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Tag: genetic

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed” gets first U.S. airing

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed, ” the controversial BBC documentary that shed some much needed light on purebred breeding practices and the horrors they have produced, will get its first airing in the U.S. tonight (Dec. 10).

Probably the single most important piece of dog reporting in the past decade, the documentary led to the BBC dropping its coverage of Crufts, the UK’s equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show.

The documentary looks at how many breeds have had their physical appearance so exaggerated they’re unrecognizable from a century ago, and it examines some of the breed-specific health problems that have resulted from breeders emphasizing looks over health when breeding dogs for shows.

The show, which led to some changes in Kennel Club and breeder policies and practices,  airs at 8 p.m. tonight on BBC America.

The documentary revealed that dogs suffering from genetic illness are not prevented from competing in dog shows and have gone on to win “best in breed”, despite their poor health. It says physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards in the U.K., such as short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails and dwarfism, have led to inherent health problems.

This excerpt from the program shows a prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.

The documentary looks at other problems that have resulted from mating dogs who are close relatives, all for the purposes of accentuating certain physical features deemed desirable by the dog show crowd — boxers suffering from epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs who are unable to mate or give birth unassisted because their heads are so big.

While picked up here and there by the U.S. media, the story of shaping purebred dogs to fit arbitrary human standards of beauty — despite the health ramifications – remains best told by the BBC documentary. By all means, watch it.

DNA testing saves dog from execution

petdnaIt took a DNA test to prove it, but Angie Cartwright — who lives in a town that bans pit bulls — has certified that her dog Lucey is only 12 percent bully breeds, and now she has her back.

Lucey had never bitten anyone; nor had she ever acted aggressively, according to the Salina Journal in Kansas. But she was scooped up by animal control officers.

The officers explained that they were taking Lucey to a veterinarian for a breed check — a professional opinion (meaning veterinarian’s guess) to determine Lucey’s breed.

Since 2005, Salina has had a ban on owning unregistered pit bulls and mixed breeds that are predominantly pit bull.

Cartwright got approval to have her vet conduct DNA breed analysis test, ther results of which led to the return of her dog.

The blood test found that a minor amount of Lucey’s DNA came from Staffordshire bull terrier genes — just over 12 percent.

“Maybe this can save someone’s animal, hopefully,” Cartwright said. Read more »

Support seems thin for dumping Westminster

PETA’s suggestion that the USA Network discontinue its broadcast of the Westminster Dog Show — on the grounds that the show reinforces unhealthy breed standards — doesn’t seem to be garnering a lot of pubic support, if a poll by the Los Angeles Times animal blog, “Unleashed,” is any indication.

PETA’s request came on the heels of the BBC’s announcement that it won’t be airing the prestigious Crufts dog show because of concerns that purebred breeders, in their quest to meet dog show appearance standards, are endangering the health of some breeds.

Unleashed puts this question to readers: “Do you agree with PETA that the USA Network should refrain from airing Westminster?

“Yes — breeding dogs for the show ring is unethical and shouldn’t be supported.

“No — dog breeders promote responsible pet ownership and dog shows are fun to watch.”

As of 7:30 last night, the “No” votes held a 4,682 to 356 lead.

To see the comments, and vote, click here.

(Image: Commemorative poster for the Feb. 9-10, 2009 Westminster Dog Show)

UK Kennel Club to review breed standards

After first defending the practices of its members, Britain’s Kennel Club has announced that every pedigree breed in the United Kingdom will be reviewed to make sure that pressures to produce perfect show dogs don’t contribute to widespread genetic diseases.

The turnaround comes after a public outcry that followed a BBC documentary claiming the breeding process for pedigree dogs has resulted in a high incidence of inherited genetic disease.

A breed health plan will be coordinated for some 200 pedigree breeds, and dog show judges will be briefed on the new breed standards so healthy dogs are rewarded in the ring, the Kennel Club announced.

The BBC documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” spotlighted several breeds in which breeders have, through inbreeding, emphasized physical traits over the health of the animals, leading to problems that include cancer, epilepsy, heart disease and difficulty breathing

The Kennel Club released the first of a new set of breeding standards today — for Pekingese dogs, which critics say have bred to have increasingly flatter faces, which has led to breathing problems.

Health plans for all 200 or so breeds are to be completed by early next year.

“We have been listening and agree with the general public’s view that more needs to be done,” said Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko. She said public attention helped the club “drive through, with added urgency, new and extended initiatives that will help to safeguard the health of our pedigree dogs.”

“We have been working hard in recent years to identify and address health problems that exist in dogs, and we are taking advantage of the opportunities that advances in science have given us to improve dog health. We look forward to continuing our work with various institutions and organisations that share the same objective: to protect the health and welfare of all dogs,” she said.”

The Kennel Club initially defended breeders, after the BBC report, and filed a complaint about the documentary. Animal welfare organizations, however, echoed the concerns raised in the documentary, and several, including the Dogs Trust, RSPCA and National Dog Wardens Association announced they were pulling out of the country’s largest dog show, Crufts.

Jemima Harrison of Passionate Productions, makers of the “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” documentary, said she was “delighted” with the new initiatives. “…The real winners are the dogs. Getting a better deal for them was always the film’s primary objective.

She questioned, however, whether the intitiatives go far enough.

“I am very disappointed that the Kennel Club has not acted immediately to ban the mating of first-degree relatives but, for the first time, there is mention of the importance of genetic diversity, which is hugely encouraging. There are going to be howls of protest from some breed clubs and it remains to be seen how much genuine change will result.”

Amid the controversy, some praise for mutts

    Roy Hattersley sang the praises of mutts this week, as controversy continued to simmer over purebred breeding practices and dog shows that put a higher premium on “beauty” and “conformation” than they do on canine health.
    This week saw the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals pull out of Crufts, the world’s largest dog show, due to concerns about health problems in pedigree dogs and the role Crufts plays in perpetuating those problems.
    Meanwhile, the Kennel Club filed a complaint against the BBC, calling the documentary that led in part to the RSPCA withdrawal, unfair.
    The multi-part report, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” looked at the health problems experienced by certain breeds as a result of breeders striving to accentuate certain physical traits.

The documentary featured boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs that were unable to mate and — because of breeders striving for broader heads in the breed — unable to be born without Caesarian section.

A preview of the program can be found here. The entire series can be found on YouTube.

Here’s some of what Hattersley — politician, author, journalist and former member of Parliament — wrote:

“It is barbarous to breed a dog with a brain too big for its skull just to make it look right when it is walked around the competition ring. But the idea of breeding the perfect specimen is wrong in itself. Dogs should be loved as dogs, whatever their shape and size.

“Dogs were made to be friends not exhibits, status symbols or “positional goods” that demonstrate their owner’s aesthetic sensibilities, status, income or fastidious good taste. I am for mongrels because they proclaim the glory of just being dogs – not heads set at the right angles, legs of the proper length or ears suitably pricked. Mongrels are the essence of dog – dog as a virtue in itself … I believe that being a dog is – or ought to be – enough.

Hattersley is the author of many books, including “Buster’s Diaries,” in which his dog Buster defends  killing a goose in one of London’s royal Parks. In 1996 Hattersley was was fined in connection with the goose death.

His full essay can be found in the London Times.

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.”