Notes of Meeting 24 September 2015

The Farmers Club, 3 Whitehall Court, London SW14 2EL

Members Present: Dan O’Neill, Chris Laurence (CL), Clare Rusbridge (CR), David Grimsell (DG), Julia Charlton (JC), Stephen Charlton (SC), Carol Fowler (CF), Fiona Cooke (FC), Lesley Field (LF) Charlotte Mackaness (CM)

Apologies: Marisa Heath, Sheila Crispin, Julia Carr, Tania Ledger

1. Progress of Charitable Trust

CL had previously sent a copy of the Trust Deed to all members. The Charitable Objects were amended slightly to:

  • To promote and support initiatives and reforms that will effectively improve dog welfare related to a) genetic and breed related health; b) breeding, rearing and selling practices;
  • To inform the general public, politicians and those of influence and power about the correct processes of breeding dogs to protect their welfare;
  • To inform the general public about irresponsible dog breeding in order to make them aware of the potential impact on their dogs’ health and welfare.

The founding trustees are: Chris Laurence, David Grimsell, Dr Dan O’Neill, Lesley Field, Carol Fowler, Dr Fiona Cooke, Julia Charlton, Stephen Charlton.

A bank account has been opened with the Co-operative Bank. David Grimsell has been appointed Treasurer.

2. New members: options and restraints

It was decided not to have different types of membership. The trustees will ensure the proper running of the charity according to the Charity Commission’s rules. Everyone else will be members, either in their own right or representing another organisation. They may attend meetings, take part in discussions via email, offer ideas and suggestions, or opt out if they wish. The Companion Cavalier Club has requested membership and we are pleased to welcome them. We also welcome Charlotte Mackaness.

3. Raising funds for DBRG

DBRG has a donate button on its website already. TC HandMade Products has pledged to donate 10% of its profits to DBRG.

Various ideas were discussed for raising funds, initially for room hire, travel expenses and costs associated with running the charity. For the time being we all take on the role of fund raisers until charitable status is achieved and some serious fund raising can begin. A suggestion that all members donate £10 was made.

Julia and Stephen Charlton presented some of their ideas for fund raising and will be continuing to work on that.

4. DBRG leaflet and website

A new leaflet was circulated, written by CF and designed by JC. It was agreed that the design was good but wording needed to be ‘trimmed.’ Work on this needs to be completed within the next week. CF and JC to co-ordinate this. It was agreed that two leaflets would be useful aimed at different demographics.

The website was in need of improvement and updating. Any comments to CF who will then work with JC to make the website as attractive, informative and accessible as possible. Would trustees and members please send a recent photo of themselves and write a few words to go with the photo.

5. Update on CFSG and APGAW Dog Sub Group

We understand that the APGAW Dog Sub Group will continue and will be chaired by Rob Flello, MP. A Dog Welfare Conference is planned for 25 November 2015.

CFSG: All members have received a copy of the letter from Richard Hooker (CFSG Vice Chairman) Points of particular interest include the CFSG working group’s recommendations on the Dog Welfare Code which will soon be available on the CFSG website. A working group has also been set up, led by Claire Horton, on the breeding and selling of puppies. Both of the above are of great interest to DBRG.

We discussed applying for full membership of CFSG and have made the decision that we will do so when our charitable status becomes confirmed. We feel we have much to offer CFSG in terms of expertise on dog breeding and associated health and welfare issues. Our members include four former members of the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding who were involved in the creation of some key documents now in use.

6. Report on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) meeting to discuss professional standards of vets (DG)

All members had received a copy of the Minutes of the meeting held at the RCVS on 26 August 2015. On behalf of CARIAD, DG presented proposals on the role of veterinary surgeons in the licensing of dog breeding establishments as a result of earlier concerns about poor standards of inspection. DG emphasised the importance of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Model Licence Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments in guiding LA inspectors and vets in carrying out inspections. The role of vets was crucial and the profession could and should work to improve welfare standards in licensed dog breeding. It was noted that Defra is currently reviewing local authority animal licensing. A big part of the problem is the local authorities themselves, many of which take the view that as they are not obliged to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, compliance with it should not be a concern of the licensing process. Nevertheless CFSG is working on an inspection pro-forma and a copy of the CIEH Guidelines could be sent to all the chairs of the various licensing committees.

Actions agreed were that the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) would consider writing an article for Companion; CARIAD could continue to liaise the Local Government Association regarding the promotion of the CIEH Guidelines to all local authorities; the RCVS Standards Committee will be asked to consider the CIEH Guidelines with a view to publishing an article in RCVS News as advice and guidance to vets involved in licensing.

