Proposed Ban on Puppy Sales

DEFRA are calling for responses to a consultation on banning third party sales of puppies. Click on the link to have your say.

If enacted, it could be possible that the commercial sale of puppies and possibly kittens and other animals would no longer be legal from pet shops. Currently, pet shops can apply to their local authority for a licence to sell puppies and are subject (in theory at least), to regular inspection.

However, even if pet shops are capable of providing suitable conditions from which to house and sell puppies which is extremely doubtful, they can only guarantee a regular supply of puppies from mass breeding. As the BBC TV documentary The Dog Factory proved, some of these outlets are a boon for puppy farmers, including those masquerading and even functioning as regular breeders.

This sounds like an excellent proposition, but the only way to prevent it from being just another statute amongst the 50+ laws that deal with dogs in the UK is for considerable resources to be put into enforcing and policing it. That seems highly unlikely in the current climate of severe local authority cuts.

Read the full response from CReDO here…

Sentience and Sensibility

It is probably fair to say that those who voted to leave Europe had absolutely no idea of the implications of their actions and, let’s face it, those who voted to remain probably didn’t in any detail either. Well, the pigeons are coming home to roost thick and fast now.

As far as the EU Withdrawal Bill is concerned, those pigeons are designated as not being sentient. An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law was defeated by 313 votes to 295 in a Parliamentary vote and MPs have argued that both farm and domestic animals are covered by existing legislation, some of which goes beyond EU protocols. There has been widespread outcry from various quarters to this decision, but it easy to have a knee-jerk reaction as we well know, otherwise we would not be in this position in the first place.

The existence and degree of sentience across the animal kingdom is a long way from being fully understood, let alone agreed upon, but few would dispute its existence in the major species that could be affected by the UK’s decision to drop the designation from its legislation. Michael Gove has hinted that specific UK legislation may be tigtened, including a promise to crack down on puppy farming.

At the end of the day, all the legislation in the world cannot protect animals from harm unless it is policed and prosecuted where breaches occur. Many of the more than 50 statutes that supposedly protect dogs alone are routinely breached and that includes statutes that could prevent puppy farming. Let’s face it, the Kennel Club did nothing when one of its members, a prominent breeder and show competitor was exposed as a puppy farmer and it continues to register puppy farmned dogs. If the organisation that purports to care about the welfare of all dogs does nothing, there is little hope in a climate of austerity and maximising profits for the few that much will be done. Whatever government is in office in the near future will have its hands full coping wityh the effects of leaving the EU; puppy farming will only become a priority if it is seen as being politically expedient or as a smokescreen for “burying bad news”.

KC Plays Tail End Charlie

The KC has just published a report entitled What the Kennel Club does for Dog Health

Many dog owners may feel that the title is a bit rich given that canine health would probably not be in such dire straits were it not for the KC’s implementation of closed stud books and perpetuation of breeding for looks.

The Kennel Club has been playing tail end Charlie in the court of public opinion since at least 2008. Its brand is being seen as being increasingly toxic and any efforts that it makes to improve the situation are likely to be doomed to irrelevance in the face of the scale of the problem that is, after all, largely of their own making.

Is it too little too late?

Read more…

Man Bites Dog

Last year, an American bulldog dog killed a three year old. Although fatalities from dog attacks are still extremely rare, incidents such as this still crop up a few times a year and of course attract far more attention than the 1,700 people killed in traffic accidents or the 78,000 deaths directly attributable to smoking that occurred over the same period.

The owner of the American bulldog has just been given a 12 month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. She was also disqualified from owning a dog for 10 years and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

The dog of course was euthanised.

So how will this punishment help? It certainly won’t bring the dog back. It won’t prevent other people and other dogs from ending up in the same position, not to mention the 7,000 or so people who will still be bitten by dogs and require hospital treatment in any given year.

In theory, this woman and others like her could just go out and get another dog in 2027 and nothing will have been done to educate her in responsible dog ownership. Her community service is likely to entail removing graffiti, clearing litter or decorating public buildings. How much more beneficial if she spent those 100 hours – equal only to two weeks work – learning about dogs.

The causes of such attacks are usually depressingly similar. Bad breeding, lack of socialisation, bad handling, lack of stimulation and exercise, lack of training, poor diet.

