by   David Hancock

  In several KC reports in the first decade of the 21st century, all critics of pedigree dog breeding were collectively termed 'anti-pedigree dog'. I am a stern critic of some aspects of pedigree dog breeding but find this new label hard to wear. For the last thirty years or so, alarmed by the unsoundness of many breeds of purebred dog, both genetically and anatomically, I have, with others, campaigned for more responsible breeders and for better systems to monitor the irresponsible ones. I have also repeatedly expressed concern for the loss of true type in many of our long-established native breeds. I don't believe you can do this without having considerable affection for the breeds concerned. What I am very anti is the failure of those in authority to act when they have the resources to do so.
Being in office but not in power is surely an unwanted tag; a past chairman of the KC stated that he wanted that club to be the first port of call for all matters canine. The KC secretary wrote a letter to the dog press claiming that the KC is the governing body in dogs; why then do they not govern? Before such a club can make justifiable sustainable claims, it has to be in position of strength, to be able to say 'Look what we have done in the world of the pedigree dog, we could do the same for all dogs'. You would have to look around you before supporting such a statement, if ever made. Breeding dogs must involve the seeking of a better dog not the mere reproduction of last year's model.

Before becoming all things dog the KC hierarchy would be better advised by studying the reports of judges, approved by them, at Crufts in recent years. The KC boasts that here you find the best of the very best; what did their appointed judges report? Here are worrying judgements from Crufts 2014: English Setters - "The breed has changed in both type and conformation since I first began in the breed 40 years ago and I was disappointed to find several incorrect bites and straight shoulders, especially in the younger classes..." Whippets - "I was however very concerned by the heaviness of bone, and size and substance of some of the exhibits. This is not correct for a Whippet." As a recent Sussex Spaniels' Crufts judge put it: "How do some exhibits get past judges?" If Crufts is reckoned to be the place to find excellence, the judges seem to have difficulty in doing so, as these critiques demonstrate: Crufts 2005, Flatcoats - "...bad mouths and poor construction were only too evident..."  Crufts 2006, Labrador dogs - "I was appalled at what some people had qualified..."  In other words, there were dogs at Crufts without quality. After the 2007 show, judges in five gundog breeds reported poor movement. No doubt such exhibits are to be bred from and their faults passed on. Before expanding their activities, the KC must improve their existing regime.

It is lazy thinking to argue that sportsmen know where to get a good gundog, so what's the problem. Our famous gundog breeds deserve the loyal support of knowledgeable dogmen and should not be abandoned to show ring incompetents. Of course there are really good British gundog breeders, quite capable of producing outstanding dogs. But what about the mainstream system for perpetuating the gundog breeds, our native gundog breeds especially? I saw better Flatcoats in Finland a few years ago than those at the Bath show. But their breeding system and judging method is so superior to ours; it clearly produces better dogs. And so we muddle on, with the KC boasting about 'the best of the very best' being on parade at Crufts, despite what their own judges are saying. Perhaps every gundog breed needs to mirror the work of the Working Clumber people, the satisfaction of seeing a working anatomy restored in so many breeds would surely delight the heart of any true gundog devotee. True type arose from function.

Those show ring judges who write honest informed hard-hitting critiques after their appointment can contribute a great deal to a breed's development. But in doing so, are they becoming, in the KC's eyes 'anti-pedigree dog'; surely not. The harm is done, not by their words but by no action being taken to benefit from them. Who oversees each breed? Is it the Breed Clubs? Is it the Breed Council? Is it the KC? Breed Clubs generally carry out the wishes of their members; that's not always to the benefit of the breed. Breed Councils have no executive power; shouldn't they?

There is just no format for the improvement of a breed, no mechanism for taking on board constructive criticism and then acting for the benefit of the dogs. If any body seeks power, it must be prepared to assume responsibility. The critics of the pedigree dog industry may in the end prove to be its best friend.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who are the breed guardians? Who is reacting to alarming judges' reports for the benefit of the breed? Does every Breed Club truly act in the best interests of the breed? If clubs are the breed guardians, which of them is taking action to force a reduction in the sunken haw-stricken eyes in the Mastiff, Clumber Spaniel and the Basset Hound? And who isn't insisting that they do? The KC produces the words of advice but not the mandatory rules to enforce them.

Duty of Care
The dogs of England need protection - protection from us! We have used them cruelly at times; we have bred them to suit our needs not theirs; we have redesigned many of them to exercise our fondness for fads; we all too often insist their basic simple needs have to conform to our selfish requirements; we have declined to acknowledge their innate superiority over us on many issues - they give unconditional affection and lifelong loyalty, quite unlike humans. The above failings may be universal failings but it is our responsibility for English breeds and for dogs in England, to set an example to the rest of the world. We, as a nation, cannot rest on our laurels - we may have established  dog-shows and the pedigree dog - but now need to set the bar high over exercising the highest duty of care towards the dogs of England, purebred or just bred, so that the dog world at large see what can be achieved with native breeds and our domestic dogs. Our KC has advanced in many areas of canine activity in recent years; it now needs the Breed Clubs to be steered by a redirected moral compass and make our care of dogs, like our breeds, the envy of the world. The dogs of England really do merit the acclaim that the Kennel Club of England should have been energetically seeking for them ever since its earliest years in the middle of the 19th century. There is every reason to safeguard our the British breeds of dog through exemplary custodianship, now lost. The people of Britain have every reason to be proud of their native breeds of dog and to act as their guardian.