13th of January 2021
After the introduction of the enforcement criteria for short muzzled dogs by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in March 2019 and the letter from the Minister in April 2020 in which she still allows crossbreeding with short-muzzled breeds, the Dutch Kennel Club decided in May 2020 not to issue pedigrees anymore for pups from brachycephalic breeds. And this without any consultation with the breed clubs concerned. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a world divided between purebred breeders and breeders of crossbreeds and that within the world of the purebred dog association what the Dutch Kennel Club was in principle and perhaps still is?
After the Breed Clubs of the brachy breeds had issued an ultimatum, a consultation was started between breed the Breed Clubs and the Dutch Kennel Club (Raad van Beheer) with the final goal to provide pedigrees again. The actual contradiction of breeding wild crossbreeds within a Breed Club to realise ‘breed improvement’ (read muzzle lengthening) but in fact destroying the purebred dog, was painfully exposed in this consultation. After all, the lengthening of the muzzle required by the Minister within one generation required crossbreeding. After an extremely difficult course of the consultation and after a number of seats in the Board of Directors became vacant in November 2020, three candidate board members from the boards of the Brachy Breed Clubs applied for the seats in the boardroom of the Dutch Kennel Club.
The main argument for the candidature was that from the board of the Raad van Beheer one could better regulate the return of this pedigree issue.
This chocked sitting Board of the Raad van Beheer rallied in haste its favourably inclined counter candidates.
Now there was something to choose!
However, the three candidate members from the short-muzzled Breed Clubs were elected by an overwhelming majority, after which the remaining board members interpreted this as disapproval of their policies and resigned. The departing board members then left without transferring their portfolios.
The question now is how the employees of the Board Bureau of the Raad van Beheer (Dutch Kennel Club) behave towards their new board and vice versa? Employees who for years have been propagating an ideology of crossbreeding that is diametrically opposed to that of the new board? Can these employees overnight serve a new master with a different view or will the employees try to make the new board move more in the direction of the policy of the old board and continue on the direction followed by the old board? A burning question fuelled by silence.
And what concerning the pedigrees?
The big question still is how the new elected board members intend to give the pedigrees back to the affected short-muzzled breeds. And this now the resistance within the Kennel Club itself should have been disappeared? After all, the breeders of short-muzzled breeds are impatiently waiting for those pedigrees to be granted again. Or is it perhaps not that simple any more?
Also this new board will also have to experience that they do not operate in a vacuum and have to manoeuvre carefully between the activists of ‘Dier&Recht’, the Ministry of LNV, Veterinary Medicine of the University of Utrecht, the professional association of veterinarians KNMvD and ‘at last but not at least’ the club ‘fairdog’ in which these organisations are more or less all represented.
In any case, we can state that the enforcement criteria have not disappeared with the election of a new board and this regardless of the issue of pedigrees or not.
If one wants to convince the Minister to change the enforcement criteria and that after the several refusals on proposals from the Raad van Beheer in this, one has to come up with a good proposal to make the Minister change his mind.
The flaw in the enforcement criteria
The big flaw of the enforcement criteria for short-muzzled dogs is that, despite sending these criteria to several ‘friendly nations’, it remains to be seen whether other countries also want to prohibit the breeding of about 30 brachy breeds, now and in the future, simply because they have a short muzzle. And this even without having examined the content of all the breeds concerned.
A second question that can be posed is whether there has been any consultation or coordination with other countries regarding the Dutch enforcement criteria before they were put into effect. This might have been useful to avoid foreign criticism from, for example, the United Kingdom, where the Dutch enforcement criteria are considered scientifically unfounded.
The Netherlands has gone solo and hopes, because it is the first country that has gone to such extremes, that breeding with all of the 30 short muzzled breeds will be banned everywhere now and in the future. A vain hope, based on a document that has already been called into question scientifically. After all, it is more obvious to look at it per breed than per muzzle length, as one hears from Cambridge.
The Dutch attitude, however, ignores the fact that Europe has open borders. For that reason alone, a European approach is more effective. All kinds of difficult repressive constructions and legislation will have a different impact in each country, as a result of which it will be difficult to prevent an increase in the flow of badly bred foreign dogs into the Netherlands. For example, there is the curious fact that in Flanders/Belgium breeding cross-breeds are prohibited by law, while in the Netherlands they are required in order to be able to breed.
Shouldn’t the Dutch Kennel Club take the initiative to go European?
