The increasing straightjacket of regulations

Posted September 5, 2021 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience – Adam Smith

I have long been concerned about the lobby and pressure groups which contribute to our increasing bureaucracy, not just within our own sector of animal welfare but throughout our economic and cultural landscape. Of course it is essential that we have frameworks and regulations to ensure a field which is fair and level but we appear to be rapidly coming to a situation where the regulators and their accompanying (and expanding) bureaucracy are forcing us into a straitjacket rather than providing a framework which has a degree of flexibility which allows common sense to be applied to any given situation.

Such bureaucracy also allows those responsible for applying regulations to modify and even invent rules which have become so complicated that it is nigh on impossible for your reasonably intelligent person to discover what is and what is not allowed. A recent example concerning the Kennel Club is a case in point: an inexperienced exhibitor was told that a specific procedure with respect to entering the dog was required. It was not the case for there is nothing in the show regulations that demands it. Fortunately, an experienced secretary was able to resolve the issue but how many such admonitions occur without anyone knowing whether they are valid?

A correspondent in the last few days has told me how sensible her local authority has been in the matter of a licence to breed dogs. She was concerned so wrote to them to ask whether she needed a licence if she was to breed a second litter during the year. The authority’s licensing officer replied. ‘You do not require a licence for one more litter next year but would for any further litters’. This is precisely right but had she applied to a number of the other authorities on my radar she would have received a demand that she needed to apply for a licence even if she sold one puppy. And as if to prove the point, on the very same day, another correspondent forwarded a long, 1,500 word letter which included what I believe to be several serious errors of interpretation, saying the just advertising one puppy for sale would make her ‘a business’ which would necessitate her having a licence and her advising HMRC!

More legislation is seldom the answer

What worries me is that the response to any unanticipated and unintentional flaws or anomalies which arise always seems to be more and more regulation designed to nail down every aspect of our behaviour. To be fair some legislation has in the past been amended, but adding another layer of bureaucracy or further legislation designed to fill in the cracks is the usual approach.

 I have praised the Animal Welfare Act 2006 because it provides a broad based sensible approach to caring for animals: if it was applied properly it would do the job but as it was not applied properly (for many reasons): the response was the generation of a raft of specific regulations which were not just over the top in almost every respect, but which have been positively disastrous for many small-scale breeders of quality puppies.

As we have seen in the pages of Our Dogs over the past few years, this is not a problem confined to the UK. But just to concentrate on this country I list below the current petitions which are being or have recently been, submitted to government. I must emphasise that I am not necessarily out of sympathy with the opinions and objectives of these petitions, but I question whether these and the other pressures being brought to bear are genuinely helpful so my comments in brackets are just initial reactions.

· Current legislation allows for public use of fireworks 16 hours a day, every day, making it impossible for vulnerable groups to take precautions against the distress they can cause. Better enforcement of existing law is insufficient; limiting their sale and use to licensed displays is necessary. (If passed this would mean many more bigger displays and bigger ’bangs’ – what would be achieved? Might there be fewer fireworks if the limit was 2 hours a day?)

· The Government should create a specific offence for dog theft, with 8 years minimum sentencing and fine of at least £5,000. Dogs are a support network for so many, a family member, a lifeline. (True, but theft is already a criminal offence and many thieves have already been prosecuted for dog theft: should there be a bigger fine for dog theft than for the theft of a disabled person’s wheelchair?)

· The Government must introduce legislation to abolish greyhound racing, via managed shutdown of activities and ensure welfare of redundant dogs through a levy on the industry. (Did you know the industry employs a full time welfare office to ensure greyhound welfare. In any case, where would the levy come from if the industry was shut down?).

· We would like the Government to ban all animal testing in the UK, including for the development of cosmetics, household products & medicines. Alternatives need to be actively funded. Animal testing is outmoded and should end. (The regulations surrounding animal testing in the UK are among the strictest in the world. Banning testing here would only mean they were carried on in other countries where the regulations are less stringent.)

· It should be an offence, with sentences of up to 8 years, to sell dogs without a licence. Currently a licence is only required if someone runs a business that breeds and sells dogs and breeds 5 or more litters in a year and sells any of the puppies. (Apart from being wrong I have had my say on this matter: if implemented we would eventually only be able to show dogs bred by puppy farmers)

· Given how many animals are sold online, we want Government to introduce regulation of all websites where animals are sold. Websites should be required to verify the identity of all sellers and for young animals for sale pictures with their parents be posted with all listings. (Sales of cats and dogs on line are already subject to the restrictions imposed by the 2006 Animal Welfare Act – would this make any difference given that the regulations are already ignored and not implemented?)

· Laboratory animals are currently not protected by the Animal Welfare Act and are therefore victims of unnecessary suffering (see section 4 of the Act). (See my previous comment)

· Amend the breed specific legislation to create a clause whereby dogs that have been expertly assessed and found to be no more risk to the public than any other breed, to be exempted from breed specific legislation and allowed to live by the same laws as any other dog. (The BSL needs to be scrapped and replaced with ‘deed not breed’ regulations – this idea would only lead to more confusion)

· An impartial Ombudsman is necessary for the veterinary profession and would bridge the gap between dissatisfied clients and the service provider. At present the RCVS handles any issues brought to them by clients. (This is true but high profile KC member and vet, Mike Stockman, was once on this panel. Knowing him, I believe that the gap is better bridged by the profession than by someone with little or no knowledge of the sector’s complexity).

Maximum pressure supported by minimum interests

If you add these petitions to the immense amount of detailed work being done by the wealthy and high profile charities and lobbyists who contact government direct, (and then attempt to drive further regulation change through the Canine And Feline Sector Group) a great deal of pressure is placed on government.            

You may ask why that pressure is not resisted when the demands are so often repetitive and/or have been shown to be counterproductive, but we must always remember that the prime motivation of government is to consolidate its position and remain in power. It will therefore want to do everything it can to fulfil the demands of its electorate – and if the political landscape appears to show that specific regulations will tilt the balance in an election, there will be an inevitable tendency to move in that direction. Lobby groups and petitions, generated as they are by dedicated enthusiasts (and, often, extremists), can give a distorted perspective and it is us, the silent majority, who may have our interests destroyed.

Always remember that only one or two organisations, one of which includes the Kennel Club of course, are working in favour of dog ownership and the value of dogs to society, while hundreds are only concerned with protecting pets from exploitation and cruelty: worthy objectives of course but not a level playing field when it comes to protecting people from legislation.

Coping with Local Authorities – advice for Small Scale, ‘Hobby’ Breeders

Posted August 25, 2021 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

David Cavill

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status – Laurence J. Peter

If you are a small scale, hobby breeder you may still find yourself targeted by an over-zealous local authority (LA) which has picked up your name from a puppy sales web site, a report from a neighbour or your social media posts. They are also under pressure from the recently launched Animal Protection Service (APS) which says they ‘investigate and prosecute cases of animal cruelty’ but appear to concentrate on those breeders who are not licensed but have sold puppies. If such people are ‘in scope’ they are, of course, trading illegally and I do not for a moment condone that, but I describe their ‘investigations and prosecutions’ as ‘low hanging fruit’, for none of the APS cases which have crossed my desk compare with the genuine case of serious conspiracy and wide-spread fraud reported recently which was brought by the RSPCA.

I have become increasingly concerned that APS and local authorities’ licensing officers, perhaps motivated by the charges which can be made for issuing a licence, are searching out breeders (having misunderstood the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals [England] Regulations 2018) (the Regulations)) who are simply pursuing their hobby . Of course, if you breed more than two litters in any twelve month period you must have a licence – no question – and you should contact your local authority for you have a legal obligation so to do, but in the meantime, my advice is that you should not contact your LA unless you believe that you are ‘in scope’, as the Regulations have it. Also a concern is the knock-on effects of the legislation on planning, which cause stress and worry to many hobby breeders to the extent that many are giving up breeding altogether.

A number of groups, including the National Registers of Pedigree Dog Breeders and Home Breeders Association, are working to try and ensure amendments to the regulations which are legally required to go out to consultation in 2023/4 (government demands that all new Laws and Regulations must be reviewed five years after enactment).

I have therefore drafted a reply which may be useful to hobby breeders if you are contacted by your LA. This would normally be by post but some licensing officers have been turning up on doorsteps expecting to carry out an inspection. Do not let them in – they have no authority to do so. Neither, incidentally, are they entitled to question you about your finances: a contact who has worked in LA accountancy tells me that nowhere in the Regulations give a Local Authority the right to ask about a breeder’s income stream. Having a licence is not a means tested activity and no LA officer can demand that information.

If you are approached through the post or via email, the letter will be set out in legal terms which are designed to intimidate you and it will make assumptions about you and your circumstances which may or may not be accurate. Do not worry – that is how LAs work: their principle is to make you feel you have no choice but to comply. I therefore suggest you reply in the following terms, amending the details as seems appropriate from the letter you receive:

Address to local authority contact

I have received your letter (provide reference number) and may I first make it clear that I am a law abiding citizen: I have no intention of flouting the law or its rules and regulations as and when they apply to me. However, in this instance, I am out of scope of the Licensing Activity requirements.

Incidentally, I do not know why you have contacted me: it is not the role of the local authority to seek out breeders who may need a licence. The Procedural Guidelines for Local Authorities are quite clear (see Para 8, Page 4): Responsibility for ensuring that the correct licence has been obtained and is kept up to date with the relevant local authority or authorities falls to the licence holder or prospective licence holder.

This letter clarifies the position of small scale, hobby breeders under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals (England)) Regulations 2018.

It has been written in response to the confusion and misunderstandings of the Regulations surrounding small-scale hobby breeders by some local authorities which have taken it upon themselves to redefine and amend the statutory Conditions and Guidelines, without reference to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It is important to recognise that it is not legal for a local authority to state ‘this local authority’s policy is that anyone who breeds a litter must be licensed’: they must operate within the law as it stands unless they introduce a by-law – which, as your own solicitor will confirm, would need government approval.

One very important paragraph which has been misunderstood is at Para 2, Page 4 of the Dog Breeding Guidance: For dog breeders a limit on the number of litters is also in place unless it can be proved that none of the puppies from these litters are sold. Some authorities have taken this to mean that any puppies sold require a licence. This is not the case: the paragraph means that a licence is not required for those breeding more than two litters a year ‘if they can ‘prove’ that none have been sold.’ This is confirmed at 9c on page 5

At Para 4 Page 4 this is again confirmed: The circumstances which a local authority must take into account in determining whether an activity is being carried on in the course of a business for the purposes of this Schedule include, for example, whether the operator

               (a) makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or

(b) earns any commission or fee from the activity

The ‘In Scope Criteria’ also emphasises the status of ‘advertising a business’. Here, local authorities have been misled by the fact that many small-scale and hobby breeders have their own websites. You should be aware that these are primarily about their hobby successes: such breeders are expected by their peers to have an Internet presence and such a website is not necessarily a ‘business’ even though they may state that ‘puppies are occasionally for sale’. For the same reason, if they put the fact that they have surplus puppies on a puppy sales website – it should not be assumed that they are therefore ‘running a business’ as can be confirmed by referring to all HMRC’s nine ‘badges of trade’ – rather than the two usually quoted in letters to breeders.

Local authorities should also take in to account the ‘Out of Scope’ Guidance which states at Para 6, Page 6: ‘Breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e. less than 3 litters per year), and that sell them without making a profit.’’ This is followed by ‘The Government announced in the of Budget 2016 a new allowance of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered in the context of determining whether they are a business.’

This means that as far as small-scale, hobby breeders are concerned that they may take all their expenses of their hobby into consideration: these will include feeding costs, stud fees, veterinary fees (including the costs of caesareans) and the expenses of showing, racing, agility, obedience, working or gundog trials or any other non-professional canine related activity (for this is the primary reason they breed dogs) before any profit is calculated.

Licensing Officers and LAs should also note that they are not entitled to question breeders about their finances: Nowhere in the regulations does it give a Local Authority the authority to ask about a breeder’s income stream. Having a licence is not a means tested activity and therefore no LA can demand such information.

The following definition for dog breeders which has been accepted by many local authorities might therefore be helpful:

A small-scale ‘hobby breeder’ is one who breeds from a bitch because they would like to have another puppy to take part in the canine activities with which they are involved, whether that be to show, to train for agility, obedience or any other canine related pusuit. That reason can be extended to include that they would like to have another pet when one of their current dogs dies. The key issue is that they are not breeding specifically to sell dogs as a regular part of their annual income. Such hobby breeders are likely to have surplus puppies which they will want to find good homes for and they are entitled to sell them. A reasonable ‘test’ for hobby breeder is that they will (usually) be retaining one or more of any litter to pursue their hobby. A ‘hobby breeder’ will also usually fulfil the definition of a ‘home breeder’ which is one who breeds on a small scale with a limited breeding stock and within a primarily domestic environment where their pets have a degree of freedom within the living accommodation’.

It may also be helpful to know that although there have been a number of successful prosecutions for selling puppies illegally, when local authorities have taken action against a small-scale hobby breeder simply for not having a licence, those applications have been withdrawn prior to any ruling because solicitors, supported by expert witnesses, have been able to defend their ‘hobby’ status based on the points raised in this letter.

It is therefore my opinion that I do not need a licence to breed an occasional litter. You can be assured that if and when I believe I need a licence to breed dogs I will contact you.

Yours etc

Home Breeders’ Association sensibly challenges Breeding Regulations

Posted July 5, 2021 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs


Wake up and smell the coffee – phrase first used in the Chicago Tribune in 1943

The Home Breeders Association (HBA) represents small scale breeders who either do not need a licence or, if they do have more than two litters, it is exceptional. Membership is not confined to breeds or pedigree dogs.: there are some breeders of deliberate cross bred dogs who are not ‘in it for the money’ any more than some of our pedigree dog breeders are. They love their dogs and want to share that pleasure with others. Some may turn up their noses but I believe we should wake up and smell the coffee of change for it is here and happening whether we like it or not.

At my suggestion, the HBA became an Associate Member of the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG), the most influential lobby group in the UK which represents virtually all the major players in the sector from the RSPCA to the Kennel Club. I am pleased to say that they have been active too and I would like to share with you a summary of their recent letter to the CFSG prior to the forthcoming yearly ‘big tent’ meeting to which every animal related not-for-profit organisations are invited. It headed ‘Drastic reforms urgently needed for small home breeders’ and I think few of us would quarrel with that! It continues:

The introduction of the new Animal Welfare Regulations in 2018 has been a nightmare for many small volume home dog breeders in England and Wales. The most widely heard complaint remains the inconsistency of the application of the regulations by local authorities due to widely differing interpretations of the complex updated regulatory guidelines. Most serious is the varied interpretation and, sometimes, misuse of the so-called ‘business test’ by local authorities as to who actually needs a dog breeding licence.

