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Abstract

In the UK, numerous pedigree dogs of many breeds experience compromised welfare due to the direct and indirect effects of selective breeding. Many breeds are selected to have physical conformations which, although perceived by some to be desirable, have direct negative effects upon their welfare. Dogs are regularly bred whose heads are too large and pelvises too small to birth naturally or whose faces are so flat that they are unable to breathe or exercise normally. There are also many indirect effects of selective breeding for appearance, including significantly elevated prevalence of specific diseases within particular breeds. Current breeding practices can therefore result in unnecessary suffering due to pain, disability, disease and behavioural problems. In this paper, we summarise and review the current scientific evidence for such suffering, and difficulties associated with assessing the impact of current breeding practices. Limited record-keeping, lack of transparency in the breeding and showing world, and the absence of sufficient research, mean that the full extent of the problem is difficult to assess. Furthermore, the collection of data is currently unsystematic, and although there are specific case studies of individual breeds and particular disorders, relatively few have been conducted in the UK. Individual breeds each suffer from their own array of problems, so each breed's survival and improvement (in terms of health and welfare) is likely to require a different specific course of action. With 209 breeds currently registered in the UK, this makes the situation complex. We collate and present a range of suggestions which may help to improve pedigree dog welfare significantly, and prioritise these based on expert opinion.
133
© 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead,
Hertfordshire AL4 8AN, UK
Animal Welfare 2010, 19(S): 133-140
ISSN 0962-7286
Welfare concerns associated with pedigree dog breeding in the UK
NJ Rooney*and DR Sargan
Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group, Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford BS40 5DU, UK
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1RX, UK
* Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints: nicola.rooney@bristol.ac.uk
Abstract
In the UK, numerous pedigree dogs of many breeds experience compromised welfare due to the direct and indirect effects of
selective breeding. Many breeds are selected to have physical conformations which, although perceived by some to be desirable,
have direct negative effects upon their welfare. Dogs are regularly bred whose heads are too large and pelvises too small to birth
naturally or whose faces are so flat that they are unable to breathe or exercise normally. There are also many indirect effects of
selective breeding for appearance, including significantly elevated prevalence of specific diseases within particular breeds. Current
breeding practices can therefore result in unnecessary suffering due to pain, disability, disease and behavioural problems. In this
paper, we summarise and review the current scientific evidence for such suffering, and difficulties associated with assessing the
impact of current breeding practices. Limited record-keeping, lack of transparency in the breeding and showing world, and the
absence of sufficient research, mean that the full extent of the problem is difficult to assess. Furthermore, the collection of data
is currently unsystematic, and although there are specific case studies of individual breeds and particular disorders, relatively few
have been conducted in the UK. Individual breeds each suffer from their own array of problems, so each breed’s survival and
improvement (in terms of health and welfare) is likely to require a different specific course of action. With 209 breeds currently
registered in the UK, this makes the situation complex. We collate and present a range of suggestions which may help to improve
pedigree dog welfare significantly, and prioritise these based on expert opinion.
Keywords:animal welfare, dog breeds, domestic dogs, exaggerated features, inbreeding, recommendations
Background information
Many pedigree dogs in the UK and elsewhere remain
healthy for much of their lives. However, numerous individ-
uals of many breeds experience compromised welfare due
to the direct and indirect effects of selective breeding
(McGreevy & Nicholas 1999; Companion Animal Welfare
Council 2006; Arman 2007).
Dogs of many breeds have significantly lower life
expectancy than cross-breed dogs (eg Patronek et al 1997;
Egenvall et al 2000). All objective studies which have
compared average age at death have found that cross-breeds
and, in particular, small cross-breeds (Patronek et al 1997),
live longer than individuals of most of the pure-breeds. This
is due in part to the inverse correlation between body size
and life expectancy seen across all dogs, and of course,
reduced longevity is not synonymous with reduced quality
of life. However, there is also considerable evidence that
cross-breed dogs have lower veterinary bills (data from
Churchill Insurance company cited in K9 Magazine 2007)
which suggests that they are ill less often and less likely to
suffer compromised welfare as a consequence. There is an
expectation that genetically isolated pure breeds will
naturally show less vigour than out-bred dogs (associated
with the phenomenon of heterosis in out-bred animals), but
in many breeds, current selective breeding practices may
have exaggerated this effect.
Most breeds of dog were originally selected for the
performance of particular utilitarian functions, and humans
chose breeding animals which were best suited for the
various roles required of them (Miklósi 2007). Today,
pedigree dogs appearing in conventional breed shows are
required to conform to written breed standards, which in the
UK are owned by the Kennel Club and derived in consulta-
tion with several hundred breed societies (The Kennel Club
1998). Although the vast majority of pedigree dogs never
appear in a show, many are bred by breeders who aspire to
produce show-quality animals and whose surplus dogs are
sold as pets (Willis 1995). Therefore, trends in the show-
dog breeding community have major implications for the
domestic dog population at large, and decisions made by a
minority of breeders have considerable repercussions for
pets and the pet-owning public.
