Friday, March 23, 2012

Down the Path Toward Extinction

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.    Bernard of Clairvaux  (1090 – 1153)

As noted in a prior post, the British "Canine Alliance" foolishly has expressed a desire to work with the KC to promote health testing in the show setting, providing that such checks apply fairly to ALL participants.

However, the idea of testing all show entrants is not practical, admits pedigree dog blogger, TV producer and animal rights puritan Jemima Harrison, stating, "can you imagine the uproar, anyway, should vets DQ some top dog de jour that's just arrived after a 300 mile journey to compete?"

Been there, done that. Remember Crufts last week? These people probably would have preferred to escape the spotlight of winning and then being singled out for ridicule for having an undisclosed "health problem".  The popular lynch mob sentiment seems to be "why not release the results of their exam if they have nothing to hide"?  Why not indeed? Privacy be damned, none of that exists after the witch hunt and public lynching. What was the crime again? Who knows? "Guilty!" is all that matters.

When the Canine Alliance members mentioned their objections to the heavy-handed and unfair way they have been treated by the Kennel Club, Harrison criticized them for worrying more about themselves than the dogs.

The DOGS are more important than the people who breed them, in the eyes of the animal rightists.
The dogs don't care if they are in a show, she muses, and anyway, she wants dog shows to go down the tubes for good…to be banned, in her words. (Like as if we didn't already figure that one out). Besides, if poodles cared they would object to being groomed to be "embarrassingly ridiculous" according to Harrison.

No, dogs don't care at all if they are in a show, or how they are groomed. They are DOGS, not humans. Golly, that is hard to remember for those who prioritize the treatment of dogs over the treatment of human beings. 

Yes, dog shows are primarily a human activity. We make the choice to participate, for whatever personal reason we may have. For fun, for possibly starting a breeding program, for camaraderie with fellow hobbyists, for the sense of accomplishment, for the bond you establish with your dog, for receiving recognition for a job well done. Don't we all seek approval? That is basic human nature.  
But according to the ARistas, dogs have the right to not be exploited at the hands of the exhibitors, judges and breeders.

In a newly-released statement, the Canine Alliance states:
"The Canine Alliance was formed to represent everyone involved with pedigree dogs, and to negotiate when necessary with any related organisations in the interest of all breeds. Its aims are to protect and support the well-being of pedigree dogs, to uphold the ethics of responsible dog breeding, to encourage health checking of all dogs and to allow the exhibition of pedigree dogs without bias or discrimination.... It pledges to be fair and totally transparent, always working to the benefit of pedigree dogs."

Any related organizations? Like who? YIKES! The Pedigree "exposers", perhaps? The RSPCA, an animal rights group?  The very group that has actual police authority? Don't they have enough power already to enforce their anti-dog breeding agenda on society? Guess not.

You don't negotiate with terrorists! Those with nothing to lose don't actually compromise very well. It's all take and no give. The demands just keep on coming!

Anyone with a lick of common sense realizes that if you give animal rights extremists an inch, they will definitely take a mile. But sadly, those whose country is overrun with AR laws and  bleeding-heart sentiment just don't seem to "get it". Exactly where do they envision this path to the future leading us?
Harrison, leader of the dog rights puritans, lays her cards on the table in her recent blog, as she mocks the published goals of the "Canine Alliance". Here is her plan for the path:

At last! An organisation that I can sign up to! After all, I'm involved with pedigree dogs and I can sign up to most of those aims. I also protect and support the well-being of pedigree dogs; I am happy to uphold the ethics of responsible dog breeding and to encourage health checking of all dogs….
So what shall we do first, CA?
  • Limits on popular sires and inbreeding?
  •  KC registrations dependent on taking and actually passing breed specific tests?
  •  Health reps educated in rudimentary genetics?
  •  Proper breed health surveys?
  •  Ban dog shows in their current form (I mean, didn't you say you were working to the benefit of pedigree dogs?)

    It's so exciting, isn't it? Together, we can achieve so much!

My my, someone who neither breeds nor shows dogs, but "involved" so intimately. So thrilled to have such "achievements" to crow about. "Together", eh? Unfortunately, with all the conciliating that the KC has done, I'm sure she does feel that such "achievements" are hers to boast about.

