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Brenda Bonnett

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About Brenda Bonnett

  • Rank
    Administrator

Profile Information

  • Region
    North America
  • Location
    Georgian Bluffs, Ontario, Canada
  • Country
    Canada
  • Current Affiliation
    International Partnership for Dogs, CEO
  • Position / Title
    CEO
  • Interests
    Dog Breeding
    Dog Health
    Education
    Research
    Legal/Regulatory Issues
    Kennel Clubs
    Human-Dog Interactions
  • Academic Credentials
    PhD
    Bachelors degree
    Veterinary degree (e.g. DVM)
  • Expertise/Proficiencies
    Dog Health/Veterinary Medicine
    Dog Breeding
    Welfare
    Education
    Research
    Human-Animal Interactions
    Statistics/Epidemiology
    Writing/Communication
  • Specific Breed(s) of Interest
    Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Breed Club Rep; Board Member or Breeding/ Health Committee member
    No
  • Attended 3rd IDHW in Paris
    Yes
  • Theme attended at 3rd IDHW in Paris
    IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs

Recent Profile Visitors

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  1. Thanks to VDH (the German Kennel Club) and our friend and collaborator, veterinarian Barbara Thiel, please see attached press release about their latest efforts to support brachycephalic health and welfare. They state that their goal is to identify "the most resilient dogs among the pug population in order to establish the healthiest possible pool of dogs for breeding". Pug fitness test Germany 2019.pdf The new effort in German exemplifies several important approaches: It has been developed collaboratively across various stakeholder groups including the VDH, academics, and veterinary organizations. The test is "available not only to dogs bred under VDH supervision, but to all pugs". The test is done under controlled, standardized and well-supervised conditions. And fantastically, it is being offered for free for two years courtesy of the German Society for the Support of Canine Research (GFK) . Congatulations to VDH and its partners for this excellent program and thanks for sharing the information with us. Great to see collaboration focused on dog well-being making a difference. Links at VDH (in German) Neuer Fitnesstest für Möpse GKF Flyer 2019 We have descriptions of fitness tests from other countries on DogWellNet.com, see for example: Sweden: Swedish Kennel Club: Making assessments of dogs' respiration - BSI (Video Link) https://dogwellnet.com/media/media/5-making-assessments-of-dogs-respiration-bsi/ Bullies, Pugs and Bulldogs – the current top runners Germany: IKFB: (Includes Video Link) https://dogwellnet.com/content/health-and-breeding/breed-specific-programs/breed-specific-breeding-strategies/breed-specific-programs-country/bullies-pugs-and-bulldogs-–-the-current-top-runners-r232/ Finnish walk test for brachycephalic breeds ready https://dogwellnet.com/blogs/entry/88-finnish-walk-test-for-brachycephalic-breeds-ready Scheme launched to improve health of French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs - The Kennel Club | Cambridge https://dogwellnet.com/content/hot-topics/brachycephalics/scheme-launched-to-improve-health-of-french-bulldogs-pugs-and-bulldogs-the-kennel-club-cambridge-r636/
  2. Thanks to our friend and collaborator Dr. Jerold Bell, veterinary practitioner, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Genetics at Tufts University, and Chair of the World Small Animal Veterinary Medical Association Hereditary Disease Committee, for sharing this link and video: I-Team: Are doggy DNA tests reliable, worth your money? Several journalists are taking this approach of testing one or a few dogs by sending material to several companies and on the basis of that determining relative quality of the genetic test provides GTPs). Wouldn't it be lovely if life were that simple! Raising awareness is a great first step, and this presentation, e.g. is simple and clear and worth watching, however, there is the need for further education of consumers. The message from the experts (Dr. Bell and another veterinarian) are also worth heeding. I will add my spin on their cautions, which include: Breed identification tests should be taken 'with a grain of salt' There is variation across companies. IPFD with our Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs and associated resources is working to help provide transparency and improve best practices in the industry. Breed testing is only one type of DNA test. Others include testing for existing or potential diseases, use in clinical diagnosis or for breeding decisions and more... so consumers should know what they are testing for and why before selecting tests and keep this in mind in selecting the GTP and interpreting the results. IPFD is working to provide tools to help consumers. Veterinarians - although challenged like all of us to keep up with this burgeoning field of genetic testing, are important to consult... they are especially good at putting DNA testing into the perspective of the big picture of health and wellness for pets. Genetic Testing is a key theme are the upcoming 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) being held in Old Windsor, England at the end of May 2019. Many stakeholders in dog health - kennel and breed clubs, owners, breeders, researchers, veterinarians, welfare groups are all represented at the IDHWs and focused on address of these challenges. See below for links to other resources on DogWellNet.com. Getting Started with Genetic Testing Choosing a Genetic Test Provider