Over the past 130 years, specific physical attributes have
been selected for preferentially in many breeds, largely for
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare Science in the Service of Animal Welfare
134 Rooney and Sargan
cosmetic reasons, and without sufficient attention to health,
temperament, welfare and functionality (McGreevy &
Nicholas 1999). This has resulted in two distinct but inter-
related welfare issues: (i) exaggerated anatomical
features — morphological and phenotypic extremes that
result directly in reduced quality of life and (ii) increased
prevalence of particular inherited disorders as a result of
lack of genetic diversity, inbreeding, line breeding, ill-
informed breeding choices, and selection of dogs that pays
too much attention to external appearance.
We believe it is important to distinguish between these two
issues since the first is a direct effect, and the second an
indirect effect of specific breeding practices, and their
remedy requires different approaches. When planning how
best to improve health and welfare in a breed it is essential
that both of these issues are taken into consideration.
In this paper, we begin by briefly describing each of these
effects and the current challenges associated with their
quantification, before going on to suggest plausible routes
forward which we have prioritised using a focus panel.
These suggestions are particularly timely given the recent
media interest in pedigree dog welfare (BBC 2008),
sparking wide public interest and the ongoing independent
reviews being carried out, at the time of writing, by the
Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and The
Dogs Trust/The Kennel Club.
Exaggerated anatomical features that reduce
quality of life
Although there are few peer-reviewed papers documenting
evidence that exaggerated anatomical features do reduce the
quality of life, the veterinary literature describes a whole
suite of palliative and surgical procedures developed explic-
itly to counteract such effects, which is in itself evidence
that the problems are of significant welfare concern
(Rooney & Sargan 2009). Examples include: large breeds
suffering from problems associated with the overly rapid
growth of bones and osteochondrosis, caused by the death
of bone tissue growing too rapidly for its blood supply to
keep up (Smith & Stowater 1975; Ekman & Carlson 1998);
long-backed breeds suffering problems of vertebral degen-
eration (Breit & Kunzel 2004) and giant breeds with deep
chest cavities being prone to gastric problems (Monnet
2003). Skeletal problems are associated with short limbs in
the dwarf breeds (Demko & McLaughlin 2005) whilst
incomplete formation of the cartilage rings can lead to
collapse of the trachea in toy breeds (Johnson 2000; Fossum
2002). In brachycephalic breeds the skull has been selected
to be shortened from front to back, which can restrict the
flow of air through the nose; combined with a compara-
tively elongated soft palate (Monnet 2004), this can create
breathing difficulties and render the dog unable to lead an
active life without respiratory distress. New quantitative
analysis suggests the brachycephalic and giant breeds suffer
significantly increased mortality relative to other breeds,
and giant breeds also experience quantifiable morbidity for
several years prior to death (Sargan & Rooney, in prep).
There are many further examples of exaggerated features
including neotenous skull shape, long ears, excessive skin
folds, screw tails and cosmetic hair ridges which can be
accompanied by neural defects (Salmon Hillbertz et al
2007), as well as features which restrict the animals’ ability
to behave, signal and interact normally (Rooney 2009).
Increased prevalence of inherited disorders
The indirect effects of selective breeding for appearance
include very significantly reduced genetic diversity
unevenly spread across the genome (Jones et al 2008),
resulting in elevated prevalence of specific diseases within
particular breeds. Coupled with ill-conceived breeding
practices (whereby breeders inadvertently select regions of
the genome which contain a disorder as well as the trait they
actually desire) and insufficient selection pressure on health
and welfare, this has led to certain breeds becoming espe-
cially susceptible to a whole suite of disorders, many of
which are acutely painful or chronically debilitating.
There are numerous examples of genetic disorders which
have been thoroughly studied and shown to be over-repre-
sented in certain breeds, and for many of these the genetic
basis of inheritance is known. For example, some diverse
examples of rigorous studies include:
• Cardiac problems are common in Cavalier King Charles
spaniels highlighted in a recent Kennel Club survey (The
Kennel Club 2006) to be the commonest disease condition
reported in the breed (25% of all conditions or a prevalence
of 17%);
• A recessive eye disease called Collie Eye Anomaly which
when severe can cause blindness, affected some 13.7% of
the whole Lancashire Heeler breed (Bedford 1998),
suggesting that 60% of the breed carried one or more copies
of the mutation;
• Diabetes is very common in certain breeds and occurrence is
elevated by three- to more than ten-fold in Australian, Cairn
and Tibetan terriers, Samoyeds, Swedish Elkhounds, and
Swedish Lapphunds (Kennedy et al 2006; Fall et al 2007);
• The prevalence of breed-specific glaucoma in North
America was 5.52% in American Cocker spaniels and
5.44% in Bassett hounds. This is considerably higher than
the prevalence of 0.89% in the general dog population
(Gelatt & MacKay 2004) and;
• The relative risk of inheriting a specific heart problem
(canine congenital sub-aortic stenosis which often leads
to fatal heart attack), was found to be 88 times higher in
the Newfoundland than in the general dog population
(Kienle et al 1994).
