624 KC in Denial

by   David Hancock

 "One day soon, a few brave veterinary scientists will be given a national forum, perhaps entitled The Great Pedigree Dog Scandal, to expose the bad science and propaganda that drives the pedigree dog bandwagon. This will damage the pedigree dog industry and undermine public confidence in it, and damage any credibility claimed by the Kennel Club. It may not be fair and need not happen."  When I wrote those words in Dogs Today in May, 2007, I wasn't attempting to be soothsayer just anxious for some coordinated action within dogdom to prevent such a prediction from coming true. But when the national registry for dogs consistently and persistently takes the view that: The KC is faultless, every criticism of it is ill-founded and outsiders really must just leave the KC alone to plough its own furrow, red flags need to be hoisted; the ship is destined to hit the rocks.

 In August, 2008, surprise, surprise, four distinguished professors and four other eminent highly-reputable scientists, gave a view on pedigree dogs on national TV, prime time. No surprise over the entirely predictable reaction from the KC: it was all distorted, exaggerated, sensationalised, totally biased, one-sided tendentious tosh! The national press didn't think so however, and who suffered the greatest damage? Pedigree dog breeders, not the KC! Good breeders deserve better, pedigree dogs deserve better, and it's not a matter for more professional PR, although God knows the harm the current KC secretary is doing! It needs honesty, the sort exemplified by another scientist Bruce Cattanach, one involved in pedigree dogs, who wrote: '...I think it would be a very negative action to nit-pick and find flaws in the presentation. The wake-up call is the important thing and should not be dismissed.'

 In February 1981, I wrote a piece in Shooting Times, which stated: 'The whole question of the ethics of dog-breeding needs attention from all those concerned, at every level.'  I lamented the lack of health checks in breeding stock and the remorseless advance of exaggerated features. It drew a considerable postbag, all in support. For nearly thirty years, in half a dozen different national magazines, I have pursued the same line, almost pleading for something to be done, if only to protect the good breeders. I am in favour of a national kennel club, dog shows and breeds of dog, but only when the 'goodies' are winning. Some years ago, I acted as the presenter for a commercial video on the Labrador Retriever, interviewing admirable knowledgeable people like Gwen Broadley, Carole Coode and Jo Coulson. It would sadden me if their like were penalised, in the long term,  by the contemporary foolishness of the Kennel Club. How can the 'goodies' prosper when their ship is being driven on to the rocks?        

 If, because of weak leadership by the KC, sponsors drift away, Crufts becomes an object of scorn and the exhibition of pedigree dogs slowly disintegrates, will our precious breeds benefit? In recent years, I have judged Plummer Terriers and found then better bred than many show ring terriers; I have judged Victorian and Dorset Bulldogs and found sounder dogs than  KC-recognised Bulldogs in the show rings. Pedigree dogs have to be good dogs first, ahead of breed points or features. Looking around the show ring terriers and seeing line-up after line-up of upright shoulders, short upper arms and little rear extension, makes me wonder about breed-blindness, the inability to see beyond the pedigree, the failure to see the dog.

The ever-vocal KC secretary, in the wake of the devastating TV programme, bleated: 'But we are dealing with the legacy of 100 years.'  Could someone remind her of how just long the KC has been in charge! The KC chairman moans: '...the KC does not have legal or statutory powers' then goes on to state: 'The Kennel Club is going, in the end, to have to step in with both feet...'  Are these two conflicting statements at all reassuring or just smoke and mirrors? Leaders must be clear and actually lead! It is far better for the KC to be pilloried for what is does than to be stigmatised for not doing what truly has to be done. Any organisation relying on rebuttal, resorting to denial, whatever the facts, is going to get a kicking, sooner or later. Let's have a new broom, before the whole dog-game gets blown away; the storm clouds are only just gathering!