Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Kennel Club's Scheme

The Kennel Club has a scheme, and they want you to know about it.

I found out about this scheme while cruising The U.K. Kennel Club web site and clicking on the ad/link for their "Puppy Sales Register."

Here's what it says:

"Buyers of puppies from Accredited Breeders will gain the assurance that the breeder has undertaken to follow basic good practice as laid out by the scheme."

The scheme? Now there's truth in advertising!

So what is "the scheme"?

Well, let's start with what it is NOT. While the above paragraph offers "assurance," be forewarned that there is no insurance that a Kennel Club dog will not be an expensive genetic nightmare for you and your family.

As this bold faced warning on The Kennel Club web site notes:

"The Kennel Club makes no warranty as to the quality or fitness of any puppies offered for sale and can accept no responsibility for any transaction between purchaser and vendor arising from publication of the listing."

So "the scheme" is not an assurance of quality. They make no warranty and accept no responsibility. Good luck, and you're on your own. Don't let us know if it doesn't work out.

So then, what is "the scheme" all about?

Well, apparently, "the scheme" is all about overcoming the information people are hearing about the problems associated with Kennel Club dogs. As The Kennel Club web site notes:

"Some canine commentators have written and filmed recently with regard to the disadvantages of pedigree dog ownership, including expense and the possible health problems that owners may inherit when they take on a pedigree puppy."

Good God! These people have passed on information.

And they have even stooped to FILMING.

The bastards! Come on people, who are you going to believe, the Kennel Club, or your lying eyes?

Never mind that the problems associated with inbreeding are so well-known that they are warned about in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 27:22).

Never mind that genetic problems foisted on dogs by the Kennel Club's closed registry system are so legion they serve as a genetic gold mine for dysfunction and disease. As William Saletan noted in the Slate Magazine of Dec. 14, 2005:

"The reason we targeted the dog genome for decoding is that it's useful for genetic research. The reason it's useful for genetic research is that dogs are neatly divided into breeds, each of which is plagued by specific diseases. And the reason dogs are divided into diseased breeds is that we made them that way. Dogs are the world's longest self-serving, ecologically reckless genetic experiment, perpetrated by the world's first genetically engineering species: us. . . .

"In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn't run, noses so flat they couldn't breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn't function in society. Even our best intentions backfired. Nature invented sexual reproduction to diversify gene pools and dilute bad variants. By forcing dogs into incest (which we ban among humans, in part for biological reasons), we defied nature. We concentrated each bad gene in a breed, magnifying its damage: epilepsy for springer spaniels, diabetes for Samoyeds, bone cancer for Rottweilers. That's why the dog genome is so nifty: We can find disease genes just by comparing one breed's DNA to another's."

Does The Kennel Club admit they have anything to do with the genetic problems within their own closed registry system?

Of course not! Instead, they say:

"Many breeds benefit from health screening schemes ... There is huge potential for wiping out diseases in pedigree dogs, and within a matter of a few generations of rigorous DNA testing and selection of appropriate breeding mates, faulty genes can be removed from the breed's gene pool. This benefit simply does not exist in the cross breed or mongrel population, primarily due to the fact that the dog’s parentage is unknown, while it is a myth that these types are healthier than their pedigree cousins and do not suffer from inherited problems."

This is, of course, complete nonsense, on a par with the Vietnam-era mantra, "We must burn down the village to save it." In fact, no one has ever said that non-pedigree dogs do not have genetic disorders. What is being said is that non-pedigree dogs are far less likely to have specific genetic disorders, and that the chance of getting a specific (and often quite serious) genetic problem is directly linked to the narrowness of a gene pool.

And so what is the Kennel Club's answer to the very real problems associated with having too narrow a gene pool in the world of show-bred dogs?

It's narrowing the gene pool even further through a program of expensive genetic testing followed by a program of culling, exclusion and sterlization.

Their genius idea is that if they just keep cutting away at the rotten wood, they'll eventually get a solid boat.

Or not. Maybe they'll just end up in the water.

You see, the problem is not a handful of "bad dogs" with "defective" genes; it's the closed registry system itself. No mattter how "good" a gene pool is, if it is very narrow and inbreeding, it will produce defective stock, and culling an already narrow gene pool will only exacerbate the underlying problem. You may get rid of one problem, such as catacts, by culling a narrow gene pool, but another defect will soon crop up due to the doubling down of the invisible recessive genetic load. An eye disease may be scrubbed out, but a liver disease will crop up. Keep testing and culling, and a breed's genetic base will get narrower and narrower, and more problems (albeit different ones) will pop up and express themselves in an increasingly-inbred population of animals.

