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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Born to a life of Unnecessary Suffering

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Some information and comments that may be of interest to people considering taking on a Border Collie or any other pedigree breed (as defined and bred within KC circles).
Advocates for Animals Statement and Press Release March 2006

On the opening day of Crufts 2006, celebrity TV vet, Emma Milne, backs new reports calling for changes in irresponsible pedigree dog breeding.

 

To coincide with the start of Crufts 2006, the world’s biggest pedigree dog show, Advocates for Animals has released a scientific report examining the welfare problems caused by pedigree dog breeding.

The Price of a Pedigree – Dog breed standards and breed-related illness, examines the vast number of inherited diseases affecting pedigree dog breeds.

These genetic diseases cause suffering and reduced quality of life for dogs and worry and expense for their owners.

The report calls for the UK Government, the Kennel Club and other breed societies, veterinarians and members of the public to take positive action to address these serious welfare issues.

The majority, three quarters, of the UK’s estimated 6.5 million dogs, are pedigrees from one of the diverse range of approximately 400 dog breeds that have been created by humans to date, all of them originating from the grey wolf.

Today, dogs are increasingly being bred for their looks and are required to conform to an ideal ‘breed standard’ of appearance.

Such breed standards often involve exaggerated and unnatural physical characteristics that are detrimental to the dogs’ health and welfare.

These include extremes of size, backs that are too long in proportion to the legs, flattened faces and abnormally short jaws and noses, loose skin and skin folds and bulging eyes.

Common diseases  pedigree dogs suffer from include:

hereditary hip and elbow dysplasia (e.g. German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever);

inherited eye diseases (e.g. Pekinese, Basset Hound);
heart and respiratory disease (e.g. Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel);
breed-related skin diseases (e.g. West Highland White Terrier, Cocker Spaniel);
inherited skeletal problems of small and long-backed breeds (e.g. Dachshund, Chihuahua);
bone tumours in large and giant dog breeds (e.g. Rottweiler, Great Dane);
and hereditary deafness (e.g. Doberman, Border Collie).
There is a danger that current trends will only intensify as dogs are increasingly seen as fashion accessories and new breeds are created to meet the demand for a novel or ‘perfect’ dog.
Irresponsible and unethical practices in dog breeding, including close inbreeding and developments in cloning, emphasise the need for better regulation of the pedigree dog breeding business.
Although scientists and veterinarians have long been aware of breed-related diseases, there is currently a lack of accessible information on their prevalence.  This may mean that members of the public buy pedigree dogs in ignorance of the health status of the breed.
The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals has been signed and ratified by 18 European countries, but not by the UK.
It states that: ‘Any person who selects a pet animal for breeding shall be responsible for having regard to the anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent.’  
Advocates for Animals believes that the following steps should be taken to reverse the damage caused by inappropriate pedigree breeding and to improve the welfare of dogs:
  • The UK should sign and ratify the European Convention on Pet Animals. This would substantially modify, or eliminate, extreme breed standards.
  • The Kennel Club and other breed societies should require compulsory screening of dogs for known breed-related disorders before any dog is used for breeding.  Registration of puppies should be made dependent on health screening of parent dogs.
  • Breeders should make the health of the dogs the primary goal of their breeding policies.

In addition, Advocates for Animals believes that veterinarians and the public each have an important role in improving dog health and welfare. Advocates urges:

  • Veterinarians to educate owners and potential owners of pedigree dogs about potential welfare issues.
  • Members of the public to avoid buying pedigree dogs or attending pedigree dog shows.
  • Everyone who is thinking of becoming a dog owner to choose to give a home to a mixed-breed dog from a rescue centre, or to a pedigree dog from one of the many breed rescue organisations.
Celebrity TV vet Emma Milne, star of BBC’s Vets in Practice, says:
Like many people in my profession I entered it because I had a strong desire to help animals and their owners. Also like many in the profession I still want that. At vet school you quickly start to get taught about ‘breed predisposition’ to disease.
This association between breed, conformation and disease is so strong that even before you qualify you are starting to question whether this should be acceptable. After a very short time in practice the reality becomes all too clear.
I am sick of seeing animals that are suffering in the name of the breed standard and I see it every day. It is high time we stopped accepting that animals are ‘supposed’ to look like this and stopped genetically modifying one of the most successful species on the planet into a collection of deformed animals whose welfare is compromised from the moment they are born.”
Advocates’ Director, Ross Minett, adds:
“Members of the public are led to believe that when they buy a pedigree puppy they are buying the highest quality and healthiest dog.  But pedigree dogs are bred for their appearance rather than for their good health, which often suffers as a result.
Inherited diseases cause suffering and reduced quality of life for dogs and worry and expense for their owners. We believe that many vets are concerned about the health and welfare implications of pedigree breeding but feel unable to voice these concerns in public, since a large proportion of the dogs they treat are pedigrees.
Current pedigree dog breeding practices that damage welfare cannot be seen as ethical or acceptable.  Members of the public who buy pedigree dogs or attend pedigree dog shows are, unintentionally, supporting a breeding system that surely cannot be justified on animal welfare grounds. 

There is an urgent need to reform pedigree dog breeding goals and practices to reverse the damage done by inappropriate breeding standards and inbreeding. Signing up to the European Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals would be a good first step towards reducing the suffering we are knowingly causing to ‘man’s best friend’.”

 The Price of a Pedigree: Dog breed standards and breed-related illness can be viewed on-line at: www.advocatesforanimals.org/pdf/Thepriceofapedigree.pdf
Visit the advocates for animals website at - http://www.advocatesforanimals.org

BCR Comments

Border Collie Rescue supports and joins Advocates for Animals in their campaign to encourage people to change their relationship with animals from one of exploitation and harm to one of respect and compassion.

We have noted over many years that some people seeking the companionship of animals are more concerned about their own rights to own and control the life of a companion animal than any rights the animal might be reasonably considered to have to lead a life natural to its inherent instincts and needs.

We are sad to observe that many prominent individuals and organisations that have considerable influence over public opinion in matters relating to the keeping of companion animals do not use their influence to promote good welfare practices, unbiased understanding and sensible breeding programs. Much of what is promoted is for personal gain  - be it power, financial or celebrity based gain.

There is little altruism in our Nation of Animal Lovers
It is quite shocking to us that the UK does not ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. We are supposed to be leaders in the field of animal welfare practices and yet our government does not see fit to sign this convention. Why not? -We should ask.
It is disturbing that animals have no legal rights in the UK and that efforts to legislate some basic rights through an animal welfare bill is fought and thwarted at every level and will probably not be allowed to pass onto our statute books until it has become so watered down and difficult to implement as to be virtually useless. Who is fighting against animals having some basic rights and why? - We should ask.
It seems that much of what we are told and fed about the needs of animals we keep as companions is dictated by organisations, companies and individuals who have vested interests in the exploitation of the animals they speak of and are reluctant to allow any legislation that may curb the exploitation that provides their income. Why do we listen to these people? - We should ask.
We should be looking more closely at the influences and interests behind the advice we are given before we accept and act on it.
Above all we should wake up to the fact that we share this planet with animals and as a dominant species we have an obligation of care to those who our domination places under our control. These rights we have over animals are the rights of a bully in the playground, of an armed criminal over a victim. These rights have been seized at the point of a sword, not granted to us - we have taken them.
It is about time we shared the rights we so ardently claim for ourselves with the weaker species we share our world with - and those we wish to share our homes with - they give us so much so shouldn't we give something back? - We should ask.
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