The RSPCA has suspended plans for a stand at Crufts and is calling for new measures to tackle the unacceptably high levels of disability, deformity and disease that threaten pedigree dogs.
In the wake of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed broadcast last month, the RSPCA has become increasingly concerned about the health and welfare of pedigree dogs - and this includes animals entered into 'best of breed' classes in dog shows like Crufts.
In the past, the RSPCA has staffed a stand at Crufts in order to promote general animal welfare issues.
RSPCA chief veterinary adviser Mark Evans said: "Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals. There is compelling scientific evidence that the health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of pedigree dogs is seriously compromised as a result. From a dog health and welfare perspective, such shows are fundamentally flawed and do our much loved pedigree dogs no favours. Intentionally breeding deformed and disabled animals is morally unjustifiable and it has to stop.
"We want to see the emphasis shifted away from arbitrary appearance, so that health, welfare and temperament are considered first and foremost. We want to help ensure that pedigree dogs have the best possible chance of being fit, healthy and happy and well suited to the lives they will lead as pets. All those who benefit from pedigree dogs have a collective responsibility to solve what is now a very serious and totally unnecessary animal welfare problem - not just here in the UK, but around the world."
The RSPCA has commissioned an independent review of the science in this field, and will be discussing its findings with relevant experts and stakeholders later this year. Amongst a raft of specific recommendations, the following themes have been identified as possible ways forward:
- An overhaul of the rules and requirements for pedigree dog registration and competitive dog showing (including breed standards). Health, welfare and temperament should be prioritised over appearance.
- The development and implementation of health and welfare-focused breeding strategies for individual breeds. This should include pro-active steps to increase the genetic diversity of dog breeds.
- More data collection and scientific analysis on causes of disease and death in dogs
- Education, especially of would-be owners, to encourage demand for dogs which have the best possible chance of leading healthy, happy lives as pets.
"We know that hundreds of thousands of dogs are vulnerable to illness, pain, disability and behavioural problems because they're primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind," Mr Evans said.
"If things don't change pedigree dogs will continue to suffer unnecessarily, and their welfare will continue to decline - this is totally unacceptable and can't be allowed to happen. Careful breeding with an emphasis on health, welfare, temperament and quality of life is the only way to ensure a positive future for the pedigree dog."
The RSPCA has also cancelled plans to attend the Discover Dogs show, due to take place in November.
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