Animal Welfare Act 2006 and Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs 2010
The United Kingdom”s Animal Welfare Act was passed in 2006 which makes it an offence to mistreat or neglect an animal for which someone is responsible. A person may be prosecuted by the RSPCA, Local Authority or Police for failure to uphold the welfare principles of the Act.
In 2010 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs produced a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs as a guide to dog owners, local authorities and RSPCA of a dog’s needs under the Animal Welfare Act.
A dog’s basic needs must be met:
its need for a suitable environment
its need for a suitable diet
its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour
any need it has to be housed with, or kept apart from, other animals
its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
The Animal Welfare (Scotland) Regulations 2021 – The Scottish Government
The Guidance on Licensed Dog Breeding echoes much of the English Regulations and Guidance and includes the Condition: No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, conformation, behaviour or state of health, that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health and welfare of its offspring. It states that licence holders must be aware of breed specific health risks and that appropriate health screening relevant to the breed should be carried out.
The Guidance specifically recommends caution in regard to the Kennel Club’s category 3 breeds, ie those breeds identified as having extreme physical features which predispose them to health and welfare problems.
The International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) facilitates the collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health, well-being and welfare of pedigree dogs and all dogs worldwide. Its goal is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge across all stakeholders worldwide. It has initiated specific actions to improve dog health and well-being, such as supporting globally relevant breed-specific breeding strategies. A major development has been the project, Harmonisation of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD), which is regularly updated and provides a breed relevance rating (BRR). The next International Dog Health Workshop (DHW) will be in 2022.
Responsible Dog Breeding Guidelines 2020 – European Commission – Welfare in Pet Trade
The EU Responsible Dog Breeding Guidelines 2020 reminds us of the close bond, understanding and communication between dogs and humans. The Report reminds us that poor breeding practices have profoundly detrimental effects on dog welfare and on the well-being of owners. Poor breeding may lead to a lifetime of suffering, through poor health and poor suitability as pets, resulting in an untimely death, abandonment or relinquishment. Dogs and puppies have the same need for a good quality of life regardless of breeding context and all breeders are required to act responsibly and with compassion to meet those needs.
The Guidelines are intended to support enforcement of responsible breeding and good animal welfare practices by competent authorities. The criteria for good practice are set out in these guidelines.
The announcement of the results of the court case in Norway has generated an enormous amount of discussion and outpouring of emotions on all sides. We all adore our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and do not wish to see a ban on breeding in the future in the UK and internationally.
This decision means because of the severe health problems they may no longer be bred in Norway as ‘pure’ breeds. However they may be crossed with another breed in a scientifically controlled way with the aim of breeding for health.
Part of our role as a charity is to offer support and advice to the many owners whose Cavaliers have serious health issues, (these includes Cavaliers from Puppy Farms and top show kennels) – often at a very young age. In addition we have cared for many Cavaliers ourselves with these devastating conditions and had our hearts broken over and over again.
Cavaliers are such an amazing breed and truly deserve the chance to live long, healthy lives – we need to find a way to make this happen.
Although there are many health focused, responsible breeders doing their best, there are not enough – sadly voluntary schemes have not been well supported over the decades so there has to be stronger laws around breeding and health testing. We need to keep campaigning for that and also encourage everyone to take responsibility to support those breeders fully health testing adults and puppies [at the appropriate ages] by ONLY purchasing puppies from them.
The Companion Spaniel Project is a good example of what can be achieved. Their aim is to produce healthy spaniels with improved head conformation eliminating CM/SM and early onset of MVD. After 5 years of careful selection and health testing the 2nd litter has just celebrated their 2nd birthday, it is still early days but so far the project has proved to be successful and the third generation is being planned.
“This is not an attack on breeders. It simply applies existing law to a group of animals, purebred dogs, that have been flying under the radar of animal welfare legislation. If there were no welfare issues for these two breeds – i.e., that the dogs being produced can be expected to be healthy and not suffer from serious or systematic health issues that could cause pain and suffering – there would have been a different outcome”…
“It is not the beginning of an indiscriminate attack on all breeds. It is, however, a test case based on two breeds that makes it clear that the existing welfare laws in Norway apply to dogs just as they do to other animals. Everybody must abide by these laws because they protect the welfare of animals”.
