This article is a summary we (IPFD) have created describing the issues, the dialogue and challenges around regulatory actions in the Netherlands as of June 2020. The issue is having a polarizing effect across stakeholder groups, and it is our belief that the best results for all dogs are to be achieved by collaborative efforts. IPFD also promotes the considerations of impacts on dogs, breeds, and people when programs are put in place, given the complex nature of issues of health and welfare.
This article is a compilation of resources for those who are exploring the situation.
Table Of Contents
Some key points:
The government of the Netherlands has created a set of criteria about the conformation of short-muzzled dogs and regulations that prohibit breeding of any dog when one is of these is exceeded, regardless of the other criteria. Although the regulations apply to all breeders, as for other issues, pedigree dog breeders who register puppies with the national kennel club (Raad van Beheer, Dutch Kennel Club, DKC) are the most visible and traceable and there is an emphasis on the DKC to enact and enforce these guidelines. And it does not restrict ownership of these dogs or purchase and importation of dogs. Controversies and challenges include:
In the 12 designated breeds, pedigreed dog breeders account for a very small proportion of puppies of these breeds being sold in the Netherlands; most are from non-pedigreed breeders and imports. How will the legislation help the majority of dogs?
The 12 breeds: i.e., • Affenpinscher • Boston Terrier • English Bulldog • French Bulldog • Griffon Belge • Griffon Bruxellois • Petit Brabançon • Japanese Spaniel • King Charles Spaniel • Pug • Pekingese • Shih Tzu - although sharing some similarities in facial conformation do not have similar risks for Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, based on available statistics.
As stated by the DKC in their response to the proposed legislation: The government's criteria restricting breeding describe exaggerated conformations, which DKC agrees are not desirable and the DKC has concurred with almost all criteria and is supportive in monitoring the breeding stock of pedigree dogs. (See table in Breeding strategy proposal Dutch KC, below). However, the DKC does not agree with the breeding-prohibiting criterion of the Craniofacial Ratio (CFR), stating that, “This criterion would make it impossible to breed certain breeds while the prognostic value and the reproducibility of the CFR are being questioned among scientists.”
The scientific evidence for the use of the CFR in the way proposed by the government and their experts is not robust for the breeds studied or should at least be subjected to further review.
The government criteria may overemphasize only one aspect of the problems in some of these breeds. Most of the 12 breeds were not part of the key cited study.
The DKC is now under pressure from the government and welfare critics and members of the show world for meeting government demands.
The situation is being hotly debated through much of the pedigreed dog world and beyond, with some expressing the concern that this regulatory approach is defined in a way to eventually eliminate these breeds and may lead to further restrictions for other breeds. Unfortunately, there are some voices dismissing compelling evidence that there are health problems in certain breeds.
It may be that groups who support, in general, attention to the health and welfare of brachychephalics, and have spoken in support of the legislation, may not have carefully considered the evidence or wider impacts.
Some are worried that other counties may follow the lead of the Netherlands, without careful consideration.
Background: Health and welfare management of brachycephalic dogs is the issue; there are implications are for all dogs and owners.
The health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs is a highly complex situation - and yet current reactions and efforts tend to be rather narrow. Positions on various sides seem to becoming entrenched. When narrow or unilateral solutions are enacted without adequate participation of all stakeholders, conflict rather than collaboration or collective actions is often the result. The intensity in published statements and discussions online these days, sometimes extending to hostility, will not lead to an improvement in relations and certainly not to an improvement for the health and welfare of dogs. Responsibility lies with all stakeholders.
Simple solutions to complex problems are unlikely to be effective and generally produce unintended consequences.
For background and commentary on the recent situation in the Netherlands, please see Dr. Brenda Bonnett's Blog from August 2019, where concerns are expressed that the proposed legislation in the Netherlands was not likely to achieve its goals and the balanced report of the Dutch Kennel Club was presented:
Since then, the government of the Netherlands has enacted its regulations, to address what they consider to be a pressing need to protect the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs. Unfortunately, the proposed solutions do not seem to have taken into account the full scientific evidence about the problems nor possible solutions; they may not tackle the full range of concerns; and the focus/enforcement on pedigree breeders may not achieve population-wide benefits for the majority of dogs. While these regulations are under the mandate of one country's government, there is the potential for more harm than good to come from these efforts, with broad implications for owners, dogs, and breeders, both within and beyond the Netherlands.