The 2018 breeder licensing regulations were surely meant to target high volume commercial ‘puppy farm’ breeders but the complexity of the business test has resulted in a disproportionate number of small volume home breeders being unfairly targeted. Many are now being persecuted, prosecuted, browbeaten and threatened with prosecution by both local authorities and private animal welfare ambulance chasers for selling or advertising as little as one puppy or litter per year.

Other well-documented complaints include the differing systems used by local licensing authorities over how to count the number of dogs to be included for a dog breeding licence, a huge variation in licensing fees across different councils, poorly trained or aggressive inspectors who treat dog breeders with ingrained distrust, inspectors providing incorrect healthcare advice, and heavy pressure and bullying that some licensing authorities have been exerting on home breeders to reduce their total dog numbers by rehoming or otherwise ‘getting rid’ of their older but still much-loved retired studs and bitches.

Many small volume home dog breeders who applied for a licence in good faith have become targeted by their local planning authorities to change the use of their homes from residential to business or face enforcement action and criminal prosecution. Many such targeted breeders complain of aggressive anti-breeder attitudes amongst their local planning officers, who have been using their substantial powers to force breeders into reducing total dog numbers in order to meet planning permission requirements, even when there have been no significant animal welfare or environmental issues found.

Licence requirements extended to include pet vending regulations

Some breeders are now even being told they need a separate licence to sell their adult dogs. Understandably, these threats have caused significant financial and emotional stress and heartache for many licensed dog breeders, since most established dog breeders will as a matter of course own or keep many more dogs than the average non-breeding household of just one or two animals.

The guidance currently recognises a common staff to dog ratio of 1 full-time adult to as many as 20 dogs in established dog breeding businesses, but this guidance seems to be lost upon or ignored by most licensing and planning officials who usually do not understand or appreciate the ebbs and flows of normal dog breeding practices. It should come as no surprise that many small volume home dog breeders have elected not to renew or apply for dog breeding licences and breeding litters frequently in order to remain ‘out-of-scope’ despite the risk of falling foul of the often loose interpretation of the business test.

Others have retired early and quit breeding altogether after gaining many years of valuable experience from producing generations of beautiful and sometimes rare-breed dogs. In the midst of the huge spike in demand for puppies during the COVID pandemic, the updated animal welfare legislation has therefore in fact contributed to the significant shortfall in domestically bred puppies of quality from responsible small volume home breeders by frightening them into breeding less frequently or not at all.


 This has contributed to the sharp spike in puppy prices which in turn has led to a huge increase in fraud and dog/puppy theft as criminals have turned their attention and skills to a range of fraudulent and unacceptable way to make a profit from a public, many of whom remain gullible. These opportunistic middlemen are attempting to cash in on the buoyant puppy market by targeting breeders and offering to sell their puppies for highest prices in return for a lucrative cut. And breeder training courses and “academies” have sprung up promising to train and certify novice dog breeders for full “accreditation” in the handling of pregnancy and whelping, the breeding process, and the raising of puppies all in the space of a day! In the meantime, despite the introduction of Lucy’s Law in 2020, demand for puppy imports from abroad continues to soar due to the shortage of domestic bred pups, with the UK Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency reporting dog imports from the EU increasing by over 50% to over 60,000 in 2020.

For most responsible home dog breeders represented by HBA and the Kennel Club among others, dog breeding is a lifestyle choice and a hobby borne out of a love for dogs and the enjoyment of raising a litter of healthy, happy puppies, not principally for income or profit, which are seldom substantial after time costs have been taken into consideration.

Sensible demands?

· HBA is calling for drastic and urgent reform and easing of the regulations governing the activities of both licensed and unlicensed home dog breeders. HBA’s recommended urgent action points are the following:

· Most urgently, the Home Breeders Association repeats its calls for the immediate separation of the business and trading income test from breeding licensing altogether. All breeders earning income from dog breeding should be reporting earnings to HMRC as a matter of course: there is no need for this extra layer of interference as the Scottish government has sensibly concluded.

· HBA recognises that with any removal of the business test, there will be concerns raised over the welfare and oversight of puppies bred and sold by unlicensed “out-of-scope” home breeders. HBA recommends that in place of the business test used to require local authority licensing, new legislation be passed to require all puppies sold under the age of 15 weeks (or age of legal import) to be sold with a written veterinary health check from any licensed UK vet where the dam is also presented and vet-checked for general health and likelihood as the legitimate dam. This would include record of microchip details of each pup sold as well as the usual identifying factors of age, sex, colour, and breed. This would provide a simpler, more efficient, more qualified, cheaper, and effective system of animal welfare and activities oversight for all parties involved, including puppy, dam, breeder, and puppy buyer, than the current complicated and expensive system of local authority breeder licensing

· HBA recommends an increase the out-of-scope breeding licence criteria to allow up to 3 or even 4 litters bred per 12-month period in order to encourage small responsible domestic home breeders in England and help meet the high domestic demand for quality puppies reared in a loving home environment. Such a change would also recognise that many breeds produce very small litters, and that some litters do not always survive.

· Alternatively, HBA would support changing the litter count method to counting litter live births per fixed 12-month period

· HBA believes it is important for the Government to remedy the serious planning permission problems being encountered by a number of home breeders who dutifully applied and received licensing by their LA only to be referred by the LA to planning departments which subsequently order licensed breeders to apply for change of use of their home and/or reduce total numbers of dogs despite being licensed for a certain number of dogs by the same council. In particular, the total number of adult dogs mandated by planning authorities when requiring change of use should not be less the number of adult dogs granted by licensing authorities.

You may or may not agree with some of these recommendations (there are more of what I consider sensible ideas in the letter) but I believe they should be seriously considered by both CFSG and government.

Personal Statement by Trowbridge Town Councillor, David Cavill FRSA

Posted January 19, 2021 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

I have never been ambitious for political power but I enjoy putting forward useful ideas and suggestions to the decision making process. I have been influential through my voluntary work as chairman and committee member of various groups, my eleven years as Deputy to the Director General of the Dogs Home, Battersea, and my articles and books. I hope I have also been helpful and positive in my role as a councillor for Trowbridge Town Council. I joined the Conservative Party in the early 1980s and my membership lapsed when I was unable to be involved in politics for several years. My political philosophy has always been pragmatic rather than ideological and I rejoined to vote in favour of Teresa May as Leader.

I have been a teacher and lecturer for most of my working life and my objective as a councillor is to try and deliver to what is best for my community in the same way as I always tried to ensure the best for the young people for whom I was responsible in schools and colleges.

I became involved in our County town because I was asked to stand by the then leader of the Conservative Group, Peter Fuller. I was not especially keen to do so at that time but I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement and the feeling that I am useful to the community.

At the Drynham by-election which was called at the beginning of 2020, I and others who felt that the young should be provided with every opportunity to learn and develop their political skills and knowledge, supported the current leader of the Conservative Group on Trowbridge Town Council. I was very pleased to campaign for him and was delighted when he was elected to the council and subsequently to the leadership of the Conservative Group.

Unfortunately, his political behaviour since his election gave cause for concern and despite every effort being made by me and other conservative colleagues to help him express himself more rationally and effectively, he continued to misunderstand Council codes of practice and behavioural protocols, mislead the public, through inflammatory, aggressive and inaccurate statements, and on several occasions criticised council employees for carrying out the legitimate decisions and policy directed by councillors. Challenge is rightly an integral element of political ‘rough and tumble’: I have no problem with that but his approach on social media, to the press and in council although sometimes sensible and innovative, has all too often been outside acceptable debate and criticism.

Eventually, I and two other Conservative councillors took the decision to step back from the Conservative Group because we did not feel comfortable with the views being expressed and the behaviour of its leader. I do not speak for Peter Fuller and Diana King or for Geoff Whiffen who resigned from the Conservative party on the current Leader’s election as Conservative Group Leader, but I am confident that although they ‘stepped back’ from his leadership (as they are entitled to do) they retain their conservative values.

When our decision was formally announced, we were reported to South West Wiltshire Conservative Association as having ‘broken the rules and conventions of the Conservative Party’ and were almost immediately notified that we were suspended pending an investigation. Our view was that no rules were broken and we waited confidently for an investigation which would show that this was the case.

No such investigation took place despite our providing extensive evidence of the reasons for our decision and we were eventually told that we had been expelled from the party.

We were informed we could appeal. We did so on the grounds that the procedures followed by the local Association were flawed in a number respects: the process did not comply with the party’s own rules for suspension and expulsion, no opportunity was given to us to explain the reasons for our decision (we did try, incidentally, but our attempts were stone-walled), no formal investigation of our concerns was instigated and the conventions of ‘natural justice’ were ignored.

I have nothing but praise for the way in which our appeal was handled by Conservative Central Office: it was absolutely ‘by the book’. The conclusions have just been published and I am pleased that our appeal was upheld in every respect. The whole appeal document is available at and this statement on my WordPress page:

However, for me, some of the political decisions of the Conservative party over the last five years but, more importantly, the behaviour of some of my colleagues and particularly the local association (who have made no effort to get in touch and attempt to build bridges), have permanently damaged my confidence in the party. Added to this, although I accept the result of the Brexit vote, I was always a committed European and have concluded that I will feel more comfortable outside the Conservative party. I also believe that if I want to continue to help and develop the environment of Trowbridge, Wiltshire and the well-being of its residents I would like to continue to make a difference. I have therefore taken the decision to formally join my friends in the Liberal Democrats – although of course I hope to continue to work effectively with all my fellow councillors if elected at the next scheduled elections.

It you have been – thank you for reading.

David Cavill

07860 591 881

Ignore the Anti-vaxers

Posted December 2, 2020 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Cllr David Cavill FRSA represents Paxcroft on Trowbridge Town Council

I AM becoming increasingly concerned about the wave of support from those who have become known as the ‘Anti-Vaxers’, for it has become clear that there are many, including some in Trowbridge, who are prepared to ignore evidence and act on social media posts, wild conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated hearsay.

Posters have been appearing in Trowbridge supporting fake ideologies and ideas which are not supported by any reputable organisation.

The person originally responsible for these ridiculous and unfounded views, the disgraced and discredited ex-physician Andrew Wakefield, was thoroughly exposed by respected scientists and was stripped of his status as a doctor and researcher when it was found that he falsified the data upon which he made his damaging announcements about the relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. Just to be clear, there is no relationship.

It is true that occasionally people who are vaccinated will have unexpected and sometimes dangerous reactions to the inoculation analogous to the way some people are allergic to nuts, aspirin or penicillin and it is a concern but it is dependent entirely on their own unique metabolism.

But in terms of ‘risk’, vaccinations are very much more likely to protect than damage. Those who refuse them are at much greater risk of the infection than they are from any damaging reaction.

Anti-Vaxers tend to be extreme and obsessive, so they shout more loudly than reasonable and sensible groups. We should be very wary of them and any others that broadcast fake news on this and other subjects.

The technique is simple, sometimes referred to as ‘Trumpism’. It matters little whether what is said is true but regularly swamping a frightened and/or gullible audience with hundreds of unverifiable ‘facts’ (often with one or two true statements thrown into give the material some degree of credibility) eventually results in the irrational concept being accepted by some.

As a columnist and politician, it is not my role to persuade you or anyone else to any particular point of view, but I believe I do have a responsibility to provide the evidence which enables you to make up your own mind by providing factual information and data which challenges hearsay, emotion and prejudice.

Whether you believe that the earth is flat, that Kennedy was killed by the CIA or any other conspiracy theories which have no effect on the health of the population does not matter one way or the other.

But the Anti-Vaxer movement is an example of unsubstantiated theories which are extremely dangerous.

I am not suggesting that the UK Government has ‘got it right’ as far as Covid-19 (or anything else) is concerned. There is no doubt that mistakes have been made but it is important to remember that, in this case, almost every government in the world ‘got it wrong’ so we are not on our own.

There have been no successful scenarios. Some countries, such as Japan, have been lucky in that their social structure militate against the spread of any infection but even there, their Prime Minister felt he had to resign because his electorate felt he had failed to deal effectively with the crisis

Two countries often quoted took steps which were diametrically opposed.

South Korea was one of the first to ‘lock down’ early and effectively while Sweden (which took the chance of developing a ‘herd immunity’ and consequently had a higher death at the beginning of the spread) took an entirely different approach, neither of their scenarios has prevented a second wave.

Rightly or wrongly, blaming ‘the government’ gets us nowhere for it is likely that whoever was in power at the time will have made equally damaging, if different, mistakes.

The good news is that data collection, experience and research is enabling us to cope with the symptoms of infection better then we once did, so, although the numbers are rising, death rates remain lower than they were despite the increase in the number of infections.

Rapid diagnosis tests are promised and billions are being spent by governments all over the world to enable scientists to deliver an effective vaccine.

Courageous volunteers are coming forward prepared to test vaccines on your behalf so that any problems can be detected.

So long as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin or their ilk are not making the announcement that a vaccine is has been created, then I believe most governments can be believed if they say a safe inoculation against Covid-19 is available.

Vaccines have almost eliminated a number of diseases in some counties. They include tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis, tetanus, rubella, hepatitis B and diphtheria among many others, and where there is a resurgence, it is virtually always where the Anti-Vaxers have been spreading their dangerous and unsubstantiated messages. Please ignore them.

International Partnership for Dogs

Posted December 1, 2020 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success – Henry Ford

I would like to introduce you to Dr. Brenda N. Bonnett. It is a name most people will never have heard until this week when she features both in our news pages and Our Dogs’ Editorial but she is becoming a very important person in the world of dogs in general and dog health in particular. Brenda is a Canadian veterinary surgeon. She qualified in 1979 and went onto gain a PhD in Epidemiology. She became Associate Professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College and carried out research into numerous species, disciplines and topics including theriogenology (I had to look it up: it means ‘reproduction, including the physiology and pathology of male and female reproductive systems), breed-specific health risks, human-animal interactions and medical communication. She lectures internationally and has received an Honorary Doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. But she is not just a very clever lady, she has a mission and to achieve it she set up the not for profit International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) five years ago, which has as its objective ‘to facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health, well-being, and welfare of pedigree dogs and all dogs worldwide’.

