Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 17:45 UK

Pedigree dog rules to be reviewed

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The Pekingese breed is the first of the pedigrees to be reviewed

The Kennel Club has said that it will review the standards of every pedigree dog in Britain, following concerns about genetic disease.

The club, which organises Crufts, has acted following a BBC documentary which claimed many pedigree dogs suffer ill-health caused by years of inbreeding.

A spokeswoman said the club had listened to public concerns and now agreed that more needs to be done.

The RSPCA said it hoped the review would improve pedigree dog health.

A BBC spokesman said "talks were ongoing" over whether the corporation would continue to cover Crufts as television event

Suffering dogs

The documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, claimed that many pedigree dogs suffer because owners breed them for looks rather than health.


We welcome the review of breed standards and hope it will make a difference

RSPCA spokesman

It showed spaniels with brains too big for their skulls and boxer dogs that suffer from epilepsy.

The Kennel Club's first set of new breeding standards applies to Pekingese dogs, traditionally bred have a flat face, which the club admits "can lead to breathing problems."

Under the new health plan, the breed will be required to have a defined muzzle.

New rules for Britain's other pedigree breeds are set to follow over the next few months.

Genetic diversity

The documentary also highlighted what it claims was the "common practice" of deliberately mating dogs which were close relatives, in order to accentuate physical features.

Scientists say such inbreeding increases the chances of a genetic abnormality.

The Kennel Club says that mother-son or brother-sister matings are rare. A spokeswoman said that "genetic diversity" was one of the subjects that would be covered by the review, due to report in early 2009.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "The groundswell of public attention on the very important matters surrounding dog breeding is a welcomed momentum.

"It will enable us to drive through, with added urgency, new and extended initiatives that will help to safeguard the health of our pedigree dogs.

Statutory powers

"We have been listening and agree with the general public's view that more needs to be done."

The club is also calling on the Government to give it statutory powers to make its Accredited Breeder Scheme compulsory throughout the country - a system that would make it illegal for non-members to produce or sell puppies.

Breed clubs are also required to join the Kennel Club's code of ethics, which includes a clause that forbids the culling of healthy puppies.

A spokesman for the RSPCA, which announced last month that it was pulling out of Crufts over concerns about the welfare of pedigree dogs, said: "We welcome the review of breed standards and hope it will make a difference for pedigree dog health and welfare in the future."

Crufts

Press reports have suggested that the BBC is also considering disassociating itself from Crufts, following the revelations about animal health made in the documentary, but a BBC spokesman said that discussions were still ongoing between the Kennel Club and the corporation.

"Our contract with the club runs until 2010 and that is still in place," he said.

"We are keen to find a way forward."




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