The issue of reporting to the Kennel Club caesareans and conformation altering surgery was discussed. The veterinary profession’s response to this has been disappointing. Aimee Llewellyn (Kennel Club) explained why such reporting was important for future generations of dogs. The KC aims to produce an online tool to aid vets in Spring 2016 and further information to aid vets.

The RVC group acknowledged that much breeding takes place using dogs which are not KC registered. Sheila Crispin (SC) suggested there should be a wider strategy for collecting data on breed-related inherited disorders. SC suggested that the KC could perhaps work with VetCompass on this.

7. Campaign for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ) conference: After the election: prospects for animal protection in the UK (CF)

A summary on the conference and copy of Dr Dan Lyons draft paper: Animals, Politics and Democracy have already been circulated to DBRG members.

The conference addressed the big question of why action on animal welfare is so ineffective despite there being so much concern amongst the general public. The reason for this is that our political system is anthropocentric and based on the idea of ‘animal use’ rather than ‘animal welfare.’ The Government department responsible for animal welfare speaks for itself: Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. No mention of animal welfare there. Animals themselves have no ‘right’ to protection or high standards of welfare. Perhaps this is a fundamental principle of democracy that needs to change. Animal advocates should be more involved in politics both in trying to change the system to a non-anthropocentric democracy or, more realistically, a ‘deliberative democracy.’ A dedicated government Animal Protection Commission could advance this agenda. We agree with CASJ that animals themselves are entitled to have their interests represented in the political process. We also agree that the animal advocacy movement must work smarter and harder to mainstream animal protection within government.

8. Release of Tom Lewis’ paper Trends in genetic diversity for all Kennel Club registered pedigree dog breeds.

We very much welcome the publication of this scientific paper which sheds light on the state on inbreeding within KC registered dog breeds. The paper’s findings should enable individual breed clubs to address the problems of inbreeding within their breed. Although the Kennel Club’s press release declares that levels of inbreeding have been declining since 2000, the results of this study are very worrying and extremely challenging for many dog breeds. Conservation biologists have recently raised the Ne (effective population size) from 50 to 100 unrelated individuals needed to maintain a sustainable breeding population. The figures are: out of 152 breeds with annual registrations above 50 dogs, 84 (55%) have an effective population size (Ne) of less than 100, and 36 (24%) have a Ne of less than 50. Such inbreeding levels increase the likelihood of the doubling up of deleterious genes and increase the level of immune mediated diseases in many breeds. The use of ‘popular sires’ has been identified as a major cause of inbreeding depression. All breeds need to take note of this by putting a limit on the number of times any one stud dog may be used. In some cases judicial outcrossing to another breed may be desirable.

9. Involvement of MPs

The importance of individual DBRG members raising the issues of dog breeding and welfare with their MPs was acknowledged. Many MPs will not be aware of the welfare problems associated with dog breeding and need to be informed. A letter or email requesting a MP surgery appointment is the usual approach. Letters should inform your MP of the problems to give them an opportunity to prepare for the meeting. Letters should be succinct but expressed in your own way. CF will circulate an example.

10. Meeting with Defra Minister, George Eustice

This will take place on 26 October. CF will be accompanied by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP. A short list of points to raise will be sent to the Minister ahead of the meeting. Please let CF have your suggestions before 16 October.

11. Cheltenham Borough Council Consultation

Cheltenham Borough Council is conducting a consultation on the use of the CIEH Model Licence Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments. This needs to be submitted by 9 October. FC has agreed to write an initial response. Please forward any additional comments to CF by 3 October.

12. DBRG use of social media

We agreed that DBRG should make some use of social media and now has a Twitter, account set up by SC. Charlotte Mackaness has agreed to help with using social media to help to spread our message about puppy buying, health and welfare issues, fund raising and possible celebrity support.

13. AOB

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel petition to the Kennel Club to stop registering puppies unless parents have been MRI scanned and Heart tested has now reached 18,000. Many signatures have been accompanied by the stories of individual owners and their dogs: the pain and heart ache suffered by both. Despite a direct appeal, the Kennel Club refuses to take this action on the grounds that it sets a dangerous precedent for them and would alienate the Cavalier breed clubs.

BVA/KC Heart Scheme

No new developments on the Heart Scheme have been reported. It is understood that the Cardiologists panel has not met in the last year. Aimee Llewellyn from the Kennel Club Health Team has informed CM that the Kennel Club is in early discussion with the University of Copenhagen who are involved in the Danish CKCS Heart Scheme. Aimee hopes that collaboration or data sharing will speed up progress for a Heart Scheme. It isn’t clear if the BVA are aware of this development. On the other hand the Cavalier Club’s Chairman (in a written letter) states, ‘Please be assured that we will continue to push for a robust KC/BVA Heart Scheme and hope that it is forthcoming soon.’

