The Master Dog Breeders and Associates statement and action plan regarding Brachycephalic breeds.
The RSCPA and the AVA have launched a campaign to raise public awareness about the health issues associated with brachycephalic head shape in dogs. They are asking people to sign a petition to:
"call on the Australian National Kennel Council to acknowledge the suffering of pedigree dogs with exaggerated features. I ask that you commit to working with breeders, vets and animal welfare groups to prioritise good health and welfare above physical appearance in these breeds".
The Master Dog Breeders and Associates have always acknowledged the suffering of dogs with exaggerated features and we are committed to working with breeders and vets to prioritise good health and welfare above physical appearance of any breed. We have worked on strategies to assist in resolving those breed problems.
We have determined that there is no one single way to solve those problems. However, the MDBA believes that breeders can have the greatest impact in solving any breed problems.
Regardless of whether the ANKC responds the way the RSPCA or the AVA want them to or not, if the breeders don’t accept the responsibility that they have to select for good health over the way the dog looks and focus on what is best for the dogs and the HEALTH and welfare of the breed then the right to breed and own dogs with extremes will be eventually removed from them.
All breeders from all groups and philosophies have an obligation and a responsibility to ensure the dogs they are breeding do not have a high risk of suffering. Breeders must make decisions that will produce more appropriate welfare outcomes by selecting parents that have the potential to produce puppies that have increased health outcomes.
If, over a very short period of time, breeds with extreme features do not show measurable improvements and there are less dogs suffering due to their conformation then breeders cannot say they were not warned about the consequences if breeding dogs [and cats] with extremes in conformation, particularly extreme brachycephalic head types, are banned from being able to be bred.
To be clear, the MDBA view is that unless breeders stop selecting for such extremes it will be unlikely that there will be an increase in better welfare outcomes for these animals. If breeders continue on as has been done without change and with a continued focus on how a dog looks over the health of the dog they will continue to compromise the welfare of the dogs they breed.
We feel this is a completely unacceptable situation and must be actively dealt with by breeders now. If this means that breeders must breed away from current interpretations of the breed standards then they must do this.
MDBA Welfare Strategies.
1. To provide a method to collect and share accurate information regarding health for use with pedigree analysis and profiling.
One of the major differences between someone who breeds pedigreed purebred dogs and someone who breeds other dogs is their interest in more than one generation. Anyone can allow two dogs to mate and have cute puppies but to consistently breed predictable, healthy and long lived animals, generation after generation with great quality of life takes knowledge and skill. More importantly it primarily takes an understanding and dedication to what really is best for the dogs and the breed far into the future above any other goal.
Based on the current traditional pedigree registration it is very difficult if not impossible for a breeder who is looking at selecting a dog without problems which may impact on their next litter or future generations to know what the best choice is. The information which would let breeders know which ancestors and relatives have had surgery or had health problems is non-existent. Breeders cannot accurately profile a pedigree and select dogs which are best for the breed without this information.
Accurate data is required to develop accurate estimated breeding values for stud animals and if this information is limited the best result for breeds cannot occur.
The MDBA Breed Registry provides a service and a tool for our members that enables them to provide a pedigree registration that tracks health and temperament throughout the pedigree. It allows the MDBA to provide information to breeders regarding what future health tests and screening may be required for the wellbeing of dogs and the breed when or if we see patterns over generations. Decisions are always based on what is best for the dogs and not politics, third party agreements or financial considerations.
The health and welfare data collected from dog owners and breeders is added to the pedigree of the dog, its parents, grandparents and its siblings free of charge. This information is shown on the pedigree to enable people to know what health and temperament records are in the ancestry of the dog.
Into the future our breeders will see the information they need to profile a pedigree and select dogs which are best for the breed's health and welfare. As we do not only rely on breeders to provide this information we are better placed to have accurate health information on our pedigrees. Only capturing on a pedigree whether a dog is a champion does not help with health and welfare problems and much more information to produce good estimated breeding values when breeding for health and temperament is required.
2. Gathering information from Pet Owners.
All people who purchase a puppy from an MDBA breeder member receive free membership to the MDBA. This allows us to build relationships with the buyers where we encourage them to provide us with any information about their dog that can be added into our pedigree system. To add information to the pedigree system we verify the data free of charge as this helps in documenting the health and welfare of the breed and in the profiling of future pedigrees. It also enables us to see if we have a breeder who needs advice in how they are proceeding in their breeding program in how they are addressing welfare problems in their chosen breed to plan how to reduce or remove these problems.
We also gather information from people who have not purchased their puppies from MDBA members and we add this data into our system free of charge. We encourage breeders who are not our members to provide health and welfare data for our pedigree system to assist in bettering the health and welfare outcomes of all pedigree dogs.
3. Placing mandatory requirements on each breed before accepting litter registrations.
The MDBA currently have pedigree registration requirements in place that must be met before a breeder can register a litter of puppies.
Depending on the breed these can be: photos of the dogs, videos of the dog exercising, vet certificates, certified fitness tests, required health and genetic testing and scanning. Anyone who purchases a pup which has an MDBA pedigree will know that the parents of their puppy have had this kind of scrutiny.
The MDBA provides a wide range of courses and free educational material to help breeders consider the ethics of breeding dogs, how to interpret a breed standard, manage health and welfare issues and develop breeding protocols and programs which will not compromise the health of the dogs they breed now or into the future.
We have developed programs and strategies to influence breeders and the general public to select less severe forms of brachycephalic animals. This includes purchasing from breeders who demonstrate they are concerned and not desensitised and care about the welfare of the animals as their primary focus in their breeding programs.
5. Opening the stud book
The MDBA allows some non-registered and limited register dogs into the stud book via an application process if it is considered to be what is best for the dogs and the breed. This provides breeders the potential to breed animals with less health problems sooner than it does if they are restricted in using animals which are only on the MAIN register. Some MAIN register animals have been bred by breeders who have made common decisions in their breeding programs and many have bred to the current desired extreme in the show ring which can limit breeding choices within the breed’s gene pool.
6. Continuing Studies and Research.
The MDBA is a continuous learning organisation and keeps up to date on studies and findings that impact on the health and welfare of dogs.
We are currently looking at studies that show that minimum measurements and indexes of head shape can increase the health and welfare of dogs. Once we have assessed those studies we will introduce those measurements and indexes as a mandatory registration requirement for affected breeds
We are collating data on the fitness test and health test results of our members dogs to enable an overview of the current situation and to track improvements made by our breeder members.