FIRST of three proposals to the Kennel Club’s annual meeting to set up working parties to look at aspects of the club’s work and make-up was made by all-round judge and former General Committee member Jean Lanning, concerning the registration system.
Miss Lanning had earlier been elected an honorary life member in recognition of her dedication and service to the club.
Like the other two proposals which followed, it was approved by the members. The vote among those present appeared to be so close that chairman Steve Dean called for a paper ballot. When the results of this were correlated with those from the proxy votes which had been sent in before the meeting, the result was a victory for the proposer, against the wishes of the Committee.
Miss Lanning’s proposal was ‘that the KC sets up a small working party to review the whole current registration policy; comparing and contrasting the approaches to pure breeds and cross breeds’.
She introduced her proposal at some length, saying that she had come today to make the case for the purebred dog: “I believe that pure-bred dogs and the Kennel Club are synonymous, and must always be paramount over crossbreeds and mongrels.”
When she was a girl her companions were a Schnauzer and a Sealyham, and very occasionally she was allowed to see their ‹very important KC papers, which her father described as having ‘pedigrees as long as your arm’.
A neighbour had two Dandie Dinmonts and took DOG WORLD. “Each weekend could not come quick enough for me, to have the paper passed over and so it was for me rather like Alice in Wonderland, I was introduced to an enchanted world, and I decided then and there all I wanted to be when I grew up was to work in a kennel as a kennelmaid,” she said.
“The KC then had the prestigious address of 84 Piccadilly, the bastion of the world of pedigree dogs where strict rules were upheld to the letter. In the days after the war, anyone infringing the rules was dealt with severely. I remember someone found guilty of faking a pedigree was disqualified for life from being involved in any way with any activity under the jurisdiction of the KC, a clear example, how sacrosanct the pedigree dog was to the establishment.”
Miss Lanning told the members how dog shows mushroomed after the war, and that previously successful breeders quickly took up where they had left off, ‘quite a task, as many breeds were just reduced to a handful in numbers’. Many breeds had registrations in single numbers and with no new blood available these people had ‘a mountain to climb’.
“These wonderful people, stock-breeders and knowing about animal husbandry, rapidly established their breed to a high level of excellence, so that soon their stock was in demand throughout the world. Today many of the top international winners have their roots in these British dogs”, she said.
“This highlights that the stock-breeder cannot be separated from the pure-bred animal. Stock-breeding is a craft handed down from generation to generation from the time of caveman, and we must guard it jealously.”
She feels that there are many thousands of dogs who on the whole lead pretty healthy lives if they come from good breeders, but she “finds it sad that a very small elite section of the veterinary profession appear to many of us to be far away in remote ivory towers, often advocating that some of our most cherished pure breeds should be crossed out to a different breed.”
She instanced horses from the Spanish School of Riding and the Chillingham cattle which have been bred for centuries without fresh blood, and mentioned the plight of the wild cat, whose demise is threatened by interbreeding with the feral cat.
She went on: “In this room are breeders who have devoted many years to carrying on the great legacy of breeding to the highest standard breeds they love and cherish. Like others they have been successful in establishing bloodlines, which are called strains, and are easily recognisable. To develop a strain that is appreciated around the world is a mark of a ‘great breeder’.”
She then turned to the subject of the importing of dogs with suspect pedigrees, under age with forged veterinary documents, and putting Britain at risk of an outbreak of rabies, after which movement of all livestock would be severely curtailed and dog shows postponed or cancelled.
She said: “The fact that many of these puppies are subsequently registered keeps the smuggling viable and a lucrative trade for the lawbreakers. The KC says they have to accept the paperwork from these overseas kennel clubs. Why? After all there are kennel clubs and kennel clubs. Certainly the long established ones whose integrity goes before them but are we able to trust the authenticity of those who have suddenly arrived on the scene, particularly from the Eastern bloc?
“I am prepared to trust the instinct of our established breeders here, who know when alien blood is present in some of the stock being registered. I would even suggest we are taking a defeatist line in not facing fully up to this serious issue.
“I have been taken to task about referring to blue Bulldogs and French Bulldogs. I would be the last person to query the science of genetics and apparently blue is a dilute of black. Why then do we not see blue Newfoundlands, blue Scottish Terriers, blue Affenpinschers, blue Flatcoats, blue Labradors etc?
“Certainly the Bulldog and French Bulldog fanciers are very concerned at what is happening to their breed. I am sure many of you saw the picture of little eight-months Lila, the blue Bulldog stolen and valued at £16,000. Who valued this dog?