  3. Our colleagues at Human Behaviour Change for Animals posted this on their Facebook page: "Fantastic work exploring the demand for rhino horn with the aim of creating campaigns with messaging that is more likely to work than current messaging. At HBCA we believe that it is vital that we don't make assumptions about why people do or don't do things and that we find out for ourselves so we enjoyed reading this article and the papers it links to." And directed us to: We asked people in Vietnam why they use rhino horn. Here’s what they said. (Image: Malaysia’s wildlife department seized 50 African rhino horns destined for Vietnam last year. EPA-EFE/FAZRY ISMAIL) As I read it I noticed parallels to challenges with human behaviour change in dogs. Words like: deeply held beliefs... status... and focus on personal wants and needs and not what consumers consider 'remote' issues. From the article: "Our findings shed light on why current campaigns against rhino horn purchases aren’t working. For example, they tend to highlight the plight of rhinos, suggest that rhino horn doesn’t have medicinal properties or emphasize the legal consequences of purchasing it. ... From our research it’s clear that people who buy rhino horn won’t be won over by any of these arguments." As the authors suggest... in order for education efforts to make a difference - actually change outcomes - "[campaigns] must be "better informed about the values associated with the use of rhino horn and that target the most prevalent types of uses." I would suggest that we can cross out rhino horn and write in any number of current controversial issues in the dog world and take this as good advice. To become 'better informed' we must listen to each other and not impose our perception of the important issues or compelling arguments onto others if we want to be effective. Many of us are thinking about these issues as we approach the 4th IDHW in Windsor, UK, later this month. See, e.g. Ian Seath's latest blog: We need to stop trying to change people’s minds!
  4. Love is Blind is a joint initiative of the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA: "We’re raising public awareness about the animal welfare problems caused by exaggerated physical features such as brachycephaly, short limbs and excessive skin wrinkling, and how these problems can be prevented." This campaign stresses many of the issues in international work being presented on DogWellNet.com and the work - building on previous Workshops - that will happen at the imminent 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW), in Windsor, UK, 30 May - 01 June, 2019. Including: The challenges of the brachycephalic breeds need to be understood by current AND future owners, breeders, veterinarians, kennel and breed clubs and other stakeholders, All these groups need to work together for the benefit of individual dogs and the breeds. The material suggests actions needed to be taken by each of these groups, including attention to sourcing of dogs, breeding, showing and more. Resources: See the Australian Love is Blind homepage for links to material, including several videos explaining the increased susceptibility of these dogs to heat and providing practical advice for owners. We have recently posted on Facebook a video entitled 'The Purebred Crisis' that describes this campaign, interviews veterinarians, owners and a breeder-judge. This video highlights the very different attitudes and perceptions for various individuals. It is this variation in opinion and approach to these dogs that complicates efforts to improve health and welfare in these breeds. I have discussed this in previous blogs. There is no question that people are attracted and deeply attached to these dogs that have, as the Aussies say, "squishy faces", and that they have delightful personalities. However, it is also clear that some owners do not realize the health and welfare challenges in these breeds. One of the themes at the 4th IDHW is effective communication, and we need to use all available tools and knowledge from experts in order to change human behaviour - to not only educate people but also to encourage collaboration. See more in Brenda's blogs, including: French Bulldog Health Seminar October 2018 Breeding: A Moral Choice? and: 4th International Dog Health Workshop Pre-Meeting Resources, for example: 4th IDHW Theme #5: Exaggerations and Extremes in Dog Conformation And this previous post on DogWellnet.com: Love is Blind - Dr Philip Moses
