chapter  6
28 Pages

Companion Animal Breeding: Welfare, Professionals and Owners

In 1994 Time magazine in the US published a cover story entitled ‘A terrible beauty’.1 The article described how a couple bought an apparently healthy Golden Retriever puppy from a reputable breeder, complete with pedigree and American Kennel Club registration. Within a year the puppy had developed pain from osteochondritis, a hereditary bone condition requiring surgery, then severe hip dysplasia in both hips, also inherited, also requiring surgery, plus severe allergies, dry skin and a poor coat. The article went on to claim that one in four of America’s ‘purebred’ dogs had a genetic disorder, listing hip dysplasia in the majority of German Shepherd Dogs, eye disorders in the majority of collies, deafness in Dalmatians, heart disease in Great Danes and Newfoundlands, and inability to give birth naturally in bulldogs, amounting to 300 known inherited conditions in all. By 1999 in America, the number of genetic diseases in pedigree dogs was listed as 500.2

In 1999, a veterinarian commented in the scientific journal Animal Welfare that the hundreds of known genetic diseases among dogs worldwide ‘are manmade diseases, and, as such, largely preventable’.3 Another pointed out that ‘traits that are best regarded as defects have actually been included in breed standards’ and gave examples where the standard directly contributed to a disease condition, such as birth difficulties caused by the very large head required for a bulldog.4 Over the next years both veterinarians and animal welfare organizations published criticisms of the damaging effects of breed standards and inbreeding.5-8 In 2006 the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association stated its concern about the ‘continuation of breeds whose structure or characteristics inherently cause health problems’.5 In 2007, at the start of the annual Crufts dog show, an article entitled ‘Should Crufts be banned?’ was published by one of the leading London daily newspapers.9