And, if I didn't know she was a pet owner rather than a breeder, this idea would clue me in immediately. Requiring PASSING breed specific tests simply to be registered? And what end, pray tell, would such folly serve? Do many people seeking out a purebred dog really want an unregistered dog? And when we move beyond registration to actual showing and breeding, shouldn't breeders have the license to decide whether or not they wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater? 
Oops, guess not. After all, in true AR form, these folks believe it is horrific to pass on any defective genes. Dogs must be 100% disease-free to bred. Or, in the case of the British, to simply be exhibited! Ah, make that, must be disease-free to even be registered!   

Is it any wonder that people resist health testing when there is such a social stigma attached to the "unhealthy" dog and its "bad breeder"? According to the events unfolding in the UK, health test results may adversely affect a breeder's ability for self-determination in breeding decisions. There just MAY be a bit of reluctance to participate when the end result is punishment and derision.

And, the problem with such simple-mindedness is that there is no 100% healthy dog. ALL dogs, just like all people, can and do suffer from health problems, and yes, many are genetic. All animals carry some genes for detrimental health traits. Geneticists believe so, and I think they probably know whereof they speak.

In "Removing the Stigma of Genetic Disease", Dr. Jerold Bell writes: "My hope for each breed is that there will eventually be so many testable defective genes that it will not be possible for any dog to be considered "perfect." Then we can put emotions aside and all work together on improving our breeds."*

Purebred dogs as well as outcrossed dogs all carry problem genes. And dogs with extremes of conformation…..excessively short legs or short noses, for example….are not necessarily inbred, PDE rhetoric notwithstanding.

Geneticists advise against automatic dismissal of disease carriers. Such practices further limit genetic diversity. Such practices give us the same result as popular sire syndrome! For some of the endangered breeds, narrowing the gene pool by eliminating dogs with whatever health problem you are looking at is not always a black-and-white decision.

What the devil is a "proper" breed health survey? Oh, I'm sure the omniscient ARs among us will be waiting in line to help craft such projects. The very people who believe that elimination of hip dysplasia in domestic dogs is a realistic goal.

If one is actually "educated in rudimentary genetics", they would not recommend such drastic winnowing away at breed gene pools. Eliminate every dog with borderline or worse hips, and a significant proportion of ALL dogs will be gone. Canine orthopedists know that few breeds are free of hip dysplasia, and many if not MOST breeds have significant numbers of affected dogs.

So there go most all the breeds on hip issues, with the possible exception of sighthounds and standard poodles. In some of the toy breeds, eliminating all dogs with patellar issues would mean entire breeds would be tossed out.

Eliminating every Clumber with a diamond-shaped eyelid, as the AR extremists wish, would eliminate, well, EVERY Clumber Spaniel, wouldn't it?  This from the KC breed standard:

 "Acceptable to have some haw showing but without excess. Free from obvious eye problems."

"Haw" shows with a mild degree of ectropion. Apparently this part of the standard conflicts with the stated goals of the newly-instituted health checks. Wouldn't it be grand if they could get their act together and coordinate the goals here?

The KC just released information on breeds that are in danger of extinction in their country due to low numbers and closed gene pools.** Twenty-nine breeds are now considered endangered species in the UK. The specific breeds are not listed except for the "top five". In keeping with current scientific knowledge of the benefits of genetic diversity for health and longevity, increased numbers of imports and judicious outcrossing are being presented as methods to help prevent breed extinction. This is fabulous!! I applaud the KC for such forward-thinking ideas that breeders definitely need and can use to move forward. However, before they get the chance to implement these ideas, they may just find that the anvil of the health crusade may kill of some of the very breeds they want to preserve. I wonder if the Clumber Spaniel is on that endangered list? I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

Way to decimate the gene pools of the breeds most in danger of extinction. Jolly Good Show! 

Ronald Reagan reportedly once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Substitute "Kennel Club" for "government", and you have the ten most terrifying words in the English language.


