626 New Leaders needed at KC

by   David Hancock

 Unless there is new leadership and a new philosophy at the Kennel Club, it will, in its decline, pull the pedigree dog business down with it. When a TV programme such as 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed' (BBC1, 19th Aug) is such a devastating expose, strong remedial action is required, NOT whining excuses by KC staff. The KC staff must now stop defending the indefensible, take a long hard look in the mirror, then quickly find a more pro-active chairman and a more able secretary. A KC secretary doesn't have to be an expert on dogs, but authoritative, professionally impressive and possess stature. The current holders of these posts have been found wanting. The pedigree dog business now has an image problem; the KC is part of that problem and needs to become part of the solution.

  Who fights best for dogs, the free press or a self-serving Kennel Club? The frenetic press activity from the Kennel Club in anticipation of TV programme setting out their deficiencies in caring for pedigree dogs was illuminating. When any public institution falls down on its responsibilities then a free press is there to remind them of why they exist. It's a bit lame to realise that you've not being doing your job then squawk loudly when investigative journalists call you to account. Perhaps the Kennel Club should rebrand itself as The Dog Breeders Club if they rate breeders ahead of dogs. There is nothing wrong with any dog club supporting breeders; there is a lot wrong with a club which claims to improve dogs putting some  breeders' interests before those of their dogs. 

 When a Bulldog is carried semi-conscious from a show-ring, given oxygen for respiratory failings and not long later put back in its class, as I once witnessed, it is just shaming. When a Mastiff is so heavy that it disables itself when merely dismounting from an estate car at Crufts, a breed is being misused. When a Dachshund's keel bruises itself on uneven ground at Malvern, a breed is being abused. When a Basset Hound wails all night with pain from its afflicted legs, with the discomfort from design,  that is a breed without a guardian. But when both the breed guardians, the breed clubs, and the self-appointed species protector, the Kennel Club, are afflicted by 'exhibitors' blindness', dogs suffer.

 It is 'exhibitors' blindness' and excessive hubris which permits the Kennel Club to persuade itself that it is acceptable to register pups from puppy farms, not to conduct  random DNA tests on dogs registered with them, despite knowing some are falsely done so, and not to insist on mandatory health checks in those breeds demonstrably afflicted by inherited conditions. The KC's spokeswoman, its ever-vocal secretary, never concedes that the KC ever gets anything wrong. Her charmless deaf-eared doctrinaire approach exemplifies the increasingly defensive position she maintains. Her response to this quite appaling exposure of pedigree dog-breeding on TV was to allege that six different reputable expert scientists were all wrong. Even worse the editor of Dog World advised readers to lobby the BBC complaints department for biased reporting!  

 Against that background, it is hardly surprising that an enterprising television production company should find sufficient material to put together  an hour-long programme on prime-time national TV. For the pedigree dog world to be 'up in arms' even before the programme came out is another example of 'exhibitor blindness', although their hostility was orchestrated by a fast back-tracking KC, headed, yes, by their ever-vocal secretary. What did the programme state that was incorrect? Any sensationalism came from the programme's revelations not its approach. TV documentaries should be inquisitive, should inform the public what is going on in the world, have a role in exposing wrong-doing affecting subject creatures. The media, especially the dog press, has a duty to support investigations which can do good for dogs.

 The world of the pedigree dog has been accused, if anything, of losing the plot, of becoming so close to the 'dog-game' so as to believe that some clearly bad aspects of their hobby are actually good. This TV programme is a wake-up call, a shot across the bows of the Kennel Club and an uncomfortable public exposure which now needs a measured response not an hysterical mindless over-reaction. If the programme is factually correct, this should be accepted and remedial action put in place. That is how the AKC responded to a devastating Atlantic Monthly piece some years ago. Their balanced reaction brought them many plus points. If there is urgent work to be done in the pedigree dog world, this should be magnanimously conceded and the restoration of public confidence made the priority.

 I worked on this programme in a small way and appeared in it. I was impressed by the fair-minded approach of the production company and their remarkably diligent research. For over three decades, with others, I have campaigned for better custodianship of pedigree dogs, especially their genetic health and their anatomical design. For me, this programme aired many problems which are just not being faced and I want them to be. In the pedigree dog world the bad breeders are ruining the honest heartfelt intentions of the many good breeders. It is the former who should get a good kicking on TV, along with those bodies who facilitate their acts. It's about time the goodies won! This programme will help them, and do good for dogs. Isn't that what it is all about? What is disastrous for the pedigree dog business is for the KC secretary to rush from one TV studio to another, telling viewers that half a dozen respected professional scientists are a combination of liars and dog-haters. Who does more harm to pedigree dogs, concerned scientists or deceitful KC bureaucrats?