The owners often live in similar depravation. It is hardly surprising that most of the people who get bitten and even killed by dogs are relatively poor; the impoverishment being as much social as financial. Just as the status dogs of the relatively wealthy often comprise gun dogs that suggest the landed estate, the dogs of the poor are usually musclebound hulks providing the illusion of power that is lacking for people with minimal education, poor job prospects and limited opportunities. There’s also the chance that they will protect you from the loan shark or the drug dealer or the gang member.

Wealthy people just give their dogs away when they can no longer cope with their lack of training and socialisation or dump them on the dog minder for most of their lives. The poor compound their errors until, every so often, the dog, through no fault of its own, kills someone.

Would You Visit A Freak Show?

ugly dogs Human “freak shows” were popular pastimes in England from the mid-16th century until the 19th century, by which time they had spread to the United States. Popularised by figures such as PT Barnum, they were extremely successful commercially and often the best way of people with disabilities making a good living and preserving some dignity. I doubt, however that many modern audiences would find them acceptable, so why is it that we deem it permissible to exhibit such dogs?

Skeleton of a dog with short-spine syndrom

Skeleton of a dog with short-spine syndrom

A congenitally deformed dog called Quasi Modo (says it all) has just been “awarded” the title of the “World’s Ugliest Dog” in a competition in a state fair in California, USA. She is owned by a vet who has twice entered the “competition”, coming second last year and now winning it. The vet stated that “The Chinese crested and Mexican hairless ones [in the competition] were all rotten teeth, missing fur and tongues hanging out.” The vet’s dog, by contrast, is suffering from short-spine syndrome that not only results in extreme shortening of the spine, but corresponding shortening of the ligaments, a sloped profile, elongated front legs and cow hocks in the rear legs. The tail is usually absent or bobbed in such dogs. It is a genetic deformity caused by in-breeding.

Deliberate in-breeding by humans.

The vet makes many protestations, perhaps anticipating that her support for this “competition” might draw criticism. “This isn’t about making fun of her, it’s about celebrating our differences. We don’t think she’s ugly, but we love her enough that we can have a little joke”.

Her “little joke” is at the expense of a dog with fused vertebrae that result in her being unable to move her head. “She still has to turn her whole body to look at anything.” Are we meant to celebrate this level of in-breeding? Does this vet seriously think that because she “loves her enough” it makes it all right?

This is a list of the descriptions of some of the previous winners:

  • Blind
  • Bug eyes
  • Long, wagging tongue
  • Hunched
  • Peculiar walk
  • Bi-pedalism
  • Malformed nose
  • Short tufts of hair
  • Protruding tongue
  • Long, seemingly hairless legs
  • Short snout
  • Beady eyes
  • Huge-headed
  • Duck-footed
  • Deformed lips
  • Deformed eyelids.

A vet supporting this “competition” is also supporting an abysmal standard of animal welfare. I’m sure that this little dog, and perhaps others that are similarly afflicted and in caring homes, have a good quality of life but in the end, such competitions are no different to Victorian freak shows. They don’t demonstrate “love” for dogs but the fact that we have chosen to perpetuate genetic mutations such as hairlessness or colourings such as merle, piebald and white, which in some breeds goes hand in hand with congenital deformities, for no other reason than a love of novelty or the vanity of having something that draws attention to ourselves. I’m glad that there are people who are prepared to take these dogs in and give them good homes. Perhaps they think that by highlighting their own dogs that they will automatically prevent more from being bred, but that is certainly not the way that most of the media (and probably the general public view it).

When “ugly” means deformed dentition, skeletal abnormalities, ocular and aural problems and similar issues there is nothing to celebrate, even if the individual dog has a comparatively good life. Making the existence of such dogs acceptable goes hand in hand with the widespread acceptance of conditions such as severe brachycephaly and achondroplasia that cause misery for millions of affected dogs and lead to much reduced lifespans.

The prevalence of brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs such as pugs, French bulldogs and dachshunds in recent advertising campaigns and in online posts, where their respiratory distress, limited physical ability and chronic associated illnesses are seen by many as being “cute”, is the other side of the coin. When judges and vets accept ataxic, wheezing, gasping dogs as champions, there is something surely very, very wrong.

