Next week the ABC airs a controversial documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which sent shockwaves through the showdog industry when it aired in the UK in August 2008.
The BBC suspended its 2009 coverage of Crufts, The Kennel Club’s best‐known dog show, before walking away from its contract due to irreconcilable differences with the organisers over the inclusion of ‘at risk’ breeds in televised stages of the competition.
The RSPCA and other leading UK welfare charities pulled out of attending Crufts and ‘Pedigree’ dog food withdrew its sponsorship.
In January 2009, The Kennel Club announced some major reforms and ban breeding between very close relatives such as parent/offspring.
The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust also announced they were co‐funding an independent review into the registration, showing and breeding of dogs.
By July 2009, More 4, Channel 4’s digital channel, agreed to broadcast Crufts in 2010.
At its heart this doco explores the theory that many breeds have been so exaggerated that they are unrecognisable from the fit and functional animals of a century ago.
Around 100 countries worldwide that have adopted the British Kennel Club system, including Australia.
Two years in the making – and featuring international perspectives and testimony from top experts – the film unravels the historical, social and cultural reasons why purebred dogs today are in so much trouble.
It contains graphic footage including bulldogs that can’t mate or give birth without assistance, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels writhing in agony because they suffer from syringomyelia in which their brains are too big for their skulls, and distraught owners trying to cope with their dogs’ epilepsy, which in some breeds is 20 times the rate found in humans.
The UK RSPCA is on record as being “extremely concerned about the very high levels of disability, deformity and disease in pedigree dogs.”
The film concludes that without radical reform, some of our best‐loved breeds face extinction.
In November 2008, the Australian National Kennel Council adopted a new policy statement: “ANKC considers that the health and physical welfare of dogs is of prime importance and is reviewing and will continue to review Breed Standards to reflect this policy”
But the ANKC has not yet announced a ban on inbreeding.
Following the screening of this documentary ABC hosts an online forum at Thursday 10 September, 9.30pm. On hand to discuss the issues raised in the film are Filmmaker Jemima Harrison; Catalyst reporter Jonica Newby; RSPCA Australia Chief Scientist Bidda Jones; ANKC President Hugh Gent; ANKC Canine Health Committee Chairman Karen Hedberg; and Dr Peter Higgins, ANKC & Dogs NSW spokesperson and veterinary adviser.
To participate go to: www.abc.net.au/documentaries
Pedigree Dogs Exposed airs 8.30pm Thursday 10 September on ABC1.
A week later on Catalyst Jonica Newby looks at pedigree dog breeding in Australia Thursday 17 September, 8pm on ABC1.