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Dog breeding and welfare: Bateson sees key role for vets

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'HIGH priority' should be given to the creation of a computer-based system that vets could use to collect anonymised data on the prevalence of breed-related disorders, an Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding has recommended.

Conducted by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, currently president of the Zoological Society of London, the inquiry was established following the broadcast of the BBC programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed in August 2008. This highlighted issues relating to the inbreeding of dogs and selection for certain characteristics that could affect animal health and welfare. Although funded by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, the inquiry was conducted independently of these organisations, and looked at ways in which these issues could be tackled. Professor Bateson was assisted by an advisory committee, made up of two geneticists, two animal welfare experts and four veterinary surgeons. In February 2009, he issued a call for evidence: 135 written responses were received, and 50 interviews were conducted subsequently.

Speaking at the launch of his report on January 14, Professor Bateson said: 'My brief was to consider whether the health and welfare of dogs, and particularly pedigree dogs, is affected and/or can be improved, by reference to the registration, breeding and showing of dogs.' He added that, while many dog breeders exercised high standards of welfare, 'The ideal would be to refine, and improve still further, the judgement of the skilled breeder by the addition of data based on the science.'

Professor Bateson's recommendations fall into three broad categories: reducing the incidence of inbreeding and inherited disease and the selection for extreme morphologies; tackling poor or negligent management in the care of breeding dogs; and addressing inadequacies in the ways in which dogs are bought and sold.

Breeding strategies

Professor Bateson recommends that a non-statutory Advisory Council on Dog Breeding should be established to develop evidence-based …

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