Samantha Goldberg is a small animal vet who is very taken with beagles. She was recently nominated as a finalist for the Kennel Club's Breed Health Coordinator of the Year award.
- British Veterinary Association
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When did you meet your first beagle?
My husband and I bought our first beagle in 1985 when we were students. His family had previously had poodles, but I worked on a farm as a teenager and when we met I took him to the local hunt terrier show, which the farm was involved with. There he met two beagles and thus we went in search of one. We currently have six adults, two five-month-old puppies and I show and judge the breed.
What does a breed health coordinator do?
I started monitoring health conditions in the breed in the early 1990s and the word slowly spread among beagle folk that I was a vet who kept the breed and I started getting phone calls. Some were breed-specific and some were just beagle owners wanting advice.
The Kennel Club (KC) has now formalised the position so that breed clubs have a representative who breeders can go to for advice, coordinated comment and record keeping of conditions in each breed. The idea is that one person represents a breed, giving advice, collecting data and acting as a conduit to the KC. If there is a major issue within the breed, the breed health coordinator (BHC) brings this to the attention of the beagle owners and also to the KC. In beagles, we have several DNA tests available for genes that cause problems, some breed-specific and some that occur in other breeds too. The BHC compiles an annual report for the KC highlighting any health concerns and any that they think should be investigated.
Why are BHCs important?
The KC holds an annual meeting for its BHC, where we discuss problems and progress made in developing health programmes, as well as being updated on pedigree dog issues. We have raised a large amount of money for steroid-responsive meningitis research and I try to raise awareness of it to vets as well as beagle owners.
How does being a BHC fit alongside your day job?
As a vet I find it very useful being a BHC as I am more aware of issues in pedigree dogs. I have many clients who breed pedigree dogs and it has expanded my knowledge of what breeders are trying to do to breed healthy dogs. As vets we tend to have a bad view of dog breeders as people ‘out to make money’, but many are passionate about their particular breed and I have learnt a lot about diseases that I had previously only read about in textbooks.
Is there anything you don't like?
There is confidentiality attached to my job and also the BHC role, which makes it hard at times as beagle breeders will sometimes ask me if a dog or breeder's kennel is clear of x, y or z. Of course, I cannot give this information out and it can be a bit frustrating.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting involved?
If you are passionate about the breed of dog you own then it is a worthwhile role, but you do need to be open-minded about breeders of pedigree dogs and the KC. I was always told it was better to be on the inside to fix things than on the outside.⇓
What was your proudest moment?
I am very proud of the website we have produced, www.beaglehealth.info, and the number of visitors it gets from all over the world.
It is also humbling to be put forward for BHC of the year and perhaps a bit embarrassing as I do this because I love beagles and probably wouldn't have any other breed. You need a sense of humour to own beagles; for example, when I lie in the mud watching one hightail it off after a more interesting smell than my treat, I have to grit my teeth and get up and follow!