              In an extraordinary short time the organisation has become a hub for international collaboration and an effective voice speaking on the complex challenges of dog health and welfare. I think too, that we would all subscribe to its values:

• Dog health, well-being, and welfare, and human-dog interactions contribute to the quality of life for both species.

• The world is a better place because we share it with dogs.

• Dog issues are important around the globe, and international sharing and cooperation are needed.

              And its goals which are to:

• Enhance the health, well-being, and welfare of dogs, and enrich human-dog interactions.

• Facilitate the sharing of knowledge, information, experience, and resources across stakeholders, e.g., kennel clubs, veterinary and other professional organizations, health foundations, and others, to improve health and well-being of purpose-bred dogs.

• Provide structure, evaluation, and interpretation of information to support the actions of stakeholders in dog health, well-being, and welfare.

• Facilitate specific actions to improve health and well-being of dogs, e.g., supporting globally relevant breed-specific breeding strategies.

• Run the web platform,

• Bring the dog community closer together through

The objectives are achieved through collaboration, research, publication and the website and its Board includes our own Bill Lambert (who has been elected Vice-chairman) and to my mind his involvement provides immense credibility to the whole project.

A refreshing change

              Given the fact that Brenda is a veterinarian it is a very refreshing change to see that she has gathered around her as board members and consultants those who see dog ownership ‘in the round’ and who, although concerned about many of the health issues in dogs, are not obsessed with the ‘problems’ of pedigree dogs and/or are making determined efforts to solve them. I am especially pleased that her approach recognises that many of our difficulties are down to the demands for unique and unusual pets by the public and she does not take the easy option of blaming breeders: the IPFD’s website’s heading to this important article is the simple statement,‘For all those who want a sustainable future for healthy pedigree dogs’. I am sure there is no doubt we can all to drink to that sentiment!

              For many, the key statement in her report focuses on the surge in legislation concerning pedigree dogs, health and breeding. She says, ‘If the perception is that the show world has failed to adequately safeguard the dogs/breeds under their care, failed to take proactive leadership in addressing problems, in the show ring or in breeding, it is not surprising that legislation is then proposed and enforced. On the other hand, if legislators or others focus too narrowly on the role of the pedigree community, and fail to address the bigger picture (which I believe is largely the case in the UK and some other European countries), including wider sources of dogs, then political actions will not achieve desired outcomes. Unintended consequences may occur if the role of the consumer in creating the demand for challenged breeds or types is not addressed, as well as promotion or normalization of these dogs by the media, pet industry, veterinarians, or others.’

International action

              Despite the several international conferences called by kennel clubs and attended by many representatives over the past few years, there has, so far, been no concerted action. The representative group in each country may have done their best to influence government but the activity has been sporadic. At the same time, although the passion for showing and commitment to pedigree dogs is now clearly international, this has had very little effect because the pressure from lobby groups (who are understandably mostly concerned with publicity to ensure the continuing flow of donations) and veterinarians (which are all too often anti-pedigree), have kept up a constant barrage on politicians of all parties. Kennel clubs have had no problem in facilitating International interactions at exhibitor/breeder level (and collecting the various fees which are required for international transfers), but concerted action has been minimal, even in Europe where one would have thought the FCI could have been incredibly effective given the European Parliament’s intense and continuing interest in pet ownership as demonstrated by the number (and sometimes bizarre) stream of documents and regulations emanating from Brussels,. In the UK we have had the recent introduction of mandatory Licensing Regulations and a raft of other legislation which although hailed as progressive is almost all unnecessarily bureaucratic, will have little effect on animal welfare and has already had damaging unintended consequences as set out by Brenda above.

              Her article calls for open, respectful discussions within and across stakeholder groups which include not just dog show enthusiasts, kennel and breed clubs, legislators, dog owners, veterinary and welfare groups but the pet owning public too. It highlights that there has been a disconnect between those seeking to protect animals, those that want (and need) pets and those who supply that need. This is not to say no work has been done or data collected, but emphasises that much of this material has not been considered as a whole and that pedigree dogs have in some ways been treated differently and been separated from rather than integrated into pet ownership as a cultural element in our society.

               It is refreshing too, that for once a report is not simply a demand for further legislation: it is much more sensible in that it asks that we consider the psychology of pet ownership, our personal commitments and attitudes to all pets and ‘work together for what is truly in the best interest of dogs and the people who care for them’. Brenda also recognises that there are no quick and easy solutions but that what is needed is a roadmap to engage everyone involved. She concludes that those ‘deeply committed to ensuring the survival of all that is good about pedigree dogs need to participate in open and respectful dialogue to identify actions for the benefit of all dogs and people. Each of us should honestly consider how our own attitudes and actions – or inaction – have contributed to the current situation and then together find a positive way forward’.

All power to her elbow, say I. Listen up, World!

Pet ownership soars

Posted December 1, 2020 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard – Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

MORI was founded in 1969 by Robert Worcester and was one of the first and now, as Ipso MORI, remains one of the leading market research groups in the UK. I was introduced to the charismatic Robert when I was developing the Institute of Quality in the mid 1980s by a friend who worked closely with him. He was born in the United States, became a British Citizen, was appointed Chancellor of the University of Kent and was a very well respected figure in British political circles and media commentator, especially about voting intentions in British and American elections. He died in 2014 but his legacy remains and my memories of him were triggered when I read a press release in Pet Business World News, the headline of which was ‘Pet ownership soars in Covid Britain’.

The research was carried out by Ipso MORI on behalf of an investment company called LetterOne. I had not come across this company before but I like it for one of the things it does is to sponsor an international jazz award but even apart from that, my research into its background has proved fascinating. It was founded in 2013 and brought together a number of long-term active investors to search out companies where ‘sector experience, and strategic geographic expertise will improve performance’.

They have a lot of money: over $23 billion in investments and liquidity of $5 billion: at the very least that implies that they have identified areas where investment will prove profitable. Their strategy embraces energy, food retail and technology and their strap line is to have a ‘strong bias to satisfy societies’ needs’. One sector they have selected as having potential and one upon which I think we can all agree ‘satisfies societies’ needs’, is pet ownership.

To ensure their continued success LetterOne carries out research in all the sectors within which it invests and the examination of the economic and health benefits associated with pet ownership is published in a series of journals called ‘The Pet Factor’. Its latest, intensely interesting edition considers: how a dog can make people feel less lonely or isolated; hears how soldiers in the British Army develop long-lasting emotional bonds with the horses in their care; explores the intense and often complex bond between pets and those experiencing homelessness through a contribution from veterinary charity, StreetVet – and reports on the Ipsos MORI survey they commissioned.

What the research shows

The research indicates that Britain is more besotted with pets than ever. The headlines include:

· A staggering 41% of current pet owners got a new pet during lockdown, of which 95% were existing pet owners who got another animal while 5% did not previously own a pet before the lockdown.

· Overall, 80% of those polled with dogs in their household agree that their dog keeps them physically active. Around 4 in 10 dog owners agree that as lockdown restrictions are lifted, they will take their dogs for more frequent and longer walks.

· As a consequence of lockdown, 37% of pet owners who have worked from home say they now have a closer relationship with their pets than before.

· Among pet owners who expect spending on their pets to change as a result of lockdown restrictions being lifted, the majority anticipate spending more. 30% of dog owners say they will spend more money on dog walking services in the near future.

The whole publication is available online and provides a unique perspective into pet ownership internationally.

It goes some way to explaining the explosion so many breeders have experienced over the past few months. This has been the subject of some pessimistic speculation regarding the behaviour of new owners once we get back to some semblance of normal but it is clear from the research that most owners are thinking about the future responsibly shown by the significant number being prepared to spend on dog walking services as and when necessary.

I will certainly be returning to this incredible mine of information in future articles but for the present I would like to use it as a foundation for one of the most important factors with respect to pet ownership which I am sure is at the forefront of our minds: how do responsible breeders ensure that their stock goes to good homes and how do prospective owners find a responsible breeder. This age old question has no simple answers but over the last few years a number of initiatives have tried to provide one although, unfortunately none have been particularly successful

Every attempt has some impact

Publications such as the Dog Directory and the classified pages of magazines devoted to dogs tried to provide centres for information over the years but the inexorable rise of the Internet has made them redundant. The Kennel Club, in an attempt to counter the criticism that ‘anyone can register pedigree dogs with the KC but no checks are ever carried out on the quality of the breeders’ by launching what was originally the Accredited Breeders Scheme and which for technical reasons associated with each UK Accreditation is now the Assured Breeders Scheme. Although it has a great deal going for it, it can hardly be considered a success for like all such schemes it has to tread a line between cost and complexity. Even government intervention culminating in the recent 2018 Regulations on breeding along with other legal initiatives such as Lucy’s Law are, in my view at least, not likely to be successful either. This is not to say they have not value: of course they do but they largely speak to those who would behave responsibly anyway.

A number of web sites which are free to access and largely free to post information on, have also been set up. Perhaps the best known is followed by the National Register of Pedigree Dog Breeders ( and Pets4Homes along with a number of commercial advertising sites such as Gumtree and almost all breeders will have their own websites. Layered on top of actually finding a puppy to buy, is extensive advice from charities, lobby groups, government, local authorities, commercial dog food manufacturers (and the Kennel Club, of course) providing advice and guidance on how to go about it. I would not for a moment challenge their aims and objectives but they are repetitive and, if experience is anything to go by, have not made very much difference to the puppy buying public: the ones who have been responsible remain responsible and those which are irresponsible ignore any advice.

The demands of those devoted to pedigree dogs range from, ‘no puppy should be allowed to be sold unless all those involved in its pedigree have been subjected to a battery of of tests to ensure that it is free of any genetic weakness’ to those who recognise that ‘breeding should be focused on the overall health of the sire and dam and rely on their experience and instinct to ensure that their puppies are sound’. Then there are the lobby groups and charities who all too often hold the view that breeders cannot be trusted to breed sound puppies, that they breed too much and too often and so prospective owners should be protected from exploitation versus the commercial companies in whose interest it is to persuade more people to have dogs: it is a media minefield.

As any reasonably intelligent person can quickly see, finding any sort of compromise which even partially fulfils these many expectations is clearly impossible and most of the commercial sites which have been set up in recent years have not survived.

The most recent attempt to capture this market was launched a couple of years back and I mentioned it in Speakers’ Corner at the time. There is no doubt the motives of those behind Tailwise are sound and it is a smart, professional site – but fulfilling the demands of every interest group is exceptionally difficult. For instance, if you want to buy a puppy through Tailwise there are eight stages you need to complete (including a payment to Tailwise of £95 when the transaction to buy your puppy has taken place) and if you are a breeder (the scheme is free to join) you need to go through a similar extended questionnaire. I have no idea how successful the site is because there is no way you can ‘search’ for a puppy neither can you tell how many breeders are listed on the site but I wish it every success and have no hesitation in suggesting that responsible breeders take the trouble to sign up.

If you do so, please contact me with your impressions and whether it is successful for you.

Understanding proportions

Posted January 31, 2020 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The idea of freedom has more to do with my freedom to do what I want than your freedom to do what you want – Douglas Adams

In a recent post on Facebook Our Dogs’ Breed Feature Editor, Helen Davenport Willis, posted this picture of a Bernese Mountain Dog

and wrote ‘Proportions here are incorrect on this Bernese Mountain Dog which is too long in the back and too short on the leg. The whole picture is totally unbalanced; the top line is clearly sagging. Worryingly, there are many like this in the show ring. Bernese proportions should be 9 to 10. That is 9 high to 10 long. Essential to excellence in breed type has to be the correct proportions.’

I replied , I am afraid rather pessimistically, ‘I established the Judging Diploma in 1980 and have been a Kennel Club Accredited Trainer since 2000 so, along with many other thoughtful and knowledgeable columnists and commentators from the UK and North America (Robert Cole in Canada and Curtis Brown in the USA), I have spent 40 years of making exactly this and other comments on structure in seminars, articles, presentations on the Internet and for the last 25 years, in Speakers’ Corner in Our Dogs. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts (and this includes the Kennel Club’s welcome and increasing emphasis on judges’ education) they do not appear to have made a scrap of difference and although some breeds have maintained their standards and there have been improvements in in head structure in Chows and some of the brachycephalic breeds, the conformation and overall shape of many others breeds is simply wrong and totally at odds with their standards.’  I indicated I would try again despite my experience of brick walls and heads and shortly afterwards my mood was lifted with a further post from Nancy P Melone, a retired university professor and Bernese Mountain Dog enthusiast from the States who replied, ‘Intelligence and (most importantly) motivation are not uniformly distributed throughout the population … but there are pockets scattered here and there. We can and do teach the pockets … and for our efforts, those students are deeply appreciative’.

Of course, what she says is quite true and she reminded me of two important points: that the joy of teaching is that you make a difference in the long term (as a student I remember a discussion I initiated on the basis that we were educating for 100 years hence and not tomorrow) and, as I know from my own correspondence, there are many who are as frustrated as I am by the often narrow-minded focus of some breeders and judges who continue to ignore the fundamental conformation of a dog because they like its head, its coat or its tail set.

To begin at the beginning

I should begin by saying that there are many wonderful show dogs and it is one of the great pleasures judging when you see their grace, style and appeal: so, as with the brachycephalic breeds, we know that excellence is achievable.  Unfortunately, the terms ‘breeder’ and ‘high profile’ when applied to breeders do not necessarily correspond: one would wish that they did for it is the high profile breeders who all too often have the greatest influence with judges and novices coming in to a breed. A friend, who had a high profile until 20 years ago when they stood back from the pressures of the show ring, was studying the Our Dogs Annual in January and told me they were horrified at the number of dogs which were distinctly way out of kilter from what their breed standards demanded.

As Helen makes clear, the proportions of her breed is the key element of the criticism of so many dogs in the ring today and this applies to far too many: you do not have to spend very many minutes on canine, show related social media to see evidence of this fundamental distortion. I have no problem in people showing pictures of their dogs but it does concern me that so many people then pile in with their congratulations and confident comments about the quality of dogs which are too often genuinely awful examples of their breed.

But back to the thread – I would like to discuss what in my opinion are the two major problems from which many breeds continue to suffer.  If they could be resolved we could focus on soundness and breed characteristics – the other aspects of excellence.