Before anyone attempts to make a comparison with the lives of people with physical disabilities, we should remember that we have deliberately bred dogs to look like this and that for every dog that may be just plain “ugly” there are many more that suffer the consequences of our (preventable) actions. Many of those dogs, we are told, are the epitome of “beauty”. We should recognise deformities for what they are and we should regard deformed dogs as ugly – not in themselves so much as the fact that they represent some of the worst things that humans have done to dogs.

I hope that the vet is donating her $1,000 winnings and any other money that she may make as a result of her appearances to a campaign to improve dog welfare so that this competition can simply die out through a lack of entries.

Déjà Vu

deed not breed Some things recur as regularly as rain in an English summer: cyclists continue to ride up the blind side of lorries and get killed and people abuse dogs and get killed. The only difference is that, on the very rare occasions when dogs kill people, it is often not the original perpetrator of the abuse that dies. I nearly wrote “that is the victim”, but of course the initial victim is the dog.

In the last couple of days a Staffie has bitten several children and yesterday a man was killed by one of his dogs in Cumbria. The poor dog, reported to be a pitbull, was tasered before it was executed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the life that the dog had led beforehand, nor the owner for that matter.

I am just finishing reading Simon Harding’s excellent book Unleashed: The Phenomena of Status Dogs and Weapon Dogs which looks at the social and political changes that have led to the rise in dog-on-human attacks. He also considers the changes to dogs caused by in-breeding and selective breeding for aggression. Far more research is needed in this area, but it is probable that some breeds of dog have been both bred and trained to maximise aggressive traits. Large numbers of dogs are abused by ignorance and poor handling even if owners do not intend that they should cause deliberate harm.

There also seems to be something of an arms race where, in areas where gangs are common, non-gang members (mostly young males) buy dogs that they think will appear to be aggressive and be a deterrent for anyone who might attack them. If they came from the local pool of back street-bred dogs, they may already be the products of selection for aggression. Although it is by no means a guarantee, the likelihood that these dogs are housed in poor conditions, largely untrained and fed a poor quality diet is high. They may be exercised on lead only or even chained up outdoors for long periods. As we reported earlier, 6% of owners surveyed by insurers More Th>n admitted to administering protein shakes so that their dog “would look more impressive in public”. Damaged trees in city parks all over the country attest to the owners who encourage their dogs to hang off branches to “toughen their jaws”.It is also possible to see ropes slung from tress with a stick tied to the bottom that dogs dangle from.

In turn, the people that own them see little future away from the depravation and “post code wars” that confine them to a few run-down streets. they too often expect life to be cut short prematurely. Even the gangs and violence don’t get them, poor health often will.

Until we address the social and political problems that give rise to the breeding and keeping of dogs that cause harm, the headlines will continue to appear with depressing regularity.

Crufts Catastrophe – Yet Again

private video I haven’t had a television for more than a decade and have been too busy to watch Crufts online. Well, that’s my excuse. In reality, I don’t thing that I can bear to look at the travesties of dogs that competitors, judges and the public not only regard as acceptable but reward and perpetuate. I have passed the Kennel Club Judge’s Examinations but have no desire to participate in perpetuating the horrors of the pedigree show ring. Dogs are stunted, neotanised, gasping for breath, weighed down by skin folds, bug eyed or, as in the case of the German Shepherd Cruaghaire Catoria, actually ataxic and terrified to boot… and that’s just the conditions that are visible. Just about the only problem that my examiner would admit to when asked by another candidate about disqualifying dogs on health grounds was lameness. We we were told also that temperament should be taken into account. Well Cruaghaire Catoria was both lame and extremely nervous.

The Kennel Club has now stated that “…we made the decision not to further highlight the unsound movement of the dog whilst we discuss ways forward to improve the health of the breed.” They have blocked the video on You Tube, and instructed Channel 4, which has been airing Crufts since the BBC pulled out on welfare grounds, to edit the footage so that Cruaghaire Catoria was not seen moving.

Thanks to Jemima Harrison and Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the footage is available along with additional information such as these comments from previous judges:

“This bitch is so correct throughout, lovely feminine head & good expression, neck well set on to body. Very good front angulation, lovely topline & good croup, very balanced hind angles. Correct height to length ratio, super underline. In movement she is outstanding so clean coming & going & her profile movement was really excellent.. Very pleased to award her the CC & BOB.”

