In a report commissioned by the Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust, the U.K.’s major canine charity, Professor Sir Patrick Bateson seems set to recommend the imposition of a compulsory registration scheme for all dog breeders. According to comments published in The Times newspaper, his conclusions will call for such premises to be subject to random inspections, and only those with an authorized registration number could sell puppies.
At present, the breeder scheme operated by the Kennel Club is voluntary and just 10 percent of puppies sold in the U.K. fall under its jurisdiction. The aim of these new proposals is to ensure that only healthy puppies are sold, but as to how they will serve to eliminate health problems that cannot be foreseen is hard to understand.
Unlike the situation in North America, very few purebred puppies are sold through pet stores in the U.K. Pet-seekers have two main sources when looking for a puppy of this type. Firstly, there are breeders whose primary aim is to produce dogs that will excel in the show ring. They will sell off puppies that they feel will not make the grade, not because they are ill, but simply because they may be mismarked, for example.
There are also semi-commercial breeders, often masquerading as amateurs who may claim to produce just a litter a year, but in reality, they run an operation on business lines and produce far more puppies. Their bitches may be mated repeatedly and therefore frequently end up in poor health. Puppies are rarely de-wormed and may show other signs of neglect such as heavy lice infestations.
It’s therefore hard to see how Professor Bateson’s proposals will address the key issues, either in terms of concerns about inherited illnesses or over-breeding. The idea that puppies would be sold in the future with a veterinary certificate guaranteeing their health, as is claimed in The Times, is simply not realistic. This would be giving the public a false sense of security. There are many inherited conditions that are simply not detectable in a young puppy at the time of sale.
Once the full report is released later this month, the likely impact of Professor Bateson’s recommendations will become clearer. In these cash-strapped times, however, and in an election year in the U.K., it is unlikely that legislation in this area will be a priority issue.
There are those who would argue that there is actually a responsibility on the dog-buying public to acquaint themselves more carefully with where to go and what to look for when purchasing puppies. Both animal welfare and sale legislation already exists to cover cases where sick or unsound puppies are sold.
The way forward is for canine organizations to continue developing DNA and other tests that help to identify carriers of inherited diseases, and ensure that such dogs do not participate in breeding programs, thereby removing deleterious genes from bloodlines.
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