Or to put it simply: There is a reason that Mother Nature outcrosses animals, and there is a reason the Law of the Land affirmatively prevents you from marrying your sister, and there is a reason that Zoo's all over the world are shipping animals from one country and continent to another in order to increase genetic variability.

But of course, the Kennel Club does not want you to think clearly on this matter, do they?

Above all, they do not want you to consider that specific genetic disorders are being bred for in Kennel Club dogs.

  • Ignore the Dachshund, the Basset Hound and the Skye Terrier, which suffer from achondroplasia (dwarfism) which is associated with heart, back and patella problems.

  • Ignore the English Bull dog, the Lhaso Apso, the Pekingese, the French Bulldog, the Pug, the Boston Terrier, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which suffer from brachycephalic syndrome and have such difficulty breathing that they often have sudden deaths which are written off as "heart attacks."

  • Ignore the dogs bred for merle and piebald coats which are often deaf -- dogs like Dalmatians and Harlequin Great Danes.

  • Ignore dogs like the Boston terrier and the Bulldog whose heads are now so large they must be born Caesarean-section.

How is the Kennel Club going to breed out these genetic problems when in most cases these genetic problems are written into the Kennel Club standards for these dogs?

The Kennel Club does not want you to think about that.

Nor do they want you to focus too much attention on all the breeds that are wracked by hip dysplasia, skin diseases, cataracts, liver failure, von Willebrand’s Disease, and the rest.

Never mind that there is now a veritable online catalog of breed-specific diseases in which you can "pick a breed, any breed".

Above all, gloss over that little disclaimer in which The Kennel Club specifically warns you that buying a dog from a kennel that is enrolled in their "Puppy Sales Register" does not ensure that you will get a healthy dog.

Instead, focus on "the scheme."

So what is "the scheme"? Why should anyone buy a Kennel Club dog? Well, to their credit, they are pretty straight up about it:

"[Buying a Kennel Club registered dogs] ensures that money is being put back into the canine world and enables the Kennel Club to run many schemes for the good of dogs and also be the voice for dogs on behalf of all their registered owners."

In other words, you should buy a Kennel Club dog so that the Kennel Club can perpetuate itself and the closed registry system that is wrecking dogs.

That's the scheme! And you are being invited to participate.

Oh, and good news -- the Pug has "Gone Top 20" thanks to rising breed popularity.

Never mind the atopy, the Brachycephalic syndrome, or the Demodicosis.

Let's not mention Entropion, Exposure keratopathy syndrome, Fold dermatitis, Hemivertebra, Pug encephalitis, or Sick sinus syndrome.

The slightly undershot jaw is supposed to be how they look.

And the snorting? That's normal too.

Woo-hoo, the Pug has gone Top 20. This is a dog that's part of "The Scheme!"



Gina Spadafori said...

Well, now, Patrick, I'm sure you know that "scheme" just means "plan" in U.K. English.

Now, for a bit of a laugh, check out the Onion's "news story" about the recall of 2007 pugs

Anonymous said...

The Pug is also second in incidence of hip dysplasia(62.6% dysplastic, 0.0% excellent) according to the OFA. The Bulldog is in first place.
I'd be for mandatory spay/neuter for Pugs and Bulldogs; those who breed and sell them are little better than dogfighters.

Christopher Landauer said...

All true. One question though, do you know of ANY dog group, especially a registry or breed enthusiast group that isn't narrowing the gene pool and inbreeding up the wazoo?

Having an open registry is all well and good, but it seems to me that once people get around to giving a new breed a name and getting it recognized by a registry, most of the outcrossing between breeds is already long done and there's a small gene pool of "true breeding" dogs.

The only ones that come to mind are the designer dog cross people, and really, how many of them are doing "hybrids" in a responsible manner?

I'm not letting the AKC off the hook, I'm even putting the finishing touches on an AKC vs. ABCA blog post that touches on this issue (shameless plug to get you to read my blog).

But it's worth noting that in the Border Collie world, the worst genetic sin that has been perpetrated against the breed has not come from the show world, but from the trialling world. And it was done with the best of intentions.