Since breeds are by definition genetically restricted popula-
tions, they will naturally show some variation in levels of
specific disorders, but when the prevalence of disorders is
very high, as in the cases above, there is cause for particular
concern. Selective breeding has contributed to this situation.
Most dog breeds originated from a relatively small number
of founder animals. Individuals showing desirable confor-
mations (defined by ‘fanciers’ and later laid down in breed
standards) were mated together within this small group to
accentuate traits perceived to be desirable. A dog can only
© 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Welfare concerns associated with pedigree dog breeding 135
be registered with the UK Kennel Club if the sire and dam
are registered in that breed’s studbooks. Hence, dog breeds
each represent a closed gene pool and the Kennel Club,
breed societies, and the pedigree dog-showing community
have, in effect, formally endorsed the inbreeding of dogs.
The link between inbreeding and increased disease risks in
purebred dogs is well established (Brooks & Sargan 2001).
In most (if not all) dog breeds, genetic diversity is low.
There is, consequently, an increased chance of inherited
disorders being manifest in offspring (Cruz et al 2008), and
it is difficult to eliminate problems without crossing with
individuals of other breeds (out-breeding) which is
currently not permitted. Today, the problems continue.
Recent research has shown that genetic diversity continues
to be lost with each generation (Calboli et al 2008). Many
breeders now understand the need to avoid inbreeding of
very close relatives, but often do not look far enough up the
pedigree for common ancestry. Unfortunately, some
breeders still do inbreed as they strive for specific anatom-
ical features as laid down in the breed standards. In
addition, ‘line breeding’ (aimed at accentuating features
expressed in that family) means that breeding partners are
often selected from a sub-population of the entire breed.
Furthermore, the over-use of very popular champion sires
means that any deleterious alleles which they carry, can
very rapidly become widely distributed in the breed. These
practices exacerbate the problem of elevated disease
incidence within specific breeds.
Difficulties in assessing the full extent of the
problems
Collection of disease prevalence data is currently unsystem-
atic, and relatively few specific case studies of individual
breeds or particular disorders have been conducted in the UK.
As has been highlighted previously (McGreevy 2007), the
absence of systems for routine collection of morbidity and
mortality data mean that true prevalence of genetic disorders
are very difficult or impossible to ascertain or monitor.
Although numerous, current studies are ad hoc and the
methods of reporting disease frequency are inconsistent;
some report prevalence (which is affected by disease
duration), others incidence, some rely on insurance databases
which are biased towards young and pedigree dogs and some
use referral service data which may not be representative.
Such factors can make it impossible to conclude which breeds
are most affected by a given condition, which condition is the
biggest problem in a given breed, or to establish with
certainty whether a specific breed is unaffected.
It has been estimated that, on average, each breed has been
reported to show an elevated prevalence for between four
and eight disorders (Brooks & Sargan 2001), although some
authors quote much higher figures, with Labrador Retrievers
being listed as prone to 95 different disorders (Gough &
Thomas 2004). There tend to be fewer reports of inherited
diseases in breeds that are rare and/or poorly studied. In fact,
there is a significant correlation between the number of
Kennel Club registrations in 2007 and the number of entries
for the breed in the IDID Database (Inherited Diseases in
Dogs [IDID] Sargan 2004; Spearman’s Rank correlation;
Rho = 0.716, P< 0.001), strongly suggesting that current
knowledge of genetic diseases in dog breeds is a function of
the level of veterinary surveillance, and that lower figures
are often underestimates.
In assessing and prioritising problems, it is important to
consider the likely welfare impact of particular deleterious
effects on individual animals. For instance, is a condition
such as deafness more or less important to the well-being of
a dog than loss of colour and day vision? Should a condition
which involves a lifetime of morbidity but which may be
relatively mild, or an anatomical feature which restricts
behaviour to such a degree that a dog cannot run or play, be
considered as more, or less, severe than an episodic, but
severe disease such as epilepsy? Or, to take what would
often be considered a more severe pairing, should an
inherited complete blindness with early onset be considered
more or less severe than a killing disease that has its entire
impact later in life, such as a predisposition to late onset
cancer? Currently, we do not have the objective data on
which to base these judgements, which means it is difficult
to advise prospective owners on the most ‘healthy breed’ .