“…black and gold female of ideal middle size and strength, excellent general proportions, feminine expressive female with well shaped head dark eye and excellent ear carriage, normal wither into straight strong firm back, well laid croup which could be a touch longer, very good forehand with very good underline, excellent hindquarters with strong broad thighs, in top show condition, this female shows a willingness to perform in all phases, demonstrating excellent reach and drive, this was a super class of females, in my opinion this is a female who deserves the highest of accolades, a pleasure to judge. BEST BITCH AND BOB.”

Now I know what I was taught in the KC Judge’s exam and it bore no resemblance to what I saw in this bitch. I could not recognise her from the previous judges’ comments. I would like to think that no one in their right mind could fail to see that this dog was petrified, couldn’t wait to get out of the ring and was actually ataxic. Her topline was so distorted that she seemed to be crouching permanently. When she moved, the whole of her lower hind leg was placed on the ground and she scraped the top of her foot as she struggled to lift her leg high enough to take another step. This is the sort of gait that is commonly seen in dogs suffering from canine degenerative myelopathy. It is an auto-immune disease that is prevalent in German Shepherds and that causes progressive degeneration of the spinal cord resulting in weakness and eventual loss of communication between the brain and the hind legs. This bitch was passed as sound by vets.

Those breeding, judging and showing are supposed to represent the epitome in their chosen breeds so why would any of them think that it what was exhibited at Crufts this year was, in any way, shape or form, normal or acceptable? Not to mention the vet. Now I think it unlikely that this dog has degenerated since she was last judged so that, at every step of the way, a series of supposed experts have concluded that she represents some form of perfection.

Owner Susan Cuthbert has stated “Words cannot express the heart-wrenching experience that I have suffered.” Of course no acknowledgment that it is her dog who is truly suffering. Cuthbert then asks “How can you judge a dog on such a brief observation?”

Well, Ms Cuthbert, I was repeatedly told by my KC examiner that as a judge I would have fewer than two minutes to go over a dog and approximately 30 seconds to see it moving.

Personally, it took me no more than a second or so to see that this dog has an appalling topline, a severely abnormal gait and was clearly very unhappy in the ring.

The handler has further stated that the dog was overwhelmed by the noise, lights, heat and “forced photo [sic]shoots” and that this is “a situation that no owner, trainer or handler can prepare for.” One might forgive him the preposition at the end of the sentence but not that he does not realise that breeders, owners, trainers and handlers can do exactly that. If the dog was that distressed, why was she exhibited? This is supposed to be a top show dog; if her temperament is not suited to the ring, then she should not be shown and should not be bred from. If this was a one-off, she should have been withdrawn.

I took my rescue dog to Crufts a couple of years ago. He coped with the crowds, noise, heat, lights, flashing cameras (often in his face), noisy spectators and 8 hours of being patted, not always in an ideal manner. He also exhibited in the ring with Pets As Therapy. He wasn’t the slightest bit ruffled by any of it, in fact lapped it all up. So did the other PAT dogs – pets, many of them rescue dogs, who had with a minimal amount of good handling and training adapted very well to the demands of Crufts. Had my dog been at all discomfitted, I would have taken him home.

It should be remembered that Crufts was originally established with the aim of selling dog food. It now seem to be a club for the few initiates. In spite of the fact that 47,000 entries were received this year, some finalists were related or obviously known to the judges and the oft-heard complaint that the awards go to “the person on the end of the lead” may not be entirely a case of sour grapes. Even if judges are completely unbaised, awards are obviously not going only to fit, healthy and happy dogs.

The only good thing to come out of this is the outcry that it has engendered. The next good thing that should come of it is effective and immediate action by the Kennel Club to prevent all “recognised” breeds with blatent distortions and heritable problems from being bred from or shown and those that are not “recognised” to remain so. I won’t hold my breath.

Coming Up For Air

stenotic nares Following on from the furore in Sweden and worldwide when Swedish judge Åke Cronander awarded a pug an Excellent rating at a show in Sweden in spite of the fact that it was evidently in respiratory distress (see Swedish Vets and SKK Lead The Way), Swedish vets have continued to take a lead in preventing further suffering in brachycephalic dogs.

