Notes of Meeting 4 June 2015
Presiding MP, Neil Parish
Members Present: Dan O’Neill, Lisa Richards (LR), Chris Laurence (CL), Marisa Heath (MH), David Grimsell (DG), Julia Carr (JCa), Julia Charlton (JC), Stephen Charlton (SC), Carol Fowler (CF)
Guests: Bill Lambert (BL) and Aimee Llewellyn (AL) (Kennel Club Health Team)
Apologies: Clare Rusbridge, Sheila Crispin, Sean Wensley, Fiona Cooke, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP
1. Matters arising
– Defra’s lack of response to Dog Advisory Council’s ‘Recommendations for regulation and legislation’. CF will seek help from G C-B in writing to or arranging a meeting with George Eustice, Minister of State at Defra.
– Dog Welfare Code of Practice. CFSG will work on a new COP for the Welfare of Dogs. DBRG would very much like to contribute to the Welfare Codes review and MH will inform CSFG of this and let them know DBRG would like to be consulted. DG asked if breeding and genetic health and welfare could be included in the new COP. CL reminded us that Defra lawyers had advised against including breeding and genetic health and the protection of offspring in the previous COP. This seems strange in view of the fact that the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals states: ‘No one should breed companion animals without careful regard to characteristics (anatomical, physiological or behavioural) that may put at risk the health and welfare of the offspring or female parent.’ We discussed whether there should be a separate Code relating to the breeding of dogs and agreed that this was desirable. The COP for the Welfare of Dogs is intended for owners of dogs to ensure that dogs are appropriately looked after whereas a Code of Practice for the Breeding of Dogs would lay down good practice for breeders. Further discussion related to the purpose of a Code of Practice and a Standard for Breeding. The former would lay down basic good practice and be an aid to prosecutions. The latter would describe best practice and help puppy buyers when choosing a breeder. The group agreed that Codes of Practice should be statutory.
– The CIEH Model Licence Conditions and Guidance for Dog Breeding Establishments which reflects both the Animal Welfare Act (2006) and existing Breeding of Dogs Acts has been available since January 2014, although it is not statutory. Its purpose is to aid local authorities when licensing and inspecting dog breeders and enforcing the law. We understand that it is not yet used in all local authorities. CF will contact Mark Berry (National Companion Animal Welfare Forum) to ascertain if the CIEH Guidance has been sent to all local authorities and how far local authorities are putting the Guidance into practice.
2. DBRG Revised Aims and Objectives
It was agreed that suggestions about how our Objectives might be achieved could be worked on via email. For example, continuing engagement with the Kennel Club regarding measures needed to improve the health and genetic diversity of pedigree dogs.
LF suggested one small amendment to the Aims and Objectives document: ‘Breeding Standard’ should be changed to ‘Standard for Breeding’ to avoid confusion with the term ‘breed standard’ – the term used by the Kennel Club for the written description of each of the dog breeds.
MH was concerned about the increasing size of DBRG and potential problems with some members representing other organisations. She suggested a core central membership of ‘individual’ members and a wider associate membership for those representing other organisations. This should be given some thought and will be included on the agenda of the next meeting.
3. Discussion with members of the Kennel Club Health Team
BL outlined the structure of the KC which is now a Company Limited by Guarantee. At the top is the General Committee (Board) consisting of 24 members, elected by KC members at the AGM. Above this (but not mentioned by BL) is the Finance and General Purposes Committee – a smaller group consisting of the GC Chairman, Vice Chairman and four GC members which has the final say in all matters. Ten committees sit under the GC, including the Dog Health Group, which is in turn split into smaller groups: genetic and health screening; breed standards (detailed written descriptions of the physical shape and size of all 250 registered breeds); conformation (focuses on those breeds whose physical shape has the potential to affect a dog’s quality of life); Assured Breeders Scheme; activities health and welfare group. Recommendations of the DHG go to the GC which usually accepts its recommendations.
SC raised the issue of how dog breeds have changed in appearance over time and have become more exaggerated to the detriment of the welfare of the dogs. He said that the DHG should be very proactive in putting right some of the things that have gone wrong. BL said the setting up of ‘Breed Watch’ and the three categories of breed conformations has led to the education of judges to understand what is normal for a dog, not just a breed. SC suggested that the show ring is the best place to start when instigating change. AL pointed out that it is not always the show dogs which are the most exaggerated and concerning. The French Bulldog breed club was given as an example of a category 3 breed which has tried to address conformational issues by awarding bronze, silver and gold certificates to its breeders.