Raad van Beheer (The Dutch Kennel Club, DKC) has translated information on the background and particulars of government regulations regarding breeding brachycephalic dogs - effective in the Netherlands as of May 18, 2020. Links to extensive coverage of the issues are located on the Fokken met kortsnuitige honden page on Raad van Beheer's website. Links to the eight documents that are are available in English (accessed June 2020) are listed below.
Below are compiled resources on the 'discussions' and issues as well as resources, including those calling for inclusive and collaborative discussions. This resource page will be updated as the situation evolves.
Dutch Kennel Club - Breeding Criteria Documentation (English)
The basic regulations in the Netherlands, relative to animal breeding in general, have been in place for some years; what is new is more stringent enforcement and application of specific criteria to certain breeds. See the Dutch Kennel Club's summary document 'The current position of the short-muzzled dog breeds in the Netherlands and what preceded it' for the long history of animal welfare regulation in the Netherlands - European regulations.
The potential for far-reaching consequences of the regulatory approach in the Netherlands has prompted responses from various stakeholder groups (see below) including the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), an organisation that ensures recognition of pedigrees and judges for dog shows in 99 FCI member countries throughout the world.
The Dutch Kennel Club is legally required to comply with the regulations of the Netherlands government. However, aspects of this compliance intersect with their responsibilities as members of the FCI, especially in terms of recognition of pedigrees and their members' participation in FCI-sanctioned dog shows.
English translation: Breeding brachycephalic dogs incl Criteria by Minister
Description: Title: Criteria for the enforcement of Article 3.4. of the Animal Keepers Decree (Besluit Houders van dieren) – Breeding Companion Animals – Dr Marjan AE van Hagen, Department of Animals in Science and Society and the Expertise Centre Genetics of Companion Animals
Part I covers Brachycephalic morphology, contains research references; Part II covers the list of existing measuring methods (skull, eyes, muzzle length, nasal folds, exercise tests, body condition scoring...) The document introduces the Traffic light system - lays out in Part III criteria and standards for verification by NVWA and LID inspectors.
Breeding strategy proposal Dutch KC
Description: Title: Breeding strategy brachycephalic pedigree dogs.
Counter proposal to Government - Lays out criteria that go beyond government's breeding regulation. The CFR is not included; however other tests/evaluations are outlined.
Points/considerations: 1. Regulation includes several brachycephalic dog breeds. There is no exception or other provisions for the individual breeds. The proposed measures are identical for all listed breeds. 2. Regulation does not include non-pedigreed dogs - it is estimated that 70% to 90% of the market is not included in legislation and enforcement. 3. Imported dogs are not included in the enforcement criteria and, by focusing enforcement on the dogs bred by the organized pedigree dog breeders in the Netherlands, the imported dogs are only more likely to increase in number.
08 May 2020
Veterinary measuring formular for criteria - May 2020
Description: A form to be completed by inspectors.
11 May 2020
Statement Dutch Kennel Club
Description: This document summarizes the Dutch government's response to the proposed breeding strategy submitted by the KC to the Dutch Government in August of 2019. Outcome: Minister does not accept Dutch KC's Breeding Strategy Proposal.
May 20, 25, & 26
The documents below (from May 20, 25, & 26 respectively) cover DKC communication with the F.C.I. over the head of the Netherlands's government legislation impacting registrations and management of brachycephalic breeds.
Bottom line: "based on the enforcement criteria, the Raad van Beheer can currently only issue dogs with pedigrees if the enforcement criteria from our national government have been met. It is up to the General Assembly to decide whether the descendants of combinations that do not meet these enforcement criteria will be issued a certificate of parentage."