  5. Thanks to Kevin Colwill for his thoughtful piece entitled "Breeding: Is it a moral choice" in the Our Dogs Newspaper and thanks to both for permission to reproduce here. In this concise yet thought-provoking article Kevin discusses his thoughts on the question: When it comes to breeding pedigree dogs, how much is too much and how far is going too far? Some points worth considering: Issues in extreme breeds reflect on all breeders. Certainly, negative attention in the media moves quickly from one particular issue or breed and soon expands to include all pedigreed dogs; Beyond that, legislation meant to address specific problems/breeds may result in broad restrictions on breeding - and often undesirable and unfortunate (even for the dogs) consequences. Although he says "Each breed is its own unique little, or not so little, community" and implies that trying to make blanket decisions for the massive diversity of breeds presents challenges. However, he is also saying that many issues, especially ethical ones, should apply across all breeds and breeding and cannot be left to e.g. individual breed clubs. The International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) is founded on the principal that although individuals may operate within a limited community - local or national - dogs and dog breeding are a global phenomenon and many challenges must be considered and addressed with an international - and multi-disciplinary - perspective. "Breed clubs aren’t defending the time-honoured look of the breed. They’re defending a relatively modem interpretation of how their breed should look." Here he is debunking the claims of some that extreme dogs must look the way they do to preserve the history and traditional of the breed, when, in fact, many/most breeds were originally both more moderate and more diverse in appearance. His suggestion that "the KC must be much more hard¬nosed in confronting breed clubs and insisting on change." Many KCs and breed clubs, especially throughout Europe are confronting the issues head-on. However, there seems to be resistance from breeders, judges and others. Support from the broader community of breeders to implement change is needed. For many years, lecturing about breed-specific issues in dogs, even before the existence of IPFD, in discussions with the breeding community, veterinarians and others, it was becoming self-evident that if concerns were not addressed by the dog community, society would likely impose 'solutions' on them. This is coming to fruition in many areas, and society and the media wants to move at a much faster pace than many in the pedigreed dog world. I think Kevin Colwill's call to action by KCs, and all ethical breeders - not limited to those in specifically affected breeds - is timely and important to consider. PDF version - Breeding-is it a moral choice - PDF.pdf
  6. Why do people choose the dogs they do and how does that influence the health and welfare of dogs? How can what we know – and don’t know – about these complexities inform our efforts to educate people and safeguard the well-being of our canine companions? A new open access article is an excellent, comprehensive review of published evidence about factors influence dog acquisition: Acquiring a Pet Dog: A Review of Factors Affecting the Decision-Making of Prospective Dog Owners By Katrina E. Holland, Dogs Trust. Animals 2019, 9(4), 124 See Attached (internal): Acquiring a Pet Dog - A Review of Factors Affecting the Decision-Making of Prospective Dog Owners The ‘Simple Summary’: “Each year, many people around the world get a pet dog. With so many different types and breeds of dogs available, and a variety of sources from which to obtain a dog, the process of getting a dog can be complex. The decisions involved in this process are likely influenced by a variety of human- and dog-related factors and this review explores the factors that appear to be the most important.” The paper contains a wealth of information and extensive review of research on the topic. Key points: “Across the stages of dog acquisition there is potential for practices that may promote or compromise canine welfare.” “those working in the canine welfare sector, [must] refine their ability to identify and respond to trends in the behavior of potential dog owners.” “The most widely reported factors associated with acquisition behavior include: the dog’s physical appearance, behavior and health; social influences, such as trends in the popularity of certain breeds; demographic and socioeconomic factors; and the owner’s previous ownership experience.” “Overall, the research discussed in this paper highlights that complex interactions likely underpin the various factors that might influence prospective owners’ motivators and behaviors.” COMPLEX! That is the real take home message. Many in the dog world have been trying to get the message out to people about the risks for poor health and compromised welfare