A Kennel Club Masterclass in Mockery Making
Last week I asked which way the Kennel Club will go when it comes to introducing mandatory health testing. This, in specific relation to their registered Cavalier King Charles spaniel breeders, as health campaigners handed over a petition signed by over 30,000 people asking the Kennel Club do this to save this popular breed. The indications are not good as within hours of accepting the petition at Crufts, a dog was crowned Best of Breed that’s been bred flouting guidelines put in place to reduce the incidence of inherited disease. Campaigners slammed this as making a mockery of breeding guidelines.
Cavaliers suffer in high numbers from an inherited heart condition called Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia, a painful neurological disorder. Health campaigners Margaret Carter, Charlotte Mackaness and TV vet Emma Milne presented Bill Lambert, health and breeder services manager at the Kennel Club, with comments from the petition asking the Kennel Club to only register puppies from Cavaliers screened for these conditions. They told him that there would be no need to petition if sufficient breeders were carrying out health checks and followed guidelines.
The three have since written an open letter to Mr Lambert expressing their dismay that the Cavalier that won the Best of Breed title at Crufts later that day had 7 litters of puppies registered with the UK Kennel Club before he was 2.5 years old.
Breeding guidelines put in place in the 1990s state that Cavaliers should not be bred before two and a half years old. The Cavalier Club’s own website states: “Reputable breeders are aware of these health problems. Those intending to purchase a puppy are recommended to buy from a breeder who health tests their stock, who follows breeding guidelines issued by veterinary experts, and who is prepared to discuss and advise the purchaser on health issues.”
Campaigners point out that not only is the winning dog, Castlewytch Rave On With Russmic, owned by a Cavalier Club committee member but his second registered litter was bred by the then chair of the Cavalier Club who is still the Kennel Club Cavalier Breed Health Coordinator.
In the Open Letter to Mr Lambert, the campaigners state:
“Two years ago the Cavalier awarded Best of Breed had sired a litter of puppies before his first birthday. If one looks only at the dogs entered in the Crufts’ show guide for this year’s Open Dog Class, eight sired litters registered with the UK Kennel Club before they reached 2.5 years old, some well before this age.”
The group also highlights that one of the dogs entered for the class they examined started siring puppies before his first birthday, despite being bred and owned by a regional Cavalier Club puppy coordinator.
Emma Milne says:
When the people giving breed advice, including the Club’s own health liaison and puppy coordinators, are producing animals outside of protocols, what hope is there for the breed or for puppy buyers trying to be responsible.
The winner of this year’s Best of Breed at Crufts makes a total mockery of the breed club and Kennel Club claims that they are committed to Cavaliers’ health and welfare. Litters should not be registered from breeders that are so blatantly ignoring well-accepted specialist research and advice. These health problems are widespread and devastating for the dogs and their owners. Nothing concrete has been done to improve things for decades. It’s way past time for change.
There is no official heart testing scheme in the UK for Cavaliers, despite MVD being their biggest killer and 20 times more prevalent than in other breeds. Many European countries have mandatory health testing for Cavaliers, including Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, which has seen it’s the risk of MVD in Cavaliers fall by 73 per cent since introducing a compulsory heart testing scheme for the breed.
One breed seriously let down yet again by the organisation which claims on its website to be
the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs.
It’s hard for me to conceive of a less accurate description for this organisation.