The must have sire of the 70s was Wiston Cap, a border collie celebrity on the trial field if there ever was one. He reached a critical mass popularity in the gene pool and his genes are now becoming MORE prevalent after his death due to rampant inbreeding to recreate the next star trialling dog.

There's no health requirement or proviso against inbreeding in the ABCA, the only health requirements are for imported dogs from the UK (and even then not on the most devastating of diseases) and eye tests on the handful of dogs that reach the finals at the national trial.

And as of now, it seems that the AKC is going to leave the books open indefinitely on the border collie. Not that this can't change on a whim or is driven by the small market share the AKC has over the breed (2k vs. 20k dogs per year), nor is it any replacement for a Register on Merit program. In theory.

But how good is a ROM program, really? It's not very influential after the founding of a breed. There are around 10 BC dogs ROM'd per year in Britain, and it's likely that these are not fresh blood. But even assuming that they are, and assuming for maximum genetic effect's sake that every dog since the first two years of the ISDS stud books were from the same "Fresh" parentage, ALL of the ROMd dogs put together would only have a 0.16% influence on the breed, whereas two popular sires have an average of 13.45% and 17.11%.

Blame the AKC all you want, but it seems to me that the Registry game across the board is one of pandering to the high volume breeders and the fetishists who think inbreeding and over using popular sires are pro-tools.

PBurns said...

Yes, the Brits use "the scheme" to mean "the plan" but it doesn't change the point. I put "the scheme" in quotes because it's the word they use AND it has an appropriate double meaning in this context. The Plan of The Kennel Club, if you prefer, is one based on a closed registry. It does not include a prohibition on high (or rising) COI numbers. Some working dog registries do -- the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is one of them.

A COI is a coefficient of inbreeding. It's a complex equation (now made simple with computers), but it is a pretty sound predictor of performance, and it does not negate a genetic bottle neck in the past. For example, though all thorughbred race horses can be traced back to only 3 foundation sires, if you are betting horses at the track (ask Gina, from what I understand) you want a LOW COI. If the number is higher than 5, you are an idiot to place a bet. The higher a COI, the less chance a horse will be in the money.

The same can be said, to some degree, about dogs. It is claimed, for example, that all border collies can be traced back to Old Hemp. This is certainly a lie, but it would not matter if it were not, since Old Hemp was crossed with something else quite a lot, wasn't it? One dog does not a breed make. At this point, old Hemp's bloodline has been cut and sliced down over the last 130 years that probably not one atom of him exists in any dog alive. As for the various Cap dogs -- Wiston Cap, Wilson's Cap and Winston's Cap -- the gene pool behind these dogs was quite varied, and they were crossed into varied gene pools too. The result was a pretty low COI among the true working border collies (which are not necessarily represented by show dogs that also trial). As Don McCaig notes, "An English solicitor deliberately bred Wiston Cap's sons to Cap's daughters until he created a pup with '86% Wiston Cap Blood.' The pup did look like the old man, but, of course, he never amounted to much, and I shudder to think how many deformed pups were produced by those matings." Bingo!

The pug links are great -- thanks for those!!


Steve Bodio said...

With salukis there is at least a chance-- the Society for the Preservation of the Desert Bred Saluki allows critiqued individuals from countries of origin ("COO's") to be brought in, slowly. TOO slowly, and AKC types resist but my Kazakh dogs and some Russian and Kurdish dogs are in the pipeline. And most of these people course and I hunt, so they get tested!

Patrick, I'll link.

Anonymous said...

Quick comment - in terms of actual USE within closed/semi-closed gene pools, DNA carrier tests are often used to improve the ability to maintain breedwide genetic diversity.

Essentially, for recessive disorders, if you have a DNA test, you can avoid producing affecteds without excluding ANY dog from the gene pool. All you have to do is follow the mantra - "at least one tested clear parent."

You can breed any dog - clears, carriers, or even affecteds - and never produce an affected pup as long as one parent is clear.

I don't see how, if reasonably sensibly used (note caveat), these tests would reduce genetic diversity. In fact, when our test rolled out, the ability to maintain the existing genetic diversity in our gene pool while still avoiding affecteds was, at least to me, its major advantage.