From May 18, 2020, a modified procedure applies for registration of litters of short-muzzled dogs. A FCI pedigree is only issued if the correct evidence of fulfilling the enforcement criteria from both parent dogs is given. If this evidence is not available, no pedigree will be issued.
Contains an DKC comment on registrations: "Pups born out of combinations that according to the CFR, do not meet the criteria, will not be registered in the Dutch Studbook (NHSB), but will -according to the proposal to the General Assembly-be registered in a separate registry. If however it appears that purebred pups from such combinations have a CFR of 0,3 or more (and fulfill all other criteria and breed-specific requirements) then registration in the Dutch Studbook (NHSB) is possible without a doubt.This means that all dogs belonging to brachycephalic breeds and registered in the Dutch Studbook (NHSB) in the coming years, will all be purebred."
*The Dutch KC notes that the modified registration procedure applies to breeding short-nosed dogs of the following breeds: Affenpinscher, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Griffon Belge, Griffon Bruxellois, Petit Brabançon, Japanese Spaniel, King Charles Spaniel, Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu
(Note: The mention of these breeds does not mean that the criteria and possible government controls cannot apply to short-nosed dogs of other breeds. The government criteria apply on the basis of appearance and not on the basis of race.
As briefly described in the blog: Breed Health... What is your vision? an issue like this should be on the radar of all stakeholders in dog health and welfare, not just brachycephalic pedigreed dog breeder or national kennel clubs. Everyone has the potential to impact and effect change. However, to start with, we are listing responses from stakeholders at the forefront of these discussion.
Stakeholder Responses - Kennel Clubs
As mentioned above, concerns about impacts the new Dutch regulations will have on the breeds subject to the new breeding requirements have been expressed by the F.C.I., by breed clubs outside of the Netherlands and by those clubs who are responsible for the Standards for brachycephalic breeds as well as dog breeders of the now NL regulated brachycephalic breeds and other breeds. Perspective on the issues surrounding the new Dutch regulations is offered by Peter Friedrich, President of the German Kennel Club (VDH) in his article BRACHYCEPHALIC DOG BREEDS, AN UPDATE IN JUNE 2020.
Comment: Actual and impending consequences of the imposed breeding regulation within the purebred fancy and identifying mutually agreed upon solution-oriented measures (breeding strategies and programs) that may be embraced to improve health in dogs are covered. Jurisdiction and monitoring compliance with breeding regulations issued by Kennel/Breed clubs located across country borders and continents further complicates agreement on terms for an optimal approach that ensures improvements in health and welfare for all dogs.
CONTROVERSIAL BREED CHARACTERISTICS, SELECTION PROGRAMMES, CROSS-BREEDING
Peter Friedrich VDH Controversial Breed Characteristics, Selection Programmes, Cross-breeding.pdf
Description: A statement from Peter Friedrich, President of the German Kennel Club (VDH) is a supplement to "Zehn Dilemmata brachycephaler Hunderassen" (German) and "Brachycephalic Dog Breeds, an update in June 2020".
The American Kennel Club's Government Relations department issued a statement "AKC Statement on Dutch Kennel Club ‘Brachycephalic Decision’: Context and a Cautionary Tale“. The statement reflects concern that government regulation of breeding is the work of radical anti-breeding groups who support eradicating purebred dogs and are opposed to breeding in general. In their letter to the Dutch Kennel Club, among other stated concerns with the Dutch Government's and Dutch Kennel Club’s responses to brachycephalic breed health and welfare management, AKC takes the position that “restricting registration based on physical characteristics will make it impossible for responsible breeders to continue to improve the health and conformation of that breed within the structured world of kennel clubs."
Lance Novak, Executive Director of the The Canadian Kennel Club, wrote a letter to the DKC expressing concerns about the news of restrictive breeding legislation of Brachycephalic Breeds by the Dutch Government in the Netherlands. The topics covered include support of breeders who have "demonstrated progress through their willingness to make health improvements a priority" and the development of legislation, which will "effectively control the activities of irresponsible dog owners and breeders without unduly restricting the responsible owners and breeders." The CKC has formed a Brachycephalic Breed Advisory Committee to address policy and education which support breed health and continuous improvement.
