THE ST Bernard best of breed failed his veterinary check at Bath ch show. But the bitch CC winner, who failed her check on conformational grounds two weeks ago, passed.
Vet Chris Laurence, who is president of Bath Canine Society, told Pat Muggleton that 18-month-old Bernmont Heathcliffe (Hamlet) had epiphora – defined as excessive tear production usually caused by irritation – in both eyes and mucoid discharge in one. But Chandlimore On The Bottle – who at Birmingham National was said to have eyeballs too small for her eyes – sailed through without comment.
She had been the first of her breed to fail a check after winning BOB at a general or group championship show. Officiating at the National was eye specialist John Goodyear.
Afterwards, On The Bottle’s co-owner, Tan Nagrecha, called the vet-checking process ‘pointless’, and the Canine Alliance said what had happened with his bitch ‘amplified the stupidity of the system’. Miss Muggleton said it had made the whole thing a mockery.
Mr Nagrecha said he had been determined to carry on showing his bitch – who now has two CCs – after she failed the vet check at the National.
"And now she has passed – with flying colours,” he said. "If a vet has any reservations he or she has the opportunity to write comments in the comment box contained in the vet check form, but no comment was made at all, so I assume he was fairly happy with the conformation of her eye and the health of her eyes.
"I was very pleased, but it just shows that the whole system is pointless. All it has managed to do is upset the judge and dishearten and offend the breeders and exhibitors. On The Bottle’s co-owners are fairly new to the breed and it has been very upsetting for them. I take a more pragmatic approach to it, choosing to face it head on and deal with it.
"As an exercise these checks are pointless and the results appear to be random. My bitch failed her first check because of the conformation of her eye, which the judge or breeder would not be experienced enough medically to be knowledgeable about. The vet at Bath seemed to be looking for signs of illness or harm to the eye caused by infection or irritation. To be frank, I believe he was following the vet-check guidelines, as that is how I understand the guidelines... As a judge myself one can only check to see if the eye is generally healthy and not ‘extreme’ in any way as to cause instant concern or alarm.
"We know our breed has a long way to go in stabilising issues highlighted by the Kennel Club, and we as breeders are supporting the KC on that, but it takes time and patience to achieve changes in the breed.
"The KC would be better advised to consider investing in a vet to be present at one of our major club championship shows to do a check on exhibits present to get a more clear picture of the breed in total, instead of the same exhibit being passed or failed at different shows.
"Clearly the two judges at Bath and the National thought On The Bottle was worthy of the CCs. However, the two vets looked at her eyes with a different view. If they were totally unacceptably extreme both vets would have failed her, and I suspect both the breed judges who put her up would have picked up on there being a health problem, and however much they may have liked the rest of her would not have awarded her so highly.
"My bitch now has two CCs and if we are lucky enough to get a third CC with her passing this check will allow her to become a champion.”
Miss Muggleton said: "The fact that Tan’s bitch failed two weeks ago and passed this week makes a mockery of the whole thing. Very few St Bernards are being vet checked so I don’t see what difference these checks are making to the breed generally.
"St Bernards’ eyes have improved immensely; we try to improve the breed and the KC keeps knocking you back. You can’t change things overnight. At the end of the day nothing’s perfect – even people. It’s an insult to the judges – our judge at Bath, George Gwilliam, wasn’t very happy either – he’s a breed specialist.”
Discussing her experience at Bath Miss Muggleton, who bred Hamlet, said: "The vet said my dog had a slight mucoid discharge, although neither the handler Marisa Jeffries nor I could see it – or anybody else I asked for that matter. I wouldn’t take a dog to a show if it had bad eyes. The vet said my dog’s eye was a little bit wet but it was very windy where we were being judged. There’s nothing wrong with his eyes; his father and uncle were made up.
"Marisa took him in for the check. I was outside and she called me in because there was a problem. The vet was adamant, but said he would probably pass next time. Hamlet was puppy of the year and although he hasn’t been shown that much is usually in the top two or three. This was his second CC. We were really elated and then felt really knocked back.”
The Canine Alliance, which was founded in 2012 as a result of the vet checks being implemented by the KC, said the system was causing ‘fury, insult and heartache’.
"We have consistently denounced the whole system of veterinary tests to exclude a best of breed as nonsensical,” said vice-chairman Tony Taylor. "We have always declared that they serve no purpose whatsoever other than to provide a fee to a vet who could otherwise be looking after ill and unhealthy animals. The quality and health of pedigree dogs is not advanced in any way whatsoever by the checks.
"The stupidity of the system is amplified when a dog can fail one week and then pass the following.No doubt, the KC will tell us that ‘it is on the day’, so please, Kennel Club, tell us how this has improves the health of the breed?All it has done, once again, is cause fury and anger for experienced judges who have their ability questioned, and heartache for exhibitors/breeders who put their life – not to mention considerable amounts of money – into breeding and showing healthy dogs, only to find that this is cast aside by aninexplicable veterinary decision.
"We hear that the St Bernard failed at Bath because of ‘mucoid discharge in the eye’, and yet nobody else – I emphasise, nobody else – could see this. And yet, in this great exhibition of fairness and sport the KC allows no court of appeal. Some system of sporting fairness!
"Even more ridiculousis the fact that the previous week’sBOB failure was resubmitted and passed this week! Yet she had been failed before – not for any supposed transient condition or any health issue whatsoeverbut because of the suggestion her eye was too small for the socket! That's not capable of being changed or treated. That seems to us to be very open to argument and more the province of the judge than the vet.
"We have already been contacted by some highly experienced judges, in this country and from overseas, who have said that they will not accept an appointment to judge one of the high profile/category three breeds as they do not agree with the veterinary tests and would not wish to have their skill and integrity as judges tested in this way.This does nothing but damage these breeds who are now losing the opportunity of having the input from these top judges.
"We have also had numerous requests from our membership to seek clarification of who actually voted for this procedure to be introduced – by this they do not mean the General Committee but the individual members. We know… collective responsibility and all that. But these changes have had such a damaging impact on our sport/hobby they – we – surely have a right to know?
"The KC is uber-fast at reacting to pressure from people outside the world of showing and breeding, especially if a camera and sound boom are involved, and yet it will not listen to the people it seeks to govern.This heavy handed, illogical approach will do nothing to bring longevity to our hobby – is this what the KC really wants?”
Mr Laurence, who is a KC member, said Miss Muggleton’s dog was the first he had failed since the checks were introduced.
"This dog had epiphora in both eyes and discharge in one eye,” he said. "The problem with St Bernards is that they all have a degree of ectropion; it is a general issue with the breed, and this makes it more prone to any sort of eye problem. If you put a dog with ectropion in a situation where the eye becomes stressed and vulnerable that dog is likely to fail.
"When I do these checks I say to some owners to be careful because one day the dog will fail because the eyes are not normal; either there is ectropion or entropion or a degree of both and that makes it prone to eye disease. That’s why we do the checks.”
Mr Laurence said the KC had set down rules which state that if there is any sign of epiphora the dog should fail.
"The real point is that if the dog is showing signs of eye disease it should fail, and if it’s not showing signs of disease it should pass,” he said. "That’s how I understand the KC rules, which are pretty explicit.”
See Comment on page 8 of this week's DOG WORLD.