RSPCA pulls out of Crufts over dog welfare

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The Independent Online

The RSPCA announced today that it was pulling out of Crufts over concerns about the welfare of pedigree dogs.

The leading animal charity said it had suspended plans to staff a stand at the world-famous dog show in March 2009, as it has done in the past.

The RSPCA is calling for new measures to tackle disability, deformity and disease among pedigree breeds, following a television documentary which revealed the breeding process of such dogs resulted in a high level of genetic illness.

The BBC programme said the unhealthy, often inbred, dogs were still able to compete in dog shows and had gone on to win "best in breed".

The RSPCA said it had become increasingly concerned about the situation in the wake of the documentary, which showed a prize-winning Cavalier King Charles spaniel with syringomyelia - a condition which occurs when a dog's skull is too small for its brain.

The programme also featured boxers suffering from epilepsy, pugs which had breathing problems and bulldogs which were unable to mate or give birth unassisted.

Today the RSPCA's chief veterinary adviser Mark Evans called for a shift in emphasis away from the looks of show dogs towards their health, welfare and temperament.

"Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals.

"There is compelling scientific evidence that the health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of pedigree dogs is seriously compromised as a result.

"From a dog health and welfare perspective, such shows are fundamentally flawed and do our much loved pedigree dogs no favours.

"Intentionally breeding deformed and disabled animals is morally unjustifiable and has to stop," he said.

The RSPCA wants to see a change in the rules at dog shows to prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance.

The charity also wants to see the development of health-focused breeding strategies for individual breeds, including steps to increase their genetic diversity.

More data collection and scientific analysis is needed on the causes of health problems in dogs, as well as education to encourage demand among would-be owners for animals that have the best chance of being healthy, the RSPCA said.

In the past the RSPCA, which is also pulling out of the Discover Dogs show in November, has staffed a stand at Crufts to promote general animal welfare.