As noted by Helen the first is ‘proportion’: if a breed is described in the standard as ’square’ then if it is not square it cannot be typical however closely it conforms to its other breed characteristics.  If, as with Bernese Mountain Dogs, the proportions are 10:9, so it is slightly longer than tall, however good the rest is  I would suggest that this is a fundamental flaw.  Of course, the judge must balance the good features against those that are less good but ‘proportion’ is central to whether the dog looks like its breed. In passing I would mention that a note for prospective puppy buyers has been added to all breed standards on the Kennel Club webpages which I had not noticed before.  It says, ‘Size – the Kennel Club Breed Standard is a guide and description of the ideal of the breed; the Size as described does not imply that the dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the Size measurements stated in the Breed Standard’.  I mention this because I think it proves my point for although we can, I think, comfortably accept that dogs may be slightly smaller than desirable or up to size, it is highly unlikely that there will ever be such a note which says that it could be expected that the proportions of any given breed might not be the same as that described in the breed standard.

Structural balance compromised

The next is the question of ‘structural balance’.  We have seen the damage that can be inflicted on a breed when its structural balance is compromised as in the German Shepherd Dog and, should you be interested, I refer you to my Web Log at for my series of articles on this subject.  We continue to see structural balance being compromised by the fashion for the hind-quarter strength of some breeds being bred (consciously or unconsciously), with very long second thighs taking the back feet significantly behind the point of maximum stability as seen even in the Kennel Club videos for judges describing conformation and movement.  Now, there are some breeds where a little greater hind angulation is acceptable (not longer second thighs) because they are designed to move most efficiently at the double suspension gallop. Breeds such as Greyhounds, Whippets and Salukis will have this tendency although one would not want to see it taken to the extremes we see all too often. But why such outlines are considered elegant in some guarding, shepherding, mastiff, and gundog breeds (which include poodles) I have no idea but many believe such an outline to be not just acceptable but desirable.

All suggestions as to how to get these vital concepts over to breeds and exhibitors effectively would be very welcome.  Do not hesitate to contact me at


Do not panic about the General Data Protection Regulations

Posted January 16, 2020 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Data is a precious thing – Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the Internet)

On 26th February 2018 the Kennel Club published a press release about the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which come into effect on the 28th of May.  One paragraph states, ‘It is important for clubs and societies to be aware of the way in which data must be handled in line with the requirements under the GDPR. Whilst it may seem complex, there are some relatively straightforward immediate steps which will help clubs to get in shape for GDPR’.  This release was clear and accurate as far as it went but it would appear that Clarges Street has had a number of queries from secretaries of canine associations since then for there has been a further press release designed to ‘clarify’ what clubs need to do and a further ‘guidance sheet’ both of which, it has to be said, has done little more than provide a layer of confusion.  May I bring some clarity to the situation?

But to begin at the beginning: few associations will still have a formal hand written members register or card index.  Occasionally snail mail might be used but the vast majority of communications between secretaries, committees and members is likely to be via email using easily readable/printable attached files and records of members will be on a spreadsheet.  However, the details held have usually been simple and practical.  The original Data Protection Act was not much interested in small organisations that just held names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses on a database for most of the information was in the public domain but as from May 28th, 2018 this is no longer the case and any data held in whatever form (even on a card index) is subject to the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).  You will no doubt have received many letters over the last few weeks from almost every government and commercial organisation which holds data about you explaining what data they hold and why they hold it and given the pages of small print it is is not surprising that those who are responsible for the data held by canine societies might be beginning to worry that they may fall foul of the bureaucratic nightmare which appears to be approaching.  The Kennel Club’s intervention will not have helped ease their minds.

Don’t Panic

Do not panic: although everyone responsible for data held on behalf of any organisation is subject to the act the vast majority if not all breed or general canine societies do not even have to register.  The reason is that data held for a not-for-profit organisation is exempt.  If you need evidence then you only need to go to and complete the short and simple questionnaire.  It is a simple survey at the end of which you are informed whether or not you need to register – and if you do, you can go directly to the registration page.  Even when you get there it only takes about 15 minutes to complete so it is quick and certainly not complicated.   However it is unlikely you will be required to register and you will be presented with information:

‘If your organisation was established for not-for-profit making purposes and does not make a profit or your organisation makes a profit for its own purposes, as long as the profit is not used to enrich others. You must:

  • only process information necessary to establish or maintain membership or support; 
  • only process information necessary to provide or administer activities for people who are members of the organisation or have regular contact with it; 
  • only share the information with people and organisations necessary to carry out the organisation’s activities. Important – if individuals give you permission to share their information, this is OK (you can still answer ‘yes’); and
  • only keep the information while the individual is a member or supporter or as long as necessary for member/supporter administration.

If you can answer yes to all those questions you do not need to register but you are informed that you may voluntarily register if you prefer.

Voluntary registration

If you think about it, data protection is all perfectly straightforward and reasonable and the aim is sensible: it is to allow individuals to stay in control of their personal information and to ensure that those organisations that hold personal data protect it, use it responsibly and do not sell it or distribute it without your permission.  As I have explained, registration will not apply to your club under normal circumstances but if, say, an insurance company suggests perfectly reasonably that they pay your club a fee to circulate all the members with a special offer, and you accept you would immediately find yourself in the data protection minefield so it would be wise to refuse such requests whether you are registered or not.

Your committee may feel they should register voluntarily even though your society fulfils all the criteria above but either way your organisation has a duty under the regulations to keep your data safe and the following summarises what you need to do.

Your committee should first identify one person within your society that is going to be responsible for data protection.  This does not automatically have to be the secretary.  It will not be an onerous role and it would make life easier for secretaries if they had someone on the committee (it could be the chairman, treasurer or any other member) to whom they could refer when they were communicating with members if it was not in the normal course of the society’s activity.  This is likely to happen very seldom for the circulation of minutes, AGM notices, newsletters and the like would carry on exactly as usual.  However, it is important to ensure whoever it is thoroughly understands what is required of them.  There are fines for not fulfilling the role properly but again there is no need to worry.  The director of the DGPR has made it quite clear that all monitoring activity will be proportional, registration is voluntary in any case and the likelihood of any canine society seriously misusing the data of its members is pretty remote.

What you need to do

The next stage is for you to list all the data about your members which you actually need.  I totally approve of this requirement because I get extremely irritated with those intrusive requests for information such as my age, education and ethnicity, whether it is from government or any other source.  You may find that you are, without realising it already asking for more detail than you need.   Name, address, telephone numbers, email address and contact details is all the personal information you should need about members. What you do not need and must not keep, are details of their peccadillos: in fact you are now not allowed to keep personal notes about anyone on a database for which you are responsible (‘always “picky”- handle with care’ or ‘hates X with a vengeance’ are not acceptable however useful they may be as a memo for you or a future secretary) and as you are duty bound to provide all the information you hold about a member on request it is probably not wise in any case!

Many societies now may include details of judges, litters, potential puppy owners and extensive databases regarding health which also requires the asking of legitimate questions but this is all still within the bandwidth of a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation so falls within the definition of ‘normal activity for a not for profit organisation’.

Safety and security

All data must be held securely so your computer must have a password, filing cabinets or card indexes holding data must be locked and keys kept safely and, registered or not, you should also be very careful about allowing others access to your database.  It may well be that your treasurer or newsletter editor has a perfectly good reason to have a copy but they, too, must understand that it may only be used for the precise reason they need it and the same security and safety measures that you, as the holder of the data, should be in place.

The fact that someone has ‘joined’ your association means that by definition, they are happy to receive information from you about it and its activities but if you want to circulate your members with commercial advertising, charitable or other material then you should make arrangements for any of your members who do not wish to receive such information to opt out.  This is not likely to be a very common occurrence and is easy to do if you are going to email them all: you simply include an ‘opt out’ clause and you should make sure that anyone who does so does not receive such emails in the future.

You should inform your members about what data you are storing and why.  There is nothing complicated about this you can just send them an email.  To help I have put form together which should be sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the Act.  I have tried to include all the points demanded by the legislation so you do not have to keep any other records of what you do and how you do it.  ‘Keep it Simple’ has always been my mantra and just because the legislation seems complicated does not mean we have to do any more than absolutely necessary. I have included ‘marketing activates’ for completeness but if you are not going to do this you can simply delete the italicised lines.

Data Protection Notice and Permission to hold contact details for all members of (insert association’s name)

To comply with the current legislation on data protection we must tell you what personal data we hold about you, why we hold it and have your permission to retain it.  We securely store data about members to ensure we can contact them by mail, telephone or email:

  • in an emergency
  • about the activities and meetings of the club, reminders of closing dates for shows and events, requests for assistance at club events
  • our regular newsletter
  • any special offers we believe will be of interest to you

You can opt-out of any marketing contacts if you wish by informing the secretary.

Any data we hold will not be provided to any other person or business except as required by law.

  • You may request to see all the personal data we hold on you (we are allowed 30 days to provide it)
  • We only keep your data for the reasons outlined above
  • We destroy your data if we have had no contact with you for (x) years
  • For the smooth and efficient running of our association we need to keep a record of
    • Your name
    • Your Address
    • Your landline and mobile telephone numbers
    • Your email address
    • Contact details of another responsible person in case of emergency

______________________________ (Insert name, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for data protection within the Association)

PS: I have researched this article thoroughly  and I will be taking my own advice but please note I am not a lawyer and the information should not be regarded as a formal legal opinion.

Breeding – the impact of Breeding Licensing Regulations on Dog Breeders

Posted April 9, 2019 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

            As a result of continuing concerns by the Kennel Club and the National Register of Pedigree Dog Breeders about the way in which licensing officers were interpreting the new Animal Licensing Laws (The Animal Welfare (Licensing of activities involving animals) (England) Regulations 2018) which became law on 1st October 2018, and in association with Holly Conway of the Kennel Club, David Cavill FRSA designed a survey to make public the extent of the problem and, particularly, the impact it was making on ‘hobby breeders’.  (For the record, ‘hobby breeders’ have been defined as ‘an owner who breeds from a bitch because they would like to have another puppy to take part in the canine activities with which they are involved, whether that be to show, to train for agility obedience or any other reason. That reason could be extended to include that they have another companion when one of their current dogs dies. The key issue is that they are not breeding specifically to sell dogs as a regular part of their annual income. Such hobby breeders are likely to have surplus puppies which they will want to find good homes for and they are entitled to advertise them and sell them. A reasonable ‘test’ for hobby breeder is that they will (usually) be retaining one or more of any litter to pursue their hobby.  Those who breed more litters than two each year may still consider that they are a ‘hobby breeder’ but will, of course, require a breeding licence.)

There has been much hearsay on social media and anecdotal evidence from breeders who have been affected but there has been very little hard data.  Survey has now closed but it addresses those problems. It is particularly interesting and important to note that those who replied were by no means all breeders of pedigree dogs.

Defra has said that at 1st October 2019 there were approximately 600 breeders licensed by local authorities under the old regulations.  The Kennel Club and Our Dogs were therefore very pleased that the survey generated 1,500 replies which clearly showed that breeders were taking responsible action by recognising that they were subject to the new laws disappointed with the revelations about the extent of the problem.  The Kennel Club has now completed its analysis of the responses and provided them to Defra who, we understand, were taken aback by the range of the misunderstandings by licensing officers and have indicated, though not promised, to take action.

Key Statistics

  • 75% of respondents get their information about dogs and breeding from the KC;
  • 89% of respondents consider themselves hobby breeders.
  • 85% did not have a dog breeding licence prior to October 2018. 50% breed less than 1 litter per year and 37% breed 1-2 litters per year;
  • 27% are ABS members – 90% for more than 3 years. ABS membership counted towards compliance history for less than 60% (59%) and as a result they achieved a 4-5 star rating. For 41% it did not and they received a 1-3 star rating;
  • One third had to comply with conditions such as planning permission; companies house registration; public liability insurance; implementing noise reduction measures; applying for business insurance and paying for business refuse collection prior to being issued a licence;
  • 65% do not rely on advertising pups for sale because they have waiting lists. Only 17% advertise on commercial websites and 25% on their own website. Over 80% use non-commercial websites such as KC’s find a puppy service ( or the National Register of Pedigree Dog Breeders (
  • Of those breeders who have been inspected by a local authority nearly half (46%) were not confident or not at all confident that their inspector was knowledgeable about dog breeding; almost half (48%) were not confident or not at all confident that their inspector understood the different between a business and a hobby breeder and over 40% (41%) were not confident or not at all confident that they understood or had applied a business test proportionate to their circumstances.

Survey Responses

The Kennel Club’s analysis and comments provided by respondents runs to 16 pages many of which repeatedly emphasise local authority officers’ lack of understanding of the concept of a ‘hobby breeder’, but we hope that this brief summary will provide readers with an understanding of the main features.

Most comments related to local authorities not recognising hobby breeders and advising any breeder who breeds even one litter to apply for a licence. This is a widespread misunderstanding which these Kennel Club believe needs to be addressed.  For instance Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Council do not appear to be taking any account of ‘hobby breeding’ as an exemption for requiring a license and take a very strict view that if anyone is selling a puppy for any money at all, it counts as a commercial operation. They refused to apply the ‘hobby breeding’ rules are breeder in the Shropshire Council area said she was told that she had to have a licence as she has an intention to breed’.  There were over one hundred similar statements one of which was that Birmingham City Council is actively looking for and even buying puppies to catch hobby breeders with the intention to prosecute them for having a litter and not being licensed.

The Business Test

There were similar misunderstandings about the Business Test. Over 40% of respondents were not confident or not at all confident that licensing officers understood or had applied a business test proportionate to their circumstances.  And the Kennel Club have concluded that ‘there is a systemic problem with the business test which was evident in numerous comments received’. This included Telford & Wrekin using the £1000 turnover business case, so they say that anyone breeding a bitch must have a license as even the sale of 2 cross breed pups will be more than £1000 and Bassetlaw Council saying that anyone selling puppies for more than £1000 will probably need a license.

Almost more worrying is that a third of respondents were expected to comply with conditions such as planning permission; companies house registration; public liability insurance; implementing noise reduction measures; applying for business insurance and paying for business refuse collection prior to being issued a licence.  The KC say that many breeders are clearly being treated as commercial businesses and being requested to jump through excessive hoops in order to receive a licence. This is resulting in many ceasing breeding altogether. The most commonly cited additional requirement breeders had to apply for was public liability insurance. There are however many others.              For instance, one respondent said that planning issues stopped her from applying and Durham County Council also expected to take DNA from every dog because they said they ‘wanted a dog DNA database in order to catch people who left faeces lying around’. A licensing officer in Kent said anyone with more than 3 breeding dogs had to be in commercial premises so in effect. They are advocating puppy farming while trying to close down home breeders.