Two Swedish veterinary ophthalmologists have make a public statement asking for a ban on breeding severely brachycephalic breeds (see Pedigree Dogs Exposed Blog for full details). This will no doubt provoke a storm of protest from owners and breeders who seem blind to the suffering of these dogs but it is an urgent consideration that has to be made because of the appalling breeding practices that have led to this situation. Of course, brachycephalic dogs are not the only breeds that are severely affected by heritable diseases – Cavalier King Charles spaniels with MVD and syringomyelia spring to mind for instance.

Should we seriously consider that some of the breeds with which we have become familiar over the last hundred years or so should be allowed to become extinct? Is it possible to outcross to eliminate most of the problems or will that just prolong the suffering of the resulting dogs? More and more genetic tests are being developed but they are not always a solution to a problem and only a tiny percentage of the dogs bred will have been tested anyway.

More urgently, we need to work to eliminate the mind set in some humans that sees bulging eyes, miniaturisation, obesity and gasping for breath as “cute” and “normal”.

All eyes will be on Sweden to see how this develops.

End BackStreet Breeding Campaign

licensed Battersea Dogs & Cats Home established an End Backstreet Breeding campaign in 2015 aimed at lowering the licensing threshold to two litters in stead of five as at present and closing loopholes to stop the sale of dogs below eight weeks of age to pet shops and dealers.

There are currently 895 licensed dog breeders using an estimated 13,425 breeding bitches (assuming that each bitch has one litter per year) in 379 Local Authorities areas in England, Wales and Scotland; an increase of 32% since 2010. 40% are located in 6% of the local authorities, clustering in mid and west Wales, Lincolnshire, East Anglia and some rural areas of Scotland. The law in Wales changed in April 2015, licensing all breeders at the third litter and bringing a further 500 breeders into the scope of licensing. The costs of inspection can be reclaimed through the application fee. One third of Local Authorities do not license any breeders and fewer than 12% of puppies born in Great Britain are bred by licensed breeders in any given year. Effective enforcement of regulations varies markedly from one area to another. Licensed dog breeders produce an estimated 67,125 puppies annually, some using 10 or fewer breeding bitches but five with more than 100 breeding bitches and the largest with 200. Just 5 licences were refused in 2014 for failing to provide adequate accommodation or levels of supervision. 88% of puppies are bred outside of the licensing regulations.

Although the average number of bitches used for breeding in any one establishment is 10, large establishments are responsible for 75% of breeding. Staff in councils where few licences are issued may not have much expertise or training in dealing with dogs. The C.A.R.I.A.D campaign for instance, is well aware of puppy farms that are repeatedly given licences in spite of appalling breeding practices and conditions. This was also highlighted in the recent BBC TV documentary The Dog Factory. In addition to large variations in the fee structure between local authorities, new applications may be required to pay additional vet fees costing between £100 and £300. Basic fees vary between £23 in Glasgow to £741 in the London Borough of Lambeth, in spite of the fact that local authorities are prohibited from making a profit from the licence fee, setting a high fee as a deterrent or setting a fee low to attract businesses to their area.

Reducing the legal requirement to obtain a licence to two litters a year is not likely to improve the situation. Although this campaign should be supported, it does not go far enough. Anyone breeding a dog should be licensed and resources need to be put into enforcement as fees are collected to pay for it. There should be a massive public information campaign and breeders should be traced through online advertisements and the remaining pet shops that still sell dogs.

Clueless Cloning

boxers The news that Laura Jacques and Richard Remde have paid the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Korea £67,000 per dog for two clones of their deceased boxer must cause disquiet in the dog world and beyond.

It displays a glaring ignorance, or worse disregard, on the part of the owners for the welfare considerations of adult clones who have been shown to suffer serious ill health and consequential premature death not to mention the lab in question (previously known to have made false claims about human cloning). It also disregards epigenetics: no two dogs will ever be alike because of the effects of the environment in utero and after birth. Are the owners then just concerned about the superficial appearance of their dogs?

What a monumental waste of money that could have gone a very long way to helping dogs in many spheres rather than boosting the vanity of the owners. We should make moves to legislate against this practice as soon as possible.