for certain breeds and similar concerns based on the sources of dogs. However, for those from welfare and veterinary backgrounds especially, it seems obvious that getting a healthy pet should be the number one priority. Much of the cited research makes it clear that – although the motivations are complex – health is not at the top of the list for many who are making the decision to get a dog. Even if people do ‘research’ or seek advice, it may not sway them from a deep-seated preference for a specific breed. This may be most marked for those with an affinity for brachycephalic breeds which may be based on their ‘infantile” appearance, the dogs’ strong human attachment. I have said in presentations and articles that if a consumer's strongest desire is for, e.g. a dog with a specific appearance, with specific behavior traits, maybe even related to the need for intense care-giving ... then stressing the importance of health may not be effective. I liken it to, e.g, telling a young person who is intent on acquiring a fast, loud, trendy car that they should, first and foremost, be looking for a vehicle that has low fuel consumption. The information being provided may be about a factor not even on their radar. These challenges and issues all underlie our focus at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) we are combining attention to addressing issues related to Extremes and Exaggerations (of conformation) with identifying communication strategies to promote human behavior change. At the 4th IDHW we also have a theme on Supply and Demand, which is integrally involved with/influenced by these same issues. Even if people do adequate research on ideal sources of acquisition for dogs (e.g. approved breeders) they may not actually access the better sources due to, if not impulse buying, at least a desire for a timely purchase. An additional concern is that consumers may be oblivious as to the actual source of their dog. Is the ‘breeder’ - selling online or kindly offering to meet you somewhere to save you trouble finding their kennel - a good, health-conscious breeder or a representative of a puppy mill? Have the dogs at shelters/rescues been purchased from auctions or puppy farms – with good intention, perhaps – but with what ramifications.? How do you determine a community-based, good quality rescue from what is essentially a commercial re-homing business? And again, source might not be high on that decision-making list for many consumers, perhaps more a matter of convenience. We know that the best-qualified and highest quality breeders cannot come close to supplying demand. In some countries, e.g. Sweden, rules and societal pressure for responsible dog ownership exist and are enforced, and welfare is very high. In general, people do not acquire pets if they cannot fulfill the criteria. Elsewhere? As there has been an increased acknowledgement of dogs being a ‘member of the family’ and ‘good for human health and welfare’, in many countries the pet industry, veterinarians, and even welfare groups have pushed for increased dog ownership. This may have been with good intentions, but an increase in demand, without a consideration of supply, has supported the increase in commercial breeding, questionable online marketing, illegal or uncontrolled trade/importation and even proliferation of sources which are seemingly impossible to regulate. COMPLEX! The author of the attached paper has done a good job covering all the possible stages of decision-making involved with acquiring a dog, but admits that even the extensive literature has limitations. There are so many factors – attitudes, social, physical – about the people – about the dogs, etc. – that no studies have been able to truly address the complete picture. Given the complexity, it seems clear that effective education and communication will never be easy, straightforward or ‘one-size fits all’. To effect human behavior change the messages must be targeted based on specific breeds (e.g. brachycephalic breed acquisition seems different than for other breeds), consumer characteristics (e.g. age, attitudes and other factors), and perhaps region, country and more. It is obvious that this will need collective and collaborative actions across many stakeholder groups and there will no doubt be specific actions identified at the 4th IDHW as we work together to enhance the health and welfare of dogs. Thanks to Katarina Holland and Dogs Trust for this contribution to the literature on this complex topic. Other resources: Article | Video Don't know or don't care? Presentation at Human Behaviour Change for Animals Conference 2016. PDF Don’t Know or Don’t Care_Bonnett_Sandoe_2016 HumanBehaviourChangeConference
  7. We invite all participants of the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) to present a poster to facilitate information transfer and foster networking opportunities. Posters will be displayed from the Thursday reception until Saturday lunch in the reception/coffee/public areas at the workshop venue.