14. Possible dates for the next meeting will be circulated via Doodle by DO. Dates for next year’s meetings will be planned in the same way.

Notes of Meeting 12 March 2015

Present: Sheila Crispin (SC), Dan O’Neill (DO), David Grimsell (DG), Marisa Heath (MH), Carol Fowler (CF), Neil Parish, MP (NP)

Apologies: Clare Rusbridge, Julia Carr, Geoffrey Clifton Brown, MP, Lesley Field, Fiona Cooke, Chris Laurence, Sean Wensley, Lisa Richards

1. Matters arising:

  • Minutes now being posted on CFSG website. CF will circulate to all members of DBRG
  • Defra’s lack of response to Advisory Council’s ‘Recommendations for regulation and legislation’ will be followed up after the election
  • CF will contact David Sargan regarding the Conformation Group
  • SC (?) will check with Lisa McCaulder on progress/whereabouts of the scoring system for local authority inspections of licensed dog breeding establishments
  • We await the result of negotiations between the RSPCA / BVA AWF and Kennel Club on an agreed Puppy Contract
  • Codes of Practice: we understand that CFSG has been tasked with re-writing the COPs. We also understand they will be subject to consultation. We agreed that in the case of the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act the COPs relating to dog breeding should be statutory.

2. DBRG Objectives

A lengthy discussion took place and then further work done by email. The DBRG (revised) Objectives are available as a separate document and included with these Notes.

3. Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) update

From the Minutes of the 26 February CFSG meeting it was noted that CFSG membership would consist of a steering group, main members, and advisors.  Engaging with other smaller groups was discussed and when appropriate their input/thoughts would be sought. There was a suggestion of a ‘big tent’ meeting to which those with an interest in dog and cat health and welfare be invited to give their views.

The on-going legacy work of the Dog Advisory Council was discussed.  The Council’s Recommendations for legislation and regulation was presented to CFSG as the area it could take forward. Consideration was also given to the Deregulation Bill and Codes of Practice. This would be put into the CFSG strategy work and CFSG would respond to any consultation on the Deregulation Bill. Information on the Council’s website was also discussed. It was agreed that the ‘How to Buy a Puppy’ section was very useful and that the BVA will be taking this on.

CSFG also discussed micro-chipping and the recent debate in the House of Lords. Key questions were: who registers a dog for the first time; who is the offender if ownership details are not updated; how regulations will affect breeders?  CFSG will monitor the effectiveness of the micro-chipping  guidelines for the five year review.

CFSG is in the process of setting out its priorities.

Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Cats and Dogs are due to be reviewed in 2015. CFSG are tasked to do this by considering how they can be improved and used more effectively. CSFG aims to provide AHWBE with its report by mid-summer 2015.

4. CARIAD Update

Breeding of Dogs (Wales) Regulations
DG reported that the Breeding of Dogs (Wales) Regulations will come into force April 30 2015. The Regulations will require that local authorities ‘have regard to’ guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers. CARIAD has seen a draft of the ‘Guidance’ proposed and is very disappointed, to say the least. CARIAD has issued a paper strongly criticising the draft ‘Guidance’ and has made a series a recommendations to the Welsh Government for improvements. All Welsh Assembly Members have been advised of this and urged to press for improvement.

Paper presented to RCVS on Veterinary Inspections
A discussion paper has been submitted by CARIAD to the RCVS concerning the role and professional responsibility of vets in the licensing of dog breeding establishments. This paper will be discussed at the next RCVS Standards Committee on 29 April.

Deregulation Bill
The draft Deregulation Bill currently includes a clause under Schedule 21 which would repeal the requirement under the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 for the keeping of prescribed records by dog breeders.  This repeal, if it goes through, would be very damaging to dog welfare. The Government has implied it will consult on this but to date there has been no indication when or how such consultation will occur. CARIAD understands that Rob Flello, MP, is submitting a question to the Minister, Lord de Mauley, to seek clarification. DG emphasised that DBRG members should be very alert to this as it will be important to submit responses to a consultation.

How and why the Government chose to introduce this proposed repeal is unclear. To date, DEFRA have refused to provide any background papers. CARIAD is waiting for the decision of the Information Commissioner as to whether this information should be provided. It is thought a decision is likely soon.

