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Tag: health problems

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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PETA takes aim on Westminster sponsors

After failing to persuade the USA Network to drop its coverage of the Westminster dog show, PETA has gone to advertisers, asking them to drop their sponsorships.

Apparently, the organization isn’t getting many bites there, either.

PETA initially asked the USA Network not to televise the show, scheduled to air Feb. 9 and 10, citing the BBC’s decision to drop its coverage of the Crufts dog show — due to concerns about breeding standards it said contributed to health problems in certain breeds.

The British Kennel Club subsequently revised its standards for many breeds.

As described in PETA’s letter to Westminster advertisers, “The new BKC standards allow dogs to breathe, walk, and see freely, which previous breeding standards prevented.  Unfortunately, the AKC has refused to take even the smallest step to allow American dogs these same basic freedoms …

“On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and our more than 2 million members and supporters, we ask that you pull your company’s sponsorship of this event until the AKC revises its breeding standards so that it is, at the very least, in line with the BKC’s standards, which would reduce the likelihood that purebred dogs will needlessly suffer from diseases and disorders.”

Among companies receiving the letter were Pedigree, the dog food company, and LifeLock, an Arizona-based identity theft protection company.

BBC refuses to televise Crufts dog show

For the first time in more than 40 years, the BBC will not televise Britain’s biggest dog show.

BBC officials said Friday that the network had suspended coverage of the 2009 Crufts show “pending further investigations into the health and well-being of pedigree dogs in the U.K.”

Crufts organizers accused the BBC of making “unreasonable demands” that it exclude certain breeds of dog from the show.

The Kennel Club, the show’s organizer, and the BBC have been at odds since September when the BBC aired a documentary claiming decades of inbreeding had led to serious health problems in some pedigree dogs.

The show will take place as scheduled in March, but, because Crufts organizers would not comply with the BBC’s request for particular breeds to be excluded from the show, it won’t be shown on BBC.

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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.