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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Breeders angry at genetic rules
Dog show
Class winners will qualify for next year's Crufts
Dog owners competing in the Welsh Kennel Club championship have expressed fears at new European breeding rules could threaten the future of some breeds.

More than 10,600 dogs have been entered in this year's Welsh Championship held this weekend at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells.

But many breeders competing at the show will be fearful of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals - which frowns on the breeding of dogs to accentuate "desirable" genetic defects.

It also outlaws popular cosmetic operations like tail-docking, ear-cropping, and de-clawing.

The convention has already been adopted by many member states although the UK government has yet to sign up to it.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pet Animals have lobbied the UK Government to sign and ratify the Convention

Any need for the adoption of far-reaching European legislation, which could potentially threaten the future of some breeds will be totally unwarranted
Phil Buckley, Kennel Club

One point in convention discourages the purposeful breeding of pet animals with genetic defects.

These include many breeds of dogs with significant breed characteristics - Bulldogs, for example, which have large heads and small bodies. Critics claim this is a form of congenital dwarfism which can cause acute breathing problems and may shorten lives.

Potential threat

Inherited weaknesses of other breeds can include leaking heart valves in some Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and spinal problemsin Dachshunds.

The Kennel Club claims it already has suitable mechanisms in place to ensure that the breeds it recognises and supports remain healthy.

"Any need for the adoption of far-reaching European legislation, which could potentially threaten the future of some breeds will be totally unwarranted," said Phil Buckley, external affairs manager.

"Particular breeds highlighted within the convention such as the bulldog and pekingese have received individual consideration," he added.

The bulldog is one breed which is the result of selective breeding

"The individual breed clubs have been invited to our headquarters to actively participate in these discussions.

Graham Hill, secretary of the Welsh Kennel Club said that people bred dogs to ensure the best specimens conforming to breed standards.

He added that he supported the Kennel Club's opposition to the instigation of European legislation.

Many of the class winners at this year's show will qualify for next March's Crufts Dog Show.

And the three-day event will culminate in the selection of the Best in Show dog on Sunday.

But the enthusiasm for showing dogs is clear from breeders who have attended the event.

Phil Davies from Swansea is showing a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Royal Welsh Showground
More than 10,000 dogs are being shown at builth Wells

"Looking after the dogs takes 20 hours a day and even though I've got a full-time job I love showing dogs so much that I manage to find the time ," he said.

Andrew Birch of Pontardawe has been showing Rottweilers for the last six years.

"We've had to work hard to resurrect the reputation of the Rottweiler because of poor breeders and bad owners who kept these dogs about 15 years ago," said Mr Birch.

Protection work

"I have two young children and my Rottweilers are great with them.

"I know they were bred for protection work in Germany and they can do some damage because of their size but they are very honest dogs with a humorous expression."

Andrew Brace from Blackwood judged the Australian terrier class at this year's show.

"Every breed has a standard which is a blueprint for the perfect specimen so judges have to complete a mental checklist of eyes, ears, bodies and other attributes when judging dogs," he said.

Although he has judged in all parts of the world, including America, South America and Australia, Mr Brace believes the highest standard of show dogs is still found in the UK.

"We have a greater depth in quality in this country and this year's show has proved that," he added.

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