  8. Following on from my blog on the Seminar for the FBDCA we are thrilled to find that the French Bulldog Club of England has shared their Breed Health and Conservation Plan (BHCP). Link here; PDF attached, below. These plans are being assembled by the health team at The Kennel Club, until recently spearheaded by Katy Evans (now the Jane H. Booker Chair in Canine Genetics at The Seeing Eye in the USA). Similar to coverage in my talk (video link here), the focus is very broad in the BHCP and makes clear the challenges ahead for this breed, internationally. The BHCP incorporates statistics from Sweden and Britain, from our IPFD Partners Agria Pet Insurance/Agria Djurförsäkring and VetCompass. Work like the BHCPs in the UK, Breed-specific Breeding Strategies from Sweden (RAS) and Finland (JTO) and others will be incorporated into our new development, the IPFD Health Strategy Database for Dogs (HSDD) coming soon. Then we will be able to provide an interactive resource where 'all' health information can be accessed to inform the great efforts being made by groups throughout the world. Congrats and thanks to The KC and the French Bulldog Club of England. breed_health_and_conservation_plan_-_french_bulldog_final__1_.pdf
  9. Ian Seath, a great friend and collaborator of IPFD has provided a clearly and thoughtfully profiled an article from our Partners at The Kennel Club in the UK in his post: NEARLY 20 YEARS OF DNA TESTING – WHAT CAN WE LEARN? Ian does a great job of summarizing and highlighting the material in this important paper and I will let you read his coverage, and, as he suggests, the original paper: "I don’t want to dwell on the detail of the research; you can read that for yourself, here: https://goo.gl/PiQmMF – I want to discuss how and why this paper might be important. The study covers the results of 8 DNA tests in 8 breeds for the period 2000 to 2017. 2 of the DNA tests applied to 2 breeds, resulting in 10 test+breed combinations. The key metric used to measure progress was the Mutation Frequency ...". In essence, for these tests in these breeds, the authors, Tom Lewis and Cathryn Mellersh, respected geneticists, go beyond the findings in specific dogs to calculate a broader impact on inheritance. The paper shows the tremendous potential for validated tests, used appropriately to positively impact the health of breeds. Ian's suggestions on how The KC could take these findings further by considering how to incorporate in registration and breeding strategies are on point. In his section on "Wider Implications?" Ian also highlights some of the cautions that must also be taken into consideration, and further, says: "There are over 700 inherited disorders and traits in dogs, of which around 300 have a genetically simple mode of inheritance and around 150 available DNA tests. This tells us that we should not rely on DNA testing to solve the “problem” of diseases in pedigree dogs." Building on this, and without detracting in any way from the research, its impact or Ian's excellent discussion, I want to stress further caution. Accepting that this is strong evidence that "DNA testing works!" we must be clear that this has been shown for these tests in these breeds and our enthusiasm must not expand to include all genetic testing, across the board, as being proven as impactful by this study. These are primarily simply inherited, very specific, well-characterized, but relatively rare conditions with well-validated tests. Certainly we are optimistic that there are now, and will be more, test-by-breed-by-condition combinations that will also support health strategies and breeding decisions. But it is extremely important to remember that only a small proportion of the conditions affecting dogs will fall into this category, even a small proportion of those for which genetic tests are or will be available. In terms of perspective, the IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing in Dogs (HGTD) database lists over 250 genetic tests marketed to over 400 breeds/varieties. So I echo Ian's recommendations that even as we take this as good news, we: look to researchers and breed advisors to continue their work to not only identify potentially useful tests but also to monitor them as they are used to determine their impact we continue to educate consumers and breeders on the complexities of genetic testing, as well as, the realistic benefits and limitations of genetic tests and testing and we promote and support balanced, 'Big Picture' development of breed-health strategies that consider not only genetic testing but all other available tools to help define the health and disease picture within breeds as well. The IPFD HGTD is in place to support genetic counselling; and the Expert Panel development to provide informed advice and the Health Strategies Database for Dogs including an interactive resource supporting that Big Picture view are coming soon to help all stakeholders do their best for dogs and their owners as we navigate the complexities of dog health and welfare. Kudos again to Drs. Lewis and Mellersh, and The KC for stellar work and to Ian Seath for his insightful commentary. This is progress – over 20 years. One can be optimistic that there will be many more advances in the next 20 years if we focus on both the details and the broad perspective. See also: New Research blog on the same article.
