Mutations in pedigree dogs 'must be bred out'

Independent report reveals 'widespread concern' from vets over unregulated puppy farms that create dogs with painful deformities

Pedigree dogs should be bred with more normal specimens to end mutations that have left bulldogs, spaniels and other species with painful abnormalities such as tiny skulls or overly jowly faces, according to a review.

In a wide-ranging report into dog breeding prompted by an undercover investigation into the Kennel Club, Patrick Bateson, a professor of zoology, found large commercial "puppy farms" were often unhygienic and tolerated disease and inbreeding, causing a range of "welfare costs" for dogs.

He recommended a new law requiring micro-chipping of all new puppies; stricter local authority inspections of puppy farms; an independent council to identify the removal of inherited inbreeding and disease; and a monitoring system based on vets' reports to catalogue unhealthy traits. He also recommended a new publicity and education campaign to inform buyers how to acquire and keep healthy dogs.

Professor Bateson, a Cambridge University academic, was asked to chair the independent inquiry by the Kennel Club and Dog's Trust, following a Panorama programme in 2008, Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The BBC show found serious health concerns caused by inbreeding, prompting the RSPCA and BBC to pull out of Crufts, the club's annual showcase. The Kennel Club introduced new standards for 209 breeds last year. In a 65-page report, Professor Bateson said interviews with vets, scientists, campaigners and breeders had revealed "widespread concern" about commercial puppy farms.

As well as exacerbating unnatural features by breeding dogs with close relatives, many failed to check for disease, keep kennels clean, care properly for puppies or socialise or exercise them properly before selling them aged six to eight weeks, he said. Some Irish puppy farms produced 5,000 young dogs a year.

"Many breeders exercise high standards of welfare, but negligent management on puppy farms is a major welfare issue as is inbreeding in pure-bred dogs," said Professor Bateson. "Fashions for extreme conformations are also a cause of welfare problems."

Many breeders requiring a licence because they bred more than five litters a year were not inspected properly because local authorities did not have the necessary expertise or resources. Breeding practices harmed the welfare of pedigree dogs, he added. Scientific evidence suggested that 86 per cent of bulldogs had to be born by Caesarean section because their heads were so large, while some King Charles spaniels suffered pain and fits because their brains were too big for their skulls.

Professor Bateson, who is president of the London Zoological Society, recommended animals should not be bred with close relatives such as parent, child, siblings or grandparent.

He suggested that a non-statutory Advisory Council on Dog Breeding draw up breeding standards that did not require extreme morphologies, or traits. He said: "Where a problem within a breed already exists, the Breed Standard should be amended specifically to encourage the selection for morphologies that will improve the welfare status of the breed."

Pointing to the slogan "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas", the professor recommended owners be given good advice on acquiring and keeping dogs, adding that in many ways the public had been responsible for allowing the existing problems.

The Dangerous Dogs Act should be amended to take action against "weapon" dogs, he added.

The Kennel Club welcomed the report, saying it had already banned mating of close relatives and was developing a database which would help breeders find healthy mating pairs.

The RSPCA said it was disappointed that the report had not recommended legal powers for an advisory council. The Chief Veterinary Adviser, Mark Evans, said: "The world has woken up to the extremely unpalatable truth that the health and welfare of pedigree dogs is seriously compromised as a result of the way they are bred. Pedigree dogs need our help and they need it now."

Disputed pedigree: Breeds' health problems

Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Breeding has left some spaniels with skulls that are too small for their brains, a condition called syringomylia. Professor Bateson said: "The eventual result is evident pain in the dogs and fitting." He recounted details given to him of an owner who took his "lazy" spaniel to the vet. The vet prescribed painkillers. The dog perked up after taking the analgesic and immediately became more playful. The expression on its face was said to have changed.

Basset hound

Many professionals insisted that pedigree breeds had not changed over the decades. Professor Bateson wrote: "Pictorial and photographic evidence does not invariably back them up." He published pictures of a basset hound more than 100 years ago and now. In the 1901 photograph, the Basset had the appearance of a normal if low-slung dog. By 2004, the animal's legs had shrunk markedly, with the belly almost appearing to scrape the ground.

Bulldog

A symbol of Britishness – and bizarre breeding. The bulldog has become vastly more jowly in the past 100 years, with large folds of flesh around its mouth. Its face is now so large that 86 per cent cannot be born naturally. Referring to pedigree dogs generally, Professor Bateson wrote: "Studies that have compared average age at death have found that cross breeds... have significantly longer average life expectancy than many pure bred and pedigree breeds."

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there