Notes of Meeting 12 December 2013

Members present: Dan O’Neill (RVC), Lisa Richards (RSPCA), Harvey Locke, Marisa Heath (APGAW),  Clare Rusbridge (DAC), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP, Carol Fowler
Invitee: Rebecca Garcia (DEFRA)
Apologies: Paula Boyden (Dogs Trust)

Welsh Assembly Draft Regulations on Dog Breeding

The additional consultation period ended on 14 October.  CF has written to the Minister, Alun Davies, requesting an update, but no reply received so far.  HL offered to try to ascertain the current position.

DAC Recommendations for Regulation

These are with the Minister, Lord de Mauley, and no response has been received so far.

Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG)

It was noted that Steve Dean, Chairman of the KC, has been elected Chair and Victoria Brown, KC, as Secretariat.  It is still not known who the other members of the group are or what its remit and future plans are.  CF will email VB for more information.

Companion Animal Welfare Sector

Still seems to be a muddle.  The Companion Animal Welfare Council (CASC) is run by Peter Scott and is not part of DEFRA (emails from Peter Scott and Adam Broderick (DEFRA Customer Contact Unit) ). Adam Broderick also stated, ‘Sector Councils are not Defra organisations but are sector led. Each sector council has its own terms of reference/remit linked to animal health and welfare outcomes for its sector. Sector Councils are key stakeholders for Defra and AHWBE.’

CAWC is not properly functioning and its future still in some doubt.  Email from Tim Morris (AHWBE) to Geoffrey Clifton-Brown states, ‘Myself and fellow board member Stewart Houston will now be working with Defra’s head of animal welfare to consider ways in which Government might support CAWC as an independent animal welfare component.’  This is also supported by the AHWBE Note of meeting 8 October.  DAC Minutes 7 October states, ‘It was noted that the Chairman of FAWC (Peter Jinman) expressed a wish to amalgamate the CAWC and FAWC committees.

A reading of the Notes of AHWBE meetings since its inception suggests that there is very little, if any, concern for the welfare of companion animals. Its work seems to be centred on reducing disease risk and controlling dangerous dogs.  There is a need to raise the welfare profile in the companion animal sector.

Action: Harvey Locke will invite Peter Jinman to the next meeting of DBR on March 27 2014.

House of Lords debate on the Welfare of Dogs and Cats 20 November 2013

Lord Trees spoke strongly about the welfare problems due to exaggerated conformations and breed related genetic diseases.  He also spoke about the welfare issues around puppy farming, cross border trading, over population and online sales. He spoke of the need for more education of the public and promotion of the BVA AWF / RSPCA Puppy Contract.  He also saw the need for the strengthening of statutory controls by modest subsidiary measures under AWA and the repeal of outdated laws.

The Minister, Lord de Mauley, spoke of the coalition’s commitment to promoting responsible dog ownership and their ‘duty of care’ under the AWA.  He spoke also of, better education of buyers and sellers and promotion of the Puppy Contract.  He said that minimum standards have now been drawn up for classified websites (although adherence to these standards is voluntary). However, the Government have no plans to consolidate dog legislation.  He thought that breeders of two or more litters per year should be licensed by the LA. He announced that Defra will shortly be releasing new guidance for licensed breeding establishments.

We noted that local authorities would probably not be willing to undertake more inspections of dog breeding premises due to the shrinking of their budgets and lack of qualified staff.  However, it could be argued that having more licensed breeders and charging them would cover the costs.

Update on working groups

Pet Advertisers Advisory Group (PAAG) have published minimum standards for classified ads on websites and provided moderators who will report any suspect ads of puppies or dogs.  PAAG’s standards have been endorsed by DEFRA.  It should be noted, however, that very few companies have signed up to those minimum standards.

The Guidance for LAs for the inspection of dog breeding establishments is finished but has not yet been published and forwarded to LAs.

The DAC’s Breeding Standard Working Group’s recommendations have not yet been agreed by the Kennel Club.

The BVA AWF / RSPCA Puppy Contract has not yet been endorsed by the Kennel Club despite them saying they agree with it in principle. The Blue Cross has now endorsed it.

The Microchip Alliance is still working on the details of compulsory microchipping.  Some problems remain. There are currently four databases which are likely to continue (rather than a single database).  Mandatory standards need to be set for databases, microchips and implanters.  It is hoped that DEFRA will have these in place ahead of the law being introduced.

DAC meeting 3 December

CR reported on the recent DAC meeting held in public. This was a very well attended meeting which covered progress on the agreed Breeding Standard, addressing issues of selection for extremes of conformation, outcrossing, the problem of the ubiquitous nature of the Chiari malformation in CKCS, a generic introduction for all breed standards, addressing the priority health/welfare issues.

Please refer to the Minutes of the meeting on the Council’s website (when finalised)

BVA /KC Heart Scheme

Harvey Locke expressed the hope that the scheme would be launched in 2014 but news of the scheme has been hampered due to Sandra Webber’s (BVA) absence from work.  HL will provide an update to the Group.

BVA / KC CMSM Scheme

At the APGAW meeting on 3 December Steve Dean said there were problems with the scheme due to disagreement between experts.

However we believe it is more a case of objections from Cavalier breeders to the scheme. They would like the leading CMSM expert Dr Clare Rusbridge to be removed from the scheme.  However, it should be noted that every MRI scan is scrutinised by two members of the panel and that Mike Herrtage is the chief scrutineer.  Clare has stated that she is not inclined to resign unless the Cavalier Club makes it a requirement for the 20 most popular stud dogs to be MRI scanned according to the scheme and within 12 months of her resigning.