Therefore, we must rely on educated subjective estimates of
the relative risk of the disorder, its likely duration and the
extent to which it will compromise quality of life. Care must
be taken to avoid anthropomorphism. For example, the sense
of smell is considered to be at least as important to canine
welfare as hearing (Bradshaw & Casey 2005) and, yet, as far
as we are aware, no studies have been carried out that look
for loss of sense of smell in relation to inherited disease in
dogs, probably because it is a much less important sense for
most humans. Disorders that restrict a dog’s ability to behave
normally should also be considered since lack of opportunity
to engage in species-specific behaviour is also likely to
impact significantly on quality of life.
The need for progress
The UK Kennel Club has recently emphasised the presence
and danger of breeding for extreme morphology. They have
a Health and Welfare Strategy Group (The Kennel Club
2009a), and numerous new (and welcome) initiatives
intended to combat the problem. However, there are many
breeds whose current anatomies raise serious welfare
concerns, and a strong case can be made that as long as
physical attributes continue to dominate the breed
standards, with less emphasis on health, welfare and
temperament, this is likely to continue. Therefore, the
situation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The Kennel Club and many veterinary scientists have
been aware of heritable disease problems and, as a result,
have tried to develop programmes to assist breeders in
identifying dogs at risk, and to reduce the incidence of
inherited diseases. Clinically based surveillance schemes
for joint and eye health have more recently been supple-
mented with DNA-based testing for particular mutant
genes. The absence of transparent statistics make the
success of the former difficult to assess (Rooney &
Sargan 2009), whilst the latter remain too slow and costly
to be of immediate universal benefit.
Animal Welfare 2010, 19(S): 133-140
136 Rooney and Sargan
However, in spite of these significant efforts, the problems
associated with pedigree dog breeding remain serious. They
affect large numbers of animals, estimates suggest there are
four to six million purebred dogs in the UK (PFMA 2008),
and the UK Kennel Club alone registers over 271,000 dogs
per year (The Kennel Club 2009a). The effects perpetuate
from generation-to-generation, and may be of long duration,
potentially for a large proportion, or even the entirety, of an
animal’s life (CAWC 2006). Importantly, dogs of many
breeds are born with a high likelihood that they will be
denied at least one, and possibly more than one, of the five
freedoms (FAWC 1992). Exaggerated anatomies mean that
dogs may suffer discomfort and be prevented from
behaving normally without likely injury, whilst having a
high likelihood of developing a disease can lead to pain,
fear and distress. Therefore, to safeguard the future of
pedigree dogs, changes in breeding and selection practices
are urgently required, and for some breeds more drastic
measures will be needed.
How do we best optimise improvement in
pedigree dog welfare in the future?
The situation is complex, with many interested parties, and
numerous plausible courses of action. Simply abandoning
pedigree breeding is neither a likely course in current
society, nor necessarily a desirable one, since diverse breeds
show a wide range of traits which are valuable to both
companion and working dog roles (eg Rooney & Bradshaw
2004). Each breed has its own array of problems and so there
is no single solution, hence, over the years, a wide range of
possible measures have been suggested (eg McGreevy 1999;
CAWC 2006). However, opinions vary, and authors with
different areas of expertise or belonging to different stake-
holder groups are likely to prioritise the value of specific
actions differently. The approach we decided to take was,
through examination of research findings and reports and
discussions with prominent experts in the field, to compile a
list of 36 actions (Table 1) which have been posed as
possible routes forward. In December 2008, we presented
these suggestions, via an email survey, to twenty prominent
experts drawn from four disciplines: four dog welfare
experts; five university-based veterinary experts; five geneti-
cists and six practising veterinarians. The individuals were
selected to cover a range of disciplines all integral to
pedigree dog welfare with the aim of balancing attention to
particular concerns. All had current knowledge and interest
in the problems surrounding pedigree dog breeding.
This group was assembled opportunistically and cannot be
viewed as fully representative of all potential stakeholders,
but by polling the opinions of people from different disci-
plines a wider range of views was obtained than the authors’
subjective opinions alone. Each respondent was asked to
consider the 36 potential actions in turn, and state whether
they supported, conditionally supported, or disagreed with
each (or whether they had no opinion). They were then
asked to rate each suggestion on a scale of 1–10 for its
relative value to the pursuit of improving pedigree dog
welfare. They were given the opportunity to comment on,
and attach conditions to, each action. Finally, the respon-
dents ranked the five actions that they viewed to be most
crucial to improving pedigree dog welfare. The results are
shown in Table 1 and based upon their average value
ratings, and the proportion of respondents supporting, we
prioritised our recommendations.