  10. IPFD has an ongoing role to report on international activities for health and welfare for dogs and to serve as an information hub. Issues with brachycephalic dogs continue to be at the forefront of health efforts by many stakeholders. Our partners at the Swedish Kennel Club have recently posted information on two initiatives involving 'Trubbnosar' (short nosed) breeds. 1. We previously posted information on the activities of the SKK in brachycephalic health , as well as, a new, collaborative research study on an inventory of dogs of several brachycephalic breeds and their health status. "The purpose of the inventory is to create a better picture of the respective breed's situation, genetic width and exterior variation. The hope is to find sufficient variation both exterior and genetic to ensure a healthy development of these breeds with the reduction of BOAS-related health problems." There is a notice on the SKK site of events where individuals are being invited to bring their dogs to participate. Great to see that this effort involves research, grass-root support, gives individual owners an evaluation of their dog and brings awareness to health and welfare issues in these breeds. 2. As of next year, the Swedish Kennel Club is expanding the rules concerning show dogs with health issues, especially breathing problems. "Dogs have been disqualified due to ill health since 1998 but now SKK will tighten up the penalties." In an effort to make sure affected dogs are not used in breeding programs, dogs disqualified from the show ring because of ill health may be excluded from "all forms of exhibition, exams, competitions and breeding". It seems the program will incorporates 'due process' that may involve additional review, veterinary examinations and the possibility of appeals. The hope is surely that breeders/owners will (eventually) be discouraged from bringing affected dogs into the ring and that, therefore, the dogs seen by the public and used in breeding will tend towards less extreme, healthy individuals. See: https://www.skk.se/sv/nyheter/2019/2/osunda-hundar-kan-stangas-av/ Note: my translator unfortunately gives me "Unhealthy dogs can be turned off" as the (literal) title of this article... but clearly meaning they can be 'eliminated' in some sense. We are working on an inventory of all of our brachycephalic resources... and we will continue to highlight efforts by all of our Partners.
  11. I was honored to address the French Bulldog Club of America at their National Specialty in Louisville, KY on October 31st, 2018. The invitation came from the Health & Genetics Committee of the French Bull Dog Club of America (FBDCA). This invitation was prompted by my presentation on the IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing initiative at the AKC-CHF Health Conference in St. Louis in August 2017. Jan Grebe, Calvin Dykes and the others on the Committee stressed that the "club is dedicated to Frenchie health, and the harmonization project will be an invaluable resource for breeders". The final presentation, following discussions with the committee, reflected various issues impacting the breed - and I complement the FBDCA on their interest in health and welfare of their breed and in both a national and international perspective. French Bulldogs are challenged by issues including alarming increase in numbers, health concerns related to the brachycephalic condition and scrutiny by veterinary and regulatory groups throughout the world. The FBDCA video-taped the presentation and we have made this available here. It was quite an experience to be in a hotel with about 300 French Bulldogs. The incredible commitment and attachment that Frenchie owners have for these dogs was very evident. I was excited to see information and videos on the increased interest in performance activities for this breed. What a great way to identify and highlight those dogs who are healthy and active. See other relevant resources on brachycephalic issues internationally and coverage of these issues from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) in our discussion paper. More international actions for health and welfare will undoubtedly be forthcoming following the 4th IDHW in May, in the UK.
