Sunday Times Article – Club Statement

Sunday Times Article – Statement by the BMDC of GB

Conscious of comment and criticism of the GB Club’s alleged involvement in the article in today’s (Sunday 29th September) Sunday Times about the ABS Scheme and the hips and elbows of the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Officers of the committee wish to clarify the circumstances of the approach made to us on Friday by Shanti Das, the Sunday Times reporter and our response.

The enquiry arrived in mid afternoon on Friday addressed to the President, the Secretary (via enquiries@) and the Health CoOrdinator and asked for a response as soon as possible that day as it was for the coming Sunday’s edition. We further involved the club Chair but the first problem was getting even these few of us to co-ordinate a response within this time frame as some have jobs and other commitments. We are all volunteers who may not be able to respond or co-ordinate to emails promptly during the day even if they receive them.

The journalist said she was” ….. working on an article about the Kennel Club Assured Breeders Scheme. We are specifically looking at Bernese Mountain Dogs and the prevalence of hip and elbow dysplasia.” This was followed by specific questions about the club’s opinion on the KC/BVA advice about breeders should not be breeding from dogs with ED scores above 1 and hip scores above 9 and talked about these conditions being “ ….excruciatingly painful” for affected dogs.  She mentioned identifying a number of Assured Breeders who had bred with 2 and 3 ED scores and hip scores up to 40. She then asked about the club’s AGM decision not to ban dogs with a 3 elbow score from being allowed to breed and how we could justify this decision. She wanted to know what benefits there might be from breeding with dogs with elbow scores of 3 and what advice we give to breeders about which dogs should and shouldn’t be bred from.

No specific dogs or names were mentioned in any of this and it was clear that answering all these points properly required a massive response with lots and lots of points to raise to cover the issues fully especially the AGM discussion where many points of view were covered. It quickly became clear that such a response was not possible within the time frame and furthermore would be unlikely to be used in its entirety due to its size and at this late stage unlikely to feed into the narrative of the planned article which must have been virtually complete.

We therefore decided, as is entirely typical and proper of organisations in such circumstances, to compose a statement that covered the points at a high level only as there was no time to raise, let alone discuss, the detail. The full statement was ….

“The club has no official opinion on the Assured Breeders Scheme and the Club does not promote club membership as an endorsement of any member or their activities.

The club promotes health issues in many ways and encourages healthy breeding through its Code of Ethics which is set by the AGM. The club has absolutely no enforcement powers to ensure compliance with any of our recommendations so prioritise our efforts on education of breeders, owners and the public. Breeding is a complicated venture involving difficult decisions that are ultimately the breeder’s responsibility. The club feels the best way forward is to continue to try and work with the other 5 breed clubs in conjunction with the Kennel Club regarding the KC Breed Health and Conservation Plan to promote meaningful action across the breed.”

The statement was accompanied by a short apology for not being able to respond in the requested time frame as it was Saturday afternoon before we were able to reply.

Our feelings appear to have been correct because only a single sentence from even this short response was used. As you can see at no point in this process did the club mention any dogs, owners or breeders in any direct or indirect way or have any reason to think any individual was going to be named.

Many things have been alleged today but contrary to comments we have received we had no power to stop the article being published or control any of the content of which we had only the very, very vaguest advance knowledge of and absolutely no opportunity to comment. The club condemns the naming of an individual dog in this article and to claim this highly respected dog has Hip Dysplasia shows complete lack of understanding of the application of the HD scheme.

It is very disappointing to hear the club accused of negative complicity in this and we hope this statement explains matters.