5. Dog Health Workshop/DogWellNet/International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD)

Dan O’Neill reported on the second Dog Health Workshop hosted by the German Kennel Club in Dortmund 14/15 February 2015. Presentations and post workshop summaries may be found here:

Of particular note was the initiative by the Swedish Kennel Club (Goran Bodegard) for Breed Specific Strategies and Breed Specific Instructions (BSI) for show judges regarding morphologic breed type related to exaggerations in pedigree dogs. This programme has now been adopted by all of the Nordic kennel clubs. Judges reports and individual critiques are forwarded to the breed clubs of breeds identified as having the potential for exaggerations which impact on a dog’s quality of life. At present 39 breeds have been selected from 73 breeds deemed at risk of a negative welfare impact due to exaggerated features.

The International Partnership for Dogs (IFPD) seeks to ‘facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health, well-being and welfare of pedigreed dogs and all dogs worldwide.’ Its goals are to: enhance the health, well-being and welfare of dogs and enrich human-dog interactions; to facilitate sharing of knowledge, information, experience and resources across stakeholders; provide structure, evaluation and interpretation of information to support the actions of stakeholders in do health, well-being and welfare; to facilitate specific actions to improve the health and well-being of dogs, including, for example, to support globally relevant breed-specific breeding strategies; to create and run the web platform; to bring the dog community closer together through

The CEO of IPFD is Dr Brenda Bonnett: ( CF has made contact with Dr Bonnett but no reply so far. It remains to be seen if such noble objectives will be translated into collaborative actions by the kennel clubs involved. Following the Nordic kennel clubs’ example regarding breed specific strategies/instructions would be a good place to start.

6. Invitation to the Kennel Club

It was agreed that we should invite Bill Lambert, Aimee Llewellyn and Tom Lewis to our next meeting. CF has emailed Bill, Aimee and Tom, who have agreed to speak about the organisation and structure of the KC and answer specific questions we may have, provided these are sent in advance. It would be a good opportunity to discuss our suggestions about measures we would like the KC to implement to improve health and address the problem of inbreeding and closed gene pools.

7. Research papers

There was no time to discuss, however Dan has agreed to pass on any relevant research papers to all who would like to receive them. Please let Dan know if you do not wish to receive research papers

8. Lobbying your MP

Again there was no time to discuss this item but at a previous meeting we did agree that each of us would contact our MP. CF has sent around a draft letter to MPs as an example.  Geoffrey Clifton-Brown commented that it was too long, so please bear in mind.  A copy of DBRG Objectives would be a good place to start because this is what we want. An MP should follow up a surgery meeting with some action (something more than a polite acknowledgement of your concerns)  An MP can: ask oral and written questions of ministers; include an issue in his/her own press publicity; call a debate; write to the relevant minister; request to see a minister; lay down a private members bill.  Immediately after the general election would be a good time to contact an MP and ask for a surgery slot.

9. DBRG Press release

CF has circulated a draft press release. Linda Goodman from CARIAD has offered to help should we decide to go ahead. Discussion postponed until the next meeting.

10. A constitution. Should we have one?

Please give this some thought until such time as we can discuss properly. What are the advantages and disadvantages?

11. Date of next meeting

June 4, Portcullis House, 12.00- 15.00

Notes of Meeting 8 January 2015

Present: Carol Fowler (CF), Dan O’Neill (DO) Sheila Crispin (SMC), Clare Rusbridge (CR), Fiona Cooke (FC), Sean Wensley (SW), Lesley Field (LF), Chris Laurence (CL), David Grimsell (DG), Julia Carr (JC), Lisa Richards (LR)

Guests: Stephen and Julia Charlton (Cockapoo Club of Great Britain)
Guest Speaker:  Dr Dan Lyons (Centre for Animals and Social Justice) (CASJ);  Angela Roberts (CASJ)
Member of Parliament present: Rob Flello

Apologies:  Marisa Heath, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (GCB)

1. Matters Arising

  • Dog Advisory Council’s Recommendations for Regulation – a response from Lord de Mauley promised in a letter to GCB dated 23 March 2014 has not been forthcoming. GCB will follow up;
  • Dog Advisory Council’s final Report will be available as a pdf document soon and will be circulated widely;
  • Concern was expressed that the Minutes of the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) will no longer be available. Sheila will take this up at the next CFSG meeting and GCB will write to CFSG about this;
  • CASJ Policy Proposal GCB will forward this document to Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE);
  • Michael Seal’s reply to GCB’s letter of 14 October following the Puppy Farm debate acknowledged the work of the DAC but did not mention whether any action would be taken as a result of the DAC’s recommendations. He said that the AHWBE continued to be actively engaged with dog welfare and had ongoing dialogue with CFSG. He advised that we should contact CFSG direct regarding our concerns and priorities.  Claire Horton’s recent appointment as a member of the AHWBE is very much welcomed. Claire will be able to provide a companion animal perspective.
  • Concern was re-iterated about Defra’s preoccupation with farm animals. CL suggested direct contact with the Welsh Assembly where individual Assembly Members are responsive to AW concerns. RF pointed out that even when legislation is in place, local councils do not always take note;
  • Use of the House of Commons conference call facility is welcomed – not as a substitute for regular face to face meetings but to enable us to call upon expert advice for specific items on the agenda.

