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Progress in purebred dog health since the Bateson report of 2010
  1. Dan O'Neill, MVB, BSc, GPCert, MSc, PhD, MRCVS
  1. Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK
  1. e-mail: doneill{at}

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JUST occasionally, a landmark event triggers lasting animal welfare change. This was the case for farm animal welfare with a book called Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison (1964). The book alerted the general public to the suffering of intensively farmed calves and chickens and prompted the Brambell Report that developed a list of five freedoms for farmed animals and the establishment of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (Brambell 1965). Now 50 years after its publication, the legacy of Animal Machines is greater public engagement in food animal welfare, an improved scientific understanding of animal welfare and multiple legal reforms. These advances continue to positively impact the quality of life of millions of farm animals today.

It took another 44 years for a similar landmark event to occur in companion animal welfare, but it finally came in 2008 with the BBC documentary ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’, produced by Jemima Harrison (BBC 2008). Pedigree Dogs Exposed raised the spectre of inherited health problems in pedigree dogs, which were ascribed to obsession with breed purity via closed stud books (McGreevy 2007), structured inbreeding (Leroy 2011) and reproductive dominance of popular sires (Calboli and others 2008), and to conformational exaggeration driven by inappropriate breed standards (McGreevy and Nicholas 1999). With an estimated eight to 10 million dogs in the UK (Murray and others 2010, Asher and others 2011, PFMA 2012), 75 to 80 per cent of which are purebred (O'Neill and others 2014, PFMA 2012), the potential dog welfare issues identified were enormous. Three major reports were subsequently published (Bateson 2010, APGAW 2009, Rooney and Sargan 2010), which aimed to identify the scale of the problem and to recommend reforms. The best known of these reports, the Bateson …

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