This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)
In the Netherlands, the anti-race dog movement is initiated by ‘Dier&Recht’(Animal and Law) in cooperation with the Party for the Animals. Through the TV programme Radar, whose presenter is married to the leader of the parliamentary party in the first chamber of the Party for the Animals, they were given a national platform. It is getting time that the ‘other’ side is now also given a platform and can question the often simplistic view of ‘Dier&Recht’. This is just to show that honest pedigree breeders do not deserve the criminal image that ‘Dier&Recht’ is now putting on them.
This movement is currently even dragging the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Utrecht with it, which is exchanging its objective view for the legalisation of a one-sided view on the pedigree world and especially on the short-muzzled. The changed view with which they now throw many of their own scientific statements and intentions from the past onto the dunghill and which criminalises breeding with more than 20 breeds at the same time. And this while there are only scientific studies known of a few extreme brachy breeds. The extrapolation to other breeds that they now use is not followed by the rest of the world, It is racism and puts the dog breeds under a spell that they all don’t deserve.
In 2013 the University of Utrecht together with the University of Wageningen sent a message to the dog world that they were going for the development of a DNA database and registration system for hereditary diseases. The Kennel Club (Raad van Beheer) had to take DNA from all pedigree dogs and the University would take care of the genetic tracing of the hereditary diseases. Within a few years the hereditary diseases within the pedigree could be reduced with the help of genetics. A ‘centre of expertise in genetics of companion animals’ was even set up for this purpose. Effective policy to get the pedigree dogs healthier should now be possible within a few years. Quite ambitious.
Scientists from the University of Utrecht will provide a clear, logical and measurable definition of a harmful breed characteristic in the publication in 2014.
‘Incidence of harmful breed traits and hereditary deficiencies in pet populations’.
They state: ‘Breed characteristics are harmful if the animal in question is presented to a veterinarian to eliminate all or part of the characteristic or its effects in order to prevent or remedy clinical problems’. If a breed characteristic becomes harmful, this will lead to consultation of the veterinarian’.
This is the statement of the department of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Utrecht, which is already clearly ahead of the problem of short-muzzled breeds.
These publications of the two most important Dutch scientific institutes in the pedigree dog world and the establishment of the centre of expertise revived the pedigree dog world.
However, it must have been a cold, very cold shower for the kennel club (Raad van Beheer) and the breeders when the same scientists suddenly threw both the 2014 health criterion and the reported solution for hereditary disorders from 2013 on the manure heap with the publication of their enforcement criteria for short-muzzled dogs in 2019. The veterinarian visit was suddenly no longer necessary and the length of the muzzle was enough to determine whether or not breeding was allowed. The pre-existing genetic solutions to the problems in the breeds were also off the table. What had happened?
Due to the publications of Dier&Recht (animal rights) and the Party for the Animals, the Netherlands became the first (and probably only) country in the world where breeding with more than 20 breeds, healthy or not, was banned by adding the enforcement criteria to the Royal Decree of 2014. And that because not health but the yardstick had become the criterion. The veterinarian is no longer required to select unhealthy breeds and dogs.
A rushed minister under pressure of ‘Dier&Recht’, cutbacks and a shortage of people at the Inspection Service (NVWA) have ensured that the scientists have chosen a simple and quick way out without having done any scientific research themselves. Contrary to what ‘Dier & Recht’ continues to claim, the University of Utrecht has not carried out any scientific research itself but has ‘scientifically shopped’ in publications of foreign, most British, scientific institutes. An unambiguous and simple criterion had to be found; muzzle length, a criterion that is the subject of considerable debate in the country in which most research on short-muzzled dogs originates. The latest state of affairs is that it is acknowledged that there is no scientific evidence that links the short snout to BOAS, the conditions from which the short-muzzled dogs should suffer. And that is even mentioned in the paper of the same research from which Utrecht derives its muzzle length criterion. Also in that same research it is clearly stated that there are large differences between the breeds.
The most important scientists in the United Kingdom have already stated that the snout length criterion is unreliable.
