The BVA and BSAVA have welcomed parliamentary recognition that more must be done to tackle the health and welfare problems of pedigree dogs, but claim that non-pedigree dogs must not be overlooked.

The BVA and BSAVA have welcomed parliamentary recognition that more must be done to tackle the health and welfare problems of pedigree dogs, but claim that non-pedigree dogs must not be overlooked.

puppiesBoth veterinary associations gave evidence to the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) inquiry into the serious diseases and health problems suffered by pedigree dogs, and have welcomed its publication, but warn that puppy farming of both pedigree and non-pedigree dogs remains an enormous threat.

The report, A Healthier Future for Pedigree Dogs, was published on November 3.

In particular the BVA and BSAVA welcome:

  • Recognition that the veterinary role is vital in educating and informing dog owners, the breeding industry, and the public;
  • The call for an independent advisory body made up of geneticists, veterinary surgeons, behaviouralists, breeders and animal welfare scientists to make recommendations to breed clubs through the Kennel Club;
  • The recommendation for a database of diseases, accessible to all, to record disease incidence and allow a scientific, evidence-based approach to health and welfare;
  • Support for increased use of health screening for known diseases and a legal requirement for screening of sires and dams for commercial breeding;
  • The call for all registered dogs to be permanently identified, for example by microchip;
  • The requirement for all stakeholders to work together (something the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation has already started working on);
  • The call for more robust enforcement of the Kennel Club accredited breeder scheme and random inspections to ensure it stands up to scrutiny.
  • The belief that it would be beneficial to use the long-awaited Code of Practice (under the Animal Welfare Act 2006) to encourage potential puppy owners to focus on the health and welfare of their chosen breed.

Bill ReillyHowever, both associations are concerned that the APGAW report does not identify how these initiatives will be funded, especially the financing of the proposed database, independent body and further genetic research. Nor does the report address the problems caused by puppy farming or provide any solution to protecting those dogs bred by hobbyists.

BVA president Bill Reilly said: “The health and welfare problems associated with dog breeding are a major cause for concern amongst the veterinary profession. The APGAW report is therefore welcome and the profession will have much to consider and respond to in detail, even though these are just the first steps in the right direction.

“We are pleased that so much of the BVA and BSAVA’s evidence to the group has been taken on board and we welcome the practical recommendations for a database, an independent body and the increased use of health screening. However, funding remains a major problem and we hope that DEFRA and the breed societies recognise the importance of financing these measures.

“Many of the changes will take time and money to implement but the BVA’s Animal Welfare Foundation has already brought together all of the stakeholders who are currently working on drawing up welfare principles and a puppy contract.

“The veterinary profession is committed to improving the health and welfare of all dogs, not just pedigree, and we are therefore disappointed that non-pedigree dogs have not been considered as part of this review. Inherited problems can affect all dogs and this must not be overlooked.”

Richard DixonRichard Dixon, president of the BSAVA, added: “We see this area very much as a work in progress, but welcome the increased pace of change that the APGAW report is encouraging.

“We know that some breed clubs are already proactively taking steps to improve the welfare of their particular breed and the Kennel Club should publicly recognise this good practice to encourage all breed clubs and societies to take action.

“APGAW has recognised that vets and vet nurses have a key role to play in the education of the public and, specifically, prospective buyers. Vets are not simply there to deliver health care services to sick patients; we have a key role to play in disease prevention as well.

“Vets would also be a vital part of the proposed independent advisory body and the BVA and BSAVA are keen to ensure that there is a strong veterinary voice within this body.”

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