THE KENNEL Club has responded to criticism by its German counterpart of the high-profile breed veterinary health checks.
As previously reported, in an official statement in Unser Rasse Hund, the VDH’s official magazine, it called the checks flawed, degrading and insensitive and said it was ‘neither possible nor practical’ to perform a thorough clinical veterinary examination at a show.
The practice was flawed, the article said, because only top-winning show dogs being checked had a ‘minimal effect’ on the selection process of future breeding stock, and a show was the wrong place to do it. The article also said it was degrading and insensitive for an exhibitor to be awarded best of breed only to be told later that the dog is not healthy.
"In Germany we always believed that the suitability for breeding purposes has to be assessed separately from dog shows which are ‘beauty contests’,” the statement read.
In a letter to the club the KC’s canine activities executive, Kathryn Symns, said the checks had been introduced to ensure dogs who became eligible for the group competition were not suffering from visible conditions which affected their health and welfare.
"For a number of years now the KC has been concerned about conformational exaggeration in some breeds,” she wrote, particularly in light of issues raised in the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which put dog showing and some breeds in danger of prohibition.
"The KC has been working closely with all those affected breeds and much work has been done by the breeds to move away from these exaggerations and in a remarkably short time,” she wrote. "As the KC, we have to provide the appropriate framework to ensure dogs win at shows because they are typical of their breed and have good health.
"The veterinary check is part of that framework, and if breeders, exhibitors and judges play a full part then the veterinary check should be a simply confirmatory procedure that it is expected will be dispensed with in due course once the high-profile breeds have been able to show improvement across their breed.”
Mrs Symns said that ‘for at least three years’ before Crufts the KC had been monitoring and observing breeds to gather data to support the work those breeds had undertaken to improve their conformation.
"It was regrettable that we needed to introduce veterinary checks…” she wrote. "However, it cannot be ignored that some breeds do have visible conformational exaggerations that have led to avoidable conditions causing pain or discomfort to the dog.
"It is quite possible for judges and vets to make assessments on the above conditions at a dog show and therefore we do not accept that the veterinary checks are flawed or impractical. Neither does the KC accept that dog shows are purely ‘beauty competitions’. If this was the case why is it, as suggested in the magazine article, unreasonable for dogs to be disqualified if they show signs of illness such as lameness, skin disorders or eye disease?
"We trust that this clarifies the position and wonder if you might wish to include such clarification in your magazine in the near future.”