Notes of Meeting 27 March 2014

Present: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP(G CB), Lisa Richards (LR), Harvey Locke (HL), Paula Boyden (PB), Carol Fowler (CF)
Guests:  Jackie Aldridge, Peter Jinman (item 8 only)
Apologies:  Dan O’Neill, Clare Rusbridge, Marisa Health

1. Report back from CF and GC-B’s meeting with Steve Dean at the Kennel Club 30 January.

Some points were agreed verbally but written confirmation not yet received from SD.  It was decided that a reminder should be sent.  Points agreed were:  an agreed Breeding Standard and Puppy Contract were nearing completion;  effective population sizes (EPS) breeds will be displayed on the KC website; action indicated for those breeds whose EPS is below 50 – breed clubs to be informed; the DAC’s recommendations for changes to legislation and regulation of dog breeding will be supported by the CFSG; the BVA/KC MRI scheme is the best way forward for Cavaliers – the KC to fund the resubmission of MRIs from breeders who had scanned before the scheme came into place; CKCS breeders encouraged by the KC to use the scheme – CF’s view to make the scheme a ‘requirement’ of the ABS; KC funding provided to enable Cavaliers owned by pet owners to be scanned to provide more data; EBVs for Cavaliers is continuing (has not been abandoned);  meet with Ray Woolmer to discuss  a Cavalier outcross;  KC has a crucial role in protecting the health and welfare of dogs and that reform should start at the top.

2. KC Dog Health Group Report 2013 / Changes to KC Breed Watch

Good to see the additional DNA tests, estimated breeding values for hip dysplasia for 15 breeds (5 of which also have EBVs for elbow dysplasia), and excellent genetic research being done at the Animal Health Trust.  However, our group is aware that more and more DNA tests and other health tests do not address the cause of the problems, ie inbreeding and closed gene pools. Breeds with low EPS, and perhaps all breeds, should be encouraged to outcross in order to introduce new genetic material. This still seems to be the most difficult message to get across to the KC and breed clubs.

The changes to Breed Watch are also welcome. Category 3 replaces the former ‘high profile’ group with a category 2 added as breeds with ‘points of concern’. For category 3 breeds judges must now complete a form indicating the prevalence of the points of concern by means of a 7 point scale.

It is noted that the French Bulldog has been removed from category 3 as a result of health initiatives by the French Bulldog Club.  However we note that selection for a longer nose/head to eliminate BOAS is not specifically included. This is a cause for concern when KC registrations for Frenchies are increasing annually.

3. Crufts

Photos of some Best of Breeds were looked at and we noted that in several cases: Clumber Spaniel, Dachshund (all types), GSD, Basset, Pekingese, Pug, Bulldog, French Bulldog, exaggerated conformations had not been improved. Concern was also expressed at the tendency to favour longer necks in some breeds, eg, Dalmatian, Great Dane, Doberman, Airedale and others. This can give rise to neck problems and ‘wobblers syndrome.’  Concern was expressed also at the winning Corgi whose legs have got shorter and back longer. Could this breed go the way of the Dachshund?  The KC often argue that the problems lie with dogs which are not KC registered.  Hard evidence is needed. Certainly photographic evidence from Crufts would suggest that this is not the case.

4.  Assured Breeders Scheme (Jackie Aldridge)

Jackie has begun a study to look at the details of the ABS (such as how many and how often members are assessed, how many assessors, whether full time or part time, what criteria is used when inspections are carried out, etc)  See attached summary of aims and parameters.  Jackie would welcome from members any other suggestions for inclusion in her report.  It was noted that Guidance for Assessors and Standard for Breeders are available on the KC website but difficult to find for puppy buyers.

5. Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) Instructions to Judges

This document was sent out in advance of the meeting (and has been brought to the attention of Aimee Llewellyn at the KC). We agreed that it was a simple and straightforward document, which applies to all breeds, instructing show judges to award prizes to dogs which are sound and healthy. We think it would be beneficial if all UK judges were issued with similar instructions. We also believe it would be advantageous to all dogs if the UK KC were to become a member of the FCI.

