Monday, 26 September 2016

Pedigree dogs exposed 3 years on: what do people think?

I watched the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Three years on with great interest and have followed some of the online conversations that the programme has generated,   and read the comments on Jemima’s blog.

Jemima Harrison has been the target of a lot of abuse,  much of it from those that claim to be pedigree dog breeders.

Reading through the comments and forum posts, there seem to be two principle and genuine concerns from pedigree breeders

Breeders claim that  Jemima Harrison

Is denigrating all pedigree dog breeders
Is driving people to buy mongrels
Is Jemima Harrison attacking all pedigree breeders?

As an occasional pedigree dog breeder myself,  I have to say, it never occurred to me when I saw the first programme, to feel personally attacked.  Perhaps I would have felt differently if I were making a living from breeding dogs.   But then most of the breeders attacking Jemima claim that they are not breeding dogs for pound notes…

I do not feel that Jemima is attacking all dog breeders,  though she is asking us to question the effects that continuing with closed registry breeding may have in the long term.    It seems to me that the PDE campaign has focused primarily on dogs whose breed standards have got them into trouble.

Is Jemima’s PDE campaign driving more people to buy mongrels?

One breeder told me that PDE definitely caused a drop in dog registrations.  If so that may be sad for breeders.   But on the other hand,  PDE definitely forced the KC to reform some of its breed standards and in theory,  that should be great for dogs.

I believe that KC registrations did take a dip after the first PDE programme took place,  but that they also recovered fairly quickly.   This would suggest that overall,  people are still buying pedigree dogs in the same numbers.

It also begs the question,  does it matter if people buy dogs that are not purebred?  I am not so sure anymore,  that it does.   Of course it matters that puppies are raised and socialised appropriately, and that proper precautions are taken when cross-breeding dogs whose parentage offers a risk of conditions that we can now screen for.   Many so-called ‘designer dog’  breeders are now hip scoring their breeding stock,  so presumably the message that cross-bred dogs can get sick too,  is now getting through.

There were some other issues that breeders raised that I felt were less genuine concerns, and more attempts to deflect attention from their own shortcomings.  And these were

Why isn’t JH campaigning against puppy farms
Why doesn’t JH publicise all the good things that pedigree breeders do
Why doesn’t JH publicise all the good things that the Kennel Club has done
The Kennel Club should not have to police its breeders

1 Why isn’t Jemima Harrison campaigning against puppy farms

This is akin to asking someone why they are raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and suggesting that they should be raising money for the Sailors Families Society instead.    These are both charities concerned with protecting seafarers and their families, but in different ways.    Asking someone to stop working for one worthy cause and switch to another is a very odd and pointless tactic.  We all chose our own causes to champion.   If you don’t  like one,  then don’t support it.

2 Why doesn’t Jemima Harrison publicise all the good things that pedigree breeders do?

There is no doubt that good breeders are a great asset to the new puppy buyer.  They often provide a lifetime’s support for their buyers and will take a puppy back at any time if the buyer fall into difficult circumstances.   Buying a pedigree puppy gives you assurances about final size, appearance and some abilities that you can never have if you purchase a mongrel.   These are important facts.

But I am not sure why breeders would expect JH to promote them.  I certainly don’t expect her to promote me when I breed a litter of puppies.    Nor do pedigree breeders have a monopoly on good breeding practice.    But if anyone should be promoting pedigree dog breeders then it should be the Kennel Club, not Jemima Harrison.

3 Why doesn’t Jemima Harrison publicise all the good things the KC has done since the last PDE

Actually she does, and did in the new PDE programme.   She also notes that some of the changes that the KC have introduced, such as changes in breed standards,  have simply not been implemented by its judges.   People are still breeding from Cavalier King Charles Spaniels despite the widespread and serious health conditions present to some extent in a high proportion of breeding stock.  The KC had the power to stop this.  And they did not use it.   We could turn the question back the other way,  and ask ‘why doesn’t the KC say the good things that PDE has achieved, such as encouraging the KC to stop brother sister matings,  and to improve breed standards?’  It works both ways.

4 The Kennel Club should not have to ‘police’ its breeders

A number of breeders have said that the KC should not have to ‘police’ its breeders.   Of all the above statements I think this is the silliest.  The Kennel Club is a registry.   There is no point in being on a register unless that membership of that register means something.

Every registry has standards, and it is up to the registering body to enforce or ‘police’ those standards as so many breeders put it.   The normal way of enforcing standards on a register is to remove, or refuse admission to, applicants that do not meet its standards.

The Kennel Club itself has stated that it wants the government to intervene in controlling dog breeding,  a quite bizarre aim from a registering body that already holds the ultimate power to withhold or grant registration to every pedigree dog born in this country.  

Confusingly, the KC clearly accepts it does have a responsibility to  ‘police’ its register,  as it already enforces some of the standards it has set down.  For example, you can no longer register puppies from a brother/sister mating.   It would appear that the KC took the step of refusing registration to the offspring of brother/sister matings after the publicity that accompanied PDE the first time around.  

Taking this step is clear evidence that the KC is well aware of its responsibilities to ‘police’  standards in dog breeding and dog welfare.

This is the Kennel Club in action,  doing what it should be doing to protect puppy buyers from disaster and to promote the improvement of dogs which it claims as a priority.   Having taken this step,  what is needed now is many more steps in this direction.   But I am not holding my breath

Where do we go from here?

I do not have the answers to this one!  I am interested to see what the next step in Jemima’s campaign will be.  How about you?  Do you feel breeders concerns are justified?   Would you like to see the KC take more action to enforce standards?

You may also be interested in the following articles : Breeding dogs with disabilities  and:  Why do breeders oppose Jemima Harrison’s campaign?

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