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.