Canine Alliance 10 Point Action Plan for ABS
Members of the Canine Alliance travelled from around the country to Henley-in-Arden last night (15th January 2014) where they discussed the latest developments about the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme, as well as making suggestions as to how the Scheme could and should be improved.
New Canine Alliance Chairman, Howard Ogden, opened the meeting and read out a note that had been received from Dr Bruce Cattanach, the respected geneticist, giving his thoughts to us about the shortcomings of the Assured Breeder Scheme (this will be published on the CA website at a later date). Like many, Dr Cattenach was concerned that the ABS, rather than rewarding excellence in practice, actually does the very opposite. “There was a feeling”, said Mr Ogden, “that the ABS has, like another KC fiasco not too long ago, been tinkered with as a result of pressure from outside rather than concentrating on the key issues. This is something that we hope to address tonight”.
Members present expressed their very serious concern in the manner in which the changes to the ABS scheme had been announced and at the very short notice that was given. Mike Gadsby did note that the KC’s Bill Lambert, had declined the CA invitation to speak due to short notice, but this was several times more notice than had been given to ABS members about the changes to the scheme!
One concern that was raised from the floor was that the integrity of ABS members was now being questioned, given that they could no longer register puppies (as puppies bred under the scheme) that were ready to go to their new homes until such time as the KC chose to inspect their premises and release the puppies’ paperwork. One member noted that nothing had changed in their set up between December and January, and yet in spite of payments into the ABS from their time as a founder member, they could no longer enjoy the benefits until an Inspection visit was made at a time that was “convenient for the inspectors”. Mr Ogden suggested that the Kennel Club was in a contractual arrangement with members of the scheme and that the Kennel Club should therefore honour their legal obligations in that regard.
Another member raised the issue of puppy farmers, something that has long caused the Canine Alliance concern and which it has raised with the Kennel Club on several occasions (as, indeed, have individual CA members). The meeting was reminded of a document produced by the Kennel Club to promote the ABS scheme when it was originally launched, with a graphic emblazoned with the wording “RIP Puppy Farms”. Far from it, the ABS was seen by many to be endorsing puppy farms, not closing them. Whilst it was recognised that there is always a difficulty in defining what a puppy farmer is, the impression has been given that the KC cares more about registration fee income than it does in dealing with this issue. Whenever reports have been sent to the KC about alleged puppy farming, said one member, it just seems to get pushed to one side and no further action taken. That goes right back to the central point of Dr Cattanach’s argument, with our governing body still accepting acknowledged commercial breeders whose husbandry is questionable alongside long established and respected breeders who take very seriously health testing and general management. The feeling that the ABS has actually legitimised puppy farming will take some considerable work to overcome.
The meeting was reminded that shortly after the formation of the Canine Alliance, we went to the KC with the suggestion that they should only register puppies bred from two parents that had been checked by a veterinary surgeon and which were fundamentally healthy, in a condition that rendered them suitable for breeding. That suggestion was not acted on, much to our regret.
It was also felt that the KC had made the ABS into a “one size fits all” scheme and had not given thought to the hobby breeder who only have one or two litters a year with puppies reared in the home and therefore being well socialised. This could be remedied by a two tier ABS giving the large commercial breeder who has kennel staff, a different criteria to the majority of hobby breeders who only breed occasionally. Those present made it quite clear that contrary to Mr Lambert’s assertion that ABS breeders were leaving due to the price hike, it was in fact due to not wanting to be part of a scheme where breeding healthy puppies was less important than paperwork being uniformly correct.
Meanwhile, a Bullmastiff breeder from the audience cited her breed as one which had acknowledged health problems and yet still there were no KC recommended health tests.
Victoria Woods, who had recently been appointed to the Canine Alliance board, and who is completing her veterinary training, pointed out that the KC is content to register puppies from parents who have been through breed specific health tests, even when the results have been less than ideal. Maureen Taylor said that this was something that needed further examination given the implications that it could have for numerically small breeds with correspondingly small gene pools. Comments from the membership will be welcome.
The general feeling of the meeting was that the KC was in danger of misleading the general public in promoting the ABS as a ‘guarantee’ of quality puppies, when no such guarantee can be given on the present basis. The scheme needs to have a complete revamp if it is to keep the country’s most responsible breeders as members.
Some members told the meeting of their dissatisfaction with the inspections they had experienced before being ‘assured’, whilst one member present said that their experiences had been entirely favourable.
There then followed a lengthy discussion as to how the ABS could be improved in a practical and acceptable manner.
One observation that was raised from experienced Labrador breeders was that the Kennel Club could do much more to inform the public about health issues in breeds by using plain English so that they are better equipped when they come to buy a puppy. This was met with universal approval from all those present. It was also clear that the KC should be made aware of the overwhelming desire that the scheme should be more about health and welfare of breeding stock, rather than a “tick box, paper work” exercise.
The meeting came up with a 10 Point Action Plan for the Kennel Club to consider, based around a scheme that does what it is supposed to do and ASSURES the puppy purchasers that every step possible has been taken to ensure the stock is healthy:
- More emphasis to be placed on the health of the breeding stock – suggestions for the inspectors to ask more rigorous questions regarding breeding plans etc
- That the MyKC web pages add a function to allow breeders to identify which dogs they actually own, which are spayed or going to be bred from and so on
- The addition of a puppy buyer based accolade – to be based on realistic feedback provided by the purchasers regarding their experience
- KC to ensure a list of requirements on the day is clear and available for ABS members prior to inspection
- Public education needs to improve – the KC need to ensure that the public have a far better understanding of the health issues and testing that is undertaken by responsible breeders
- The KC must ensure that relevant breed tests are made mandatory – some breeds currently have no recommended or mandatory tests in place and this could be discussed with, for example, the breed clubs and other interested parties
- Consider allowing ABS members to withhold registrations if they are implementing a spay/neuter endorsement/requirement as part of their sales contract. Registrations to be withheld until presented with the appropriate certification that this has been carried out
- The KC require all breeding bitches and stud dogs – to have been micro-chipped/tattooed – to undergo a basic/rudimentary health test with a vet prior to being bred from. This will ensure that those breeds with no recommended health tests do, at the very least, meet with a demonstrable level of health prior to breeding
- Placing a clause in the registration information given to new puppy owners- advising them to contact the KC if they experience a problem – this would complement the current process of inspections.
- That the KC takes steps to properly recognise foreign health test results and to include these on the website/registration certificates
The Canine Alliance will be writing to the Kennel Club with these proposals and will be asking to meet up to discuss these in more depth and, in the meantime, we will be looking at a series of regional meetings.
Earlier in the day, members of the Canine Alliance Board met and, in addition to Howard Ogden being appointed Chair, Mel Sharples was appointed Secretary and Ron Stewart, Treasurer. Eileen Peers has taken on the responsibility of Membership Secretary, whilst Tony Taylor is now Vice Chair. Marita Rodgers (Montravia) has also joined the board.