2. DBRG and CFSG

Should we apply for membership of CFSG? DG felt that there is potential for DBRG concerns to be diluted if conveyed via a hierarchical process through successive layers (ie, DBRG to CFSG to AHWBE to Government). It is important to maintain a clear, independent voice.  Effective use should be made of the media and other mechanisms to ensure that a high profile is given to dog breeding issues raised by DBRG so that pressure can be applied and the Government challenged. It was pointed out that Sheila Crispin and Mike Radford were the only two independent members of CFSG. LF thought that continued constructive comment from the outside was important.  The issue of funding was raised and the difficulty of a truly independent group having sufficient funds to be effective. This matter will need to be raised at a future meeting.

We decided we should delay a decision about representation on CFSG until the next meeting.

3. Presentation from Dr Dan Lyons, Centre for Animals and Social Justice, ‘Overcoming Whitehall’s indifference to animal welfare: a political scientist’s perspective.’

Dominant belief systems

Dominant belief systems are the main factor in determining policy as well as funding. Public opinion only has a marginal impact. Government policy remains much the same even when Ministers come and go. An exception was the Hunting Act. Change was made because there was not the industry impact of farming and pharmaceuticals and it also became a party political issue. Animal welfare is better tackled from a cross party approach.

Animal policy belief systems

There are differences between a welfare based approach and the objectification approach. Whitehall’s approach is objectification and contrary to public opinion. There is a strong industry impact on policy decisions.

Lessons for Dog Breeding Welfare

Currently there is inadequate welfare protection, ineffective/difficult enforcement and Government indifference.  Simplification seems to be a euphemism for deregulation.

Deregulation Bill

The abolition of record keeping seems perverse.  Making changes to the Dog Breeding Act 1973 through the Deregulation Bill rather than revising the legislation is another indication that simplification is a euphemism and the Government isn’t interested. Economic Growth overrides everything and there is no duty on the Government to consider animal welfare. Mike Radford quoted the Wooler Review (Pt 28 p13) in his letter to DERFA on the Deregulation Bill.  Animals are ‘victims of an obsessive fetishism of cutting red tape.’ There also appears to be an attitude that, we can’t give ‘animal welfare people’ an inch or they will take a mile. Welfare is subtly organised out and subject to ‘non-decision making’.

Taking Animal Welfare Seriously

Animal welfare needs to be accepted as a matter of justice, not personal whim, and institutionalised within Government as an Animal Protection Commission (as proposed by CASJ). This should include: deliberate, democratic decision making; a duty to promote animal welfare; strategic targets; an impact assessment. There should be an Animal Welfare Select Committee. Animal welfare groups need to be more politically sophisticated.

Deliberate democratic decisions

If the public are at the heart of decision making from the outset this overcomes people’s feelings of disenfranchisement with politics.

Animal welfare impact assessment is not measured properly. This is another symptom of Whitehall indifference.

An Animal Welfare Select Committee would hold the Government to account.

Animal Welfare Groups

There is plenty of focus on policy shortcomings and what is required but groups also need to focus on the political processes. Resources should be devoted to developing appropriate pressure. This could be achieved by a 20 year plan and strategic approach.
CASJ could be catalyst for harnessing public support but needs backing from all groups.

Questions and discussion

SMC reminded those present that the link between animal abuse and human abuse had been recognised for some time and suggested working more closely with other groups with related interests. There could be shared philosophies with child protection and protection of the elderly.

The Welsh Assembly is a good model where existing policy areas have been broken up and new ones formed.

Q from DG:  MPs say the majority of mail is in relation to animal welfare but why is this not resulting in action?
DL:  Historically support for issues has come from back bench MPs but if they take up Ministerial positions they tend to ‘forget’. Specific policy making areas are insulated from public opinion. Government accountability is low with General elections only every 5 years.

Q from CF:  What actions can we take immediately?
DL:  Trying to get issues onto political party manifestos; raising issues with MPs in the run up to the General Election is particularly relevant in order to feed into party thinking and build momentum and awareness. It is probably not worth lobbying AHWBE because it is structured in such a way that Animal Welfare is a peripheral issue for them.