One respondent reported ‘I have so far been prevented from applying for a licence as the local council insisted that I needed Planning permission for change of use. Architects drawings, planning application, acoustic survey and £7000 later they turned down the application on ridiculous grounds so this has now gone to appeal!’ And the

Throughout the survey it was clear that there was considerable confusion about precisely what was required of breeders by licensing officers and some appeared not to have read the guidance at all. The Kennel Club and say that this seems to be a  ‘one size fits all’ approach so that however small the breeders’ business, the red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork is what one would expect of a large business or even a commercial kennels housing many dogs.

One respondent said ‘I have re-homed most of my dogs since new regulations came out because I simply could not cope with the ridiculous rules and mountains of red tape’. Another wrote, ‘I applied for my Licence in November 2018. I received a phone call from the council asking for £435 before an inspection date could be booked. I received another telephone call a couple of weeks later making an appointment for two licencing officers and a vet to attend my property on 10th January 2019. When they arrived, the inspectors handed me their Guidance Notes for the application, the first time I had seen it. The inspection then took around four hours, working through 36 pages of the application form. About 10 days later I received a call from North Devon District Council to say that they had recommended my application for refusal, although I would have the chance to put my case forward to a committee meeting at a future date to be agreed. I was emailed a 49 page report, outlining the reasons for refusal. Since then it has taken approximately 35 hours to work through the report in order to supply NDDC with the information they require, mainly in written Standard Operating Procedure format. I am still working through the form but to date have put together over 50 pages of response. I do not employ any staff. On a personal level, I have found my experience to date with NDDC very stressful. They clearly have no experience of dog ownership on any level, and stated to me at the outset, they are licencing officers and are only interested in applicants meeting the licence criteria.’

Some local authorities appear to have no knowledge of the new regulations at all. A respondent in Bradford tried to apply for a licence and was met with blank stares while others say that the appropriate forms are not available while giving out conflicting information.  The Kennel Club have made it clear to Defra that it is not acceptable for any local authority to not have any indicators on their websites that the legislation has changed (many have incorrect and outdated information). Further it appears many are unaware of updated regulations even when breeders contact them.

Assured Breeder Scheme membership

According to the Guidance, ABS membership should count towards compliance history so that the star rating awarded (which affects the length of time the licence is allowed to run) should take that into consideration. In fact licensing officers were only prepared to acknowledge ABS membership in about 60 % of the cases where a four – five star rating was applied but worryingly, for 40%, membership, compliance history was ignored.

The Kennel Club has made it clear to Defra that ABS could not only save a local authority time and money but encouraging ABS membership provides the puppy buying public with a pool of responsible breeders. Disregarding the only UKAS accredited scheme undermines the intention of the regulations – which is to improve the welfare of puppies being bred and ensure puppy buyers purchase dogs from responsible breeders.  For instance North Devon District Council quote in their application form: ‘It must be noted the Kennel Club requirements and assessments are not as in depth and complex as this assessment’. Given that the criteria are actually based on the ABS this is clearly a total misunderstanding by the council.  In the instance quoted they wanted to see the ABS Inspection Report but it was not considered or taken into account in their decision making process.  Another respondent reported that their licensing officer did not accept ABS membership and they said, ‘We received a ‘0’ rating and were told that no star will be given till after 2020 even though we have been assured breeders since 2005.

In the Kennel Club’s opinion some local authorities have so misunderstood the regulations it could be damaging to the puppy buying public. They say, ‘If local authorities are not issuing star ratings, or issue only 1 star ratings for a good breeder then puppy buyers may be less likely to buy a puppy from that breeder – even though if rated by another local authority that breeder would be likely to achieve a much higher rating. This inconsistency is detrimental to the puppy market as it fails to assist people looking for good breeders’.  For instance Breckland Council have a policy of not giving stars to anyone and other local authorities have a policy of only giving a one year licence when the Guidance makes it clear that well-established breeders who fulfil the criteria for higher standards should be given a star rating which reflects the quality of their service.

There are also serious concerns about the licence fee.  One respondent reported,  ‘The fee is suddenly five times what it was last year and even though I was given 5* rating they will only grant a 12 month licence which means that in a year’s time I will have to pay a further £1400’.

Fundamental disagreements with minimum standards

There were several issues which responsible breeders fundamentally disagreed with specific criteria for the highest standards.  The result is that they are unable to gain a higher star rating. This shuts out a good source of puppies from the market and undermines the intention of the regulations, for good breeders to breed healthy dogs and for puppy buyers to know where to source them. In their submission to Defra the Kennel Club put forward a number of specific case studies to demonstrate the misunderstandings which are already beginning to appear endemic

North Devon

An ABS breeder applied for a licence with North Devon District Council. They had the inspection and were told they would get a 1 star rating providing some areas were dealt with – including vaccinations & labelling the fridge. They have been a member of the ABS since 2008 with no issues.

South and South West Local AuthoritiesLocal authorities in this area are advising breeders that they will require a licence if they breed and sell even one puppy and are taking no account of membership of the ABS.


An ABS breeder applied for a licence from Teignbridge District Council having joined the ABS in 2013 and having had two ABS inspections resulting in a satisfactory outcome. She is a hobby breeder, who normally breeds two litters per year from home. She was advised however that she would receive only a 3 star rating because she has not undertaken an OFQUAL qualification and had been told that it was essential to complete this at a cost of £900 (there are a number of distance learning colleges which can assist breeders at considerably less than £900 Ed) in order to achieve a 5 star rating. However this is an ‘optional’ requirement of the local authority licensing conditions, intended for breeders who employ staff (which she does not). Further, the local authority informed her that they were not taking compliance with the ABS into account which is causing her to consider leaving the scheme and even stop breeding.

East Riding

East Riding Council informed an ABS member that their ABS history does not count towards their compliance history and as such the ABS member will not achieve any star rating until 2020.

Mid Devon

The Kennel Club have had four complaints regarding Mid Devon District Council as they are not taking into account ABS membership with regards to proof of compliance history and are insisting anyone who breeds even one litter (even if they keep some puppies from the litter for themselves) must be licensed and inspected annually – even if they only have a litter every 3-4 years. Moreover, they are not implementing the scoring matrix at all and so it is unclear as to how they can be issuing an accurate star rating.

Adur and Worthing


Adur and Worthing Councils launched a consultation on the AAL shortly after the new regulations were introduced. The AAL is intended as a prescriptive document. It is not open for consultation. What is more, they stated at the time they would adopt the new regime in ‘early 2019’ and so missed the implementation date of October 2018.


Guildford Borough Council also issued a consultation on its licensing policy. Within this they stated: “Proof of the planning permission required for the relevant activity on the premises should also be provided”. This is additional red tape for low volume hobby breeders who will already have to declare their income to HMRC and provide public liability insurance.


Chichester District Council wrote to us following communications they had been having with an Assured Breeder regarding whether they would require a licence. They stated in their correspondence to them that the majority of dog breeders would now require a licence because breeding and selling dogs with a view to making a profit or earning any commission was now licensed. However this is just one marker in HMRC’s badges of trade and so is not the case.

Defra were contacted regarding this particular conversation and wrote to our Assured Breeder to state:  “The key thing to focus on here is the operation of business as being the determining factor in cases where less than three litters are bred per year. This is where the business test comes into play, which will help differentiate those who are legitimate hobby breeders and those who are actually operating a business….. The business test is not stating that anyone who makes a sale or takes a commission is automatically in scope…”


Selby District Council has been in contact by one of our KC Assured Breeders in relation to their licence and subsequent complaint upon being told they would only be issuing a 1 year licence initially. The reasons given are:’As this is new to all of us, for the first year only we will issue one year licences only. This will give you time to ensure that you are meeting all of the required standards, ready for the next years renewal and give us the chance to see what additional work, if any is required to enable us to get our fee setting correct.’  It is worth pointing out that this one year licence came at a cost of £556.10. Furthermore, this breeder has been a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme, without issue, since 2008 and has been the only licensed breeder within this local authority area for some years now.

New Guidance?

It is unlikely that the current Guidance will be updated in the near future but Defra has suggested that they are prepared to circulate a Briefing Note in the near future which bring some of these problems to the attention of local authorities.  We can only hope that they read them but in the meantime it is hoped that guidance will be made available to breeders so that licensing officers can be shown it as and when necessary.


Breeding – Background to the survey on the impact of licensing on breeders

Posted April 3, 2019 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer – Robert Louis Stevenson

I created a survey for Our Dogs and the Kennel Club launched in February on the impact of the new Animal Licensing Laws on breeders. Like most of the previous attempts to legislate and/or control pet animals by introducing legislation to control breeders and dangerous dogs it is once again evident, however benevolent the intention, that our lawmakers find it very difficult to achieve what should be quite clear objectives without making the whole framework too complex for anyone to fully understand what is required or, as far as local authority licensing officers’ are concerned, creating chaos and confusion where non should exist.

Under the circumstances, it is therefore not surprising that the greatest legislative success in this sector by any government was almost by accident.  With the environmental Protection Act 1990 and the ensuing Environmental Protection (stray dogs) Regulations 1992 and the Control of Dogs Order 1992, the responsibility for stray dogs was transferred from the police to local authorities as an addendum, for the original Act was almost entirely about the disposal of waste and the definition of statutory nuisances. Almost overnight, stray dogs disappeared from our streets and those of us involved (Angela and I were then senior managers with The Dogs’ Home Battersea) were delighted to see that the numbers of dogs having to be destroyed dropping like a stone.  Nothing is perfect (and the whole framework surrounding dangerous dogs remains an appalling abuse both of dogs and the law) but since then we have had Control of Dogs Orders, the insistence that all dogs should be micro-chipped and a government moving forward on Lucy’s Law (the banning sale pets by a third party) too.

What is happening now?

But to return to the new ALLs:  It is not only breeders who have been impacted by this legislation and although it seems to me that most of the major concerns are around dog breeding, there has also been much discussion and concern about kennels and catteries, home boarding and day care centres.  The area which has seen the least upset are those pet shops which sell small pet animals such as hamsters and rabbits, reptiles and fish (most high street pet shops do not sell puppies or kittens) but it remains to be seen how the market will react to the future restrictions on third-party sales of puppies and kittens sold from trading kennels (which require a licence to sell animals) and large breeding establishments (which require a breeding licence) which currently supply those trading kennels.

My view has been for some time that in the future, trading kennels will begin to breed their own puppies while those large breeding establishments which we so often referred to as ‘puppy farms’, will begin to sell direct to the public.  We have already seen this happening in that T & S Four Paws in Barton under Needwood was raided by Trading Standards and Environmental Health Officers in East Staffordshire a year ago (the situation is current because the owners, Tina Paris and Stuart Ward, have just been fined well over £1000 each and to do 100 hours unpaid work as well as being ordered to attend sessions to improve their reading and writing skills – I assume that part of their defence was that they did not understand the documentation). They have also been disqualified from having or obtaining a Pet Shop Licence or a Breeding Licence for two years. What did they do? Their premises had a pet shop licence for selling dogs but they did not have a licence for breeding them. After a complaint about a puppy, licensing officers visited the premises and found that they not only did not comply with the licence conditions but they had begun breeding their own puppies without a breeding licence. This offence took place before the new regulations were introduced but demonstrates my point about commercial businesses taking what they see as sensible steps to stay within the law.  We can only hope that the new standards being applied will ensure that the quality of care and socialisation will be to acceptable standards but this is entirely dependent on the good sense of those employed by local authorities.  In the above case, and I suspect many others, they behaved impeccably but there is no doubt that, given the results of the survey, some leave a great deal to be desired in the extent of their understanding, knowledge and experience.

Red lines and grey areas

Many years ago I was a member of the small committee that wrote the Model Licence Conditions (MLCs) which were published in 1995 which have been in force for kennels and catteries for over 30 years.  As with any new guidance it took some time for all those involved to understand the more stringent requirements but there is no doubt that the quality of both service and environment has significantly improved over that time.  But I remember well having a long and protracted discussion with environmental officers in Cambridgeshire about what was then a brand-new and very beautiful cattery which had been built by a very experienced and sensible owner.  Her husband was a builder so it was built on sound foundations, of brick and was a courtyard style with a lovely garden and a beautiful pond in the centre.  The new MLCs required a sleeping area of X by Y but the block had been built (with underfloor heating which came on automatically when the temperature dropped below a certain level) with an area of X-1 (inch) by Y-2 (inches).  The argument went backwards and forwards for months with me saying that the space allotted fulfilled the requirements of the 1963 Act (which then defined the statutory requirements) and that the MLCs were not statutory and were advisory while the Environmental Health Officer concerned responding that if dimensions were included they had to be adhered to. As I remember, the issue finally went to court (this was before the current appeal process was in place) and I am pleased to say that the cattery is still there and continues to have a superb reputation.

This demonstrates how important it is that any statutory demand should allow for sensible judgement.  If the dimensions had been seriously inadequate or the cattery in question had also been characterised by poor care, inadequate paperwork or other physical shortcomings then the precise area would sensibly be one of the factors in refusing a licence.  As is was the only shortcoming some latitude should have been allowed.

Current problems

In the last few months I have been made aware of a number of difficulties faced by well-established premises that have fallen foul of the new regulations and the question of areas is now even more pertinent because the regulations are statutory.  For example Michelle Render of Elmsall Kennels tells Kennel and Canterbury Management, ‘Turmoil has been caused by the new legislation for kennels like mine that cannot be modified to the required sizes.  Although there has never been a complaint in our 14 years of trading we have therefore been given a low star rating’. (Just to recapitulate, the statutory regulations are quite basic so Michelle’s premises fulfil the criteria but licensees can only get a ‘star’ rating if they fulfil further, higher standards.)