Turning to designer dogs ‘and the present day perception of the KC and where it intends to go in the future in readily accepting it,’ she continued: “We have all at some time been connected in some way with an adorable crossbreed. They will always be there and normally come about by a misalliance. Designer dogs, so called, are just that, because they are deliberately bred, without much thought other than the financial aspect.
“The British public have been misinformed for some years and it is now accepted that designer dogs are ‘cool’ and this great myth that crossbreeds are fitter than purebred dogs. Dogs of mixed breeds are subject to the same ailments as pedigree dogs.
“Even my doctor has a designer dog, out of a Labradoodle, sired by a Cockerpoo, described as a Cockerdoodledoo for which his wife paid an unseemly price. There must be thousands of these dogs now around. If anyone should show their disapproval it should be our governing body.
“For some months there has been a rumour that certain members of the Assured Breeder Scheme are selling well turned out pedigree puppies out the front door, and designer dogs out the back door. Now we understand that breeders of crossbreeds may be members of the ABS.
“Does it mean, for example, that little Millie the Poodle has purebred puppies once a year and in the intervening six months produces a crossbred litter? This cannot be right.
“The KC gives in its response that Guide Dogs for the Blind are members of the ABS and are known to use from time to time a first cross between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever, which they find very acceptable. Yesterday I spoke to Brigadier Clifford, at one time consultant vet for the Guide Dogs, and for many years a member of the General Committee. John confirmed that pure breeds are still used as well as the cross, and all offspring are neutered, therefore making it impossible for any of these dogs to be used for further breeding.
“The ABS should in theory be one of the best ideas to have ever emerged for the KC, a prestigious gold card for our finest breeders, but now somewhat sullied, I would have thought.”
“Over the years the KC has come up with slogans, ie ‘Making a difference for dogs’, ‘We are for dogs’. Now I see the word ‘all’ added and underlined... These slogans can be a subtle way of changing policy without going to the membership for endorsement.”
Miss Lanning wondered if the KC thinks it should do the job of the charities already doing ‘a splendid job for man’s best friend, finding suitable homes for unwanted dogs’. “The KC cannot and should not want to be all things to all people,” she said.
Next, she mentioned the KC’s companion dog and activity registers, wondering ‘why we are allowed to know the registrations of pedigree dogs, but not the numbers entered into the two non-pedigree registers’. She would like the KC to become completely transparent over these two registers.
She expressed concern that for the first quarter of 2015 registrations are down eight per cent for pedigree dogs. “Are designer dogs taking over? After all we know the British are still a nation of dog lovers, regardless of the poison put down by the anti-dog lobby, which I suspect is really a very small group of people using the media to frighten us.
“In the end it will all come down to money, and there is nothing wrong with that. I would like to see the KC set up a separate arm for non-pedigree dogs using a different brand name but enabling them to remain under their umbrella.
“Purebred dogs (which after all is what the KC is all about) should continue to be registered in the same way, using the KC name exclusively as their ‘brand name’.
“This change can only happen if there is a willingness on the part of the General Committee to maintain the great prestige of our governing body. Our Kennel Club is the oldest in the world, the cradle of purebred dogs and dog shows. We have a wonderful history of which to be proud and maintain. Someone said that ‘a country who has no history has no future’. Let that not be said about us.”
Professor Dean then adjourned the meeting for the lunch break, and a considerably smaller number of members returned an hour and a half later to resume the debate.
The General Committee had before the meeting made it clear that it opposed the idea, and this case was put by vice-chairman Mike Townsend, after Richard Morris had briefly seconded Miss Lanning’s proposal.
Mr Townsend pointed out that there had been a review of registration policy just two years ago, which he had chaired, and which had reported to the 2013 annual meeting.
He felt that there was no confusion; purebred dogs go on the pedigree register; crossbreeds do not and are on either of the other two registers.
“‘Pure breeds’ are eligible for inclusion in the pedigree register, crossbreeds are not,” he said. “Crossbreeds can be registered as members of the Companion Dog Club or on the Activity Register. All dogs, if microchipped, can be registered on Petlog – the largest reunification register in the UK, which we own and run.
“Miss Lanning is directing her fire at so-called designer dogs. These are regarded by us as crossbreeds and we do not, and do not intend to, recognise them as breeds or register them on the pedigree register. However, we must surely all recognise that these dogs exist, and no doubt will continue to exist.