  12. I have frequently heard people say that what they are doing is 'for the dogs'' when it might seem it is mainly for their own goals.- but the Swedish Kennel Club has posted an informative video about the Breed Specific Instructions that makes it clear that the only goal with this program is to promote the health and welfare of dogs. Renowned judges explain why they think their role in promoting health and welfare is so important. We have lots of information on the BSI and the Swedish Breed-Specific Breeding Strategies, in general (as well as, lists of breeds with breed specific strategies from several countries on DogWellNet.com and this video really puts it all in perspective. We all know that health and welfare of dogs is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the dog world and judges are no exception. The impact of dog shows and the awarding of wins to specific dogs has a big impact on the public perception of pedigree dogs, in general, and also of specific breeds. It is crucial that dogs that achieve success in these increasingly 'prime time', public displays epitomize the best of the best - not just in looks, but also in health. All organizations licensing dog judges insist on 'judges education' but the BSI program takes it a step further, insisting that judges take responsibility in only promoting dogs without physical manifestations of conditions/ conformations that may limit health and welfare. The BSI process is followed in all Scandinavian countries, as well as several other European countries. A key part of the BSI process is the completion of reports by the judges (discussed in the video); and here is a link to an example of a report required for German Shepherd Dogs by Rad van Beheer in The Netherlands. The Canadian Kennel Club instituted an observer program in 2017, but I haven't found full details on the goals of the program. The AKC has a Field Rep program and, although at the moment I do not think these North American programs have breed-specific requirements similar to the BSI, clearly there are structures in place that could facilitate such an approach. A striking comment in the video was that judges must be on the lookout for negative trends and help ensure that these do not progress. I am not a judge; I briefly showed dogs in the distant past; and I am often concerned by what I see at show events. I was recently at the National Specialty of the French Bulldog Club of America in Louisville, KY, USA, at the end of October 2018. It was an honor to talk to the club members who are concerned about health issues in this breed. However, I was confused by seeing many dogs being shown that clearly had no actual tails (maybe 2 coccyx vertebrae), clearly so in the eyes of this veterinarian, and described as such by the competitors as a recent trend. And yet, I was repeatedly assured that 'the standard specifies that a French Bulldog must have a tail'. Such a contradiction, such an extreme, would presumably not be allowed, under the BSI, especially when this is not a cosmetic change, but a structural one. It is particularly concerning given that we know that French Bulldogs have an increased risk for spinal abnormalities and a new paper suggests that selection for screw tails may have led to a syndrome of abnormalities in both English and French Bulldogs. Every one who has bred dogs knows that focus on one characteristic, especially going for extremes, can lead to occurrence of unforeseen consequences. Nothing happens in isolation with breeding and selection. Congrats to the Swedes for this video and I hope it will encourage more judges to take an approach like this - regardless of whether or not they are under a requirement to do so. Because our activities really should be 'for the dogs' sake'.
  13. Posted originally 26 July 2018; UPDATED 30 July 2018 Congratulations to the authors (Lisa Moses, Steve Niemi and Elinor Karlsson) for their commentary in Nature (and pdf, below). In “Pet genomics medicine runs wild” these authors have done a great job describing the myriad challenges related to genetic testing in pets. In fact, their concerns reflect those underpinning the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) initiative - the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD). The IPFD, together with an impressive team of Partners and Collaborators (national kennel clubs, animal industries, veterinary, academic, welfare and other organizations) and our Leadership Sponsor Genetic Test Providers (GTPs), is providing a practical and effective tool to support consumers, veterinarians and researchers. However, as we face these challenges, it is important to not lose sight of the phenomenal potential for genetic testing to support health, well-being and welfare in dogs, as well as aspects of human-dog interactions. Although the authors of the commentary justifiably call for this segment to have some controls, at the moment, there is no regulatory body that has the authority to impose standards on this burgeoning and unregulated industry - especially not on an international basis or in a timely fashion. Rather than waiting for consensus on controls, the IPFD (an independent, non-profit, registered in Sweden), together with our Partners, Collaborators and experts, as well as concerned GTPs, has created a platform that will provide the foundation to address many of the concerns raised in the Nature article.