Frankly, I am surprised that the Pet Industry Federation which has a section devoted to boarding kennels and catteries (the UK Kennel and Cattery Association) and the Association of Licensed Kennels (ALIKA) have not written and launched their own survey to see how the ALLs are working in their sector given that Defra have been impressed and appreciative of the Kennel Club/Our Dogs survey.  Perhaps it is time to create another especially for kennels and catteries. Back to several hours on Survey Monkey for me I think.  (NB:  This survey was launched in March 2019)


An unnecessary proposal which will discriminate against some owners of assistance dogs

Posted October 5, 2018 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source – Doris Day

Under the Equality act of 2010 you are considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has ‘a substantial and long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. ‘Substantial’ is more than minor or trivial so, for instance, if it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed is not classed as ‘minor’ or ‘trivial’. ‘Long-term’ means 12 months or more.  You automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality act from the day you are diagnosed with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis and there is also a classification regarding progressive conditions (those which get worse over time such as a breathing condition which develops as a result of a lung infection): All can be classed as disabled conditions.

If you are disabled you have rights to protect you from discrimination and you have these rights in almost every public aspect of your life including employment and education.  One area that is not included is travel because the complexity of making discrimination illegal as far as aircraft, buses and trains is simply too complicated. Many transport companies are making an effort to help disabled people but as demonstrated by a report in Which? Magazine recently there is still a very long way to go simply because of the technical difficulties involved in wheelchair users getting on and off almost all modes of public transport.

For well over 100 years it has been recognised that dogs can be not just helpful but often essential in assisting those who are disabled to cope with their disability.  During this time and particularly during the last 30 years, many organisations have been set up to specially train dogs for those people who would like a dog (not everyone wants to have a dog if they are disabled) and for whom a dog would be an asset. Guide dogs, hearing dogs for deaf people and support dogs for those who are wheelchair-bound are often seen on our streets and they are identified by their jackets which clearly indicate their role.  As I explained in a recent Speakers’ Corner, a number of those charities have come together to share expertise and to represent their interests and the interests of their users under the banner of the charity Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) whose director, Peter Gorbing has become a powerful figure as far as disabilities issues are concerned as he has been an effective spokesman on behalf of disabled people. This has some disadvantages as there are some who feel that his approach appears to be especially protective of ADUK and this has inadvertently, although some affected say deliberately, complicated disability issues for a number of disabled dog owners.

Disability comes in two basic forms, those which are obvious and those which are hidden.

Less recognised disabilities

Physically disabled people who are wheelchair-bound or find difficulty in walking are clearly distinguishable from the able-bodied. Not being able to hear or see are ‘hidden’ disabilities to some extent but ones which are universally recognised and are well supported by dogs.  But there are a wide range of other hidden disability issues and these include: epilepsy (medical detection dogs can indicate if an epileptic fit is imminent); support dogs (for those with mental health problems including panic attacks); respiratory illnesses and those with cancer, HIV infection and multiple sclerosis where a dog can provide stability, comfort, companionship, emotional and sometimes practical support.

But for the present there are no well-heeled charities set up to provide canine services for those who feel they would be helpful and therefore no public recognition of the role that they play. For many people in this position they have dogs which they themselves have trained but which are not ‘officially’ recognised as support dogs by employers or schools and colleges which, in theory, they have a duty to do.

When this was brought to the attention of the Office for Disability Issues (based at the Department of Work and Pensions) a working group was set up to try and address these problems. I am told by the gentleman who was tasked with organising the working group that he knew very little about working with assistance dogs but made every effort to contact all those groups likely to be involved or affected and I am happy to accept his assurances – but as so often significant stakeholders were omitted (the Pet Education, Training and Education Council of which I am the chairman for one). There is an understandable tendency for government to look for advice from the most forceful and often well-funded groups (who naturally can not only afford to employ clever and intelligent PR people but have the resources to send them to such meetings) and this certainly appears to have happened in this case.  I am not for a moment suggesting that those clever and intelligent people do not have the best interests of those they represent at heart but as soon as government is involved the whole process becomes far more complicated (and expensive) than it needs to be.

Keep it simple – bureaucracy can be avoided

The solution being proposed by the working group appears to be to allow the setting up of a completely separate structure monitored by the Office for Disability Issues which would mean that both dogs and owners in the unfortunate position of not having currently ‘recognised’ disability where the ownership of an assistance dog would be helpful, be subjected to an external test of their and their dogs’ suitability.  I have had the opportunity to examine the test and its accompanying rubric and it is my opinion that it is unnecessarily complicated, poorly constructed and likely to be expensive. It would also greatly increase the stress being placed on owners who have more than enough problems to cope with anyway.

The original suggestion was that this test would be administered by just one non-statutory organisation who would exclusively train some of its members interested in taking part (follow the money ladies and gentlemen) and that, in their words, ‘as the character of dogs changes over the years’ the test would have to be repeated several times during the dog’s life.  It is not just the structure that is wrong, the foundation upon which it is built, is on sand not on sense. But there is some good news: the first is that nothing has yet been finally decided so there is still the opportunity to deconstruct the whole proposed edifice and the second is that those on the working group have sensibly decided that if any training of owners and dogs is to take place then it should not be confined to one exclusive group of trainers.  This would mean, in the sad circumstances of this solution going forward, that at least some competition will be introduced into the scheme.

But there is a much simpler solution which would take it away from government and the associated bureaucracy, is pragmatic, and fits in with the current structure of the charitable sector involved with assistance dogs. I believe that what should happen is that a separate charity should be set up (hopefully supported by the others already working in the field and ADUK) to train dogs and help owners who are affected by these specific and complex issues. It would automatically have the same status of the other charities and be able to flexibly and pragmatically solve the problems of those affected (and provide its own ‘approved’ badged jackets for the dogs) without being burdened by unnecessary administration.

Some stakeholders on the working group have asked that I become a member and I have been accepted. I will keep you informed as to progress.

Don’t Panic about the new Data Protection Act

Posted April 24, 2018 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Data is a precious thing – Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the Internet)

I have long believed that for a small business (and most kennel businesses are small) the need to computerise everything is minimal.  The footfall of the average kennel is unlikely to be much more than 30 each week unless you have associated activities such as a grooming room or shop, although of course, there is a tendency for everyone to turn up at once so it sometimes seems much busier than it actually is.  Under those circumstances it is much easier to provide a new client with a printed card on which they write all the details which can then simply be dropped into card index drawer than for the receptionist, whoever that may be, to turn to the computer and painstakingly insert a dozen fields while three or four owners are waiting to either deliver or collect their pets.

It is often suggested that computerisation gives you access to a range of useful reports and this is true but, frankly, how many kennels need to print out a list of medication when any owner or member of staff worth their salt will know the dog or cat well enough to remember what it needs and, in any case, a board with each dog’s details in the kitchen area is more than enough to ensure that each pet is looked after properly.  If you think about it a diary, a website, an email address, a telephone number and a simple spreadsheet to calculate income and expenditure is really all that is necessary.  However, using a computer has gradually become a symbol of modernity and we seem to use them whether or not they provide the best process in any given set of circumstances.

If this is the way your kennel and/or cattery has been administered then you did not need to have any concerns about the first Data Protection Act of 1998 for it only applied to a limited extent and it has been generally recognised that information such as name address and telephone number was generally part of the public record so not regarded as ‘personal’.   In fact, even if that basic information was held on computer and included an email address it was still not regarded as a problem.  However as from May 28th, 2018 this is now longer the case and any data you hold in whatever form is subject to the new General Data Protection Regulations.

Don’t Panic

Do not panic: it is not as bad as it sounds.  If you think about it is it all perfectly straightforward and reasonable but you do need to comply because by its very nature the Internet is an open source for information and the same techniques used by Facebook, Amazon and the rest to track you to bring you advertisements which they feel will be of interest to you are likely to be used to measure your activity online and will highlight those who are not registered or not complying.  So I recommend that you apply for the aim is sensible: to allow individuals to stay in control of their personal information and to ensure that those organisations that hold your personal data protect it, use it responsibly and do not sell it or distribute it without your permission.

If you are already registered you will have received details of how to update your registration.  Otherwise the first thing to do is to register.  You will almost certainly need to do so but you can check by going to this link and answering the questions posed .  At the end of the short survey you are told whether or not you need to register or not and if you do, you are licked directly to the registration page.  It takes about 15 minutes to complete so is not onerous or complicated.   However, please note you will be asked to identify one person within your business who is going to be responsible for data protection.  In most businesses it will be the proprietor but in larger organisations that responsibility may fall to Human Resources or a senior manager.  You will also see that business owners have a responsibility to ensure whoever it is, thoroughly understands what is required of them: there are fines for not fulfilling the role properly.

Remember that if a separate business uses your premises then they will have to register too.  For instance, some kennels lease their grooming room and others have a field that they let out to a training club – just direct them to the link above even if they are a not-for-profit club or society.  If such activities are part of your business then one database is sufficient of course.

What you need to do

The next stage is for you to list all the data about your clients which you actually need.  I totally approve of this requirement because I get extremely irritated with those intrusive requests for information such as my age, education and ethnicity whether it is from government or any other source.  You may find that you are, without realising it already asking for more detail than you need.  Name, dogs/cats owned (you will need their details), address, telephone numbers, email address and contact details of a responsible person who can be contacted in an emergency is really all you need for any client.  What you do not need are details of their peccadillos: in fact you are now not allowed to keep personal notes about clients (‘always ‘picky’, handle with care’) and as you are duty bound to provide all the information you hold about a client on request (for free – you may not charge for so doing so) it is probably not wise in any case.

All data must be held securely so your computer must have a password, filing cabinets or card indexes must be locked and keys removed and kept safely when the office is unattended.  You should also instruct any staff with access to personal data of the importance of keeping them safe.  Mentioning staff – their stored data falls under the GDPA too so must be secure and held safely.

Next you must inform your clients about what data you are storing and why.  You do not need to contact them them but after 28th May you should have a leaflet/form to hand to each client for them to complete. I have created an example for you to amend and use. If you sign up to the National Register of Boarding Kennels and Catteries ( – it is free to join you can download an editable word processing copy which you can amend to your own requirements.

Within the data protection notice I have tried to include all the points demanded by the legislation so you do not have to keep any other records of what you do and how you do it.  ‘Keep it Simple’ has always been my mantra and just because the legislation seems complicated does not mean we have to do any more than absolutely necessary. Incidentally, if you do contact clients with any marketing or general advertising, you need to ensure there is an opt-out button within the mailing.

Data Protection Notice and Permission to hold contact details for all clients of (insert business name as filed with the General Data Protection Register)

To comply with the current legislation on data protection we must tell you what personal data we hold about you, why we hold it and have your permission to retain it.  We store data about clients to ensure we can contact them by mail, telephone or email:

  • in an emergency
  • about booking reminders
  • our regular newsletter
  • any special offers

You can opt-out of any marketing contacts if you wish by ticking the appropriate box on the form below.

Any data we hold will not be provided to any other person or business except as required by law.

  • You may request to see all the personal data we hold on you (we are allowed 30 days to provide it)
  • We only keep your data for the reasons outlined above
  • We destroy your data if we have had no contact with you for (x) years
  • For the smooth and efficient running of xxxx kennels we need to keep a record of
    • Your name
    • Your Address
    • Your landline and mobile telephone numbers
    • Your email address
    • Contact details of another responsible person in case of emergency
    • The details of your pet/s
    • The name and telephone number of your veterinary surgeon

For us to be able to hold these records we need your permission so please complete this form and hand it to our receptionist.

Your full name: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________

Your email address: __________________________________

I agree that ( xxxx kennels) may contact me, my veterinary surgeon or my named emergency contact as necessary

In an emergency

To remind me of appointments/bookings

Our Newsletter*

About offers and services which may be of interest to me*

*I understand I can opt out of further marketing contact at any time on request.

Signature ___________________________________

Clients must tick the first two boxes.  Ticking the subsequent boxes is optional


David Cavill is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the Institute of Directors, Studies Coordinator of the Animal Care College ( and wrote the College’s Diploma of Kennel Management.  He has managed a very large boarding kennels and cattery and owned a small kennel and cattery too.  He edited, revised and finally rewrote Sheila Zabawa’s Running Your Own Boarding Kennels, published by Kogan Page now, in its fourth edition.  He administers a series of information sites for the pet industry which include,,  and



Will the new restrictions on Dog Breeders be effective?

Posted March 20, 2018 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for anmals

All human progress depends on over-reaction – Libby Purves

On the other hand you may also like to consider the relevance of:

Many a good argument is ruined by some fool who knows what he is talking about – Marshall McLuhan

As chairman of the Pet Education, Training and Behaviour Council (PETbc) I am a member of the influential Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) which brings together the main participants in the pet welfare quadrille who have provided the foundations of the largely excellent animal care and welfare legislation in the United Kingdom.  The CFSG includes all the major charities including the Kennel Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy among other smaller players.

You will no doubt have noticed in reading that first sentence carefully that there is a touch of scepticism embedded within it.  I should therefore make clear that the ‘excellent animal care and welfare legislation’ phrase is accurate.  The UK has led the world not just in pet animal care but, largely through the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), in the welfare of animals used in scientific research too.  By and large the rest of the world has played ‘catch up’ so however much the charity lobby groups press for further reforms it is not for lack of achievement.  At the same time I use the reference to quadrille (an old and well-choreographed dance) because almost all these ‘stakeholders’ have their own focus and agenda, one aspect of which is to ensure there is enough money coming in through charitable donations to pay their staff (some senior staff are very well paid) and keep the organisation afloat.  They therefore come into the political arena with trolley loads of baggage from their trustees (and the committed senior officers – whom the trustees have appointed) which often makes agreement on the direction of progress a battle between different factions.

In some instances one might come to the conclusion that the legislation which has been passed by government has been in spite of rather than because of the commitment of the major players.  At the same time, the vast majority of smaller organisation live very much ‘hand to mouth’ so that the large ones, just like large companies, tend to mask the competition and through their superior marketing and advertising generate income at the expense of the smaller charities.  This means their views, and the views of individuals, hardly get a look in.

So although much progress has been made – the 2006 Animal Welfare Act which has resulted in the secondary legislation currently being introduced and which should be in place by the end of 2018 is an excellent example – there have been spectacular failures, particularly in in the legislation surrounding dangerous dogs and the various attempts to formally regulate the breeding of dogs.  Leaving the question of dangerous dogs aside for the moment (those of us who believe we may have some answers have never been listened to either by the stakeholders or by the government), the question of breeding and puppy sales has been the subject of immense media interest since Michael Gove, the responsible minister at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the new statutory regulations being brought in later this year will finally solve all the problems.

