Welcome Change

Britain’s Kennel Club throws down the gauntlet.


On the first day of the Crufts dog show in early March, the Kennel Club in England confirmed that business as usual wasn’t so usual anymore. This year marked the start of reforms put into place after the game-changing BBC documentary – Jemima Harrison’s “Pedigreed Dogs Exposed” – shocked the country with images of dogs so structurally unsound that the normal life of a dog was impossible.

The result? Independent veterinary review of the judges’ selections for Best of Breed Bulldog and Pekingese deemed the dogs too unhealthy to be granted their awards. And this was just on day 1. What’s next?!

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in the private rooms at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, where the massive four-day show is held every year. But thanks to the Internet, I didn’t have to be present to get the outrage:

“Please look at what has happened . . . most people have no idea what goes into creating a sound and healthy example of this breed,” someone who follows me on Facebook posted to my wall. And then she linked to a blog post on a dog-show website. “The supposed injuries could not be deemed genetic in origin and in the case of Ch Mellowmood One In A Million, she had passed her health clearances in December of 2011,” she added. “She has also garnered 20 cc’s [top breed honors] as well as the coveted Bulldog of the Year title in 2011 and the Best In Show title in the Bulldog Inc show. Bulldoggers worldwide are united against this ruling!”

Except, well, not. Because while the breed-ring diehards are outraged, the ruling was indeed met with shock among dog-lovers worldwide – shock that at last the dog-show world appears poised to start doing something about the suffering of dogs bred to fashionable extremes.

The fast-dwindling ranks of True Believers see a conspiracy here. From the post on the dog show site:

“Now here is the real rub. It is the vet, who may or may not have ever bred a litter in his/her life, who makes the determination as to whether the Breed winner is worthy of the award, not the judge. . . . [M]any of you have already run across vets who are not sympathetic to our hobby.”

Count me in as another who is not sympathetic to the “hobby.” I have attended two world-class veterinary conferences where veterinary surgeons and internists argued that these extreme structural malformations have produced dogs whose respiratory systems are so brutally compromised that they need to have corrective surgery in adolescence to have a chance at a dog’s normal life. If breeding for these traits isn’t animal cruelty, it’s hard to imagine what is.

This blowback is not coming from animal-rights extremists. It’s coming from people who have purebred dogs and love them, people inside the dog-show world as well those who just love a particular breed. And yes, it’s coming from veterinarians who are no longer as willing to shrug sadly and look away from the problems.

Enough. As for those of you who continue to support this dead-end “sport” as it is, well, good luck to you, because you see, common sense, time, and public opinion are all on the other side.

Gina Spadafori is a syndicated pet-care columnist and the author of more than dozen books on animals and their care. She is also the writing partner of “Good Morning America” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker. After her champion Flat-Coated Retriever was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer that kills up to half of all Flatcoats before the age of 8, she started The McKenzie Project to challenge the closed-registry system that perpetuates health problems in purebred dogs.