less than a week before the opening of the Westminster dog show.

The woman who was courageous enough to ask it, and honest enough to give the answer — yes — was Christie Keith, contributing editor for Universal Press Syndicate’s Pet Connection, past director of the Pet Care Forum on America Online, and a writer of a “semi-weekly” column for SFGate.com, the online home of the San Francisco Chronicle.

As Keith points out, the BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” got things rolling. The series showed that many purebred dogs are prone to diseases and health problems that have resulted from “the tyranny of the show ring” — breeders selecting their dogs to accentuate specific, often freakish traits that win at dog shows but leave them unfit for living the life of a normal dog.

“If that allegation sounds extreme, consider that the Pekingese dog who won top honors in 2003 at Crufts, Britain’s most prestigious dog show,” Keith wrote. “(He) had to be photographed afterwards while lying on an icepack because he couldn’t breathe well enough to efficiently cool his own over-heated body.”

In response to the BBC documentary, the network’s decision to stop airing Crufts, and the withdrawl from the show of several sponsors, Britain’s Kennel Club revised its standards somewhat, warning breed clubs that the most extreme traits would no longer be tolerated.

In the U.S., the American Kennel Club, and critics of it, were mostly silent. Only PETA stepped forward, as it’s prone to do, demanding that the USA Network follow BBC’s example and stop airing the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. USA Network declined, and the show will air Monday and Tuesday, February 9-10, from 8-11 p.m.

“But should it? Are purebred dogs really in that much trouble? And if so, are dog shows behind the genetic and other health problems that plague our pets?” Keith asks in her column.

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