Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Written evidence submitted by the Dachshund Breed Council

1. The Dachshund Breed Council was formed in 2008 and represents 18 Dachshund Breed Clubs. It acts as a coordinating body to promote Dachshund health and welfare, through education and research.

2. In 2011, 5225 Dachshund puppies were registered with the Kennel Club (35% of Hound Group registrations; 2% of all KC registrations). It is estimated that the UK Dachshund population is around 60,000.

3. UK Dachshund Clubs have a long history of co-operating on health matters; firstly within the UK Dachshund Clubs’ Forum—an annual meeting of Dachshund Club Secretaries—where, in 2002, the member Clubs agreed that health matters should appear as an item on all future meeting agendas. Around that time (2000–2003) the proposed European Convention was quite topical and featured in our meetings as Dachshunds were “threatened” by potential EU legislation because of their supposed “extreme” conformation. We have made a number of amendments to our Breed Standard to emphasise the need to avoid exaggeration and this is a key message in our educational events.

4. The Forum provided a firm foundation for the Breed Council to build upon and had a good track record of identifying and dealing with health issues affecting Dachshunds. The implementation of the cord1-PRA DNA screening programme for Mini Longs in 2005 is a good example.

5. One of the Council’s first initiatives was to recommend changes to the Breed Standard in order to ensure health and welfare was adequately reflected in the wording. We clarified the requirements in relation to length/height ratio in order to avoid exaggeration and made it clear that “Double Dapple” was an unacceptable colour because of the health risks in such a mating. The KC accepted our recommendations and subsequently agreed not to register any puppies from litters where both parents were Dapples (merle).

6. We held our first Breed Conference in 2009 with speakers covering our main health topics and we used that event to carry out a quick, informal, Health Survey which provided the basis for our on-line survey which was launched at the end of 2009. Our second Breed Conference, again focusing on health matters, took place in April 2012 and we have a further Health Seminar planned for October 2012.

7. In April 2011 the KarltonIndex (http://www.thekarltonindex.com) presented its initial scoring of the health improvement progress being made by UK Breeds. 20 breeds scored zero; in other words, nothing of substance could be found on health. Dachshunds were highlighted as the “Pack Leaders” and were described as “setting a benchmark with regard to tackling health problems.” In October 2011 the KarltonIndex stated: “Their approach is by far the most advanced in the UK, and rightly, the Kennel Club now links its Dachshund information pages to the DBC, thus giving prospective dachshund owners direct access to this invaluable source of information. They can do this in confidence that the information is credible, current and comprehensive. The work done by the DBC team is nothing short of outstanding.”

8. Our Health Improvement Strategy comprises the following elements:

A Health and Welfare Sub-committee, chaired by a veterinary surgeon, with two non-showing pet owners as representatives of the non-showing/non-breeding community.

A Health Fund to enable us to direct resources at research and education.

A Health Report and Plan which is published annually.

An ongoing on-line Breed Health and cause of death survey which we use to identify priority issues.

A wide range of communications channels (on-line and off-line) aimed at breeders, owners and potential owners.

A programme of educational events for judges, breeders and owners; these are supported by freely available on-line resources such as presentations and papers prepared for us by geneticists and veterinary specialists.

A dedicated Health website providing one-stop access to the most up-to-date advice on the Breed’s health and advice for owners/buyers.

Working in partnership with veterinary and genetics experts to identify and implement specific health improvements.

A set of performance indicators, defined by our Plan, to track progress and achievements.

9. Just because health tests are available in a breed doesn’t necessarily mean a puppy you buy is going to be healthy. Health testing is not the same as breed health.

10. For example, in Dachshunds the main health risk is back disease, but there is currently no UK screening test to help breeders produce puppies with a lower risk of problems. We are currently working with the Animal Health Trust to attempt to develop a DNA test that will help breeders improve the chances of breeding Dachshunds with fewer back problems. In contrast, we have a DNA screening test for an eye condition (cord1 PRA) that affects Miniature Dachshunds. Buying a puppy from health-tested parents isn’t necessarily going to be the answer, as you might still find health issues due to some other factor for which there is no test.

11. Any Breed Club community that is serious about improving health will be carrying out health surveys to determine longevity and disease prevalence. Our Dachs-Life 2012 Health Survey had over 1,500 responses and we can confidently say that Dachshunds generally live to around 12 years old. The oldest one in our recent survey died at nearly 22! We can also tell that the main causes of death are back disease (dogs euthanised aged four to seven) and heart disease (dogs over the age of 10).

12. The biggest challenge we have in relation to health and welfare is that of communication. Members of Breed Clubs are generally the best informed about health issues; it’s hard for them to avoid being aware of our plans and recommendations given the wealth of information in Club Newsletters, websites and issued via the Breed Council. Where we struggle, is in getting to the potential Dachshund puppy buyers among the general public. However, more people are finding out how to recognise a responsible breeder by talking to Club Secretaries and via our websites. The Kennel Club’s Discover Dogs events, twice a year, are important opportunities for us to get the message across to the public.

