THE CANINE Alliance has issued an invitation to Kennel Club chairman Steve Dean to attend an open meeting of its members.
The Alliance’s steering committee believes that in the wake of the KC’s annual meeting – at which a proposal to stop the examinations until a thorough review had taken place was lost by 92 to 56 – and subsequent comments made by Prof Dean, ‘much could be gained’ by such a meeting.
The Alliance’s letter points out that it is a ‘very real opportunity to meet the grass roots of our hobby’.
"Questions will be invited from the floor and will not be submitted in advance,” said Alliance secretary Robert Harlow. "The meeting will ensure that as many people as possible are able to offer their views in a responsible and dignified manner.
"The Canine Alliance shares the KC’s goal of healthy show and breeding stock, but firmly believes that the veterinary checks in their present format are far from ideal. In particular, the singling out of the same 15 breeds at every show is not the way forward.
"The Alliance wishes to work with the KC but believes that the views of the breeders and exhibitors who keep it in business should be listened to. We look forward to his acceptance and to what should be an informative and positive meeting.”
Prof Dean has been asked to pick a date and the Alliance has asked for the venue to be in the Midlands so it is accessible to as many Alliance members as possible.
"The dog world at large is facing many problems at the moment and we believe that the ultimate aims of the KC and the Alliance are far more similar than some would have us believe,” Mr Harlow said.
DOG WORLD asked Prof Dean for a comment but none had been received at the time of going to press.
In a letter this week to judges of high-profile breeds, Kathryn Symns, the KC’s canine events executive, said that if breeders, exhibitors and judges played a ‘full part’, the check should become a confirmatory procedure which ‘it is expected will be dispensed with in due course once the high-profile breeds have been able to show improvement across the board’.
She said that as a result of the AGM ‘an undertaking was given that the KC must and will continue to listen to all involved, and will as far as possible improve the process and guidance issued’.
The KC wants particularly to ensure it ‘fully informs and engages with both judges and breed clubs on this important matter, as they are an integral part in the continuing improvement of health for these breeds’, she wrote.
"We want to reassure all involved that we have been listening and from feedback received from club officials, judges, exhibitors and vets, we have reviewed the advice and guidance given to the vets appointed to undertake the examination of the dogs. For example, the guidelines now clearly state that the vet is not expected to use any diagnostic aids.
"After analysing the reports on each dog which has so far failed its veterinary check it would seem there is work to be done to ensure that eye health is improved. In the guide sent to high profile breed clubs and judges, the eye disease section has been significantly expanded and we are also planning seminars for early summer to review the issue of healthy eye conformation.”
The KC is holding ‘healthy eye seminars’ at the beginning of July. In a previous letter to judges the KC said they were being staged ‘as result of all the feedback received concerning the high-profile breed veterinary checks’, as there was ‘a clear need to help judges and exhibitors on healthy eye conformation’.
The format of the veterinary examination was first proposed in 2011 and recently modified following consultation with breed clubs and vets, Mrs Symns said.
"Out of 95 vet checks so far this year only eight dogs have failed,” she wrote. "This is a great result and one we should all be very proud of.
"We are now working towards providing a clear process for accepting applications for removal of breeds from the high-profile list, and part of the information – although not the sole information – we will use when looking at the applications will be the number of dogs that have passed the veterinary check.”
The KC acknowledged that much work has been done by the breeds to move away from exaggeration in ‘a remarkably short time’, Mrs Symns said, and aims to remove breeds from the list when the breed has shown ‘demonstrable health improvement’.
"It encourages breeders to not withhold from challenging for the best of breed, as this inhibits the ability of breed clubs and the KC to collect information to demonstrate improvement to breed health,” she said.
Mrs Symns said that the KC regulations had been changed to support the checks, and that in future if a dog is withdrawn from the ring because it is lame or ‘unhappy being in the ring’ this should be reported to the show secretary who in turn will report it to the KC.
"The KC commiserates with those whose dog has failed a veterinary check,” she wrote. "However, it is important to realise that the 15 high-profile breeds do have conformational exaggerations which have led to avoidable conditions causing pain or discomfort and this has to be unacceptable to us all.”
She concluded saying the checks were part of a framework to ensure winning dogs were typical or their breed and healthy. "… and if breeders, exhibitors and judges play a full part, the check should be a simple 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 the board.”
The revised guidance notes for vets can be found at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/download/12708/SH102HPvetsurgeoninfo.pdf.
• Writing in the American magazine Dog News, former KC chairman Ronnie Irving covered business discussed at the AGM, including the veterinary checks. He corrected a point made previously by one of the publication’s editors, Matt Stander, that the ‘chief architect’ of the checks had been former chairman of the KC’s health group and General Committee member, Dr Ruth Barbour.
"It is true that Dr Barbour was very much the developer of the positive work with the 15 breed clubs concerned, but, sadly in my view, she was not as far as I am aware involved in the preparatory work for the testing that took place at Crufts this year,” he wrote.
"I believe that things might have been rather different if she had been.”
Meanwhile, the KC has advertised the job of ‘high-profile breed co-ordinator’. The advertisement says the successful applicant ‘will provide proactive support for high-profile breed clubs and their breed health co-ordinators; act as a point of communication between the KC and breed clubs, breed health co-ordinators, judges and exhibitors, and provide regular communication with all enthusiasts on the management of the high-profile breed list.
‘This role will be a first point of contact for those associated with the high-profile breeds to respond to their questions and concerns as well as to assist clubs in gathering suitable information and data to support applications for removal from the high-profile list’.
One can but hope that 'typical of their breed' is going to be taken into account. in future, especially after what happened in my main breed at Crufts, when the examining vet apparently said she was looking at the Basset as a normal dog and mentioned a Collie type eye. If there is to be a vet inspection, the wording of the Breed Standard MUST be taken into consideration. Surely?