MPs want to see all animal welfare groups agreeing about what they want before considering action.

(CF will produce a written example of points to make to an MP during a constituency consultation regarding the Reform of Dog Breeding).

4. VetCompass (DO)

Dan O’Neill outlined the background and progress made so far of the VetCompass (VC). Post ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ it was agreed that data needed to be collected from primary veterinary practices to support claims that dogs were suffering unnecessarily from breed related genetic problems. Increasing scientific evidence will have the impact of improving animal welfare.

VC started as a RSPCA funded PhD: Epidemiology of disorders reported in dogs and cats in general practice in England. Scientific papers get fed back to veterinary profession but they are failing to make much difference. If fed out to other stakeholders it has more impact and better decisions. Owners have a much bigger impact as they spend the majority of time with the animal and are in a position to make the difference to welfare, also breed selection and day to day care. VC uses ID systems so there is no identification with human data but it can trace individual animals via many different criteria. 299 vet clinics are feeding in. There are more than 10m unique episodes of care and over 811,000 dogs.

So far results have been detailed in 11 peer reviewed publications. The process is now switching from specific disorders to specific breeds.

VC makes use of public infographics. These can transfer key results from full published papers.  They are perfect for social media such as Facebook and can be read in the optimum time of 50-90 seconds. They are colourful and clear and provide education for owners – therefore are very empowering. There are also interactive pages on the VC website showing the prevalence of disorders and demographics. The VC database has the capacity to provide huge amounts of information and has the flexibility to work with a wide range of groups. Dan O’Neill’s position in VC is currently funded by the KC Charitable Trust.

DogWellNet will be launched at Dog Health Conference in Dortmund, Germany (14-15 February 2015)  DogWellNet is a website where many KCs around the world have contributed information on dog health for studies. DO is attending the DHC and will report back.

5. Deregulation Bill

DG submitted an FOI request to DEFRA to obtain background documents relating to the rationale for the Government’s proposed repeal, contained in the Deregulation Bill, of the requirement for dog breeders to keep specified records.  Written records are required currently under the Breeding of Dogs Act, 1973.  DEFRA have refused to disclose this information.  A formal complaint has been submitted to the Information Commissioner challenging this refusal. It is understood that a case officer has been assigned and we now await the decision of the Commissioner.

(Lord Trees stated in the House of Lords: ‘There is a simple pro forma to fill in and you keep a record every time that the bitch breeds. To remove that will not see a surge in the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom, so why imperil animal welfare for no obvious purpose?’)

6. After the Advisory Council (AC)

It was agreed to leave a more detailed discussion on this until next meeting.

Actions to be carried forward: it is intended that the Priority welfare conditions will be added to the BVA website (a review of the Canine Health Schemes is currently in progress); wide distribution of the AC Final Report; David Sargan (Cambridge University and former Advisory Council member) is to chair a Working Group funded by the RSPCA that will address the issues of selection for extremes of conformation. No timescale has been set as yet; Lisa McCaulder (former AC member) has produced a checklist, using a simple weighted scoring system, for those carrying out local authority inspections of dog breeding establishments; AC Recommendations on legislation will now be lodged formally with CFSG.

Defra Codes of Practice:  It is the intention that DEFRA Codes of Practice will become non-statutory and based on industry standards. This a matter of concern. DG said that the removal of the statutory basis of the Codes and their replacement with industry defined guidance had the clear potential for undermining the species-specific minimum standards that are associated with the five core criteria of the Animal Welfare Act. The Act states that these criteria are to be met ‘to the extent of good practice,’ and any codes in place are likely to determine what this means. The removal of the statutory basis of Codes of Practice may well have the effect of reducing standards of welfare for all species.

Serious concerns have been raised by CARIAD and Canine Action UK on the Code of Practice for the Sale of Dogs from Licensed Pet Shops. This will need to be discussed at a later date. Please see separate joint paper from CARIAD and Canine Action UK.

7. AC Breeding Standard (CL)

The document is based on practical inspection requirements. The working party set up to produce an agreed Breeding Standard with the KC has completed its work without achieving its ideal goal. The compromise reached is that the KC Assured Breeders Scheme Contract plus Guidance more or less equates to the Council’s Breeding Standard.  We feel it is less than satisfactory, however, as the KC ABS Guidance is not enforceable.

CIEH Model Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments

Current legislation allows charges to be passed on to the licensee. Local Authorities may not realise this. Lack of funding is often given as a reason for not carrying out thorough and frequent inspections of breeding establishments. A recent letter from Defra to all LAs has reminded them that all breeders who are carrying out a business (not just those who breed five or more litters per year) needs to be licensed.