The KC conducts training for judges to ensure that dogs with exaggerated conformations are not placed in the show ring. For category 3 breeds the judge’s choice of winner will need to be confirmed or rejected by a vet. Judges of category 3 breeds are obliged to complete a written report on the entries so that progress may be measured. (Comment by CF in writing these Notes: photos of winning dogs in ‘Dog World’ still appear to show exaggerated conformations.)
CF asked if the KC would be adopting the Breed Specific Strategies of the Nordic KCs to address conformational issues as outlined at the Second Dog Health Workshop, 2015 in Dortmund. The answer to that appeared to be ‘no’ on the grounds that there are cultural and historical differences between kennel clubs. However the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) will facilitate the exchange of ideas, research and good practice between kennel clubs.
LR asked how research findings are translated into action by the KC and breed clubs. AL said that research papers are sent to breed clubs if freely available and the KC communicates with breed clubs, as in the case of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). However, breed clubs are, on the whole, left to carry out surveys, introduce screening schemes and communicate to the general public via their websites.
SC suggested that an aim in breeding should be to reduce the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) within a breed by breeding dogs whose offspring would have a COI lower than the breed average. AL said that the COI of an individual dog doesn’t tell you much and that the reduction of COI relates to the breed as a whole. She added there was no real link between COI and exaggeration. To reduce exaggeration you would need to select according to phenotype.
CF suggested that Effective Population Sizes (EPS) are a better indication of the overall genetic health of a breed. AL said that Tom Lewis’ paper on breed EPS has been submitted for publication and is likely to be published in early autumn. EPS will then be openly available for all breeds which will facilitate any necessary remedial action. Those breeds considered ‘at risk’ will be advised on appropriate measures to take which may include outcrossing to a related breed or limiting the use of ‘popular sires.’
How can owners of pedigree dogs become more involved in their breed? How can the relationship between pedigree dog owners and the KC be improved? CF mentioned the KC’s perceived lack of sympathy with dog owners if there is a health problem with their dog or a problem with the breeder of their dog. BL pointed out that there are designated people at the KC to deal with all correspondence and regretted if in some cases the KC fails to respond to owners’ concerns. He suggested it would be more appropriate if owners went to breed clubs as it is not the KC’s role to intervene unless a breeder is an Assured Breeder. BL also made the point that according to his research into registration figures 55% of breeders only ever breed one litter in their lives and 73% breed no more than 2 litters. BL said that many breed clubs do try to engage with dog owners and the best way for owners to be involved is to join a breed club. CF pointed out that this is not easy as it is usually the case that new members need to be proposed and seconded by existing members (breeders). In theory anyone can start a breed club by applying to the KC. CF pointed out that the KC had refused to accept the Companion Cavalier Club on the grounds that there were already 10 Cavalier breed clubs. LF thought that it would be difficult to recruit pet owners to breed clubs, even if a breed club wanted that. JC informed the group that the Cockapoo Club of GB had 11,000 members which included an online forum and regular fun activities. Its code of ethics was enforced and must be adhered to for continued membership. Julia Carr pointed out the KC’s code of ethics for breeders and owners was not enforced. BL said the KC would take ‘certain actions’ but on the whole the COE was not enforceable (KC’s Code of Ethics attached as an appendix). As a point of relevance for DBRG the following item is part of the KC’s COE:
• Will agree not to breed from a dog or bitch which could be in any way harmful to the dog or to the breed.
All breed clubs are required to adopt the KC’s COE but they are not required to enforce it.
BL pointed out that when the American KC brought in stricter rules large numbers of breeders left their system. He didn’t want the same thing to happen in the UK. In effect there is a two tier system in the UK with the ABS as the elite. Figures given were 4,000 ABS breeders (of whom 2,700 – 2,800 had been inspected) and 35,000 non ABS breeders. BL pointed out that inspections must now be carried out before ABS breeders can register a litter. However, regardless of the details of the ABS it provides some protection for a mere 8 to 9 thousand puppies per year.
SC expressed concern that all commercial breeders were tarred with the same brush and emphasised that it is possible to be a commercial breeder and have excellent standards of health and welfare for the breeding dogs and puppies. DG described his experience of commercial breeders, many of whom farm dogs as they would cattle or sheep or worse, merely to make money and with no regard to welfare needs. Breeding dogs have lives of misery and torture and are often quickly disposed of when no longer productive. The Animal Welfare Act is openly being flouted on a massive scale and the authorities are unwilling or unable to do anything about it. It remains to be seen whether the new Dog Breeding Regulations in Wales will improve matters. However the accompanying Guidance for local authorities, in his view, is inadequate.