The publication of results is a problem for breeders as they do not wish anyone else to know the MRI status of their dogs.

Some vets offer cheaper alternatives and the fact that these may not be as rigorous is seen as an advantage by breeders who object to the cost of using the official scheme.

Breeders are also unhappy that the scheme does not provide information about ear disease and ventricular size although this information can be provided separately.

There is a perceived delay in getting the results of screening, although results are usually provided in four weeks.

The DBR group agreed that the KC Chairman’s statement that problems with the scheme were due to disagreement between experts was unhelpful.  It would appear that the KC wants the scheme to fail rather than wholeheartedly supporting it and taking a strong lead.

This will be discussed at the meeting with the KC on January 30 (CF and GCB)

Brachycephalic conference at RVC

An excellent conference on 11 November presented the welfare issues around dog breeds with short heads and short noses who can suffer from a number of conditions, such as over nose roll, skin conditions causes by wrinkled skin, soft palate problems, stenotic nares (narrow nostrils), brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), difficulty in controlling temperature, inability to exercise normally and enjoy life as a dog should.  A report on the conference and recommendations will be available soon.

Meeting with President of the National Dog Wardens Association

CF met with Sue Bell on 17 October. Sue agreed to attend the DAC meeting and APGAW meeting on 3 December but unfortunately was unable to attend at the last minute.  Sue has vast experience of the work of LA dog wardens and insights into how local authorities deal with dog welfare. She confirmed that LAs differ hugely in their approach to dog welfare – the main problem being lack of resources and expertise. More detailed information was promised.  CF will pursue.

KC Assured Breeders Scheme

CF suggested that more detailed information was needed on the operation of the ABS since UKAS accreditation  (‘the devil is in the detail’).  Jemima Harrison has drawn attention to the ABS scheme in a recent blog.   The figures produced by Jemima so far are that there were 598 new ABS breeders registered in 2013.  17 have been inspected (2.8%).  78 of these are currently advertising litters on the KC Puppy finder. Only 5 (6.2%) of these have been inspected.  135 of these have registered 5 or more litters.  14 inspected (10.3%).  It is possible that 200-300 inspections are ‘in process’ so the above figures may increase by 8%.

CF has met with Jackie Aldridge (volunteer researcher) who has agreed to carry out some detailed research into the scheme in the New Year.

EU conference on the welfare of dogs and cats 28 October 2013

Over 400 delegates attended this conference which recognised the need to provide better welfare protection for dogs and cats in the EU.  A further conference will be held in Rome in November 2014.

Link with Eurogroup for Animals

It was agreed that we should link with Claire Calder at the Eurogroup for Animals.  A copy of the Notes of DBRG meetings will be sent to Claire and CF will keep in touch with her for periodic ‘catch ups’.  The aims of the Eurogroup are: compulsory identification and registration of all dogs on a database linked to a EU database;  EU legislation requiring the licensing of breeders and traders by member states;  EU legislation to prevent the breeding of dogs in a way that is likely to result in exaggerated conformation and inherited disorders;  improved standards for the showing and pedigree registration of dogs so that animal welfare is prioritised;  EU legislation requiring all dogs to have a pet passport registered on a database accessible across the EU.

ALAW and CASJ Conference on Animal Law and Public Policy 2-3 November 2013

See separate paper by Dan O’Neill (attached) and Fiona Cooke’s PhD thesis (Aberdeen University) Local Authority (LA) regulation and enforcement at local level

Main messages:  Animal welfare is not a government priority (if a concern at all).  Welfare considerations are often conspicuous by their absence and only occasionally occur as a result of other measures.  Animal welfare always loses against economics.   Less than 25% of local authorities in the UK do any work in the area of companion animal welfare. There is a need to raise the welfare profile, particularly of companion animals.

RSPCA plans for Dog Breeding and Welfare Campaign 2014

Following press and social media activity around the five year anniversary of ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ in August, the RSPCA is currently discussing future work around dog breeding and how best to affect change.  The results of the RSPCA funded VetCOMPASS PhD project will form a big part of that.

APGAW update

The plan to create a sub group for Dog Welfare within APGAW is very much welcomed. We look forward to getting more details from Marisa when plans are finalised.

DBRG Objectives

No time to discuss.  They remain unchanged for now but CF will ‘tweak’ wording

Circulation of DBRG Notes of meetings

No time to discuss but suggest:  AHWBE (Tim Morris),  Sue Bell (NDWA),  Lord Trees,  Rebeca Garcia (DEFRA), Claire Calder (Eurogroup for Animals), Lord de Mauley’s office, Huw Irranca-Davies, MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, MP, James Kirkwood (UFAW)

Future of DBRG

CF wondered if DBRG should cease once the new APGAW group had been set up.  The feeling was that we should continue for the time being at least but bear in mind our effectiveness (or lack of it)

Meeting with the KC

The meeting between CF / GC-B and the KC will now take place on 30 January 2013. Please let us know if there is anything you would like us to raise.

Date of next meeting 27 March 2014 12.00 – 14.00pm


HL and CF Meeting with Lord Trees,  12 December 2014

Lord Trees understands the breeding issues very well and shares our concerns.  He has offered to help and can do so by raising awareness among his colleagues by such means as written questions, questions in chamber, a one hour debate, influencing APGAW re meetings, private members bill, speaking to Rupert de Mauley.  CF will liaise with his intern, Hannah Jordan.

Notes compiled by CF