8. Puppy Contract Update  (LR)

The KC agreed in principle with the Puppy Contract but made considerable changes to the sale aspect including, ‘Breeder makes no warranty as to the health of the puppy.’ However, the KC is now happy to have this statement removed. The RSPCA legal department are redrafting the Contract based on KC suggestions. The time frame for the Puppy Contract to be ready is in the next couple of months. 10,000 downloads of the Contract have so far occurred and feedback positive from the Cockapoo Club of GB.

9. DBRG Revised Objectives

Item deferred until next meeting.

10. AOB

Margaret Carter’s petition to the KC that no Cavalier should be used for breeding unless both parents have been MRI scanned according to the BVA/KC Scheme and Heart tested in line with the breed club scheme. The petition has now reached more than 3,500 signatures. KC has issued a flat refusal. CF made the point that the Cavalier breed has reached point where it has nowhere to go and that the scale of suffering is unacceptable.  In this situation exceptional measures need to be taken. CR said that assessment under BVA/KC scheme has a low uptake due to poor promotion. She said that fundamental changes are needed. More research and refining of the CM scoring are also needed. Useful discussions might be had with the Scheme’s panel and BVA/KC.

Beebee’s Story Charlotte Mackaness wrote of her experiences with her Cavalier, Beebee, who was diagnosed with CMSM.  Copies of Beebee’s Story were distributed. The story is a reminder of the devastating affect CMSM has on the family of a much loved pet (not to mention the life of pain which this dog will endure) It also illustrates that taking the advice of the breed club when buying a puppy isn’t always successful.

11. Date of next meeting

12 March 2015, Portcullis House, Westminster, 12.00 – 15.00, room to be decided

Notes of Meeting 2 October 2014, Portcullis House

Members present: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP, Dan O’Neill, Clare Rusbridge, Carol Fowler, Harvey Locke. Marisa Heath
Guests: Dr Fiona Cooke (Local Government Survey), Ray Woolmer (Companion Spaniel Project), Rob Flello, MP (Chairman, APGAW Dog Strategy Group)
Apologies: Lisa Richards, James Yeates

1. APGAW Dog Strategy Group Update (Marisa Heath)

The current strategy overview is still in draft form but will be finalised shortly. Its four main issues are:

  • Dog control (breed specific legislation, dangerous dogs, dog attacks, stray dogs)
  • Dog breeding, dealing and trade (health and welfare of puppies and dogs, backstreet breeders / dealers / puppy farms, importation, online selling)
  • Responsible dog guardianship (behaviour and training, care, vet treatment, owners, handlers, etc)
  • Dog identification (compulsory microchipping, registration, etc)

Post Pup-Aid debate, Rob Flello, MP, will write to local authorities (LAs) with excerpts from Hansard explaining more clearly the roles, powers and responsibilities of LAs. Current legislation does give LAs considerable powers but issues relate to interpretation and enforcement. LAs often justify lack of action based on funding constraints and non-statutory requirements. The reality is that there is no new Government funding for dog wardens/inspectors and LAs will not use non ring fenced funding for this purpose.

In the current financial and political climate Marisa Heath suggested that the KC Assured Breeders Scheme (ABS) could offer an option for self-regulation in breeding. The ABS has shortcomings but also benefits and opportunities. A plan might be that the KC administers the ABS and feeds the results to LAs. LAs would then charge lower fees for ABS members compared to non ABS licensed breeders. LAs would inspect all licensed breeders but ABS members less frequently. The KC would benefit by more breeders being brought into the ABS. Funding could be sought from a small levy on pet food being directed to a Dog Board who would fund wardens/inspectors in LAs. This is simply an idea that is being aired.

2. Update on Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG)

A meeting took place on 24 June, however, Minutes are not yet available. As soon as they are CF will circulate to members of DBR. It is understood that CFSG agreed to invite representatives from the Dog Advisory Council to join its membership, a development which is much welcomed. We were also informed that Marisa Heath has been appointed Secretary of CFSG, which is also welcomed. The appointment will provide an important link with APGAW and also with DBR.

3. DEFRA and Companion Animal Welfare

We note the fact that companion animal welfare is not adequately provided for within DEFRA, nor has any response been given to the various papers and recommendations submitted by the Dog Advisory Council. There seems to be a lack of understanding within DEFRA of the need for independent welfare advice. Instead there is reliance on groups which comprise industry representatives. Farm animals have some protection from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) but there is no functioning equivalent for companion animals. This disparity we feel is something which should be addressed by DEFRA and the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE). Geoffrey Clifton-Brown will be writing to the Chairman of AHWBE to this effect.

