This is half-true. Putting right the mess that Kennel Club breeding has made of purebred dogs does, indeed, lie at least partly in the Kennel Club's gift. And there's no doubt that most of the establishment stakeholders - the vets, welfare groups, Dog Advisory Council etc - have made the decision to work with the Kennel Club to improve dog health.
That's simply what the Establishment does. So having decided not to drive the Kennel Club out of town (one option that was considered, and at a very high level, post-Pedigree Dogs Exposed), the only other option was to agree to get round a table and talk.
You can't do that by treating people as the enemy - actually one of the reasons the RSPCA's Mark ("a parade of mutants") Evans was so unwelcome at stakeholder meetings after PDE. Mark continued to speak his mind.
So, five years on from Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which premiered in the UK five years ago this week, where are we now?
Significant reform introduced by the UK Kennel Club since Pedigree Dogs Exposed - and the three major reports into dog breeding that followed - includes:
• a review of breed standards, leading to (mostly minor) changes being made to around a third.
• the banning of first-degree-relative matings
• better training for - and monitoring of - judges
• Mate Select
• the expansion of the high-profile breed list
• funding of the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust
• vet checks at Crufts for the high-profile breeds
• a limit of two C-sections per bitch
• a considerably-improved Assured Breeder Scheme
• independent experts added to the KC's Dog Health Group
Other key non-KC progress includes:
• the establishment of VetCompass, which is gathering vital epidemiological data (and which has just secured funding for a further three years' work thanks to Dogs Trust)
• the Dog Advisory Council (funding of which is on rather shakier ground)
• a new Puppy Contract setting out a minimum standard for breeders and buyers. This was launched last year without much publicity and without Kennel Club endorsement. The KC is now, however, collaborating with the other stakeholders and the hope that it will result in a revised, universal puppy contract with buy-in from all stakeholders. The simple message - do not buy or sell a dog without one - has considerable potential.
The KC is also now collaborating with stakeholders (via a working party chaired by Professor Patrick Bateson) on an initiative from the Dog Advisory Council to produce a universal breeding standard with all-party buy-in. (The DAC's current draft can be downloaded here).
All this is helpful.
But the core problem remains a much more fundamental one - and that is that the Kennel Club system stinks. Kennel Club shows continue to reward the appearance of health/and the show world is, in the main, driven by distorted sense of what is correct.
The Kennel Club also continues to peddle the lie that DNA tests are the answer to purebred dog health (when they can only ever be a small part of any solution) and despite more general awareness about the perils of inbreeding, the KC is still not addressing genetic diversity in any meaningful way.
There is still no sign of the effective population size figures for individual breeds promised by the KC months ago - and I fear that if I (and others) don't continue to nag, that they will never see the light of day. This will be for the obvious reason that they are concrete proof of the dire straits many breeds are in genetically. I understand the reluctance to let people like me shout "I told you so!", but believe me it would give me no pleasure other than that it would be, I hope, a call to arms to address the fact that many breeds are heading for the genetic scrap heap.
This week, to mark the 5th anniversary of PDE, the RSPCA has called for the Kennel Club to do more - including an independent review of breed standards, further limits on inbreeding, a limit on popular sires and the opening of the stud books (see here).
Being seen to agree with anything that the RSPCA says or does is an invitation to be pissed on from a great height by many dog breeders for whom the RSPCA has become Public Enemy No One. But the RSPCA is right on this issue and I am glad it is still rattling the KC's cage.
I gave them the following quote - an abridged version of which appears in a press release supporting this week's statement:
Five years on from Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club is still in denial about the extent of the problems
The Kennel Club continues to embrace scientifically and morally bankrupt breeding practices which condemn some dogs to enormous suffering. By any measure, it is unethical to continue to breed dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs which have such flat faces that they cannot breathe - and yet the Kennel Club registers these breeds in their growing thousands and these dogs continue to be celebrated at Kennel Club shows.
The same goes for Dachshunds who have such long backs and such short legs that their spines crumble; for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who are blighted by a skull/brain-size mismatch that predisposes them to horrific pain. Then there are German Shepherds who are quite simply crippled by the warped ideal imposed on them by breeders and Shar-pei bred to a Kennel Club breed standard that demands wrinkles that we now know are linked to a horrific condition that destroys their livers. The KC has done too little to tackle the suffering these dogs endure, despite an increasing amount of science which both articulates the issues and offers solutions.
It is also unethical that the Kennel Club continues to endorse inbreeding. You can still, for instance, mate grandfathers to grand-daughters and then mate the offspring back to their great-grandfather. It's a mess genetically and if it isn't addressed many breeds will go to the wall, bred to oblivion. I find it a particular tragedy that breeders who do see the problems and want change are often dismissed as cranks and trouble-makers by those clinging to the status quo.
If the Kennel Club was the welfare organisation that its glossy PR would have you believe, it would be doing so much more to put this right. The problem is that, at its heart it is a trade organisation that represents those who don't want change. The dogs continue to pay a huge price."
The Chairman's speech at the WKC dinner last week contained a classic piece of Kennel Club PR. As reported in this week's Dog World, Professor Dean talked of "the increasing acceptance that the source of much of the poor health and welfare of recognised breeds lay outside the KC registration system."
Dean added that "......microchips will help us demonstrate how the vast majority of those who register dogs with the KC are the people to be cherished and encouraged."
There is nothing more than anecdote and wishful thinking to support the implication that KC registered dogs are - overall - in some way healthier, and many reasons to believe that it may not be true.
That there are major problems outside of the KC registrations system is of course evident - and, conversely, many KC breeders go the extra mile for their dogs. But there are likely to be shining examples of robust health outside of the KC system, particularly in our working terriers, collies, lurchers and hounds. I suspect there is less inbreeding in the pet market, too - while puppy farmers (for all their ills) are probably less likely to tolerate dogs than can't mate or birth without assistance because it's too expensive.
Meanwhile, only 13 per cent of dogs registered with the KC are bred under the Accredited Breeder Scheme and they are the only dogs subject to any husbandry/welfare/health requirements (and even then many breeds - even some of the sickest - are not subject to any health-testing requirements whatsoever). The rest? We simply don't know how well or badly bred they are.
VetCompass is looking at this, as it happens - funded by the Kennel Club, I am sure in its conviction that KC registered dogs truly are healthier.
But we don't know yet, and Prof Dean has no basis for claiming it.
Meanwhile, to the question in the title... is the Kennel Club still the enemy?
Tell me what you think.