CF referred to the open letter to dog welfare organisations from Linda Goodman (CARIAD) calling for a TV advertising campaign to educate the puppy buying public about where to source puppies. MH thought a TV campaign would not be effective and that the problem needs to be addressed at source with effective regulation.
Discussion moved to the Puppy Contract and the fact that agreement still has not been reached between the KC ABS contract and the RSPCA/BVA AWF Puppy Contract. We are again told that agreement is close. LR reminded us that the existing RSPCA/BVA AWA Contract is currently being downloaded and used. JC said that the Cockapoo Club members and puppy buyers are using it successfully.
At the end of the discussion with Bill and Aimee, CF made the point that DBRG is willing to engage with the KC and hopes that the KC is also willing to engage with DBRG. BL distributed copies of the KC’s Annual Report 2014/15 (which provides information on the KC finances) and Dog Health Group Report 2014.
4. Update on Deregulation Bill and CARIAD discussions with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
DG distributed copies of the response from Defra. The Deregulation Bill became law in March 2014 and continues to include the provision for removing the necessity for record keeping for dog breeders. The response from Defra was inadequate and there are no details given of when or if a consultation might happen. The clause will only come into effect if the Secretary of State issues a commencement order. This would be most likely to occur when the English microchipping regulations come into force in April 2014. There could be a consultation but there might not. This is an important issue which members should lobby their MPs about. CF will ask if Geoffrey Clifton-Brown could help by writing to the Animal Welfare Minister, George Eustice, requesting a meeting on this issue. DBRG will speak about the Deregulation Act at the CFSG Big Tent Meeting on 22 June.
Note: the Breeding of Dogs (Wales) Regulations 2014 stipulate that records of bitches and puppies must be kept. The Deregulation Act repeal, if it occurs, would not affect this in Wales.
CARIAD have sent a report to the RCVS containing recommendations and concerns about vet inspections of licensed dog breeding establishments. The RCVS considered this in April and will follow up with a further meeting involving the British Veterinary Association (BVA), KC and CARIAD. The aim would be to have accredited vets to inspect breeding establishments who have competence in this area.
5. Update on National Companion Animal Focus Group (NCAFG)
Documents were supplied by Mark Berry, Chairman of NCAFG, Senior Environmental Health Officer, Stockton-on-Tees local authority. These had been distributed to the group ahead of the meeting. DBRG welcomes the opportunity to work with Mark and his group and will in future be able to link with him via House of Commons video conferencing or Skype. We wondered if the Dog Advisory Council’s pro forma for use in local authority inspections of breeding establishments had been received by NCAFG and trialled. CF will follow this up with Mark. DG said CARIAD were preparing to contact all local authority licensing bodies about implementing the CIEH Guidance but were waiting for the pro forma to be completed and distributed. CF suggested that the Puppy Contract and Standard for Breeding could be displayed on the websites of all local authorities as information for dog breeders and puppy seekers.
6. Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) Big Tent meeting 22 June 2015.
DBRG’s top three welfare priorities to be sent to CFSG prior to the meeting are:
• Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) to prevent the irresponsible breeding of dogs involving poor welfare of breeding dogs and their offspring.
• Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) to prevent breed related and inherited problems that impact on a dog’s quality of life and longevity (ie poor conformation and breed related genetic diseases).
• Dissemination of health and welfare information on dogs to the pet buying/owning public. Using an engaging format.
7. DBRG Press release
More thought needs to be given about this and will be dealt with through email. DG thought we should issue a press release sooner rather than later as it is important to let the dog world and public know we exist and what we are about.
8. Lobbying MPs
CF reminded the group that we have undertaken to meet with our respective MPs to put forward the case for the reform of dog breeding. It would be safe to assume that most MPs will not be aware of the history of the concern about the welfare issues around dog breeding or the lack of provision for companion animal welfare within Defra. We need to enlighten them and refer them to the many dog welfare reports published in the last seven years which seem to have gone unnoticed. We have a few excellent MPs on side but there needs to be a lot more in order to push this issue on to the parliamentary agenda.
Mention was made of the EU Cat and Dog Alliance review of the legislation across EU countries: ‘The welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices: a review of the legislation across EU countries.’
A European Union Animal Health Law to which all member states would be expected to comply is expected to be adopted in autumn 2015 (comes into force in 2020) will require the registration of all pet sellers and breeders.
10. Date of next meeting
September 10 or 24 (to be confirmed later)