  1. I think most of us--at least those who don't own the high-profile breeds--initially nodded and thought, "Good move--let's make them stop breeding those snuffling bug-eyed droopy-faced caricatures--for the good of the dogs!" Yet all it takes is a look at one's own breed to wonder what's next. Looking at the next group of watched-breeds, I see Borzoi with "too much rear angulation" and I wonder what dreaded discomfort that will cause; I see Sloughis with "underweight" and wonder who determines how thin or fat a running sighthound must be. Then I think ahead of giant breeds, with decreased longevity, and realize that a size and weight limit may be next; toy breeds, with their propensity to patellar luxation, and off they go; deep-chested breeds; we'd better get rid of them because they're predisposed to bloat---short-legged dogs, either because of back problems or because they simply can't enjoy running as fast as other dogs---and on and on until we're back to wolves or pariah dogs. Right now the exams were rightfully only on the basis of current (or past--and I'm not sure I agree with that) evidence of disease/discomfort, but how long before it advances to predispositions to disease/discomfort? Then why stop there--let's move beyond physical features to breed-related hereditary problems such as heart problems because Dobes or Cavs or whatevers are predisposed to DCM or MVD and there's no DNA test for them...

    I agree, no dog should be purposefully bred to live a painful or struggling life, but I am not sure that actions such as the Crufts one are not throwing out the puppy with the bathwater in an effort that seemed to be a good PR mov e, but ultimately I believe will prove to be just the opposite.

  2. Yes, "down the path to extinction" is entirely correct. Except it applies to the KC, the AKC and the current state of the conformation world. One is not an "animal rights" extremist to care about dogs, their welfare or health. And you show yourself to be woefully out of touch by saying so. But please, skip along on the road to irrelevance if you prefer. Because if you ignore the general public's well founded concern about the health problems of pure breeds, then the animal rights community WILL get engaged. And please stop with the big government analogies, or the "first they came for the clumber spaniels" hysteria. It reeks of desperation.

    1. You can't pick and choose what science and research to accept or reject. The "endangered species" list delineates a valid concern, and the problem can only be exacerbated by the current anti-pedigree dog hysteria in the UK.
      Caring about dog welfare and health is a far cry from strongarming others into compliance with your own world view. If you don't like it, don't breed it. Lead by example.
      The real Pedigree Dog Exposer's goal has always been to destroy the institution by causing dissent from within. You and others like you wish to see the current system abolished, not improved through education and knowledge. No better way than to take a page out of the Alinsky manual: "The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength." The enemies of the current dog breeding system are out in force and giddy with power, cheering on their social engineering program.
      You're right, once the Kennel Club no longer serves its members effectively it will likely go the way of the dinosaur. And deservedly so. Individual breed clubs may well be the only survivors.
      We've written frequently here about the risks of inbreeding and closed registries, the good reasons for purpose-bred crossbred dogs, and even a bit here and there about the unfortunate isolationist evolution of most of the modern-day breeds, so obviously you haven't been paying attention until just this last week or two! ;)

  3. It's right you are! Every time the righteous get loud about "not breeding for" or "eliminating diseased/detrimental genes", or "well, that's a dog that should have never been bred!", I have the mental image of someone flushing great numbers of brightly colored letters down the commode. There goes the baby, out with the bathwater! And that shrinking puddle on the floor is what's left of the gene pool.

    My own feeling is that breeders should fight like the devil to keep what's left of their breed's genes, using them to breed healthier dogs while not losing the qualities that distinguish the breeds. I know that the only thing that's going to work is to expose the AR's for the mingy, joyless frauds that they are; and work on salvaging the breed gene pools so there is something to work with when trying to preserve health, intelligence, and temperament.

  4. Bloody Hell, you lot take the biscuit you really do. IF breeders had listened to science and population geneticists and taken on board Diversity and Coi YEARS ago, instead of bleating on about losing type and we have been linebreeding for 40 years, look MY lines are all healthy. IF they could have been arsed doing sensible health surveys on a regular basis, creating an open databse to help all breeders then WE WOULDNT BE HERE NOW. So its no good blaming everyone else and FINALLY being concerned that dogs are being inbred to death

  5. Anybody who questions the status quo of the show world is an AR extremist? A TERRORIST?

    It's the Godwin's law of the dog blogs.

    These hysterical anti-AR rants are not logically valid, the strident vitriol is off-putting, and the spectacle of delusional Dog Quixote tilting away at straw men is entirely counterproductive to advancing your cause among the general public.

  6. As a pacifist myself all I can say is that these views tend to project an extreme opinion.