Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On.. Review

PEDIGREE DOGS EXPOSED – THREE YEARS: Monday 27th February, BBC4, 9pm

Three years after the shocking exposé of horrendous health problems and treatment of pedigree dogs in Britain, this programme discovers what has changed, and more significantly, what has not.

Using footage from the original documentary and fresh interviews with vets, campaigners, owners and breeders, it is a penetrating, and in places alarming, revelation of the half-hearted improvements made over the past three years.

What is labelled “the greatest animal welfare scandal of our timeâ€? is played out throughout the documentary, mainly by breeders and owners involved in the dog show scene, which is described by Margaret Carter, dismissed from the Cavalier Club for whistle-blowing about dangerous inherited diseases, as “like a sect, like a cultâ€?.

It makes for uncomfortable viewing, referred to very accurately as like “a Victorian freak showâ€?, when mutated, deformed dogs – often with very ill health – are paraded and applauded.

The initial documentary found two main issues with the pedigree dog world: firstly, that they were being bred from increasingly diminished pools, therefore leading to inbreeding, and secondly, that this resulted in disabling physical traits and mutations.

The ensuing scandal led to myriad independent inquiries and the establishment of the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding.

The Kennel Club, the governing body of pedigree dogs, did implement many changes, and drew up a new code of ethics following the exposé, and although many rules against inbreeding and disturbing physical extremes are in place, progress is slow. This is due to the frustrating pull between ensuring dog welfare and keeping breeders happy, who seem fixated with the aesthetics rather than the health of their animals.

Any reforms that occurred after the initial investigation, such as the acceptance by the Kennel Club of Dalmatians with English Pointer genes (ie. “mongrelsâ€?), are undermined by the fact that breeders continue to create “disease after diseaseâ€?, and that dangerously deformed dogs, such as the Pugs with the flattest, most unhealthy and unhygienic faces, which obstruct their breathing, continue to win at shows.

We are shown horrific sights such as an x-ray of a Pug, a creature whose “double curlâ€? of its tail is “highly desirableâ€? in breeding; a trait that led to this particular animal’s sharply twisted spine. Ceasing to breed Cavaliers has been advised, as so many continue to end up with syringomyelia, a condition that gives them a “piston-type headacheâ€?. Hundreds of Boxers with juvenile kidney disease are discovered, but the main breeders of the dog refuse to give blood samples to aid medical research.

The scientists and activists interviewed agree that breeders are in denial about the huge health risks involved when breeding pedigrees, and indeed, the attitude of the owner of a prize-winning Cavalier, when asked about its neurological damage, is remarkably telling: “I’m not going to commentâ€?.

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