Editor's Column

On the Upswing?

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I am pleased to announce that one of Dogs in Review’s co-founders, Paul Lepiane, will be returning to the fold, as it were, right after Westminster when he rejoins the DR team, this time as an ad sales representative. Paul is one of the most astute (and fun) dog people I have ever known (and that’s saying a lot) and I have missed working with him. When I joined DR in 1998 Paul was working with clients on their ads, a function I then took over from him. He recently found that he misses the excitement of mixing in the all-breed arena so he’s coming back, and I know you’ll all enjoy working with him.

Last month I promised that throughout 2009 we’ll bring you tools to better educate the public about purebred dogs and to counteract untrue statements that the public is constantly exposed to. This month’s tools can be found in attorney and fancier Lisa Curry’s “Laws & Paws,” where she offers valuable suggestions to utilize when talking with potential puppy buyers.  

We got a lot of feedback, included in this issue’s “Letters” section, from “Dalmatians at a Crossroads,” which appeared on pages 298-299 in the DR 2009 Annual. As one DCA member wrote, while this topic is clearly important for Dals, the underlying concepts could have a far-reaching impact for the entire dog world. Recent events around the world indicate that breeders will in the future be held much more accountable for the long-term health and well-being of our dogs, something that we perhaps should have anticipated and should welcome, assuming that we indeed have the best interests of our dogs at heart. Taking full responsibility for our dogs’ health to the extent that science and research will allow is the practice that will set “reputable breeders” apart from all others.

This month Simon Parsons briefly discusses some of the changes that have been made to breed standards in the U.K. Many of you here in the U.S. must have wondered over the past few months if the American Kennel Club will perhaps adopt a strategy similar to that of the Kennel Club in England, where its Breed Standard committee reviewed every standard and made revisions with an eye to eliminating requirements that contribute to “conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness” of the breeds. Modifications ranging from minor to major were applied to about half of the KC’s 200 breed standards.

Similarly, as reported by Dr. Göran Bodegård in November, 140 of Sweden’s breeds now abide by Breed Specific Health Programs implemented by the Swedish KC (SKK), meaning that in order to register puppies in those breeds the parents must have been tested for serious disorders in the breed and/or have a certified “passed” result for required testing. Indeed, in that same issue I reported on a proposed international liaison to promote the health of purebred dogs, between the KC in England, the SKK, England’s Animal Health Trust, Swedish-based Agria Pet Insurance and AKC. We got a report just before press time that the KC, the SKK and the AHT were “keen to move forward,” Agria was positive to the proposal, and a response from AKC was pending.

All of the above developments indicate a strong, positive reaction to controversy regarding the health of purebred dogs. But AKC seems to have opted out of the international liaison, indeed of any reaction, thus far. This could stem from a basic difference between the kennel clubs in the U.K. and Sweden and the U.S. In those countries the kennel clubs “own” the breed standards, while in the U.S. each parent club has dominion over, or “owns,” its standard. The AKC seems to feel (I think as evidenced in part by its stance regarding the Dalmatian controversy) that matters pertaining to individual breeds, including the content of the breed standards, are strictly the domain of the parent clubs. After all, AKC was established as a registry, not as the “police” of each individual breed.

But the reality is that AKC is the authority that its breeders, fanciers and often the public looks to — a role AKC of course promotes for itself. And part of AKC’s promise, in its Mission Statement and Core Values is to protect the health and well being of dogs. AKC’s Mission Statement says that it “is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Founded in 1884, the AKC® and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.” Something to think about, until next month...  


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