Monday, 26 September 2016

Jenny the Bulldog

This Easter Weekend, a Bulldog named Ch Mellowmood One In A Million ‘Jenny’  won the Contest of Champion Showdogs.

This is a prestigious annual event hosted by the Canine Supporters Charity

It essentially makes Jenny a ‘Champion of champions’. 

Events this weekend are noteworthy because this Bulldog was one of the six dogs that were famously disqualified during the Vet Checks at Crufts in March this year, after being awarded Best of Breed.  

The public will no doubt be confused by this turn of events.    How can a dog disqualified on health grounds at Crufts,  go on to win such a high award?

Over on the Canine Alliance Facebook page,  that now boasts over 2,000 supporters,  there is widespread approval of Jenny’s success.  And on message boards around the dog community this ‘win’  is being hailed as ‘evidence’  that the new vet checks at Crufts are not working.

So is Jenny Healthy?

There have been reports that Jenny is a sure sign of progress in the Bulldog world with claims that she is less exaggerated than other Bulldog Champions in recent years.    So why was she disqualified at Crufts?

Surely either Jenny is healthy or she is not?   And if she can be awarded this prestigious title this weekend by an experienced judge,  then  she must be healthy,  right?

The problem is, that there are many different kinds of health check all designed for different purposes.   And because a dog passes one type of health check,  it does not mean that the dog is necessarily healthy.  Though of course it might well be.

The purpose of the Crufts vet checks

The vet checks at Crufts were designed with a very specific purpose in mind.  Their purpose is to prevent dogs with clinical problems arising from exaggerated conformation being given high awards.

If we accept the Crufts vet’s decision that Jenny does have clinical symptoms of this nature,  the vet checks introduced at Crufts have not yet fulfilled their purpose.   They will clearly need to be extended to cover this show and any others which offer such prestigious awards.

For it would appear that to win this award this weekend,  Jenny did not have to pass such a vet check.

No vet checks at this show?

According to various sources it would appear that there were no vet checks for clinical symptoms of  exaggerated conformation at the Show where Jenny won her latest title.

If these reports are true then Jenny’s win at this show does nothing at all to lessen, the concerns about her health raised by her failure to pass the Vet Check at Crufts in March.

Bearing this in mind, it is perhaps surprising that there is such widespread support for the success of this dog from within the show community without accompanying evidence, that the diagnosis of the clinical symptoms described in the original vet check have been overturned by another vet.

Veterinary opinion

The vet checks at Crufts this year were specifically designed to detect symptoms of clinical problems arising from exaggerations in conformation.  In other words they were designed to identify dogs that have been bred with exaggerations in body shape or form,  that make the dog uncomfortable or cause it pain.

Clinical symptoms

The term clinical symptoms is important, because whilst diagnoses, causes,  and prognoses might be a matter for opinion,  clinical symptoms are the measurable manifestations of a problem,  and as such are presumably a matter that most experts can agree on.

Either Jenny the Bulldog has clinical symptoms arising from exaggerations in conformation or she does not.

The vet who checked her over at Crufts believed that Jenny does have these symptoms.  Whilst it seems clear that some of the people on Canine Alliance Facebook page believe that Jenny does not.

Sadly, one of the outcomes of the Kennel Club’s controversial introduction in vet checks seems to have been the revelation that there is a widespread lack of faith in veterinary opinion throughout the show dog community.   It remains to be seen if and how this faith can be restored.

But for the most part the wider public does have faith in the veterinary profession and as a result may find this ‘celebration’ of Jenny’s success quite shocking.

The failure of the show community to address these public concerns with regard to exaggerated conformation in show dogs is ongoing.   And this weekend’s events may be seen as yet further evidence that the show dog community are willing to shelter and even publicly support breeders winning with dogs that have health problems,  rather than facing up to them.

The way forward?

If Jenny does have symptoms of clinical problems arising from exaggeration then all responsible breeders will all agree she should not be given an award.  In which case the KC will need to take steps to extend these checks of the fifteen high profile breeds to cover more dog shows.

If Jenny does not have these symptoms,  if the vet that examined Jenny at Crufts was mistaken.  Then for public support to be gained, the Canine Alliance needs to provide evidence from an unbiased vet that he or she specifically disagrees with the evidence provided by the vet who checked,  and failed,  Jenny at Crufts.

Evidence that she has passed many other types of health check is unfortunately not relevant to this debate which is specifically concerned with the question of clinical problems arising from exaggerations in conformation.

Without evidence that the opinion of the vet at Crufts has been overturned, it is difficult to see how the public’s confidence in both Jenny’s health,  and in the willingness of the CA supporters to face up to the problems of conformation exaggeration, can be restored.

Hopefully steps will soon be taken by the KC and the CA to resolve the situation and put and end to speculation.

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