The Dutch breeders and Kennel Club should not make the same mistake as the Government by looking for a local, Dutch solution as an alternative to the enforcement criteria. After all, in the Netherlands there are breeds that are completely dependent on foreign countries to even exist. Also to be able to improve the genetic diversity within a breed, a lot of foreign countries are necessary. And the Netherlands as a breed country is only a very small player in Europe and actually totally dependent on foreign countries. The Netherlands has predominantly (more than 77%) puppy mill dogs, look-a-likes and crossbreeds.
Breeding dogs is often an international affair. It is a community where people know each other across many borders. And that is exactly why the improvement of pedigree dogs should and can be tackled in a European and broad sense, at least if one is open minded for it.
Given the fact that the FCI, as in the preparation of its publication on Brachycephalic pedigree dogs, has proved that it does not really want to take initiative in improving the pedigree breeds, this should be started at a lower level. From the Dutch Kennel Club for example. After all, the breed problem is not limited to the BOAS test of Cambridge of three short-muzzled breeds, but goes much further. Even the British Kennel Club is aware of this and has proven this with a generous subsidy for scientific research into possible health problems in 13 other brachycephalic breeds where not only BOAS is investigated but where they want to go much further. Also, through the Flemish Breeding Commission (Vlaamse Fokkerij Commissie) , they want to start a method to achieve better pedigree dogs.
How can the the Dutch Kennel Club respond to this? A number of ideas/suggestions:
1 – Meet with the Bennel Clubs of countries such as Great Britain, the Scandinavian countries, the Benelux, France and Germany to see if other countries also see the need for a more European approach that is supported by several Kennel Clubs together and wants to see the sense of an approach that goes beyond ‘Patella’. Of course, if a fundament has been founded, other countries can join this meeting. Make it a growth model but don’t start too big and start as much as possible with open minded people who are open for a change based on scientific knowledge.
2 – Given the fact that the FCI does not present itself as an organisation that wants to tackle this on a European level, the Kennel Clubs of countries where the pressure of legislation is high, should take action.
3 – Sit down with for example Dogswellnet to see if there is a more intensive possibility of cooperation to share and exchange knowledge about the health of pedigree dogs between the different countries and maybe even connect and synchronise this knowledge. Think for example of the Agria insurance data from the different countries and the different scientific researches. Make this knowledge open accessible.
4 – Together with these kennel clubs, make a list of breeds that need extra attention. Define that extra attention. Hereditary diseases, etc. There is a lot of information out there but it needs to be synchronised and exchanged.
5 – Define also once clear principles of what we find acceptable and what not. What is the incidence of hereditary diseases, what is the reduction in quality of life, etc.? After all, we want to be able to compare the results with something.
6 – Define together in the breeds, whose breed standard is in one of the participating countries, which health criteria are already present in the breed standard directly or indirectly. For example, the open nostrils (32% of the BOAS problem). If these are described in the breed standard, make them an exclusion criterion for shows. No nostrils, no prizes! Also make clear what can possibly be changed in the breed standard without unacceptably compromising the integrity of the purebred dog to improve health. For example, is an open nostril too much to ask for in a brachycephalic breeds? How can perhaps a small change in the breed standard contribute to the welfare of the purebred dog?
7 – Align health tests with these countries so that they are easily interchangeable between countries and can be accepted in all of them.
8 – The genetic diversity, mean kinship. How is this unambiguously determined, what do we all agree on? What is acceptable?
9 – Shouldn’t the Breed Clubs determine and demand the necessary health tests from the breeders concerning the parent dogs before breeding approval is granted? How can the dilemma of using the untested foreign dog be broken? This use is conditional for small populations. Pedigrees should still be granted. How can this dilemma be solved?
10- A European cooperation can prevent a split between countries that do and do not have the laws imposed on one breed or another. A more unambiguous approach is desirable. Could the ministers of the various countries perhaps even be involved in this so that they too can come to an agreement?
Is this not the road that should be taken to convert the Dutch enforcement criteria into reasonable and enforceable regulations that are synchronised between the different countries and based on agreements between the kennel clubs in the different countries? With a cooperation of Kennel Clubs one is simply stronger towards the legislator.
There are only a few points suggested here that could be on the agenda for an international co-operation between Kennel Clubs. However the essence is point 1; is there a need for the Kennel Clubs to be pro-active and take action themselves to improve health or do the different kennel clubs rather let the inevitable deluge of mostly half-baked laws and regulations pass them by?
Foundation Justice for Pedigree Dogs
Stichting Ras en Recht
Edwin Meyer Viol