Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Parade of Mutants at Westminster

Last year, the editorial board at USA Today
took a look at what the American Kennel Club was up to, and they were not supportive:

As the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show moves to its final round Tuesday, a TV audience of dog lovers can watch the best in breeds strut their stuff, striving to show that perfect championship form. And while the public will see many lovely, healthy dogs in the ring, some breeds have paid a high price — a wide array of medical problems, even difficulty breathing or moving — in the pursuit of human-designed breed “standards.”

In some cases, beauty, as dictated by breed clubs, has trumped health, and dogs are suffering unnecessarily.

No breed better illustrates this tragic descent than the once-proud English bulldog, whose short, flattened face makes breathing and cooling down difficult, while its massive head, large even in puppies, makes natural birth all but impossible. Bulldogs often require cesarean sections.

... The pug and Pekingese, toy breeds with big eyes and protruding eyeballs, suffer from eye problems, in addition to sharing the bulldog’s breathing troubles. Breeds with deep wrinkles, such as the bloodhound and shar-pei, suffer from skin infections.

Many German shepherds have poor gait and movement. The dogue de Bordeaux (recall the lovable, slobbering giant that was Tom Hanks’ dog in Turner & Hooch) is similarly at higher risk for skin problems and lameness.

And the list goes on.

While the vast majority of pedigree dog owners do not compete in shows, the ideals set in the ring influence what owners want. And perhaps some breeds with the most severe problems are victims of their own success. The bulldog has risen in the ranks to become America’s fourth most popular breed. The German shepherd is No. 2. Success leaves little motive to change — except, of course, for the dogs' welfare.

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