Crufts 2010 Back on TV But Still Playing Host to Unhealthy Dogs

Channel 4’s alternative broadcasting outlet, More4 is home to some genuinely brilliant shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show, The West Wing, The Sopranos and some incredible documentaries. It also has its fair share of tosh (Sex Change Hospital, Ramsay’s Kitchen Swear-a-Thon) and doesn’t appear afraid to throw the odd freakshow at its liberally minded viewers. In 2010, More4 welcomes Crufts to its schedules. The all new, health conscious Crufts. Oh. Hang on a minute…..

Just take a little looky at a WINNING dog from the Leeds Championship dog show held on July 26

neo-winner

So – for those who don’t follow or necessarily understand dog shows – the dog above is now qualified and will presumably exhibit at Crufts.

For those who may be blind, the dog above has so many heavy folds of skin weighing its own face down it would be hard to imagine how that would feel. To try and imagine it, get some bulldog clips and attach some weights to them – clip them on to your face in various parts, just enough that your skin becomes loose and gravitates south. Now, leave those clips in place oohh, let’s say, forever. Yes, leave them in place, pulling your skin from your face – until you die. That ought to give some degree of understanding.

DFS Crufts 2010 (that’s DFS the furniture store, it doesn’t stand for Delightful Floppy Skin, just in case you were wondering) has received the backing of the British Veterinary Association president, Nicky Paull.

K9 Magazine asked Mrs Paull what she thought about the ‘winning’ Neopolitan Mastiff. She told us:

It is such issues that we need to keep in the public domain – not just for those who opt to read dog magazines.

We have to continue to drive changes to the breed standards to make such extremes no longer acceptable and these issues need to be discussed openly. It is a dilemma whether to accept such breeds into Crufts but, if excluded, then the breeding will continue outside of the current controls that exist (even if not strong enough) by keeping them within the Kennel Club.

Until we see legislative changes to better control extreme conformation I believe we have to work within the breed societies to drive forward improvements but also to make any extremes unacceptable in the eye of the public. I hope that the More 4 programme will be able to use examples such as this Neapolitan Mastiff to discuss breed standards with independent expert veterinary comment on the difficulties the animal faces.

In traditional K9 Magazine style, let’s have a look at this statement bit by bit, shall we?

It is such issues that we need to keep in the public domain – not just for those who opt to read dog magazines.

What “issues” are we talking about here?

This is a dog that was exhibited at a Kennel Club endorsed dog show and won! A Kennel Club approved judge saw this dog and said “Perfect! You should go to Crufts.”

It is only being covered in a dog magazine because a concerned person in attendance at said dog show could see what most normal-thinking people could, that this is a dog with problems (and a rosette). The “issues” being covered by a dog magazine, in this case, are the fact that weeks earlier the BVA gave its backing to Crufts and dogs like this will be exhibited there. That’s the issue. But yes, absolutely the public DO deserve to see this sort of thing – but my, what strange logic. Giving endorsement to Crufts on TV in order that the public be exposed to the full horrors of what competitive dog showing can produce, is that what’s being said here? That would be like the British Medical Council advocating people watch televised boxing in order to get a full picture on the dangers of brain damage caused by receiving blows to the head!

We have to continue to drive changes to the breed standards to make such extremes no longer acceptable and these issues need to be discussed openly. It is a dilemma whether to accept such breeds into Crufts but, if excluded, then the breeding will continue outside of the current controls that exist (even if not strong enough) by keeping them within the Kennel Club.

Yes, driving change is important. So, it begs the question, how does it help to ‘drive change’ if the BVA gives its full backing for Crufts to return to the TV when dogs like this are still winning? How does rewarding someone for doing the same things over and over ‘drive change’?

We have been told already that extremes would be ruled out and yet look, here we are – about to see the very definition of an ‘extreme’ dog at DFS Crufts 2010. It’s absolutely unacceptable for people to be breeding dogs like this outside of the controls of the Kennel Club so, instead, people breed them INSIDE the controls of the Kennel Club and get rewarded with a 1st place. Come on! We’re not talking about a dog who got filtered out of the system by the Kennel Club’s health controls, we’re talking about a dog who was REWARDED by them. This dog WON, remember.

One can argue about the state of health within the Neopolitan Mastiff – it is one of the breeds on the ‘at risk’ register. But if we’re trying to say that THIS is the BEST of them then, boy, this is a breed in more trouble than one could possibly imagine. The facts are, there are far, far less extreme examples of this breed – but THIS ONE WON. This is the one who’s going to Crufts. This is the one who a judge decided was the ‘best’. Extremes are still WINNING. This isn’t about whether to accept certain breeds in to Crufts or not, this about PROVING that change is an easy, glib word to throw about but real change only happens when there is a collective will from within. Rewarding extremes and going along just as we were, that’s not change and it sure isn’t encouraging change. You can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.

Until we see legislative changes to better control extreme conformation I believe we have to work within the breed societies to drive forward improvements but also to make any extremes unacceptable in the eye of the public.

Weak.

Legislation against breeding disabled dogs? What, legislation like the European Convention For the Protection of Pet Animals? Legislation that the Kennel Club doesn’t want us to accept? Legislation like that?

How do we make extremes unacceptable in the eyes of the public when organisations like the BVA give Crufts their backing to be televised when extremes like this dog are still WINNING?

Let’s say it again, this dog was given first place at a Kennel Club show by a Kennel Club judge.

Blaming a lack of legislation for what’s happened here is incredibly poor. How about this for an idea instead: Rather than blame a lack of legislation for people breeding extremely exaggerated dogs which then go on to be rewarded with 1st places at Kennel Club dog shows, why don’t those dogs not be given 1st place at dog shows?  Why don’t those dogs not then go on to appear at the televised Crufts? Why don’t judges, Kennel Club approved judges, stop rewarding extremes? How about that?

A lack of legislation didn’t cause this. A system which – and always has – encouraged and rewarded extreme examples of dog breeds caused this. To think otherwise is naive in the extreme.

I hope that the More 4 programme will be able to use examples such as this Neapolitan Mastiff to discuss breed standards with independent expert veterinary comment on the difficulties the animal faces.

So do I Nicky. So do I.

But, fortunately for me, if and when – as I strongly suspect – it doesn’t happen, and we DON’T get an independent veterinary expert explaining to the public what a scandal it is that a dog like this is allowed to win and detailing the pain and misery that breeding dogs like this causes and how the incentive of winning dog shows remains THE strongest driver in why dogs like the Neopolitan Mastiff have ended up like this, at least I won’t feel bad for giving the televising of such an event my backing. See, for me, I would have waited to see exactly how the new, improved Crufts deals with cases like this rather than give support to an event which is – it’s clear to see – still playing host to dogs who are very, very badly done by. Because, let’s remind ourselves of this, this dog is not a dog who has been caught by this all-new, health conscious Kennel Club filtering system – no, this dog won. It won.

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