A Message from Carol Beuchat, Scientific Director of the Institute of Canine Biology
You’ve no doubt heard that breeding of Cavaliers in Norway has been banned because of their serious health issues.
However, the court ruling encourages science-based cross breeding programs to solve the health issues of the breed, and we know from our success with the Lundehund (a Norwegian breed) that this can be done.
The Lundehund Project is proving that a well-planned cross-breeding program can restore health and genetic diversity to a breed while protecting type and the unique features of the breed.
Would you be interested in supporting or participating in a breeding program to restore the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to health?
If so, please contact me via email with a few words describing how you think you could contribute to this program.
Also, if you know somebody that might be interested, please share this message.
I will review the responses and organize a team that can get this project going.
New Research Points to the Importance of Headspace
In recent years, nobody could have failed to have noticed the boom in popularity of dog breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. These breeds have a skull which is wider than it is long, defined as “brachycephalic”. Many less-obviously “flat faced” dogs are also brachycephalic, including Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
While it is generally accepted that such head conformation can be associated with health problems such as breathing and eye issues, a new research paper published by Professor Clare Rusbridge and Dr Penny Knowler points to increasing evidence that brachycephaly can also impair the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid leading to distressing and life-limiting conditions such as hydrocephalus and CM/SM (syringomyelia). https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/11/2/139
Many of the brachycephalic breeds more likely to suffer from such conditions, including Cavaliers, Chihuahuas and Pugs, are hugely popular pets. The research paper concludes by questioning whether it is ethical to breed dogs predisposed to these issues and stresses the importance of educating the puppy-buying public about the importance of avoiding extreme conformation. It also calls for wider screening of (at risk?) breeding dogs (rather than stock, some people take offence at the term stock).
There is an official Kennel Club screening scheme for Chiari-like Malformation of the skull and Syringomyelia but it is not compulsory, nor widely used. Furthermore, a recent analysis of Cavalier litters registered by the Kennel Club in 2020 revealed that only four litters (out of 705) show evidence of any kind of screening for these two conditions and only two of the litters would have passed the breeding guidelines.
The cost of a screening MRI in the UK is £200 to £300 plus BVA reading fee £100. Cavalier puppies from fully health tested parents sell for £2,500 to £4,000 plus so cost should not be a deterrent in having the parents scanned.
This detailed Standard for Dog Breeding was adapted from an original Standard written by the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding. When the Advisory Council’s term came to an end in 2014 the Standard was updated and became the DBRG Standard and Guidance for Dog Breeding. The Standard has been superceded by the 2018 Government Guidelines on Dog Breeding and in 2020 by the Code of Practice for Dog Breeding. The Standard for Dog Breeding remains a practical, relevant and detailed document for those who wish to breed dogs according to the highest ethical criteria.
This report describes the legislation in place across the EU for the protection of dogs and cats. It confirms the wide variation across countries and highlights substantial gaps in the national legislation in protecting dogs and cats used in breeding and selling. The report recommends compulsory permanent identification on a appropriate database linked to an EU database; compulsory licensing of cat and dog breeders and harmonised EU standards for breeders; a ban on third party sales of dogs and cats; appropriate controls on internet sales; specific requirements for the transport of dogs and cats in the context of economic activity; controls on the internet trade of cats and dogs; a ban on surgical mutilations. Fifteen out of 28 member states have legislation to prevent the selective breeding of dogs and cats with genetic problems such as inherited disease or exaggerated conformations.
The Code of Practice for Dog Breeding sets the standard for care and management of breeding dogs and their offspring. It applies to all dogs used for breeding (both male and female) and all the puppies produced, regardless of whether a breeder is licensed or not. It is particularly relevant in the light of the current ‘pandemic puppy’ welfare emergency where inexperienced dog owners are cashing in on the demand for puppies and charging extremely high prices for them.
Improving the implementation of animal welfare legislation in animal breeding 2020 – Finnish Food Authority
Part 2: Preliminary analysis of problems and means of intervention in the breeding of dogs
The Report focuses on the hereditary characteristics of significant welfare factors that require the urgent implementation of the Animal Welfare Act. It focuses on the health of brachycephalic (short-skulled) dogs and concludes that if the welfare problems caused by exaggerated features are tackled solely by means of health examinations without changing the physical characteristics themselves those welfare problems will persist. It concludes that lasting results can only be achieved by changing those characteristics.