Not long after he took over the position of chairman of the Kennel Club Steve Dean delivered the traditional ‘state of the nation’ address at the Welsh Kennel Club dinner. In it he expressed the hope that we, the ordinary dog folk who make up the bulk of those that avail themselves of the KC’s services, would get into the habit of referring to ‘Our Kennel Club’, that we would truly be involved and feel a part of the organisation. Nine months on, and quite a lot has changed. Sadly it isn’t for the better, and I suspect that most Dog World readers had a wry smile when they read the chairman’s comments suggesting that we shouldn’t all be so depressed.
It isn’t just the veterinary checks and championship shows that have caused unrest and upset among the dog showing fraternity. On the contrary, I suspect that the way in which they were carried out at Crufts, and not the checks themselves, was just the final straw for many people. And this is where the problem lies, in the apparent inability of anyone in Clarges Street to grasp the fact that we feel let down, abandoned almost, by those who rule our hobby.
Ever since the early days in the aftermath of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, when the KC appeared to be floundering completely – lost in an orgy of hand-wringing, cringing, apologetic statements and admissions of guilty practice; timidly trying to appease our critics and never once really standing up for the breeders, but always blaming them for the exaggerations that all admitted had crept into some breeds – the responsible, ethical breeders, those who have health-tested, have considered genetic diversity, have had the highest welfare standards, have seen their position eroded.
The Assured Breeder Scheme is trotted out as the answer to all ills. Yes, it’s a step forward, but it isn’t and can’t be the whole answer.
For so long we have been fed the line that the KC has no choice but to register every litter, so long as both parents are correctly registered. When this is challenged, that old chestnut is trotted out. "If we don’t register these puppies we will lose touch with those breeders”. Yes, and what is the problem with that? Does it not register that those who do have decent standards don’t want to be lumped in with others who are just breeding to make a quick buck, with no thought about the welfare of their bitches?
We show breeders are easy targets for our critics. We are a relatively small group who do at times seem more concerned with hairdressing than with allowing our dogs to just be dogs. Even though we know that even the most heavily campaigned exhibit will still spend the majority of his time out of the show ring rather than in it, it’s so simple for outsiders to ridicule our obsession, conveniently forgetting that it is, by and large, the show breeders that raise money for research into canine disease and the show breeders that fund breed rescue – mainly for the benefit of dogs bred by those who are outside the influence of the show world.
While we have seen, over the last few years, a proliferation of advertisements for puppies that apparently don’t need any health checks as they are not from show lines, and a growing number of litters that are proudly stated to not carry any KC registration, because it’s only KC registered puppies that are unhealthy, it is a fact that to many people that KC registration certificate is still a mark of quality. Surely the KC should be holding on to this, making it more difficult for those that don’t follow recommended guidelines to access their services, not being an all-embracing body that will happily legitimise even the dodgiest of breeders.
Concern was expressed at the KC AGM that limiting registration would somehow lead to a boutique system, whereby only certain dogs were allowed in. Would that really be such a bad thing? At the moment there are those who use the cachet of KC registration as a selling point for puppies with which any caring breeder would be ashamed to be associated. I am loathe to give them publicity, but if you have a moment, do just Google Teacup puppies in the UK and you will doubtless stumble upon sites that caught my eye.
My word, they look impressive – if anything could be described as ‘boutique’ dogs, then these certainly qualify. But do make sure you have your credit card ready. This ‘new baby’ will cost you thousands. The websites say all the right things too. "We carefully handpick the smallest, healthiest, top of the line puppies available! We value honesty and high ethical standards and only the best will do for our clients.” So who are these breeders? "We only work directly with reputable KC registered breeders.” Well, there you have it then. Reputable KC registered breeders – does that mean members of the ABS? There is no other way that I can think of that someone could be described as a KC registered breeder! Actually, I’m sure it doesn’t, at least I hope it doesn’t – after all there is in the KC code of ethics a clause which states that those registering puppies will not sell to commercial dog wholesalers or retail pet dealers.
This is where the KC’s energies should be directed. To allow these people to use the KC’s name as a selling point for these poor little creatures is simply a disgrace. These are Mark Evans’ ‘mutants’ – not the happy, healthy show dogs that should be proudly held up by the KC as examples of what the pedigree breeder is truly achieving. Education of the puppy- buying public, legal action against those that bring its name into disrepute – whatever it takes should be done – for the dogs’ sakes.
Another company has been seeking to cash in on the market too, supplying a breeding trio of two bitches and a dog, along with kennels in which to house them – a profitable business that you can run from home, claimed the advert. Sadly, that’s how the puppy buying public generally perceive the dog breeder and our public image is at an all-time low. The sad fact is that there are those that are making a great deal of money out of pedigree dogs – but it certainly isn’t those that strive for quality and are proud to exhibit their best for peer approval. Is it any wonder that, when we see such exploitation, we ordinary dog folk are feeling depressed?