I am afraid that it will not.  To complicate matters many Stakeholder experts and lobbyists have convinced both many MPs and the media that the legislation is much too complicated and while this is certainly true the simplistic answer they are putting forward, Lucy’s Law (the idea that third-party sales of dogs would be illegal), is unlikely to work either.  Incidentally, the Kennel Club supports Lucy’s Law and has signed up to the criteria for the new statutory legislation.

It must be stated categorically that the objective of both sides should be commended and supported, for its aim better protection for puppies and bitches.  No one disagrees with the aim; it is just that in practice, neither will be effective.  Incidentally, Mr Gove also announced that Defra was ‘exploring’ the question of a ban on third-party sales and has called for evidence: I would be prepared to make a substantial bet that this is a sop to the lobbyists and will simply not happen.

An argument built on sand

A pro-Lucy’s Law barrister, Sarah Clover, has argued very cleverly in its favour but unfortunately she has built her foundation on previous effective legislation controlling smoking and, to a lesser extent, drinking.  Her view is that the banning of third-party sales of puppies would have similar support but apart from her opinion she has no evidence for it and in any case, the circumstances are quite different.  Unless they smoke, most people dislike smoking so lighting up in a restaurant or any other public place is immediately frowned upon by the majority of people who are affected: peer pressure is what has ensured the success of the smoking ban.  People who come into contact with those who drink too much do not generally approve either: their comfort zone is being invaded and they have general support for the law regarding drunkenness and underage drinking.  In public, both situations are offensive but this is simply not relevant for somebody buying a puppy.

Buying a puppy is not offensive: in fact the vast majority of people love puppies.  Buying a puppy is a positive and emotional process which is fundamentally integral to the lives of many families and as most people are not disturbed by barking, fouling or biting (for most dogs behave remarkably well) then they would view Lucy’s Law as interfering and irrelevant: they would simply not report it.  Think about it – why would they?  Her other contentions also do not stand up to scrutiny because all that would happen if  Lucy’s Law were implemented is that the current ‘puppy traders’ who buy from ‘puppy farmers’ would simply change tack and become a ‘puppy breeders’.  We might also find that the current rescue organisations might even take the same route, as Lucy’s Law would almost certainly result in a considerable shortage of puppies to satisfy the current demand of approximately 750,000 every year.  As I have already implied, it is all about the money.

Three of the major stakeholders, BVA, Blue Cross and Dogs Trust support Lucy’s Law in principle (as do I) but recognise that its implementation is much more difficult than its supporters imagine and that the licensing system proposed by Defra has a better chance of achieving its objectives.

Are you ‘in the business of breeding dogs’?

Frankly, although I think that improvements will gradually occur as a result of this legislation in the long term it will not be fundamentally any more effective than previous attempts.  The main reason is that of complexity and omission.  For instance you may have noticed that in statements and rubric the government always use the phrase ‘in the business of breeding dogs’ and never ‘dog breeder’.  The reason for this is simple and straightforward: a breeder will not be considered to be ‘in the business of breeding dogs’ unless they breed three or more litters in a calendar year.  I have urged stakeholders to consider the idea that the criteria should be based on the number of puppies rather than the number of litters because three litters of Labradors may easily result in twenty or more puppies whereas three litters of Pomeranians may only result in six, so the ‘business’ is in no way comparable.  Not that it would make any difference in my opinion – but it would be more rational.

The criteria demanded of breeders ‘in the business of breeding dogs’ is very demanding and there is no doubt that even the most law-abiding amongst us will be tempted to try and avoid having to register.  This they will do.  In the same way as they avoid the Kennel Club regulation that a bitch should not have any more than four litters in her lifetime by occasionally adding an ‘extra’ bitch to a litter, they will register their bitches to the addresses of friends and relatives, only keeping and formally registering with the Kennel Club the ones that they wish to show or breed from.

Defra have also made it clear that they are not going to fund any of the extra work that is involved in in granting and checking licenses on the basis that the fees charged by the local authority will cover the costs.  If experience is anything to go by many local authorities will simply not bother and others will only pay lip service to the extra work involved.  It is relevant here to remind you that after a freedom of information request to a local authority recently, it responded that they had no licensed dog breeders in their area.  On examination there turned out to be over forty KC registered Assured Breeders, several of which bred a number of different breeds and should certainly have applied for a licence.

I very much hope that the raised profile of the importance of breeding sound dogs which has flooded the media in recent weeks will have an impact on the public’s perception of buying a puppy and particularly that they become more aware of the problems which occur in some Brachycephalic breeds which persist in those that supply the pet market despite the hard work that has been done by so many clubs and so many breeders.

It may be that I am becoming cynical in my old age but I am not holding my breath.


Lucy’s Law – is is feasible?

Posted January 16, 2018 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

All persons ought to endeavor to follow what is right, and not what is established – Aristotle

 Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution would be to think before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard.  Frank Jackson often used to use the writer’s trick of ascribing comments and conversation to his fellow drinkers at his local pub and it mattered not that some of the ides were extreme for they were not going beyond the readership of his column and readers were happy to sit back and take their time to consider the whole argument which was eventually brought around to a common sense conclusion.  We in the world of dogs were cocooned in our own macrocosm ‘with very little to distress or vex us’. My goodness – those were the days.

The occasional news story around Crufts, serious though they seemed at the time, were just storms in teacups leaving little mark on the wider public after a few weeks. These days however, although storms usually remain of teacup proportions, the constant and often irritating sniping on social media provides fuel for whatever fire is being lit by responsible lobby groups and organisations, in their attempt to make an impact on the media and those responsible for taking long-term decisions. The fundamental problem appears to be that responses are no longer nuanced but are increasingly seen as black or white.  This may be because of the textual shorthand encouraged by the speed of emails, messaging services and Twitter, as respondents can no longer be bothered to write a proper reply.

It certainly sometimes seems that those receiving information via social media have not properly read the original message and I cannot remember how many times, in the interest of accuracy, I have had to correct quite serious misinterpretations of statements made when easily checkable facts have been ignored.  Such misunderstandings occur even in the real world of newspapers, and you may remember the furore raised by my article about the consistency of standards because many made the assumption that I was ‘against’ a particular feature of a breed when this was absolutely not the case or the point.  A further excellent example is to be found in an article on my weblog ( which attempts to define the difference between line breeding and inbreeding.  Because it is read regularly it comes up high on search engines but many questions which arise from people who have found the article, make it quite clear that they have not read it for the answers are almost always in the text.

The temptation to ‘keep it simple’ is not always the best option

What makes sorting through the detritus of various threads for those looking for genuine discussion or information so difficult, is the tendency for respondents to provide mostly oversimplified solutions.  I have long been of the opinion that success is more likely if you ‘keep it simple’ but there are some problems which are so complex and have so many implications that simplicity cannot provide the answer.  A very good example is the recent discussion about the sale of puppies.  I should first state quite clearly that I believe that a puppy’s first home is its best home and it is in the greatest interest of both the owner and the puppy to have been bought from a responsible and thoughtful breeder who has provided the best possible health, nutritional and social care and will provide excellent advice and after sales service.  There is no question in my mind that if this set of circumstances could be legislated for effectively much would be achieved.  I am sure that there are few who would disagree with the principle other than those who are profiting from the fact that government is not minded to consider Lucy’s Law which would ban the third party sales of puppies.

It seems so simple and the idea, originally developed by my friend Marc Abraham, has been taken up by many lobby groups, which include the Kennel Club, Battersea, many MPs and campaigners from Jemima Harrison to Peter Egan and other well-known personalities.  Understandably, the concept is having an immense emotional impact and a massive following on social media as well as being widely reported in the national press. This is not surprising for, to take a direct quote from Marc, and here’s clue to the considerations expressed in this article, ‘We are going to use the power of the mob’.

Despite this, I should also state clearly my admiration for Marc and his campaign team who have worked tirelessly at the highest levels of government to promote what is an excellent concept. However, I must report that despite the hype and apparent support of many parliamentarians, it is unlikely that such a law will reach the statute book in the foreseeable future for the government believes that the forthcoming secondary legislation to the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 due next year (2018) will significantly improve the current situation (please don’t ask me why I know because, unfortunately, the reasons are confidential, but I do assure you it is the case).

Which takes me back to my theme, for those prepared to put their head above the parapet and point out some of the many practical problems and unintended consequences of implementing the idea, however informed and professionally qualified they are, are pilloried, accused of supporting puppy farming and not caring for animals.  This can hardly be said of Dogs Trust, Blue Cross (or me for that matter) but sniping at the various reasonable and thoughtful comments which have tried to put some balance into the discussions, makes no sense and just adds to the hysteria.

Dogs Trust is on our side

The worry is that the sensible and thoughtful views of organisations such as Dogs Trust are swamped by the emotional rhetoric which is allowed to swirl about in social and national media.  You would not think it, but Dogs Trust has made it quite clear that it is in favour of banning third-party sales.  I quote an unequivocal statement direct from its website, ‘Dogs Trust wants to see an end to third-party sales’.  However, the policy statement goes on to explain in careful, unemotional tones, precisely why this might not be the best policy at the moment.  I need not go into detail here for you can find their statement and carefully explained rationale on their website

Suffice to say that one of their key reasons for their stance affects us in the world of dogs directly for they say, ‘We believe that introducing the ban at this time is not wise as it fails to deal with the root causes of the problem – a woefully low supply of puppies from ethical sources and any such ban will simply drive the trade further underground and make enforcement harder.  As long as the supply of puppies from responsible breeders’ falls short of meeting the growing demand in the UK, dishonest breeders will breed dogs to increase profits and evade the law once again making enforcement even more difficult.  We already know that this is happening now.

Just think about it.  Those who attack the views of Dogs Trust have almost certainly not read the text of their statement.  Had they done so they would surely realise that for once, one of the big charities is on the side of responsible dog breeders.  They have not taken the easy option of joining ‘the mob’: they are suggesting that the decisions regarding puppy sales should be based on evidence not on what appears to be an easy option.  This sounds sensible to me: what a shame it is that so many keyboard warriors do not take the time to think the implications through.
















Smoke and Mirrors

Posted November 14, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals


Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation – Atifete Jahjaga (The first female President of the Republic of Kosovo and the youngest ever female head of state to be elected)

I would like to introduce you to one of my 21st Century heroes.  The name will not immediately ring a bell but nevertheless when you learn more about him you will remember the negotiations with which he was involved.  He is Yanis Varoufakis.  He has been described as ‘the most interesting man in the world’ and ‘an outstanding economists and political analyst’.  Born in Athens in 1961, Varoufakis was educated in Greece before moving to the United Kingdom, where he studied mathematics at the University of Essex.  He received a postgraduate degree in mathematical statistics at University of Birmingham, and a PhD in economics back at Essex. He began his career in academic economics, teaching at universities in the UK between 1982 and 1988 before moving to Australia, where he taught at the University of Sydney until 2000. He returned to Greece that year to teach at the University of Athens, where he led a doctoral program and was promoted to full professor in 2005. Following this, Varoufakis had periods of advising George Papandreou before moving to the United States to teach at the University of Texas.

He is a highly regarded economist with a worldwide reputation and made a name for himself particularly in the development of ‘game’ theory which applies to a wide range of behavioural relationships and covers the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.  The reason for this lengthy introduction is to make it clear that Yanis Varoufakis is not just highly intelligent but has spent most of his life studying the way in which people and organisations behave so is more likely than most be able to negotiate his way through complex and difficult situations.

Now let me introduce you to Larry Summers.  He is an American economist, former Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank, senior U.S. Treasury official throughout President Clinton’s administration (he became Treasury Secretary in 1999) before becoming Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama. He is a former President of Harvard University – so pretty big wheel in politics as well as economics.

Larry Summers and Yanis Varoufakis met at an hotel in Washington DC in April 2015 and had a long and interesting conversation.  Yanis had just become Finance Minister of Greece on the grounds that he was best placed to ‘solve’ the long standing economic crisis between Greece and the European Union – a Quixotic task if ever there was one. During the discussion Larry told him, ‘There are two kinds of politicians: ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.  The outsiders prioritise their freedom to speak their version of the truth.  The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders who make the important decisions. The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do.  Their reward?  Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes’.  He then asked the fundamental question: ‘Yanis, which are you?’

Hidden agendas

This information comes to us courtesy of Yanis’s book, ‘Adults in the Room – my battle with Europe’s deep establishment’, which describes the hidden agenda of Europe’s civil service and exposes what goes on in its corridors of power.  His attempt to renegotiate his country’s relationship with the EU, despite the simple logic of his arguments, floundered and ultimately failed on the rocks of hypocrisy, collusion and betrayal.

Despite the commitment of the EU’s founding fathers to the future of Europe as an open, honest and democratic organisation devoted to the benefit of its members (and there is no doubt that there are benefits) it is now a bureaucratic ‘Castle’ run primarily for those on the inside.  Yanis’s reply to Larry Summers was that although he saw himself as an ‘outsider’ he was nevertheless prepared to be an ‘insider’ if this would achieve this objective of a sustainable Greek economy.  His position was a classic ‘I would not start from here’ for Greece should never have been allowed to participate in the Euro to begin with, but his failure was as much to do with the authoritarianism and absolutism of the EU estate as it was to do with Greece’s governmental failures.  In almost 600 pages Yanis provides carefully documented details of the way in which every avenue to sensible agreement was blocked and Greece was locked into an ever more effective straitjacket of increasing debt.

He comes to the conclusion that the EU bureaucracy can be compared to a parasite which is out of control and will eventually destroy its host ‘bringing the whole edifice tumbling down’.  This may or may not be the case but the book is nevertheless a brilliant forensic analysis of the structures that make up the EU and is worth reading by anyone who wishes to understand the way in which large organisations function, especially when there is no external moderating influence on the interests of those ‘in charge’.

Complex structures of society

The dichotomy between art and reality has long fascinated me (as it has so many others – an early influence was Colin Wilson’s, The Outsider) but it was much later before I realised there was a similar dissonance between politics and reality too (as in the trials of ‘K’ in Kafka’s, The Castle and the tribulations of Henry Miller as he tried to make sense of human behaviour).  So, long before I was involved in the world of dogs I was aware of the complex structures of society from the caste divisions enshrined in law in India to the subtleties of our own class system.

