Page 492 - WSAVA2017
P. 492

An Urban Experience
P. Sandøe1, S. Corr2, C. Palmer3, B. Bonnett4
1University of Copenhagen, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences and Department of Food and Resource Economics, Copenhagen, Denmark
2University of Glasgow, College of Medical- Veterinary and Life Sciences, Glasgow, United Kingdom
3Texas A&M University, Department of Philosophy, College Station, USA
4B Bonnett Consulting, -, Georgian Bluffs, Canada
Humans have bred companion animals for many different reasons, including for particular temperaments, for example to make them good companions, or in the case of dogs, to make them suitable for certain types of work. However sometimes the breeding goals seem to serve less serious purposes.
Thus, some of the features for which dogs and cats have been bred, such as bigger eyes and flat faces, make companions more “infant-like”. Other physical features, such as a sloping croup, or multiple skin folds, have
no obvious relationship to a “baby-like” attractiveness, but rather are features selected by breeders and show judges, and preferred by potential dog or cat owners as a result of fads and trends of the time.
However, some of the exaggerated features that appeal to owners cause health problems for the animals; and the preference for pure breeds, while certainly creating the advantage of predictability, means that animals may develop a greater number of diseases from inbreeding.
From a number of ethical perspectives, it is problematic to selectively breed animals that tend to develop significant health or behaviour problems1. So, what are the possible ways of tackling these problems? One approach here concentrates on the supply of animals to the companion animal market; the other focuses on demand for companion animals.
In terms of supply: there has already been some change in attitude on the part of key stakeholders such as kennel clubs, breeders, veterinary associations and animal protection societies, towards taking concerns about selective breeding and animal welfare seriously. The same is true of public authorities, particularly in Europe, where various boards and committees have been established to propose reforms for dog breeding2 3.
Breed clubs in charge of individual dog and cat pedigree breeds, and to some extent kennel clubs, have the power to change breed standards and to introduce breed restrictions obliging their members to take
welfare into account. A number of such initiatives have already been taken, particularly in Europe, and these mechanisms are good as far as they go. However their effectiveness is limited by difficulties in enforcement, imports from areas or countries with less strict policies, and breeding occurring outside the influence of the leading breeding organizations.
Therefore, it is important to reduce demand for
animals bred to ideal features that may risk ill health
or behavioural problems. Different explanations have been proposed regarding the apparent paradox that people buy breeds of dog predisposed to diseases
and other welfare problems, while at the same time caring deeply about their dogs. One line of thought is that prospective dog owners are not fully aware of the potential problems their dog may face prior to acquiring them. It is also possible that dog owners simply do not perceive the clinical signs of some inherited disorders
as problems, but rather as normal, breed-specific characteristics4. Alternatively, it could be that, when choosing a suitable breed, other characteristics of the dog may be considered more important than its health and welfare5. Dogs with extreme physical features may possess qualities that matter to their owners to such an extent that they overshadow any health and other welfare problems faced by the dogs. That this can the case has been documented in a recent study6.
Prospective buyers of kittens and puppies should therefore be educated, based on the best available information, about the potential effects of breeding on the subsequent welfare of the animals. Although information resources are available, much more could be done to disseminate this knowledge in a more efficient and vivid way. This could, for example, include large information campaigns involving TV advertisements and other means of mass communication; but these strategies would require financial means far outstripping the capacities of the small animal welfare NGOs currently addressing the issue.
In addition, much more research is needed into the problems caused by breeding and ways to solve them, with greater collaboration between veterinarians who treat affected animals, researchers and authorities. For example, in the UK, responsible owners of breeding animals of dog breeds where hip dysplasia is a common condition have their dogs “hip scored” under the British Veterinary Association-Kennel Club (BVA-KC) Hip Scheme, set up in 1983. To be hip scored, the dog must be at least a year old; a specific x-ray view of the hips

   490   491   492   493   494