Many of the 36 suggested actions were widely considered
useful; 32 were supported by at least 80% of respondents
although, for some, specific conditions were raised by the
respondents (see Rooney & Sargan 2009). We therefore
categorised as priority recommendations the four actions
which were supported by all or all but one respondent; rated
on average greater than 7.5 (out of 10) for value; and listed
by three or more respondents in their top five. We cate-
gorised as primary recommendations the remaining actions
supported by at least 85% of respondents and rated an
average of 7 (out of 10) or more for value. We summarise
these fourteen recommendations below; however, many of
the remaining 22 actions (Table 1) were strongly supported
and may also be potentially valuable.
Recommendations
Many of the highly supported recommendations of the
panel were in accordance with the suggestions of McGreevy
(2007). The action rated most highly for improving welfare
was ‘Systematic collection of morbidity and mortality data
from all registered dogs’. This action would provide
reliable, representative data on the prevalence of different
disorders in each breed in the domestic dog population, and
when combined with ‘Setting up systems to monitor the
effectiveness of any interventions and changes in breeding
strategies’, would enable progress to be quantified and
reviewed. The RSPCA is currently working with the
University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College on
a research project to create a new electronic system for
collecting, analysing and reporting data on inherited
disorders in both dogs and cats, which is hoped will ulti-
mately receive universal uptake.
However, given the severity of current welfare problems,
quantification is not enough; remedial action is also
required. Hence, the other two priority actions were both
aimed at increasing genetic diversity. The panel thought it
important to conduct a ‘Revision of registration rules to
prevent the registration of the offspring of any mating
between first-degree and second-degree relatives’.
Subsequent to the survey’s completion, the UK Kennel Club
has banned first-degree matings (The Kennel Club 2009b);
however, the survey respondents also supported the banning
of second-degree matings. These are more than twice as
common as first-degree relative matings in recent pedigrees
(Sargan & Rooney, in prep) and so result in loss of genetic
material at a greater rate. Hence, banning these matings
should also be considered.
For many breeds, this must also be accompanied by other
efforts to increase genetic diversity, such as to ‘Opening
stud books to allow more frequent introduction of new
genetic material into established breeds’ and ‘Encouraging
importation and inter-country matings’. Such actions
© 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Welfare concerns associated with pedigree dog breeding 137
Animal Welfare 2010, 19(S): 133-140
Table 1 Mean importance ratings, and percentage of respondents supporting, and ranking in the top five actions, listed in
order of value rating.
Priority recommendations; Primary recommendations.
Non-integers are a result of incomplete sample sizes for specific questions which respondents omitted to answer.
Potential action Mean
value
rating
% of respondents of
those expressing an
opinion who
supported the action
% of the
supporters
who detailed
conditions
Number of
respondents ranking
action within the
most important five
Systematic collection of morbidity and mortality date from all
registered dogs
8.72 100 38.9 8
Revision of registration rules to prevent the registration of off-
spring of matings between 1st degree & 2nd degree relatives
8.33 94.7 0 5
Open studbooks to allow more frequent introduction of new
genetic material into established breeds
8.33 94.7 5.9 3
Conducting a full ethical review of current breeds7.88 85.0 31.3 4
Setting up systems to monitor the effectiveness of any
interventions and changes
7.55 95.0 16.7 3
Development of detailed management plans for each breed7.55 90.0 41.2 4
Refinement of diagnostic tests and DNA markers for inherited disorders7.37 93.8 13.3 2
Increase genetic diversity by encouraging importation and
inter-country matings
7.29 94.7 5.9 0
Exploration of methods by which to penalise unethical breeding 7.20 75.0 46.7 3
Make registration of pedigree dogs conditional upon both
parents undergoing compulsory screening tests
7.17 94.4 25.0 4
Development and support for shows that are judged on
temperament, health and welfare
7.1 80.0 31.3 0
Introduction of codes of practice that encourage breeders to
consider health, temperament and welfare
7.06 94.1 25 4
Training and accreditation of judges to prioritise health,
welfare and behaviour in the show ring
7.06 90.0 38.9 4
Creating and fostering the image of a happy and desirable dog
being one that experiences high welfare
7.00 89.4 0 4
Formulation of an independent panel of experts from multiple disciplines7.00 95.0 38.9 5
Development of schemes for calculating Estimated Breeding Values7.00 86.7 15.4 1
Introduction of dog breeder warranties or contracts which commit
breeders to paying compensation for avoidable inherited disorders
6.94 89.5 31.3 1
Placement of restrictions of the number of caesareans permitted per bitch 6.93 88.2 40 1
Provision of expert and accurate information to the public and potential buyers 6.89 100 31.6 4
Review all and when appropriate, revise breed standards to
prioritise health and welfare
6.89 100 41.2 6
Conducting pedigree analyses on all UK breeds 6.88 94.1 5.9 2
Revision of registration rules limiting the number of offspring any
