THE KENNEL Club has succeeded in getting UK Accreditation Service accreditation for its Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS).
Accreditation by UKAS was recommended by Prof Sir Patrick Bateson in his Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding in January 2010, when he said it was an important step in giving puppy buyers a clear indication of whom they should trust in a market where rogue and irresponsible breeders were operating.
The KC said it had been through ‘numerous audits’ with UKAS and made a number of amendments to the scheme to achieve recognition as a competent evaluator which has met international accreditation standards.
In an important move that helps the KC to fulfil its UKAS requirements, every new member of the scheme will be inspected before they are accepted, and all current members will be inspected within three years. Checks will continue as in the past, particularly where any concerns are highlighted or when issues have been raised through feedback from puppy buyers, the KC said.
Other long-standing rules of the scheme which remain include ensuring that all animals are kept and raised in good conditions, both parents are assessed using the appropriate health and DNA tests before they are bred from, and ensuring that the puppies are well socialised before going to new homes.
The KC recently announced a set of updated rules forming the ABS standard which contains the compulsory requirements of the scheme. These revised rules retain many of the long-standing requirements of the scheme, but the wording has been modified to add clarity about the exact requirements members should achieve.
The KC will shortly be announcing a plan to demonstrate the impact UKAS accreditation will have. As a transitional arrangement, this will include a system for identifying which breeders have been visited under the KC’s new accredited status. There will also be a plan for offering further incentives to Assured Breeders and for covering the inevitable costs of increased inspections.
KC health and breeder services manager Bill Lambert said: "Responsible breeders are passionate about producing puppies who live healthy, happy lives, and they fulfil all the expectations that responsible owners demand. But it is only Assured Breeders who are bound to this commitment by agreeing to mandatory health testing of their breeding animals, by opening their doors to allow inspection and by being committed to providing a service to puppy buyers throughout the life of the animal. Indeed, many of our members go above and beyond the scheme’s requirements.
"The scheme has continually developed since its inception, which has meant that the further changes we needed to make to achieve formal accreditation by UKAS were straightforward. The greatest change is still to come as we increase the number of breeder assessment visits we carry out, so that there can be no doubt that those on the scheme are continuing to adopt the standards that we expect.
"We again urge all responsible breeders to join the ABS, which is the simplest and easiest way for us all to work together and ensure that puppy buyers find a responsible breeder and are not duped by somebody who is less committed to breeding healthy dogs. The scheme does not make any money for the KC; in fact we have subsidised the costs of the scheme for many years, but running it is just another example of how the KC makes a difference for dogs.”
KC chairman Steve Dean said: "Since Prof Bateson’s report the situation has got even worse, with people taking advantage of the relaxation of pet travel laws, which makes it easier to bring sickly pups into the country from abroad. The puppy-breeding market is poorly regulated, meaning that many people struggle to identify good from bad breeders, often ending up with sick puppies that die prematurely or that cost thousands of pounds in veterinary treatment.
"KC research has shown that many consumers buy their puppies from pet shops, online and newspaper free ads, outlets which can all be used by puppy farmers who breed purely for profit without any thought for the outcome of the puppies that they produce. Many puppy farmers do not let buyers see their premises and sell through dealers, going to great lengths to hide the awful conditions that the puppies are kept in, and KC research indicates that as many as one in five people may have bought their puppy from a puppy farm.”
The ABS was established in 2004 and is the only scheme in the UK which monitors breeders’ activities to provide assurance on their commitment to health and welfare, Prof Dean said.
"We had been working closely with UKAS prior to Prof Bateson recommending we seek its accreditation, and are delighted that we have now been granted this, enabling us to certify breeders under this scheme.
"The message is clear. Puppy buyers who want to be sure that they are going to a breeder who offers a genuinely high standard of health and welfare in caring for their dogs should go to an Assured Breeder.”
Prof Bateson said his report had illustrated the urgent need for a robust accreditation scheme for breeders.
"The fact that the KC has now received UKAS recognition for its ABS is an important step forward, and the buying public should be encouraged to purchase from these breeders so as to put irresponsible breeders out of business."