‘Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndromeJane Ladlow, Nai-Chieh Liu, Lajos Kalmar, David Sargan 2018 ‘Although there are affirmative markers for BOAS in the breeds, the amount of markers in BOAS that can be linked to severity in the dog’s appearance is disappointing.’ A number of the statements that are simply ignored in the Netherlands. In short, there has been selective shopping.
You could make the following comparison with the proposition that ‘rich people live longer’ with regard to the relationship between muzzle length and BOAS. The cause is not the money. Highly educated people, however, are more conscious about nutrition and exercise and are getting older as a result. Because of their higher education, however, they also reach higher positions and therefore earn more money. In short, they act simultaneously but the connection is not causal.
The University of Cambridge, has started a program to get these few extreme brachy breeds with many problems back to health, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Scandinavian countries. Even France is now on the program. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, the University of Utrecht’s own definitions of ‘health’ and their intention to achieve DNA registration and research of diseases are simply being overturned by the same scientists in order to make enforcement criteria possible. Is this due to a lack of time and money? Or have these beautiful intentions of 2013 and 2014 failed? In any case, they are anxiously kept quiet about it.
In the Netherlands there is simply a lack of sufficient data from veterinarian visits concerning the health of pedigree dogs. The lack of data is due to a malfunctioning registration system at veterinarians. The solitary path that the Netherlands has chosen in the scientific world completely ignores the countries that do have health data of the different pedigree dogs and that also exactly according to the criteria that the University of Utrecht has set itself in 2014.
In Sweden roughly half of all pedigree dogs are insured due to the high costs of the veterinarian. The reliable data here gives a clear overview of the health of most of the short-muzzled breeds. These data also show that short-muzzled dogs can be found on both sides of the health spectrum. There are breeds with a lot of problem dogs on one side of the spectrum and there are breeds on the other side of the spectrum where most dogs have no problems. There are even short-muzzled breeds that live longer than ‘Dier&Recht’ ‘laurelled crossbreeds’ and do not have above average respiratory diseases and on most diseases score even healthier than the average pedigree dog – and yet they are among the more than 20 prohibited breeds. It is noteworthy that the University of Utrecht did not include these easily accessible data from Sweden and other countries in its literature review when determining the enforcement criteria.
It must have been a shock for the kennelclub, the affiliated breedclubs and the breeders when last January, at the Vaarkamp lecture in Utrecht, the scientist involved in all publications from 2013 and 2014, the centre of expertise and the enforcement criteria of the University of Utrecht stated that with crossbreeds within one generation, the short-muzzled pedigree dog is healthy again and can get a nose again. A slide was shown of a Pug without a nose and next to it a picture of a dog with a nose. The nose had to make BOAS diseases and illnesses disappear. The slide showed a nose but the pedigree dog underneath it had disappeared! The child had been thrown away with the bathwater. It is clear that they go for the end of the pedigree dogs by crossbreeding and uses false statements.
Finally : Why a pedigree dog ? A conversation in the consulting room of the veterinarian gives us the answer to this question:
With our Brussels Griffon hanging a bit limp we are in the vet’s waiting room. Opposite us a couple in their fifties is waiting for an inoculation. They tell us that they always had Bernese Mountain dog from ‘ the farm’. However, the latter was felled at a young age by a hereditary disease and had to be put to sleep. That hurts. Also because of the continuous negative publicity in the media about pedigree dogs, the couple decided to go for a ‘healthy’ crossbreeding. The dog shuffles back and forth restlessly in front of the couple and has to be corrected constantly. A bit melancholy she told us that this dog is very healthy. My wife, however, smells the dissatisfaction and can’t help but ask in a way that is as bold as it is respectful: ‘And the next dog will this be another crossbreed? The man bounces up looks a little gloomy at his wife and answers. “No, it’s not, it’s going to be another Bernese Mountain dog. There was really too much Border Collie in this crossbreed so they have a much too busy dog for them, ‘no… the next dog is a sweet and quiet affectionate Bernese Mountain dog again’. But that will take some time because they are now stuck with a healthy cross and it will get very old.
Ir. Edwin Meyer Viol
Stichting ‘Ras en Recht’
Foundation ‘Breed and Law’