one male can sire
6.82 77.8 0 2
Development of methods for enhanced communication
between geneticists and breeders
6.82 94.7 23.5 1
Development of secondary legislation to control dog breeding 6.47 88.2 13.3 2
Encouragement for breeders to make responsible breeding choices 6.40 83.3 20 2
Production of neutered F1 hybrids 6.36 55.6 60 1
Set a minimum number for founder stock for new breeds 6.33 82.3 14.3 1
Development of methods to objectively measure quality of life 6.28 94.7 5.9 3
Campaign for revision and then sign and ratify the European
Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals
6.00 87.5 21.4 0
Encouragement of future owners to fully research breeds 5.94 89.5 43.8 0
Measurement of real current homozygosity levels in breeds 5.93 100 13.3 1
Seek consistency and tranparency in test reporting, eg hip scores 5.88 94.4 17.6 0
Prioritisation of animal welfare over financial gain by veterinians 5.86 77.8 14.3 1
Development of an accreditation scheme for breeders, breed
societies and veterinarians
5.67 94.7 47.1 1
Production of a safe, honest feedback mechanism to help
empower potential pedigree dog buyers and breeders
5.24 78.9 53.3 0
Utilisation of temperament assessments to select dogs which
are best suited to the environment in which they live
4.36 68.4 30.8 1
138 Rooney and Sargan
challenge traditional pedigree dog breeding conventions,
but there are several examples of their success. In light of
the ban on tail docking, a UK trial successfully produced a
‘Bob-tailed Boxer’ by crossing a Boxer to a Welsh Corgi,
and then backcrossing to Boxer. A fourth-generation animal
(3rd back-cross) was registered with the Kennel Club and
won prizes (Cattanach 1996). Ironically, this introduction of
non-pedigree genetic material into the line was permitted
for purely aesthetic reasons, but it does demonstrate the
potential value of out-crossing. Similar success has been
obtained with a trial to overcome elevated uric acid levels in
Dalmatians. It appears that selection for the spotting pattern
of the coat inadvertently resulted in selection for a linked
gene that results in high uric acid levels and may cause
urinary stone and dermatological problems (Dalmatian Club
of America 2007). These problems are thought to poten-
tially affect all extant purebred Dalmatians, and cannot
therefore be solved by selection within the breed. A trial, in
which a Dalmatian was out-crossed to a Pointer, followed
by selection against the defect during back-crossing to
Dalmatians, was successful in eliminating the disorder, but
only by the fifth generation of back-crosses were a small
number of the dogs considered pure enough to be registered
by the breed society. Such reluctance by breed societies
provides a financial disincentive for breeders to out-cross,
and this needs to be addressed.
The panel acknowledged that it is critical to have dedicated
input from geneticists, and rated highly the recommenda-
tion of ‘Refinement of diagnostic tests and DNA markers
for inherited disorders’. DNA-based technologies have been
developed for over 50 inherited disorders in dogs (Sargan
2004). These hold great potential for combating disorders
(particularly genetically simple ones), and there are great
success stories. For example, copper toxicosis had reached
very high prevalence of 46% in the Dutch Bedlington popu-
lation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This figure has
been dramatically reduced by careful breeding strategy and,
later, facilitated by DNA screening, so that cases are now
rare. However, although there are tests advised for many
disorders, as yet in the UK, registration of animals has been
made dependent on DNA tests in only two breeds (Irish Red
Setters and Irish Red and White Setters) and for only one
disease (Canine Leucocyte Adhesion Deficiency [CLAD];
The Kennel Club 2009a). Given the large number of breeds
and the multiplicity of recognised breed predispositions,
this is unsatisfactory. Therefore, the survey respondents
recommended that, in the future, ‘Registration of pedigree
dogs should be conditional upon both parents undergoing
compulsory screening tests for disorders prioritised from
those known to be a problem in that breed’. In such priori-
tisation, account should be taken of the method of inheri-
tance of each disorder, its relative prevalence, and its impact
on welfare. It is important to realise that when many tests
are available, breeders and breed societies will need to
devise breeding strategies carefully in order to avoid further
diminution of gene pools. A phased introduction of the tests
listed may therefore need to be planned with input from
independent veterinary and genetic experts.
A further primary recommendation was the ‘Development
of schemes for calculating Estimated Breeding Values
(EBVs)’ for multifactorial disorders. The EBV of an animal
for any trait predicts the average performance of its progeny
for that trait and initially would utilise phenotypic, heri-
tability and pedigree data, and in the future, it is likely that
DNA marker data could also be utilised. However, survey
respondents raised the issue that development of these tech-
nologies is neither cheap nor rapid. Developing a single
DNA test can cost in excess of one hundred thousand
pounds and so whilst there is great potential value in the
development of additional genetic markers, they cannot be
viewed as the sole nor immediate solution. Hence, the panel
agreed as vitally important, and rated as even higher than
genetics input, the need to co-ordinate efforts of experts
from multiple disciplines.
