Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crufts Medical Center

Crufts dog show is upon us, and of interest this year is that the Kennel Club of the UK is implementing a new protocol, effective 2012. A news release from January reads:
The Kennel Club has announced that all dogs of the fifteen high profile
breeds which win Best of Breed at Crufts 2012 and at General and Group
Championship Shows after that, will need to be given a clean bill of health
by the show veterinary surgeon before their Best of Breed awards are
confirmed and before they are allowed to continue to compete at the show.
"... AND..."
In addition, before the Champion title of any dog or bitch within these
breeds can be confirmed, that dog will have to undergo a successful
veterinary examination at a Group or General Championship Show."

What exactly does this mean? You will have a complete history and physical done at a dog show? And get your lab results for thyroiditis back before the end of the day? Where do health exams have any place as a prerequisite to dog show competition? Obviously it is impossible to do a full health exam and proclaim a "clean bill of health" for a dog at a dog show.

If the Crufts Medical Center really wants to follow through with this idea, then why not insist that ALL dogs be screened for common health problems PRIOR to being shown? Why take awards away after the judge has made a carefully considered decision?

The fifteen "high profile breeds" selected were based on the presence of extremes of appearance.....short nose, excess skin, poor gait and the like. And all visual characteristics which, if so extreme as to threaten general welfare of the dog, should be apparent to a judge if doing the job properly. Lameness, tearing eyes from malpositioned eyelashed etc...all just as obvious to the judge as they would be to a vet. If judges cannot do this, then the "show" should fold up its tent and leave. It seems inappropriate to expect a vet to decide where breed standards are exceeded to an extreme....that is not a matter of better health per se. This is a matter of judge's education and should be handled by the individual breed clubs.

The critics of the KC and Crufts are intermingling the issues of breed standards, physical health screening and assessment of inbreeding, all of which are separate issues, and all of which should be addressed by the individual breed clubs in guidelines for ethical breeding.

Why not form a new organization to do health certifications, independent of The Kennel Club? It would be well-received by the public in this day and age. Look at the success of the OFA, CERF and the AKC's Canine Health Foundation. Breed-wide health surveys should be done to determine the prevalent problems that need to be screened for in each breed and then just do it! Breeders who participate could have some pride in that.

If a dog has a medical problem, should he be barred from exhibition when he might otherwise be a nice specimen of his breed? Part of the reason for dog shows is to allow the public to see typical specimens of various breeds. Should a participating dog be disallowed due to health matters that may not be obvious? Even more disturbing, should veterans be disbarred from exhibition if they have less than perfect physical condition at an advanced age? The law of unintended consequences....

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