Will the Crufts Lab be as Heavy as the Westminster Lab?
A few weeks ago, we created a bit of a furor in the Labrador Retriever world when we wrote a post about the overweight Labradors who won Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex in the 2014 Westminster show. Our concern about the overweight appearance of these dogs is due to the health related problems that obesity brings, not just to Labs but to any dog that is overweight. SlimDoggy’s mission is to help ensure your dog is as fit and healthy as possible and it saddens us to see a dog’s overall health neglected in this manner.
We took some flack from a few Labrador show dog folks who insisted these dogs were perfect and absolutely met the “Labrador Standard.” After providing some historical, photographic evidence to the contrary and some insight from a noted expert, the denial stopped or at least they stopped communicating with us.
This week the British version of Westminster, Crufts, sponsored be the Kennel Club (the UK’s version of the AKC) begins in Birmingham, UK. We are very curious as to what the Labrador entrants will look like.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed – BBC Documentary
Through the course of our research into the Labrador standard and how it’s evolved, we uncovered a much deeper and more disturbing trend in some dog breeding practices for show dogs. We knew there were issues with a few breeds and the manner in which the standard was evolving into an unhealthy state, i.e. Pugs and Bulldogs with their flat noses, German Shepherds with their sloping backs and hind leg issues, but we had no idea the depth of the issues, the denial of the breeders and authorities or the pervasiveness of problems among other breeds.
A documentary called Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired on the BBC in 2008 so clearly this “breeding for show” is a long recognized issue. The video is almost an hour, but it is well worth your time as it is eye-opening for any dog lover. The director of the documentary, Jemima Harrison also writes a Blog worth following if you share her concerns.
The program did generate some action in the UK. The Kennel Club adjusted some of their judging practices, they revised their Standards for a number of breeds and they now deny registry to closely-inbred dogs. But perhaps, most significant, the BBC stopped airing the Crufts Dog Show.
What has happened since 2008?
A follow-up to the documentary was presented three years later:
- The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) published a Five Year report last fall examining what has been done to change some of the abuse and bad practices uncovered by the original program as well as outline what still needs to occur.
- An important study called Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding, conducted by Sir Patrick Bateson and funded by Dog Trust and the Kennel Club published in 2010, fully endorsed and supported the findings of the BBC documentary.
- This is a well-compiled list of subsequent resources reporting on the findings of Bateson.
As a result of these continued efforts, there is movement in the UK to put a stop to this treatment and they are seeing results as evidenced in these reports. But efforts continue, up to and including a call from PETA to boycott this year’s show.
How is the US Addressing the Pure-breed Issues?
What’s happening in the United States you ask? Sadly, not much as far as I could tell. I did not find any evidence of a concerted effort within the United States to address the breeding practices or problems identified in the Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary. And make no mistake, the issues are just as prevalent and serious here in the US as they are in the UK. Here’s a few items I did find that are worth reading.
- A piece appearing in The Bark shortly after the BBC documentary: Controversy Over BBC’s Purebred Dog Breeding Documentary
- A small ABC news segment from 2009.
- The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) held a conference in 2011 called The Purebred Paradox: On the Health and Welfare of Pedigree Dogs.
- An excellent summary of the conference presented on the blog Pet-Law: Got 50?
- The New York Times did a piece on the breeding practices for bulldogs a few years ago: Can the Bulldog Be Saved?
- A 2011 study conducted by University of Georgia and reported in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine: Breed-specific causes of death in dogs revealed in landmark study
- A “Rosen Reports” from a May 2013 Today Show segment: AKC-registered breeders raising dogs in ‘miserable’ conditions
- The most recent mainstream articles I found were published just after this year’s 2014 Westminster show by Michael Brendan Dougherty: Westminster is a disaster for dogs — but it can be fixed
- And another by Claire Maldarelli appearing in Scientific American: Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?
What can we do to get some activity here in the US to address this situation as the BBC documentary appears to have done in the UK?
Unfortunately, there is no central agency with the wherewithal to launch such a broad effort. PETA has tenuous relationships with the dog community and they would likely not be welcome as leaders of the charge. ASPCA and HSUS while certainly strong advocates, are very focused on the puppy mill problem in this country – admittedly a huge and important issue. So we’re not even sure where we would start and how we would get the AKC to rethink their guidelines as the Kennel Club has in the UK. Possibly a letter writing campaign, or maybe a petition? Would a petition get a sufficient critical mass to raise the attention of the AKC?
On of our primary goals at SlimDoggy is to fight pet obesity and promote the health and fitness of your dog. Breeding dogs for beauty versus function and vitality certainly flies in the face of that mission, so it’s hard for us to just let it go.
What do you think – would enough of you get behind an effort to try and make a difference? It would mean sharing the petition, getting your friends and family to share it, posting it on FaceBook and other social media in order to get as many signatures as possible. A few hundred voices won’t make a difference, a few hundred thousand just might. Are you in?
Meanwhile, we will watch Crufts this weekend and see what the Labs look like.