The woman called in to vet dog breeders

Martin Hickman meets the woman charged with bringing the canine world to heel after a succession of scandals

Two years ago an undercover BBC documentary caused an outcry by revealing that the Kennel Club, organiser of the world's largest dog show, Crufts, was encouraging the breeding of deformed animals.





"Pedigree Dogs Exposed", two years in the making, showed how the governing body laid down standards that required unhealthy features such as short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails and dwarfism.



A prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel was shown suffering from syringomyelia, a painful condition where a skull is too small for a brain, and boxers from epilepsy. Pugs had breathing problems and bulldogs were unable to give birth unassisted.



The resulting scandal prompted the BBC to abandon its 42-year coverage of Crufts, three separate inquiries and, yesterday, the appointment of a woman charged with cleaning up the mess left by Britain's newly troubled relationship with dogs.



Professor Sheila Crispin, 66, an experienced veterinary surgeon, will come forward with practical measures to end genetic flaws and two other problems, dangerous dogs and cruel puppy farms.



She will chair the new Advisory Council on Welfare Issues on Dog Breeding, an independent non-statutory body which will come into force later this year. Overseen by a part-time council, it will dispense advice on all matters relating to canine reproduction: breeding strategies, research, legislation and public education.



After the Dogs Trust announced her appointment yesterday, Professor Crispin said action was already underway elsewhere to tackle breed standards and dangerous dogs.



After initially providing an equivocal response to the BBC show, the Kennel Club has come forward with new guidelines for 78 of 209 pedigree breeds, including 22 acknowledged to suffer from abnormalities.



A private members' Bill is going through Parliament amending the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which banned the pit bull terrier and other fighting dogs following a series of attacks in the late 1980s. Staffordshire pit bulls and other breeds exempt from the law are being used as "weapons" in increasing numbers in inner cities.



Widely perceived as a nation of animal lovers, Britain has 8 to 10 million dogs – but problems with their breeding have lain under the surface for decades. Many dogs are bought from large-scale commercial breeders, who have up to 5,000 animals in each "puppy farm".



In an independent inquiry into dog breeding which reported in January, Patrick Bateson, a professor of zoology, found a range of "welfare costs".



As well as exacerbating unnatural traits by in-breeding dogs, by, for instance, mating grandfather and grand-daughter, many fail to check for disease and care properly for puppies or socialise or exercise them properly before selling them aged six to eight weeks.



Some farms are so dirty that puppies die from Parvo virus, which causes dehydration, within days of arriving at their new homes.



Speaking shortly after taking up her honorary post, Professor Crispin told The Independent: "The problems with puppy farms are disease and socialisation issues. A lot of these puppies are removed from their mothers far too early and then they are isolated in pet shops and they don't socialise with their new owner."



She highlighted another problem – over-production of dogs by part-time breeders who see the business as an easy and lucrative sideline: a "labradoodle", a cross between a labrador and a poodle, fetches £500 to £700.



Amateurs often find the running costs of keeping dogs high and cannot find homes for them. As a result, many have to be rehomed or put down: some 100,000 dogs are brought into rescue centres each year, of which 10,000 are destroyed.



Professor Crispin, a past president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, hopes her organisation will end some of the worst excesses through education: advising existing and potential dog owners about where and how to buy a puppy. She said: "Professor Bateson said what we need is a Joanna Lumley. We need someone who is more glamorous and handsome than me and who the public can relate to."



Her first job, however, will be to recruit fellow members of the council, who will work for a nominal fee and expenses.



She is looking for eight part-time members, including someone with knowledge of the law relating to dogs; a vet in a small practice; experts in genetics and canine reproduction; an epidemiologist; and two lay members of the public.



In time, Professor Crispin hopes the council – which she hopes will be funded by animal welfare organisations – will become complementary to the Government's Farm Animal Welfare Council, which sets guidelines for the care of the UK's 900 million or so chickens, turkeys, sheep, pigs and cattle.



Appointed by a panel including Professor Bateson, Professor Crispin has an impressive pedigree. She is an honorary member of the Kennel Club, a life member of the International Sheep Dog Society, and a visiting professorial fellow in the department of anatomy at Bristol University. She has two dogs herself.



Professor Crispin keeps a four-year-old border collie, Maisie, and Maddie, 16, a retired working collie, on a 28-acre farm on the outskirts of Kendal in the Lake District, from which she hopes to run the council from a converted barn.



She has never married, devoting herself instead to a "very fullfilling" career in veterinary medicine, which had now left her set in her ways.



She said she was wary of calling herself a "dog lover" because dogs should not be a substitute for humans. But, she said, she was "very fond of dogs".



Problems to solve



Three main problems will be dealt with by the new Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding



Puppy farms



Among the problems at puppy farms are in-breeding which produces genetic abnormalities, disease and poor socialisation. Many large puppy farms are unhygienic and some puppies costing hundreds of pounds die within days of being bought and taken home. An independent inquiry by Professor Patrick Bateson, which reported in January, pulled no punches in its depiction of the farms, some of which contain 5,000 dogs. Because they are given advance warning of local authority inspections, many escape punishment. This will be a key area for the new council, with plans for public education to help ensure owners know what to look for in a healthy animal.



Genetic abnormalities



Around 20 pedigree breeds suffer serious health problems as a result of decades of breeding designed to meet Kennel Club standards – essential for winning rosettes at shows such as Crufts. After the BBC's hard-hitting show Pedigree Dogs Exposed in August 2008, the Kennel Club, having initially been defensive, announced an overhaul of its breed standards. The need for an end to genetic abnormalities such as under-sized skulls was underlined by two reports on dog breeding last year, by the RSPCA and the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare.



Dangerous dogs



While attacks by dogs have always happened, police, community groups and ordinary citizens have become alarmed by the rise in 'status' or 'weapon' dogs in inner city areas, and particularly on rough housing estates. Police are powerless to act against the dogs unless they attack, because breeds such as Staffordshire pit bull terriers are not covered by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. An independent inquiry into dog breeding chaired by Professor Patrick Bateson last year called for the act to be amended. According to Professor Crispin, chair of the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, 5,221 people (including 1,250 children) in England were treated in hospital last year after being 'mauled' by dogs.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015