Stakeholder Responses - Veterinary Organizations
There are numerous position statements from national and international organizations relative to brachycephalic health and welfare. Further resources will be added.
Health issues in Brachycephalic breeds/short-muzzled dogs is not a new concern... other resources
For DogWellNet.com articles see the Brachycephalic section and the International Actions/Breeding for Extremes sections.
The IDHW article from the 4th Dog Health Workshop - 29 June 2019 |VET RECORD - Volume 184, Issue 26 - Improving the health of pedigree dogs
Citation: Pegram, C.L., Bonnett, B.N., Skarp, H. et al. Moving from information and collaboration to action: report from the 4th international dog health workshop, Windsor in May 2019. Canine Genet Epidemiol 7, 4 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-020-00083-x
Action plans for management of extremes in dog breeds... BOAS, brachycephalic breeds, genetic testing, breed standards, involving stakeholders, and obesity topics are discussed in Extremes-Communication - Theme Outcomes document.
And from 2017 see: Moving from information and collaboration to action - report from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop - Paris in April 2017
Citation: O’Neill, D.G., Keijser, S.F.A., Hedhammar, Å. et al. Moving from information and collaboration to action: report from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, Paris in April 2017. Canine Genet Epidemiol 4, 16 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-017-0054-4
Internal: Moving from information and collaboration to action - report from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop - Paris in April 2017
At the 3rd IDHW – in Paris ‐ we started by saying we will no longer discuss IF there is a problem ‐
that is now accepted. Now the focus must be on what to do from each stakeholder group's perspective.
IDHWs 1-4 - Extremes Theme, A Summary rolls up the work and issues covered at the Dog Health Workshops
Kennel Clubs - Programs - a few examples
Brachycephalic projects by the Nordic Kennel Union's affiliated Kennel Clubs include project planning documents put together by the NKU's Working group and SKK. These documents outline health and welfare issues and offer proposed actions, definitions, parameters and procedures for evaluation of dogs.
Kennel Clubs throughout the world have been implementing new programs to support brachycephalic health and welfare. See Brenda Bonnett's Blog post from July 15, 2019 on the New Pug Fitness Test - Germany
See information on Finnish Kennel Club's Walk Test for Brachycephalic breeds.
See information on the French Kennel Club's Breath Test Protocol for Brachycephalic Breeds
Presumably fitness tests can reflect whether brachycephalic dogs are "Fit for Function", and as such these types of evaluations are important measures than can be used to select breeding dogs that are likely to produce serviceable offspring.
On June 2, 2020, The Kennel Club posted on Facebook that they are delighted that the FCI supports the Kennel Club/University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading Scheme - a collaboration which has been in the works since Fall of 2019. FCI Members and Contract Partners have been invited to contact the organization's health team for further discussion on licensing the Scheme for use in their countries. Details may follow at a future date. Visit BOAS Research Group pages on Cambridge's website or see The Kennel Club's University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading Scheme page to learn more about the scheme.
Questions and Moving Forward
Government regulation of the breeding of certain brachycephalic dog breeds is being enforced in the Netherlands now - the extreme and concerning popularity of brachycephalic breeds remains.
How to best achieve health and welfare for the majority of pedigree (and look-a-like-dogs)?
Who/which breeders will fill the demand? How can effective programs be instituted and monitored for meaningful outcomes?
Would the Netherlands agree to pausing its approach and being part of an international review of how to address the situation in brachycephalics?
How best to gain meaningful and collaborative actions from a wider group of stakeholders, including the dog show world, veterinary sphere, and beyond ?
Do the voices we are hearing reflect the views of the majority of those in the pedigree dog world, of owners, of veterinarians and other stakeholders? If not, how do we find and hear the masses?
- Coming soon -
Please consider the call to rational and collective actions - and your own role in the issue of brachycephalic dogs - in Dr. Bonnett's presentation
'Health and Welfare of Pedigree Dogs and all Dogs: Moving forward with collective actions and collaboration'