The fifth most valued action is to ‘Conduct a full ethical
review of current breeds’. For this, input from animal
welfare science is vital. In the long term, decisions should
be based on quantifying impact on quality of life and
combining this with real data on the relative likelihood of
each disorder developing. Although, currently, there are
scarce objective data on which to base these judgements, a
systematic approach is still needed. This should take each
breed and each disorder in turn, considering both direct and
indirect effects. It should make educated estimates of the
relative risk of the disorder, its likely duration and the extent
to which it will compromise quality of life. The cut-off point
of what level is acceptable relies on ethical debate and
indeed this could potentially arrive at conclusions to enforce
rapid out-crossing in some breeds or even to phase out
specific breeds that an expert panel considers cannot be
saved without unacceptable suffering.
The sixth recommendation, consequential on the fifth, is the
‘Development of detailed management plans for each breed
to improve health and welfare’, which must be constructed
in conjunction with geneticists and epidemiologists, as well
as breeders. Individual breed clubs and societies have an
important role to play improving their own breed. However,
in the UK, these number over 700, and it may be argued that
there would be advantages in their working together rather
than operating autonomously and the survey panel repeat-
edly stressed that there would be benefits of external input.
Survey respondents varied in their opinions as to whether
external control or new legislation is necessary. More
preferred the idea of ‘Introduction of Codes of Practice that
encourage breeders to consider health, temperament and
welfare’, like those recently developed, under the Animal
Welfare Act (2006) for pet dogs and cats and for boarding
establishments. They also supported the idea of the
‘Formulation of an independent panel of experts from
multiple disciplines’ which could not only facilitate
dialogue but meet at regular intervals to assess, monitor and
direct future progress.
The ‘Training and accreditation of judges to prioritise
health, welfare and behaviour in the show ring’ was also
highly supported. Current Kennel Club initiatives are
© 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
Welfare concerns associated with pedigree dog breeding 139
aiming to do this, as well as modifying breed standards (The
Kennel Club 2009a). However, the problems are wide-
spread, and the majority of breeds are affected to some
degree. To tackle all these is likely to require more than
simply modifying appearance-driven breed standards.
Changes must be directed specifically at ensuring that
judges understand and concentrate on breed health and
welfare even, when necessary, to the exclusion of distinc-
tive ‘cosmetic’ features of the breed.
The final primary recommendation was ‘Creating and
fostering the image of a happy dog being one that experi-
ences high welfare’. Approximately 37% of dog owners
base their selection choice predominantly on the breed’s
physical appearance (Taylor Nelson Sorfes, unpublished
data). We suggest that this needs to be addressed. A catchy,
appealing ‘brand’ could challenge cultural norms, as has
happened in the successful ‘happy chicken’ campaign (eg
reported in Channel Four 2009). This would encourage the
general public to choose dogs on the basis of their quality of
life and not just appearance, and to consider a range of
breeds as well as cross breeds.
Conclusion
To improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs, we
have suggested actions aimed at tackling the tendency to
exaggerate cosmetic traits and at reducing inbreeding that
has become harmful to genetic diversity. These actions were
evaluated by a panel of experts with a variety of expertise,
but all sharing long-term professional experience of the
effects of canine inherited disease on health and welfare. In
spite of the wide range of opinions expressed by the survey
respondents, there were many actions that were universally
valued and this was a valuable way to prioritise recommen-
dations. Our focus panel was relatively small and
composed primarily of academics and veterinarians and it
would now be very interesting to carry out a similar
exercise with a more diverse array of stakeholder groups,
for example including dog breeders.
Many of these recommendations are starting to be imple-
mented by the Kennel Club and individual breed societies.
The UK Kennel Club is in a unique position to be able to
drive positive change. However, there are very many other
interested parties which also have roles to play and a co-
ordinated approach is required. In recent years and, in
particular, since the publication of the dog genome by
Lindblad-Toh et al (2005), there has been increasing collab-
oration among those in the fields of dog breeding, genetics
and disease. We suggest that welfare charities, veterinary
associations, dog breeders and all other stakeholders must
continue to unite in using the latest advances in genetics and
epidemiology to find a new model of dog-breeding practice.
This should focus on both the direct effects of morpholog-
ical extremes and also the indirect effects of inherited
disease loads, and consider all breeds. It should seek to
overcome current problems as well as ensuring that no
further problems develop.
In the long-term, society should aim to only breed dogs
whose anatomy, temperament and genetic predisposition for
disease or disorder, make them likely to produce offspring
which will experience a high quality of life, free from pain
and suffering, and initiatives should be directed towards
achieving this aim. Change will come about most quickly
through a concerted approach, in which the actions support
one another. The most important element, however, is to
ensure that all stakeholder groups engage in the process and
fully support the action(s) they need to take. This is the
challenge that lies ahead.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Matthew Pead, Carri Westgarth,
Nick Branson and Emma Creighton who contributed to the
report on which this paper is based. We thank all twenty
questionnaire respondents, for their speedy responses and
great help. We are also grateful to the RSPCA who funded
the initial work, and to John Bradshaw and James Serpell
for their helpful comments on the manuscript.