4. Local Authorities and Dog Welfare (Dr Fiona Cooke)

Fiona outlined her findings in her PhD study into the role played by local authorities (LAs) in animal welfare. She identified huge disparities in LAs’ understanding and application of the Animal Welfare Act. Animal welfare is spread across 18 departments in LAs. There is a huge variation in fees for licensed dog breeders, often based on historical precedent or differing ways in which the funds are being used. There is often little or no expertise in welfare or specifically companion animal welfare in the persons with responsibility in these areas. The proportion of LAs with an AW inspector rose from 40% in 2009 to 60% in 2011 but these roles may have been nominal and it is not clear that there was an actual increase in the work carried out. Only 11% of inspectors engaged in animal welfare work on a daily basis. However, 70% of AW inspectors reported that the Animal Welfare Act had made the implementation of their tasks easier. LAs often contract out their dog welfare statutory requirements (stray dogs) and the holders of these contracts are not necessarily licensed. The police have responsibilities for dangerous dogs.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown suggested that the approach to effective implementation of dog welfare action by LAs could mirror a recent successful approach taken towards shotgun and firearms licensing by police constabularies.

5. Companion Spaniel Project (Ray Woolmer)

Ray outlined his ideas for a project to breed healthy companion Spaniels suitable as family pets in the 21st century. The long term aim is to breed small Spaniels with the typical temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel but without the genetic diseases which plague the CKCS breed. He plans to use his working Cocker Spaniel foundation bitch with a Cavalier with a good heart background and without SM (age of the dog and MRI scan to be performed as late as possible). In the coming weeks he will be visiting two other like-minded breeders and hopes that the idea of the project will expand. It is understood that breeding back to a Cavalier in the second generation is not possible and another breed will need to be chosen for the F2 generation. All offspring will need to be carefully monitored, including MRI scanning, using the BVA/KC scheme. Ray is looking for support from individuals and organisations, including the Kennel Club. He intends to work with Tom Lewis at the KC and possibly Sarah Blott, at the University of Nottingham Vet School. Both are canine population geneticists. CR suggested that her PhD student at the University of Surrey, Penny Knowler, may be interested in this project and suggested that Ray speak with Penny. Penny’s study is an investigation into aspects of the inheritance of CM and SM.

6. Updates: Breeding Standard, Puppy Contract, BVA/KC Heart Scheme, CMSM Scheme

  • The Puppy Contract has been agreed by all parties. The remaining differences relate to the Puppy Information Pack (PIP). It is likely that the KC will retain its own PIP as part of the Assured Breeders Scheme.
  • The CMSM Scheme has screened 354 dogs, 222 of which have been Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at 18 centres nationwide.
  • The BVA/KC Heart Scheme is still on the agenda now led by cardiologists Mark Patteson and Anne French. There is still no news on when the Scheme will be finalised and implemented.
  • It is understood that the agreed Breeding Standard is nearing completion. The KC ABS group met recently but there is as yet no further information. Chris Lawrence will let us know as soon as there is some definite news.

7. Future role of DBRG and revised Objectives

A discussion took place about the future of DBRG – whether in view of the setting up of the APGAW Dog Strategy Group and the Canine and Feline Sector Group we should continue. It was decided that as the Dog Advisory Council was coming to an end at the end of 2014, we should continue to represent an independent viewpoint (as distinct from the other stakeholder groups). We would also focus on the Breeding issues unlike the other groups which will look at all dog welfare (and control) issues. We will continue to meet four times a year at Portcullis House.

DBRG’s Objectives will need to be revised in the light of recent developments.

We discussed whether others may be invited to join. Harvey Locke suggested Sean Wensley (BVA) and this was unanimously agreed. Harvey will approach Sean. Clare Rusbridge thought some members of the DAC might like to join us. Sheila Crispin will be consulted on this, and it is hoped that Sheila will continue with us, offering advice and attending meetings when she is able.

We were happy to be defined as a campaign group/lobby group.

The list of recipients of the Notes of meetings will be revised and expanded.

8. Date of next meeting

Thursday January 8, 12.00 – 14.00, Portcullis House, Room M

(In future CF will try to arrange meetings to fit in with other meetings at Westminster)

Unfortunately there was no time left to discuss Dan O’Neill’s article, Progress in purebred dog health since the Bateson Report of 2010’ published in Vet Record. Dan has some exciting plans and projects involving VetCompass going forward into 2015. He will outline these at the next meeting in January 2015.

Notes compiled by C Fowler