13. We still hear stories of puppies bought from puppy farms and commercial/volume breeders that are unhealthy, untested and not typical examples of the breed. We have attempted to persuade some of the commercial puppy sales websites to make our health information available to their site visitors, but sadly this has not been very successful. Somehow, we have to make Club and Council websites the first port of call for anyone interested in buying a Dachshund or thinking of breeding from their Dachshund.

Other matters related to canine health and welfare with respect to concerns expressed in Professor Bateson’s report:

Puppy Farming and Breeding Standards

1. One of the biggest problems here is that there is at present no universally accepted definition of a “puppy farmer”. A suggested definition might be:

One who breeds puppies mainly as a business to produce a profit, with little regard for the welfare of the puppies or their parents.

This definition may be general, but guidance to interpretation could be worded to exclude:

pet owners who just want to breed one litter;

breeders who are producing puppies to show/work/compete, and thus to improve the breed;

It would be expected that a “puppy farmer” would be:

producing multiple litters in a year;

breeding on consecutive seasons from each bitch;

possibly breeding/selling a number of different breeds;

placing regular “puppies for sale” adverts in the press or on the internet;

and would probably not be participating with their dogs in shows/obedience/agility etc, or be a member of a Breed Club.

All this is, of course, open to interpretation—and thus will require inspectors to exercise their judgement when looking at individual breeders.

2. More action is needed to shut down Puppy Farms and to enforce the available animal welfare legislation. Currently, “the industry” ie Puppy Farmers, is inadequately regulated and it appears the efforts of local authorities, the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations have been completely ineffective.

3. Any proposed minimum set of breeding standards that the Government might recommend (eg the principles of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme), should be made compulsory so that all breeders of pedigree and non-pedigree puppies would be required to comply.

4. On breeding generally, the DEFRA Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs advises that those who decide to breed their dog should consult their vet for advice, but it would be useful here also to point people in the direction of the Breed Club for their breed if the dog is pure-bred. Advice from people who know the particular breed could prove invaluable.

5. The Government should make it illegal for dogs to be sold from retail premises. There is no need for dogs to be sold in Pet Shops, it is incompatible with good canine welfare and banning this would close down a major route to market for puppy farmers.

Kennel Club Breed Standards and Dog Showing

6. Kennel Club Breed Standards include a requirement for breeders and judges to make health, welfare and temperament their top priority. The Dachshund Breed Clubs regularly run seminars to help breeders/judges/exhibitors understand the Breed Standard and to be aware of the health aspects of what makes a “good” Dachshund. The Kennel Club’s phrase “Fit for Function, Fit for Life” is at the heart of these educational events.

7. The Show community (exhibitors and judges) is fully aware of the importance of health and welfare in our Dachshunds. This cannot be said to be true for some Dachshund breeders who are not Breed Club members and are not involved in showing, or in other KC licensed activities.

8. From an analysis of two years of KC Litter Registrations in Miniature Smooth-haired Dachshunds we identified only 16% of litters that were bred by people involved in showing their dogs and only 12% of Miniature Smooth-haired puppies registered by the KC in that period were bred by exhibitors. Therefore, any argument that the Dog Showing breeder community is responsible for the ill-health of pedigree dogs has no basis in fact for Dachshunds.

9. Despite criticism of “show breeders” from some quarters, there is a very strong message for potential puppy buyers that the majority of Breed Clubs and their members, many of whom show or work their dogs, are leading the way in striving for canine health improvement. If there were no dog shows or other organised canine events, there would be no need for Breed Clubs. And, without Breed Clubs there would be no way of identifying potential health issues, or to generate the funds to enable health screening and testing programmes to be put in place.

10. For some other breeds, conformation and its impact on health is still a contentious issue where there perhaps needs to be more willingness to open up a discussion on where the “tipping point” lies between “acceptable” and “unacceptable”.

Permanent Identification (Micro-chipping)

11. The compulsory permanent identification of all dogs, for example by micro-chipping, is something we would support. We believe the value would lie in being able to re-unite lost dogs with their owners and in being able to trace a dog’s breeder, should that be necessary.

12. We doubt if permanent identification will have any effect on reducing the incidence of dog attacks as irresponsible owners will be highly unlikely to have their dogs identified. It seems to us that responsible owners would comply with the requirements and would bear the costs, while irresponsible owners would continue to ignore the legislation, safe in the knowledge that the system was being poorly enforced.

Progress since the Bateson Report

10. In our experience, much was being done in the world of pedigree dogs to address health and welfare issues prior to the Bateson Report. However, it and the two subsequent reports provided a focal point for the various stakeholder groups to review progress and re-direct priorities.

11. The formation of the Independent Advisory Council on the welfare issues of dog breeding has provided a further forum for bringing stakeholders together.

12. The problems to be solved are complex, interrelated and involve multiple stakeholders. Individual stakeholders, working on their own (or worse, working on their own agendas), will not solve the problems and may make them worse through duplication of efforts and confusion of the dog-owning/buying public.

13. In the business world, this would be categorised as a “wicked” problem and, as such, would be recognised as something which can only be addressed through a whole-system approach. The Independent Advisory Council would be well-placed to facilitate the adoption of a systems-thinking approach.

October 2012

Prepared 14th February 2013