6. BVA/KC CMSM Scheme

The total number of MRI scans submitted to the scheme by mid February 2014 was 282 of which 175    were Cavaliers.  It was felt that the KC needed to be more supportive of the scheme for the benefit of all breeds with CMSM, particularly the CKCS breed which faces extinction because of it.  Registration figures for CKCS have fallen dramatically to 5,145 in 2013. There is an urgent need to break the deadlock which is hampering the success of the scheme.  The KC could offer funding for breeders who wish to resubmit their scans which were done prior to the official scheme implementation.  The KC could make the scheme a condition for the registration of Cavalier puppies or at the very least a ‘required’ test of the ABS.

7. BVA/KC Heart Scheme (HL)

A report by Eva Pavelkova has gathered information about heart testing schemes around the world.  There is much disparity amongst the various schemes although the German scheme is well established.  There will be a meeting of cardiologists to discuss the report’s findings and next steps toward having an official UK heart testing scheme. It is hoped that their report will be available shortly after the BSAVA Congress in April.  To date, discussions about this scheme have taken six years.

8. Defra and Companion Animal Welfare (Peter Jinman)

Peter gave a comprehensive history of the provision for Companion Animal Welfare within Defra and its associated bodies in the last decade or so. Whilst the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) is funded by Defra and well established, the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) is not similarly funded.  CAWC faces an uncertain future with no real political will or resources to get it going again.  We noted as before that companion animals are not well served in this country. They are regarded as luxuries which owners must pay for, not government. How can this mind set be changed?  How can the more enlightened attitudes in some other European countries be adopted here?  The governments of Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, for example, are far ahead of the UK. There does need to be an independent national committee for companion animals, properly recruited, which has an advisory role to Governments.  The case for reviving CAWC is strong. The governance of such a group needs to be right, as is its independence and its right to be critical. It needs to achieve legitimacy. Funding should not come from interested parties to ensure that outcomes are not compromised. What is the Dog Advisory Council’s role? Could it be part of a reinvigorated CAWC?

The Companion Animal Sector Council CASC (Peter Scott) still exists. What is its role now? In view of the sector groups and AHWBE will it be phased out?

It would be true to say that hopes are not high that provision for companion animal welfare in the UK will be improved in the near future. Peter very kindly offered to help to find solutions if at all possible bearing in mind the lack of political will which exists at present.

Reference ‘Prioritisation of companion dog issues using expert consensus’ Buckland, et al. ‘Issues that scored highly for both Welfare Problem and Strategic Priority were: inappropriate husbandry; lack of owner knowledge; undesirable behaviours; inherited disease; inappropriate socialisation and habituation; conformation related disorders.’

9. Canine and Feline Sector Group update (CFSG)

Minutes of the meeting held on 21 January have been distributed to members of DBR. It was noted how large the membership of this new group is and that the area represented most is that of rescue and welfare.  CF commented  that genetic welfare was under represented on the CFSG, however, PB pointed out that Dogs Trust does fund genetic welfare research as does RSPCA.  DBR felt strongly that the DAC should be represented on CFSG.  Paula Boyden thought that the DAC was welcome to join CFSG.

CFSG feeds into the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) which is represented in CFSG by Tim Morris.

So far a Boarding Establishment Working Group has been set up.  Items discussed were: CFSG terms of reference; feedback from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate regarding antimicrobial resistance; feedback from the review of England Exotic Diseases Contingency Plan; 2014 strategy document; anti-social behaviour; creation of a CFSG website; need for a specialist working group on training and behaviour; development of the APGAW Dog Subgroup.

10. Defra Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs

The lack of any reference to the protection of the offspring of dogs from genetic diseases is an on going concern of this group.  It was agreed that the following wording from the CAWC Report on Breeding and Welfare 2006 should be included as an addition to Section 5 of the Code, ‘The need to be protected from pain, suffering injury and disease’

‘The selection and breeding of dogs (companion animals) can result in or perpetuate characteristics or inherited conditions that seriously affect the quality of animals’ lives. No-one should breed dogs (companion animals) without careful regard to characteristics (anatomical, physiological and behavioural) that may put at risk the health and welfare of the offspring or female parent.’