“We have no ability, and no power, to control or change the market place – which includes the price people are prepared to pay for such animals.
“Miss Lanning says that in the main these dogs are deliberately and irresponsibly bred, with little concern for health problems. I am sure some are, but I’m equally sure there is no firm evidence to back that up. And some purebred dogs are, regrettably, bred in similar circumstances.
“One advantage of the Assured Breeder Scheme is that we can go some way to protecting dogs – any dogs bred by Assured Breeders – from being irresponsibly bred. The scheme, of course, doesn’t bestow any privilege on the puppies – it accredits the breeder, not the dog!”
The scheme’s largest breeder member is Guide Dogs, Mr Townsend went on, which frequently breeds Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses.
“I doubt whether many people here today would criticise Guide Dogs for that!” he said. “We – the KC – are for all dogs. Our mission is to make a difference for dogs, but that doesn’t mean that we are neglecting or abandoning the pedigree dog. Because we are concerned with more than the pedigree dog doesn’t mean we are doing less for the pedigree, purebred dog – and of course we aren’t doing less! We are doing more altogether.”
The KC registers more than 200,000 dogs on its purebred register each year, he said.
“This is the core of our work, and indeed of our income. It provides links to extensive information on breeds, and their health, breeding, shows, and so on. But it is probably less than a quarter of the dogs in this country. And we want to know about all dogs, and their breeders and owners, in order to have the maximum influence on such matters as standards of breeding, health and characteristics, and to represent the dog in all its forms to the Government, both national and international, the veterinary profession and the public.
“As for Miss Lanning’s point on imported dogs, and dogs of ‘non-Standard’ colours – we are dependent on the pedigree offered to us for registration including those from kennel clubs with whom we have reciprocal arrangements. Until such time as DNA parentage/breed tests are readily and cheaply available, that’s the best we can do.
“Returning strictly to Miss Lanning’s proposal, in my opinion and that of the General Committee, we don’t need a working party – large or small – on the subject of registrations, nor to compare and contrast the approaches to ‘pure breeds’ and ‘crossbreeds’. We are quite clear what our policy, responsibility and approach is, and I urge you to reject Miss Lanning’s proposal.”
The debate was then opened to members and Pat Brigden asked if the Committee understood how strongly people feel about this issue: “Every designer dog takes up a home that might have gone to a dog bred by a member or someone who supports the KC’s activities. Do you wonder registrations are going down? There is only a finite number of homes available.”
She quoted someone who had been at a recent London pet exhibition where people with crossbreeds were saying their dogs were registered with the KC: “The public don’t understand the difference between the registers and are misled.” She mentioned breeds like the Dandie Dinmont which have been cherished for 200 years; they should not be allowed to fade away through lack of puppy sales. It is time for a change in attitude, she said.
She also touched on the issue of the registration of a dog in her own breed, Irish Red and White Setter, which was the result of crossbreeding with the Irish Setter, and which had sired puppies who have now qualified for Crufts.
Professor Dean replied to Miss Lanning’s request for statistics, saying that 420 dogs had gone onto the companion dog register last year, and 3,123 onto the activity register, of which some may be purebred. Regarding the former, he explained that its only purpose was so that the dogs could compete in companion dog classes.
Jane Lilley said that try as she might she had been unable to access the companion dog register. The chairman explained that it was simply a list of names and numbers and that there was no real need for anyone to access it. A prolonged argument followed, Mrs Lilley feeling that it would be helpful to identify who was breeding designer dogs, Professor Dean stressing that no breeders’ names were recorded.
Tom Mather, who works for Guide Dogs, disagreed with Miss Lanning’s assertions about the charity’s breeding policy, saying that second and third generation crosses are bred from.
Former chairman Ronnie Irving felt the main point was being lost sight of: the KC had never been confined to purebred dogs and that it would lose credibility if it did not try to espouse crossbred dogs. It gets far more recognition by recognising their existence than it would do otherwise. “We have had enough working parties for a lifetime,” he said, “especially on this issue.”
To the obvious annoyance of the chairman, Julia Iles-Hebbert brought up the subject of him indicating in the KC Journal how he felt members should vote. She felt this was neither useful nor correct, and said: “I would like your assurance that this infringement of members’ democratic rights will not happen again.” Professor Dean said he had been perfectly in order and that he would give no such assurance, but that the point had been noted.
After a final summing-up from Miss Lanning, the members moved to a vote.
See Comment on page 8 of this week's DOG WORLD.