Changes to health policies

Created: 26/05/2011

THE KENNEL Club’s General Committee had made a number of significant policy decisions during 2010 which will come into force next year, said Dr Ruth Barbour during her health and welfare report at the AGM.
Chief among them are that the maximum number of litters a bitch can have is to be reduced by two to four, and there is to be a limit of two litters when puppies are born by caesarean section.
 A system of veterinary inspection will be introduced for high profile-breed BOBs at group and general championship shows.
Dr Barbour said the aims of the KC’s Dog Health Group were to develop the KC’s work and to co-ordinate and monitor it. In the group’s recent report, she said, in addition to a list of screening schemes there were statistics related to results.
“The need for the KC to publicise its work on health issues demonstrating both its scope and its potential for aiding the outlook for individual dogs has become increasingly clear in recent years,” she said.
Work at the KC’s Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust was developing, she told those present at the AGM, not only creating more DNA tests but also with the development of estimated breeding values which already proved to be of use in some areas of commercial animal breeding.

High profile

Much of the work of the breed Standards and conformation sub-group was related to breeds termed ‘high-profile’, she said, but it was also there to prevent the development of exaggerations in all breeds. To this end, 35 breeds now have warning notices entered on the KC’s Breed Watch site.
The Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS) sub-group was crucial to the successful implementation of the KC’s health work, she continued. It ensured that ABS members, now numbering more than 7,000, maintained a high standard of animal husbandry, ‘took appropriate action on’ health screening and provided an appropriate level of service to puppy buyers. A total of 24 breeder advisors also ensured that members of the scheme maintain high standards. In order to demonstrate further the quality of the scheme, work was proceeding to gain United Kingdom Accreditation Service accreditation.
“It is important to appreciate that the work on health and welfare is supported by the whole KC,” Dr Barbour said. “It is not just the remit of one small department but permeates throughout the organisation. We possess the largest database of named dogs – currently eight million registrations are recorded providing an excellent basis for research.
“The KC Building at Stoneleigh, funded by the KC Educational Trust, has proved an excellent venue for large scale meetings crucial to this work. A recent such meeting attended by about 70 group judges addressed the issue of the role of judges in avoiding exaggerations of breed characteristics that can lead to discomfit and pain for individual dogs; without doubt, conformation judges have a very significant role in shaping the future development of individual breeds. Likewise a meeting last year for judges of several of the Molosser breeds that are signified as high-profile promoted much positive discussion and subsequent action.”
Last year saw the initiation of the breed health co-ordinator network, Dr Barbour continued. The intention is that there should be one co-ordinator for each breed. Currently, only one breed on the breed register lacks a health co-ordinator and only very few have more than one. 
“Their role is crucial in aiding communication between breed clubs and us,” she said. “We expect them, for example, to be the channel through which requests for breed specific requirements and recommendations under the ABS and alterations to the Breed Watch site are channelled. And conversely they are our link to individual breed clubs.”
The KC Charitable Trust was continuing to support health work including the donation of £250,000 in 2010 to the Genetics Centre, she said. A significant proportion of the nearly £800,000 the Trust distributed last year went to organisations which help non-pedigree dogs as well as pedigree. 
Dr Barbour concluded by thanking the breed clubs and breed enthusiasts for their work on health matters.
“Without this enthusiasm and devotion to their chosen breed the KC could not have achieved so much in its health work,” she said. “A number of KC staff have worked closely with clubs. In this regard I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Prof Jeff Sampson, our genetics adviser, who has worked with many breeds to address hereditary problems. Diana Brooks-Ward supports the health co-ordinator network and maintains the Breed Watch site. Bill Lambert, as head of the KC Breeder Services department has worked hard to develop the ABS.”

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