Pedigree Dog Breeding Practices: An International Review
Various health concerns come alongside dog breeding practices. Dog breeding also creates a demand for animals with these health problems and it reduces the demand for animal adoption. Since kennel clubs (KCs) are in charge of maintaining and regulating breed standards, they are often the main target of criticism.
KCs in different countries have differing breeding standards and regulations, as well as differing approaches to improve the welfare and health of pedigree dogs. The aim of this study was to investigate the differences in the management of dog breeding, health and welfare in KCs worldwide. The KCs investigated were from European countries, with the exception of four non-European countries.
The researchers sent out a survey to 15 KCs. The survey asked them to give an estimated percentage of registered pedigree dogs. In most countries, registered pedigree dogs accounted for only a very small percentage of the whole dog population. This means that the influence of KCs is quite limited, and several KCs voiced concern of losing members by increasing health regulations.
The survey also asked questions relating to what health issues KCs regard as most important. The predominant concerns in most countries included “exaggerated morphological features” and “inherited disorders”. This shows that KCs are aware of the health problems pedigree dogs face.
Another question concerned what information KCs collect. All KCs indicated that pedigrees are recorded for all breeds. Most KCs also collect information on breed standards and dog show results. However, there is less consistency of the recording of other key information, such as health examinations and genetic tests. The ways that information is recorded also differs significantly across countries.
Apart from recording information, breeding management is another important activity undertaken by KCs. It can help reduce the rate of inbreeding in dog populations and decrease the occurrence of inherited disorders.
However, the extent to which KCs implement breeding strategies, provide health requirements, issue reproduction requirements or provide breeding tools, for example, differs quite significantly across countries. The researchers suggest that a new way in which KCs could promote pedigree health is by cooperating with other KCs. They could, for example share their health screening or genetic evaluation results.
Overall, whilst most KCs seem concerned about improving the pedigree health and welfare, there is little consistency in how KCs approach these issues. Different KCs face different challenges and have different priorities. One of the main issues KCs face is finding a balance between the constraints and priorities for dog breeding which both promotes the welfare of dogs but which is also endorsed by dog breeders.
Companion animal breeding is something that most animal advocates strive against, and the idea of working with kennel clubs to establish better regulations, policies, and standards may seem like a step backwards. However, given KCs influence on people who actively participate in breeding, it may be worthwhile to devote some advocacy efforts to improving KC policies. Still, for most advocates, any work pointed in that direction will have to be balanced out with further efforts to encourage people to adopt dogs, rather than buy or breed them.