Keep in mind, gene frequencies don't get high enough to be major issues solely from inbreeding. Inbreeding increases your chance of seeing what's there - a higher defect rate for any given gene frequency - but it doesn't by itself shift the frequency of the defect in the gene pool.

You get a high frequency of a defect from from uneven selection, typically from overuse of a popular sire or from overconcentration breedwide on a successful bloodline. Very "successful" bloodlines or stud dogs, with the whole breed zooming in, used to be considered a sign of success.

In our breed, we have reopened the stud book once and are discussing opening it again - and I'd go so far as to characterize myself as a diversity breeder - but I, and most other breeders I know, still would like to avoid known issues. I do think the DNA tests are a VERY useful tool for diversity efforts.

Interestingly, with a DNA test, both the rate of affecteds and the gene frequency were much lower than previously estimated, quite possibly due in part to the previous stud book opening in 1990.

That is, BTW, a second AKC breed (in addition to Salukis) that has opened the stud book and indicated interest in doing so again, also a primitive breed. In Basenjis, it's particularly notable as the dogs admitted are without known pedigree.


Christopher Landauer said...

Re: Lisa :

"Inbreeding increases your chance of seeing what's there - a higher defect rate for any given gene frequency - but it doesn't by itself shift the frequency of the defect in the gene pool."

Given that you can't effect the entire "gene pool" you can just effect the produced puppies, yes, popular sires spread their (disease) genes far and wide.

But inbreeding does shift the frequency of the defect in the gene pool. Say you have a first generation gene mutation, i.e. it happened in this dog. The only way for this new mutant gene to ever be expressed is either (1) inbreeding on his line, or (2) the mutation occurs naturally again in an animal that is bred to this line.

If the mutation is 1 in a Million, the odds of 2 are zilch. But if you inbreed sire to daughter, the odds are 25% clear 50% carrier 25% affected. That's a lot of gene magnification that would still be 1/1,000,000 if not for inbreeding. Now, that gene is in 3 out of 4.

By itself, the popular sire isn't a problem if you don't then inbreed his offspring.

And this is all just for disease. What about "healthy" genes that might prove less robust in the future. Dogs are already one of the most homozygous species. They have very little diversity in alleles to start with. Inbreeding just cuts down on what diversity they do have left.

That scary 1/1,000,000 to 3/4 in one breeding... gets even worse when you consider that for MOST of their genes, dogs are homozygous meaning that it's not a 50% chance of passing on the bad one, it's 100%.

For a species that naturally has 2 copies of each gene, inbreeding and breeding like-to-like excessively literally cuts the gene pool in half because both alleles are often the same.

Laymen call this "breeding true"... it's not a clone, it's worse. Instead of recreating a full copy, you just send the exact same half of the genes, doubled up, every time you mate.

PBurns said...


If you go back and read the original quote from The Kennel Club, they say they are going to REMOVE FAULTY GENES genes from the breed's gene pool. That's going to be pretty hard to do without reducing the gene pool.

It seems to me that there are three problems with the theory that you can test your way to clear health.

The first is that it does not give a big enough nod to the fact that some breeds are VERY seriously messed up. For example, of 10,000 Doberman pinschers tested for von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder, 50 percent proved to be carriers, with 30 percent affected by the disease. How do you test your way out of that problem without losing diversity? I don't think it's possible.

Which brings me to the second point: It's certainly not possible when the Kennel Club registers anything that has a scrap of paper attached to it. Does anyone ever think the Kennel Club will actually allow a German-style breed warden system? Not a chance. Yes, you may get a few folks who test, but rememember you can't get most breeders to OFA and BAER test their dogs now. Why would gene testing be any different?

Another issue is that these genetic tests are only available for a few breeds for a few conditions (see for list). For example, look at deafness. This is one of the most common genetic issues, but there is no DNA test for it that I know of. The BAER test has been around a long time, but you still have folks breeding deaf dogs, and doing it repeatedly because "so-and-so looks so good".
Finally, you have the problem of breed standards that mandate dysfunction -- pushed in faces that obstruct breathing, dwarfism which leads to joint and heart diseases, coat color selections that encourage deafness, etc. That's not going away. In fact, breeds based on genetic dysfunction are the bread-and-butter of the Kennel Club. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were the #6 breed in The Kennel Club, Shih Tzu's were #12, Lhasa Apso's were #14, Yorkshire Terrier's were #15, Bulldog's were #16, Pug's were #20 breed in 2006.