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Is it both breeders and puppy buyers' responsibility to improve the health and happiness of our dog population?

Some food for thought from What's In My Genes:

The health of our UK dog population is heading into crisis. Dogs unable to breath, walk, run, play, heads too small for their brains, living in constant pain and /or discomfort which as well as causing mental distress/heartache and financial difficulties for puppy buyers is leading to problems with aggression/behaviour with even more animals ending up in rescue.

The signs are there – it is growing into a serious public health risk – people are experiencing poor mental health due to the stress of living with a “member” of the family with a chronic illness, financial hardship/ hard decisions having to be made re cost of surgery and medication, and potentially more physical risk with dogs having more and more temperament issues. The government needs to do something and it needs to do it now.

It needs to be a two-pronged approach – breeders need to understand the need to breed responsibly and us, the puppy buyer, need to understand what our demand for certain breeds of dogs is driving.

The team at the What’s in my Genes? campaign (raising awareness of hereditary diseases in dogs) have come up with a petition to tackle part of the problem. Breeding should be done thoughtfully and fully researched with adequate training to give pups of the future the best chance of a happy healthy life.

This petition asks for ALL breeding dogs to be registered , but registered subject to health test together with conformation & temperament assessments whilst taking genetic diversity (COI) into consideration, caveats would of course be included regards certain aspects such as breeding a carrier dog.

• There is already a registration system up and running by the Kennel Club, having these tests mandatory for registration takes away the need for the kennel club to enforce – they would simply receive the results along with the registration request and if results are acceptable would then register – the kennel club don’t want to enforce and this way they wouldn’t have too and it would rebuild their reputation as to the go to place for as healthy pup as possible.

• An independent panel of vets can produce a list of the most serious & detrimental breed specific hereditary diseases for which testing will be mandatory.

• A network of behaviourist up and down the country could assess the dogs’ temperament according to a pre designed assessment form, potentially with a caveat that this dog could be bred for a certain function but not as a pet.

• Their local Vet could assess conformation again as per a pre designed assessment form

• The KC already has an algorithm for COI.

It would be less time consuming/easier for LA inspector when it comes to licencing as they would know that a registered dog had already been deemed suitable for breeding and they can concentrate on other aspects of the inspection.

This particular part of the Animal Welfare Regulations needs clarifying:
Part B – Specific conditions: breeding dogs (Schedule 6 of the Regulations) Condition 6.5 No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.
Reasonably expected needs to be clarified by a mandatory standard for hereditary health testing, temperament and conformation assessments with appropriate caveats in place such as breeding of carriers of specific diseases. This petition aims to do just that.

Puppy buyers need a “Kite Mark” indicating a “responsible” breeder – this registration would be just that. We’re never going to change puppy buying from a heart purchase to a head purchase without making it easier for puppy buyers to find a reputable breed and have a definition of what a reputable breeder is.

What the puppy buyer can do..

We hear time after time the breeder has to compromise because of genetic diversity (COI) within the breed they are involved with, we believe compromise is unacceptable and leads to continued “production” of unhealthy unsound poorly conformed pups.

Dogs are a species there are hundreds and thousands of them. They don’t have to be narrowed down into specific breed type – we the puppy buying public need to look at the way we perceive and buy dogs as a whole.

Maybe its time to stop looking a dogs by breed but actually:

• Service Dog
• Work Dog
• Sports Dog
• And most importantly Pet Dog
• Other functions

Could this be the way forward for puppy buyers. Breeders can still preserve their breed but maybe looking at it from a different perspective – prioritising function first – after all most dogs were initially bred for function – herding, guarding, sports etc…

Can we start changing the way we choose our dogs by looks (Breed) as a priority and move towards choosing for function. Choosing a puppy born to be a pet. Not excess from a litter born for sport, or working, or agility.

It is us the puppy buying public’s responsibility to drive the demand for healthier happier pups which can live happily and healthily in our homes.

But we also need help in knowing a responsible breeder and the above mentioned “kite mark” is definitely a way forward with perhaps a specific “bred to be a pet” mark too.

So please sign our petition to encourage responsible breeding and let’s start talking about function health and temperament rather than looks.


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