  14. Health before looks -- Collaborative action is urgently needed to stop the practice of extreme breeding in dogs and cats This message was delivered to the European Parliament at an event organized by our Collaborating Partner the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) together with the EU Dog and Cat Alliance and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe(FVE). (Download PDF below.) This event was "aimed at ending the unnecessary suffering of dogs and cats bred with exaggerated features such as flat faces, narrowed nostrils, skin folds and protruding eyes" and is part of the ongoing work, especially throughout Europe, to address health and welfare in brachycephalic breeds. The speakers represented the veterinary, welfare and breed organization perspectives on the issue. It was great to see this international, multi-stakeholder approach, similar to that we have promoted through the IPFD International Dog Health Workshops (IDHWs) and reflected in the many resources on the brachycephalic isssue on DogWellNet.com. Kristin Prestrud (a veterinarian from another of our Partners, the Norwegian Kennel Club) put into perspective that although there are wide variations across dog breeds in form and function, there should be defined limits for extremes, so that selective breeding does not compromise health or welfare. The challenge, raised at our IDHWs is that those limits are not clear nor consistent across regions and cultures; we need research and collaborative work to define those limits. As Prestrud, explained, for pedigree dogs breeding happens according to written breed standards - however those are often open to interpretation and may vary widely across countries. "“We love that dogs look cute, that they have some particular look that we love. And so, short legs have got shorter, heavy bodies got heavier, long coats got longer, loose skin got looser, long ears got longer and wrinkles more extended. Not in all cases, not in all breeds, but in several breeds.” And when breeders select really strongly for some traits and restrict genetic input from outside, there is always the risk of reducing genetic variation." The British Veterinary Association’s encouragement of data reporting of conformation altering surgery (and caesareans) - by veterinarians with the consent of owners - was described. Similar registers are underway in, e.g. Scandinavian countries. However, there are challenges to compliance with these programs and only time will tell whether they achieve the goal of determining the prevalence of dogs that need such surgery. Speakers also highlighted the role of veterinarians in this issue, saying, “we must be aware that there are a lot of vets who earn their money by doing this very expensive surgery." I was encouraged to see that the discussion by the politicians did not focus simply on legislation of breeding as being the best solution. They discussed the need to control the marketing of unregistered puppies and kittens, “the majority of which are on the internet and are totally without control” . It was estimated that over half of puppies In the Netherlands come from unsupervised sources and it may be as high as 90% for some breeds, e.g. the French Bulldog. One of the members of parliament suggested that "efforts would be better focused on reducing demand by making extreme breed animals unfashionable. “We have to make unhealthy bad conformation unfashionable, it has to stop.”" And, so, as has been discussed in much of our work, we come back to this fact: the challenges are about the people, more than the dogs, and successfully improving health and welfare of dogs needs an approach that addresses human-animal interactions, human attitudes and actions, and using techniques of education that are likely to result in human behaviour change. Addressing sourcing of dogs and communication for change will be two themes at the upcoming 4th IPFD IDHW in Old Windsor, UK, May 30-June 1 2019. Congratulations to FECAVA and their co-organizers for an important event and to the European Parliament for taking an interest in the health and welfare of dogs. Health before looks Collaborative action is urgently needed to stop the practice of extreme breeding in dogs and cats Download: European Parliament Event article by Parliament Magazine - 7-2018
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