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The behavioural characteristics of specialist search dogs were examined using a survey of 244 dog handlers and trainers. The English Springer Spaniel was the most common breed, followed by the Labrador Retriever, cross breeds and the Border Collie. Individuals of these four breeds varied significantly on 5 out of 30 characteristics, as rated by their handlers, namely; tendency to be distracted when searching, agility, motivation to obtain food, independence, and stamina. English Springer Spaniels and Border Collies scored significantly closer to ideal levels than did Labrador Retrievers and cross breeds, for several of these characteristics. Overall satisfaction with the handler’s own dog(s) did not differ between the four most common breeds and was also unaffected by the dog’s sex. However, males and females did differ in their ratings for one characteristic; males were rated higher than females, which were rated closer to the ideal, for aggression towards other dogs. Overall, there appeared to be little difference between the sexes in their suitability for search work.
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Since animal minds are private, so their perception of their own quality of life (QoL) must be also. Anthropocentrism, the interpretation of reality exclusively in terms of human values and experience, has to be guarded against in any assessment of animal welfare; for domestic pets, misapprehensions about their olfactory and cognitive abilities appear to present the greatest challenge to their welfare. Anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities to animals, presents a particular problem when considering companion animals, since most bonds between owners and their pets appear to be based upon a perception of the pet as almost human. Many owners report that their dogs, cats and horses are capable of feeling complex emotions, such as pride and guilt, that require a level of self-awareness that has been difficult to demonstrate even in chimpanzees. Such beliefs appear to contribute to the development of behavioural disorders in pets; for example, clinical experience suggests that the application of punishment by owners who attribute 'guilt' to their animals may unwittingly lead to compromised welfare. Anthropomorphic owners are also likely to be poor proxies for reporting their pets' QoL.
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Many breeds of companion animal have inherited disorders that may impair quality of life (QoL) to the extent that it is unkind to keep them alive. If we struggle to discern when this point is reached, why do we breed compromised, short-lived animals in the first place? If we struggle to judge when environmental conditions cause an unacceptable QoL, why not breed appropriately for modern environments? In breeding pedigree dogs, five major problems arise: (1) some breed standards and selection practices run counter to dog welfare; (2) insufficient selection pressure seems to be exerted on some traits that would improve animal well-being and produce dogs better suited to modern environments; (3) the incidence of certain inherited defects in some breeds is unacceptably high; (4) the dearth of registered animals of certain breeds in particular countries makes it extremely difficult for breeders to avoid mating close relatives; and (5) there may be financial disincentives for veterinarians to reduce the incidence of inherited diseases. Before we can judge when behavioural or morphological changes caused by selective breeding result in an unacceptable QoL, we have to know which are prevalent. This paper reviews progress in two Australian schemes to monitor trends in the prevalence of inherited disorders in dogs and to promote behavioural phenotypes likely to cope with contemporary domestic environments.
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The demographics and natural clinical history of canine congenital subaortic stenosis (SAS) were evaluated by retrospective analysis of 195 confirmed cases (1967 to 1991), 96 of which were untreated and available for follow-up evaluation. Of these, 58 dogs had left ventricular outflow systolic pressure gradients available for assessment of severity. All 195 dogs were used for demographic analysis. Breeds found to be at increased relative risk included the Newfoundland (odds ratio, 88.1; P < .001), Rottweiler (odds ratio, 19.3; P < .001), Boxer (odds ratio, 8.6; P < .001), and Golden Retriever (odds ratio, 5.5; P < .001). Dogs with mild gradients (16 to 35 mm Hg) and those that developed infective endocarditis or left heart failure were diagnosed at older ages than those with moderate (36 to 80 mm Hg) and severe (> 80 mm Hg) gradients. Of 96 untreated dogs, 32 (33.3%) had signs of illness varying from fatigue to syncope; 11 dogs (11.3%) developed infective endocarditis or left heart failure. Exercise intolerance or fatigue was reported in 22 dogs, syncope in 11 dogs, and respiratory signs (cough, dyspnea, tachypnea) in 9 dogs. In addition, 21 dogs (21.9%) died suddenly. Sudden death occurred mainly in the first 3 years of life, primarily but not exclusively, in dogs with severe obstructions (gradient, > 80 mm Hg; odds ratio, 16.0; P < .001). Infective endocarditis (6.3%) and left heart failure (7.3%) tended to occur later in life and in dogs with mild to moderate obstructions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)