554 Disposable Income

by   David Hancock

It is a chilling statistic that in 1888, and a century later, in 1988, Battersea Dogs Home took in over 21,000 dogs in each of those years. We are not learning; dogs are still considered disposable items. We discard well over 100,000 dogs each year. Over 2,000 cruelty to dog cases a year pass through the courts. Whenever you hear the word 'puppy-farming', keep in mind that farm animals are bred for slaughter; is that how we view our dogs? In some pedigree breeds, breeding which can only be described as reckless is being conducted. In 2006, over 2,360 Dogues de Bordeaux, double the number of three years ago and four times the number in 2000, were registered. Before 1996, this breed didn't even figure in the registration lists. Our equivalent native breed, the Bullmastiff, has never in its 80 years history reached the registration level of that of the Dogue de Bordeaux in 2006. These figures may enrich the Kennel Club; they don't enrich the breed; a dog of this breed was recently found to have starved to death in a back garden.

Every year thousands of purebred dogs go through the breed rescue and animal charity systems, well over 1,000 in each of three pedigree breeds: Boxers, Staffies and Labradors I believe. Removing any dog from its home is misery for it. But we are more concerned about not removing their tails. When there is more concern over the length of a dog's tail than its temperament, we are not acting primarily in the best interests of the precious man-dog relationship. Most dogs going into rescue do so because of unwanted behaviour. The breed most rigorously tested for temperament in the world of dogs is probably the Fila Brasileiro, a breed banned from our shores by the DDA. We can import hundreds of a comparable mastiff breed, the Dogue de Bordeaux, with wholly untested temperament, but not one from the most temperament-tested breed in the world.

And we are expected to respect the law? Dogs are so vulnerable to man's whim. In one century we seek superlative hunting dogs, in the next one we seek to ban any employment of that prowess. In one decade we want to own Rottweilers, in another we favour the Akita; rescue problems are quite needlessly created by our transient whims. We choose on appearance not characteristics or healthiness. It is lawful to breed dogs with inheritable blindness but unlawful to dock their tails. Which do dogs value more, their eyesight or their tail-length? It is in a human but inhumane world that dogs live. A decade ago I was told of a Bulldog breeder whose pups didn't live past four years of age; he made a great deal of money just replacing his short-lived pups. At £1,000 a pup, there is a cruel commercial logic in producing dogs which don't live long. Dogs are not fashion accessories, warm-blooded playthings, status symbols or mere possessions. Dogs are not for farming. They are our closest animal companions, to be valued and treasured.

I suspect that the principal cause of dog misuse and abuse is over-production; we are simply breeding too many dogs, they therefore become undervalued, easily replaced, disposable, part of the throw-away society. Is it fair to dogs for any person to be able to breed from a bitch, really whenever they want to? I really don't care whether it would be fair to those who breed dogs for restrictions to be placed upon them. The very best breeders are rarely in it for the money. Breeding dogs purely for profit should not be an acceptable commercial activity. The licensing of dog breeding premises by local authorities should not just be a matter of location and facilities but the size of the dog population too. Why allow the market place to be flooded with unwanted dogs?

In the pedigree dog world, the problem of over-production could be reduced if the Kennel Club took responsibility for the number of dogs being bred. It is just not good enough to boast about by how many percentages breed registrations have gone up. . That is not a plus for the dog game, but a sad commentary on confused priorities and distorted values. It is a stark fact that dogs are being undervalued, discarded quite casually and maltreated as a direct result because we humans, with sublime indifference, are breeding too many of them. It has got to stop. Registrations income forms a substantial element in the income of the KC. This income is rooted in the over-production of pedigree dogs, whose market value relates to registration. For those members and their guests indulging in the social splendour of this private Piccadilly club there is a realisation: Your lunch is being subsidized by the over- production of disposable dogs. Enjoy your meal! if you can. And if you can -shame on you!