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown offered to put this as a parliamentary question.  CF to help with wording.  A letter to Lord de Mauley should also be considered.

11. Government response to DAC Recommendations for Regulation and Legislation

As yet no response has been received from Defra to these recommendations.  GCB has written recently to Lord de Mauley and is waiting for the Minister’s reply.

12. RSPCA Plans on Dog Breeding and Welfare Campaign 2014 (Lisa Richards)

No specific plans have been made for a campaign in 2014.

13. Response from Mars/Pedigree regarding funding for DAC

Sheila Crispin has supplied Mars/Pedigree with additional information as requested but so far no response has been received. This is disappointing,

14. Update on working groups

Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) has now produced the updated ‘CIEH Model Licence Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments.’  This development is very much welcomed.

An agreed Breeding Standard has not yet been achieved. There are still some outstanding differences between the DAC’s Standard and what the Kennel club will accept.

An agreed Puppy Contract has not yet been achieved for reasons similar to the above. The KC want substantial changes to the BVA AWF/RSPCA Puppy Contract.  Further attempts will be made to reach a compromise but this is unlikely to be resolved before the end of 2014. LR reported that the existing Puppy Contract had more than 30,000 visits and 10,000 down loads.

Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG):  there are at least 26 sites advertising puppies and dogs for sale. So far Gumtree, Preloved, Vivastreet, Friday-Ad, Pets4Homes, Epupz and Loot have agreed to comply with PAAG standards.  For six months a team of volunteers will monitor the above sites for compliance. However, there is nothing on the sites themselves to indicate that they are PAAG compliant.  This makes it difficult for puppy buyers to make good choices unless they had visited the PAAG website first which has some generic advice about how to go about buying a puppy.

15. European Commission

Claire Calder (Eurogroup for Animals) informed us that the EU has funded a study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices which will report in February 2015. Initial results will be presented at the second EU conference on cats and dogs in December 2014 in Rome.

Eurogroup for Animals has started research on national legislation on breeding/trade of dogs and cats in each of the 28 EU member states.

16. Dog Health Workshop 2015

The second International Dog Health Workshop on the enhancement of genetic health in pedigree dogs will be organised by the German Kennel Club to take place in Dortmund February 2015.

17. Brachycephalic syndrome RVC conference update

The RVC team have contacted the KC after the conference last autumn offering to assist or meet again to discuss any initiatives they may wish to implement as a result of the report and conference findings.  So far the KC has declined to comment.

18. APGAW Dog subgroup update

Good progress has been made in the setting up of this new group of MPs. Key stakeholders have been invited to join. More details will be released by APGAW later. Members of DBR feel strongly that the DAC should be represented on this new group. CF has written to Marisa Heath to express this, who will put it to the Chairman of the new group.  DBR is delighted that there will now be a politically focussed group solely responsible for dog welfare.

19. DBR Objectives

No change

20. CARIAD report on Willow Farm Kennels

A very detailed and disturbing report has been produced by CARIAD on the above kennels. LR agreed to check to see if the RSPCA have or will be taking any action to attempt to shut down this breeding establishment.

21. House of Commons debate on Puppy Farms

The date for this debate is still to be decided.  G C-B has agreed to speak in this debate. He will inform us when it will take place and ensure that tickets are provided for us to attend.

22. Publicity for DBR

There was no time to discuss this with all members but CF wondered if we should invite Chrissie Smith, news editor from Dog World to our meeting in June. CF felt it would be good to let the dog breeding world know of our existence and what our Objectives are.

23. AOB Illegal Importation of Dogs (Fixed Penalty)

G C-B informed us of the Motion by Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab) to bring in a Bill to provide a fixed penalty charge for those caught smuggling dogs into the UK, and for connected purposes. It is very much hoped that this Bill will become Labour Party policy and that it will be passed.  CF will write to Jim Fitzpatrick to thank him.

Date of next meeting

Tuesday 24 June 2014, 12.00 – 14.00, Portcullis House

Notes written by Carol Fowler