Norwegian Lawsuit on Dog Breeding - A Step Back or Can it be a Step Forward?
We wrote an artilce last year - Norwegian Lawsuit on Dog Breeds and Breeding - The "First" But Not the Last? . In that article we describe that "The Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (NSPA) is suing selected breeders, clubs, and the Norwegian Kennel Club for not following the country's animal welfare law; the Norwegian court has agreed to hear the case. "
The NSPA issued an update to this issue which indicates that the Norwegian government has changed the wording in their act. "The new wording is a clarification of the current legal text so that the intention of the law becomes clearer." And "The law now clearly states that the Norwegian Kennel Club and other parties can be held accountable for violations of the breeding provision." Unfortunately there is no link to the actual wording of the act or the government's intentions.
And now, January 2022, the initial ruling of the court has been rendered. And it is against the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) and the breeders. Let me make it clear that I have NOT read the 60-page decision. I am commenting on what each of the opposing sides have said is their interpretation of the decision and on the possible fallout from it.
In their announcement, the NKK states that the decision is "A step back for dog welfare". They base this on the fact that the ruling takes away the oversight of the kennel club, which has and continues to work for dog health and welfare. We have written in other blogs that the challenges of the controversies and legislation arising around extremes of conformation and especially about brachycephalic dogs have arisen to some extent because of the perception that kennel clubs' attention to the issue (worldwide, not just in Norway) has been too slow and too little. Regardless, as the NKK states, "If the good work that is done today through NKK [recognized apparently by the court] and the breed clubs must be stopped for the breeds English bulldog and cavalier king charles spaniel, we fear that it will have a negative effect on dog welfare". This will happen because "Irresponsible players will be ready to take over the market, with the production of dogs from breeding that are not subject to any form of control". [Google translation]
As we have also written, these forms of legislative control rarely consider the potential for undesirable consequences. In other words, okay, punish some KC breeders. But then what will happen? Non-affiliated breeders, breeders with likely less interest in health and welfare will take over to satisfy an ongoing demand for these breeds. We have repeatedly discussed that this is a complex issue, requiring collective actions of many stakeholders, but still wonder Why do legislators address the supply side and not demand? The NKK will appeal the ruling and no doubt ask the court to consider the wider consequences. However, the court will likely simply focus on the law as written.
On the other hand, the welfare group (NSPA) who brought the suit, proclaims loudly: Full Victory for the Dogs saying that "Oslo District Court has today ruled in the trial on unethical breeding. A unanimous verdict concludes that it is contrary to the Animal Welfare Act § 25 to breed the dog breeds English bulldog and cavalier king charles spaniel in Norway today." Again, even taking their position at face value one wonders... will this help ALL the dogs of these breeds? Will eliminating all KC breeders of these dogs fix the problem? Will people in Norway stop buying and owning these dogs or simply find ways to buy them from other breeders? I guess time will tell.
And confusing to me is the statement, ""A conviction does not imply a ban on serious breeding of Bulldog or Cavalier, as serious and scientifically based cross-breeding could be a good alternative." So, you can still own these dogs, and breed them, as long as it is done in a 'serious' and not 'unscrupulous' manner? And yet the NKK has found to be at fault, not simply specific breeders.
Personally, after a long history of working on these issues, I am not sure whether this is a step back or whether it might possibly lead to a step forward. Will this approach serve to eliminate the 'worst bred' dogs? Will it help to define health and welfare of dogs in a way that will promote healthier breeds and breeding?
I have to agree with a further statement in the welfare group's article, however:
"The ruling clarifies the need for change
Animal protection Norway has, among other things, proposed the introduction of ID marking and the systematic use of temperament, traits, health data and kinship data in breeding."
If this ruling can lead to even better practices for breeding promoted by the NKK - and other kennel clubs - good. If breeders of specific dogs of specific breeds take close stock and evaluate their breeding decisions more on the potential health of the offspring and less on any human concerns and desires that would be a good thing for the dogs. I have compassion for the owners and breeders, and the NKK as this is a very challenging situation to work through.
As we have said elsewhere, it is crucial that breeders of ALL BREEDS - not simply those identified as compromised - speak up for a strong approach to breeding healthy dogs. The NSPA says "It is possible to breed healthy dogs if you only use today's science and today's technology". Do they truly imagine that this will be practiced by commercial breeders or those that are not committed to a kennel club or some other registry? How will we know?
It would be nice for this to proceed without legislation and courts and conflict, but with a focus on dog health, well-being, and welfare.
And again - time will tell.
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