I have therefore always seen myself as an ‘outsider’, instinctively distrusting those who take it upon themselves to tell others what to do or how to think.  I freely admit that this instinct has been modified over the years as I have gradually understood that the complexity of society is such that regulation is important.  It would be wonderful if everyone behaved appropriately but as Richard Dawkins points out so succinctly in The Selfish Gene, although there is an instinctive human ethos to cooperate in circumstances where the community is under threat, in most situations people are more likely to behave in their own and their immediately family’s self-interest.  As a friend of mine never fails to point out, ‘interests never lie’.  Therefore, despite my innate ‘outsiderness’ I do think rules are important but I also believe that they should always be rational, subjected to tests of fairness and justice within their context, should be tempered with common sense and amended quickly when necessary.

We all have responsibilities and it matters not whether one is an insider or an outsider, a government minister, a representative on a town or parish council, a committee member of a dog training or breed club, a KC Board Member or have ambitions to judge Best In Show at Crufts, we should be prepared to be accountable, to work within the rules, and accept that our motives might rightly be examined.  In a society where the freedom to comment and criticise is continually being extended through social media, we must be ever more aware that our actions may come back to bite us if they have not been carefully thought through or are not seen to be in the best interests of those for whom we are responsible.



Is science taking over the ‘art’ of breeding dogs

Posted October 15, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some years ago I wrote a Speakers’ Corner which set out my ideas about ‘line-breeding’ and ‘in-breeding’.  As you probably know there is no formal definition of either of these terms for all ‘line-breeding’ is ‘in-breeding’ to some extent but for many decades they have been used by dedicated breeders to distinguish between breeding which is very close and that which is designed to retain the characteristics of specific dogs and bitches without causing what I suppose we could call ‘genetic damage’.  I subsequently posted the article on to my weblog ( which I have long used to publish articles on various subjects which I felt would be of longer-term interest and worth retaining rather than their being used, along with all the other pages of Our Dogs, to mop up puppies’ excreta.  There are now about 60 such articles and the website garners between 150 and 200 views every day, by far the most popular being that article titled a ‘A Beginners Guide to ‘Line-breeding’ and ‘In-breeding’.  As I write I can see that over 60 people accessed it yesterday and over the years it has been read by almost 30,000.

There is nothing complicated about breeding good dogs if there is a sufficiently wide genetic base and they are of a relatively normal conformation: my article simply sets out the way in which generations of dog breeders selected dogs and bitches to produce the puppies that they felt best represented their breed.  I explain that problems arise when the physical structure of the dog is stretched too far from the norm or dogs are bred too closely for too many generations.  The old rule of thumb used to be, ‘line breed for two generations then outcross for the next’ and this has been a generally reliable mantra for most breeds.  This does not mean those dogs are necessary spectacular champions, Group or Best in Show winners (you need long experience and a measure of honed instinct for that – Angela has it but I freely admit that I do not) but the dogs you breed ought to be consistent and generally healthy using this simple formula.

Has research changed our perception?

Since the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the recognition of the amazing research of Gregor Mendel, the whole process of breeding dogs has benefited from advances in science and technology which has been built on the foundations which they established.  When Angela and I started to breed dogs at the end of the 1960s Malcolm Willis’ books had not been published and for us, genetics was a vague memory, poorly remembered, from school biology.  We were both teachers and so the concept of hereditability and the importance and impact of environmental factors in development of children were discussed in lectures on child psychology but there was no reason for us to connect that material which was entirely focused on our vocation to work with children and young people, with the breeding of dogs.  It was much later that we made such connections, partly as a result of experience and partly due to the research which I was beginning to do for my writing and being fortunate enough to meet experts such as Malcolm and other prominent geneticists.

And in the 40 years since much has been learned by us all, and many breeders are now reasonably confident in talking about coefficients of inbreeding, F1, F2 and F3 generations, commonly used techniques such as artificial insemination and tests for over 100 hidden genetic defects which enable us to avoid doubling up on damaging flaws which will affect our puppies.

The speed of development has been hastened by criticisms of pedigree dog breeding by the veterinary profession, the RSPCA and programmes such as Pedigree Dogs Exposed, for kennel clubs throughout the world have followed the lead of our KC and set up special programs and initiatives designed to educate breeders and give them the tools to enable them to breed healthy, long-lived puppies.

Invaluable tools

Such tools are invaluable as is the research upon which they are based, but it occurs to me that it is possible we may be coming almost too reliant on the ‘science’ rather than the ‘art’ of breeding dogs.   It is certainly true that if you want to become an expert in breeding specific colours in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels you need to educate yourself in some fairly detailed genetics and if you have a breed which is subject to genetic flaw or physical distortion it is essential that you are familiar with many of the tools for breeders which are now available.  But in a breed I know well and which is fundamentally healthy, breeders have become so obsessed with avoiding two specific, not particularly common defects that breed type and the working abilities of the dogs are being lost to the extent that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find dogs and bitches of quality even in the country of origin.

We see similar decisions being taken in other breeds where, although it has been shown quite clearly that where the sire or dam carry a specific but masked defect and testing can detect it so that the dog or bitch can be used safely so long as its partner does not carry the deleterious gene, passionate breeders will still seek to avoid using those dogs which are in all other respects of superb quality.

There will of course be important exceptions, but it seems to me that perhaps we should be concentrating much more on developing our understanding and knowledge of breeding patterns and our appreciation of breed type while keeping in mind the health and welfare of puppies.  This is not for a moment to suggest that we should ignore scientific evidence and conclusions, but we should at least put them in perspective bearing in mind the results of the recent research into Brachycephalic breeds which appears to indicate that rather than using a complex series of measurements and predictions we concentrate on the relatively simple series of decisions which any breeder can take into account by simply looking at the size of nostril opening of both the parents and puppies in breeds which are affected.

Another ‘rule of thumb’ which appears to be too often ignored by some breeders, is that when a ‘problem’ is identified, whether it be size, ear or tail carriage, eye shape. length of muzzle, steepness of stop, length of body or second thigh, angulation or coat quality, you simply breed away from it.  Look back at three generations to identify where that particular problem started and just avoid that line.  It sounds obvious and even trite but this is the way dogs have been bred by enthusiasts over many hundreds of years and it is a like babies and bathwater – if we reject all of those basic principles and rely entirely on the scientists, valuable although their contributions have undoubtedly been, we may not be doing ourselves or the quality of pedigree dogs any favours.

First published in Our Dogs in August 2017


Latest on Licensing

Posted October 5, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

I attended a meeting of the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) on 15th September.  It is the most influential of all the pet animal lobby groups for it has as its members, representatives of almost every aspect of dog and cat care in the UK.  There is a separate Sector Group for all other pet animals and both have a direct line to the Department of The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  It was the first meeting chaired by Chris Lawrence MBE, a veterinary surgeon who has been Chief Veterinary Officer of both the RSPCA and Dogs Trust.  He has just taken over from our own Steve Dean who, under the CFGS constitution, has had to step down after almost four years during which time he set up the group.

The main discussion concerned progress on the government’s relatively recent commitment to sorting out the mess of legislation with respect to the current licensing conditions for caring for animals.  Ever since the first licensing laws were put in place, in the 1950s for pet shops (now given the generic term ‘pet vending’), in the early 1960s for boarding kennels and later those breeding dogs (three attempts none of which have achieved their objective) the reality has always been well ahead of the legislation.  When the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA) was introduced there was a commitment by the then government to bring in secondary legislation which would more clearly define, explain and advise on what was expected of those subject to the regulatory provisions.  Even though most of the requirements were relatively simple (if you sold pet animals or boarded dogs and/or cats you were subject to the legislation).  Much more difficult are the regulations surrounding breeders, for separating the ‘hobby’ breeder from the professional and defining at which stage breeding became ‘commercial’ remains a serious problem and is still under discussion.

Just over two years ago the government decided, under pressure from various lobby groups and having received many thousands of complaints about almost every aspect of licensing legislation, that it would try to solve the problem once and for all.  In Association with ‘stakeholders’ they designed a series of extended requirements developed from those embedded in the AWA.  The first is what is called a ‘Generic Schedule’ which provides an extended explanation of the five animal welfare ‘needs’ and is common to all the legislation.  Just as a reminder those needs are defined as the:

  • need for a suitable environment.
  • need for a suitable diet.
  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (as appropriate – as it is not unreasonable to train dogs not to bark, demonstrate mating behaviour or chase sheep).
  • need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals as appropriate.
  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

That Generic Schedule is followed by a sector specific schedule setting out the ‘Conditions of the Licence’ and including guidance for each of the regulated areas which are:

  • Boarding
  • Home Boarding
  • Breeding
  • Pet Vending
  • Doggy Daycare and
  • Animal Exhibits (this last is designed to cope with zoos and farms where animals are on display and may be petted and also those professional entertainers who take animals to children’s parties where they come into contact with children).

An ambitious timetable

The timetable is that these ‘conditions’ will become mandatory in the autumn of 2018 although it must be said that there are few outside Defra who believe that this timetable can be achieved.  Attached to each of the special areas there is extended advice for those holding a licence and for local authorities who will be expected to implement the conditions.

One general point I would make is that although there is much about buildings and environment affecting ‘new build’ for both kennels, catteries and other animal housing, there remains flexibility for existing premises and that overall, the conditions put a greater emphasis on animal welfare and environmental enrichment than has been the case in the past.

I would emphasise that although there are many pages of these documents, they are still under discussion and suggestions and amendments are constantly being made by the small specialist groups which are reviewing the detail and suggesting changes to the Defra proposals.  For instance, several members of the National Register of Boarding Kennels who kindly reviewed the draft for me noticed, among other things, that there was a requirement for the licence for boarding kennels and catteries to apply to all the animals on the premises – including those belonging to the owner.  I brought this up at the meeting and I was supported by others who agreed that this was a nonsense and the definition of ‘premises’ is to be changed to make it clear the licence only applies those animals who are paid boarders.

It would appear that the current legal position of pet care providers such as veterinary surgeons, groomers and, indeed, pet shops whereby they can board animals without a licence will no longer be applicable and all those boarding dogs commercially will have to fulfil the requirements of the statutory conditions.

One interesting aspect of Pet Vending is that statutory conditions could, in the future, also apply to sales of dogs, cats and other animals if such sales were judged to be commercial (and I would emphasise again that the idea of what and what is not ‘commercial’ within the pet industry is still being debated).  What is currently called the Pet Shop Licence Model Conditions which currently apply to large-scale breeders of puppies might also be applied to smaller breeders.  Many in the cat breeding community are very concerned that such legislation might be applied to them even though there is no intention of bringing in a licence for cat breeders.  Defra has assured the feline fancy that this is not the case but as the definitions have not yet been decided it remains a worry for them.

Alternative schemes and standards

Another aspect still under discussion, is the Kennel Club’s suggestion sent direct to Defra that their Assured Breeder Scheme should be recognised as the equivalent of an inspection by officers representing the Local Authority.  The KC argues that the ABS would not only guarantee the highest standards but that it would save the local authority money too.  The breeder would still have to have a licence but would not have to be separately inspected and, presumably as a member of the ABS, would not have to pay the full Local Authority licence fee either.

Similar schemes are being considered for the other licensing areas one of which is the Pet Industry Federation (PIF).  PIF is a specialist trade body representing those industries involved in pet care and so have the same approach to pet vending and kennels and catteries as has the Kennel Club for breeders.  They have set standards for most of the licensing areas for many years and as a board member for 20 years I was regularly involved in amending those standards as and when legislation or experience required it.  Also likely to make a bid to take on independent standards assessment is a company called SAI Global which does similar work for many industries from farming to engineering.  They have spent almost two years in discussing the standards with stakeholders representing every area of pet care and with local authorities.  I have been involved in those discussions and have been impressed with the detail although in my view it places more emphasis on generic standards and leaves much more scope within the specialist areas.

It remains to be seen whether or not Defra and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) will agree that these external organisations will provide sufficient authority to replace Environmental Health Officers or Licensing Officers but I suspect that they will be amenable because the amount of work which is being placed on Local Authorities by the new and generally more demanding standards is considerable, given the pressure under which they already have to work.

For the present at least there is no appetite for licensing Groomers, Dog Trainers or Canine Behaviourists.

Defra is ambitious: they believe that everything can be finalised by the end of October so that the papers can be submitted to parliamentary draftsmen with a view to enacting legislation in the autumn of 2018.   We shall see.



Siberian Huskies – what should they look like?

Posted August 24, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge – Benjamin Disraeli

There has been a fascinating thread on the Facebook page of the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain. And I am delighted to say it been almost entirely polite and positive. It began when an owner posted a question which intrigued me. She said: ‘Hello. I am new to all of this and I’ve recently been told that both my dogs are more working type than show type. Does anybody on here have workers as well as show dogs? Ever since I was young I have always watched Crufts and wanted to show dogs. I go to ring craft with both dogs and we are doing well but I went to our first show last weekend and noticed the other dogs were different body types and it has upset me to the point where I keep thinking I do not have as much chance as they are not the right dogs for showing.’ (I have edited the post slightly). I think this is where Facebook shows itself at its best and the thread has been very supportive of of the exhibitor with many offers to meet at shows and help her – precisely what I would hope all breed clubs and exhibitors would do.

We too quickly forget what the breed was originally established to do

I was intrigued because the thread throws up once again the differences which develop over time within a breed: differences which gradually divide it as breeders follow through on their own ideas about what the breed should look like – unfortunately often forgetting what the breed was established to do. We see it in German Shepherd Dogs, Border Collies and many Gundogs (and other breeds too), often causing rifts between all-breed judges and between specialists who all too often take one side or another, interpreting the breed standard in a way that fits their personal perception of their breed. Because most specialists will have a commitment to one or the other ‘types’ their placings over time will inevitably tend to increase divergence. In theory, all-breed judges should be looking for something mid-way between the extremes although unfortunately, as many lack confidence, there is a tendency for them to go for the showy, more glamorous and usually larger, heavier type (or even just those being shown by people they know, of course). Where all-breed judges really understand the breed this might help redress the balance but given the above it merely adds to the confusion.
The reasons for the divergences will be different in most breeds although as far as gundogs are concerned there is a consistent tendency for breeders of show dogs to concentrate more on expression, substance or coat rather than the structure or musculature required for the field. In other instances, GSDs being an excellent example, an obsession develops with what is required in the country of origin (often based on a misunderstanding and distortion of soundness and structure (see my previous articles on this subject at so the changes are embedded in other countries too. I have judged GSDs in India and the experience was disappointing.
I suggested these were the reasons why there is a distinct divergence in Siberian Huskies. My explanation was oversimplified, as was quickly (and rightly) pointed out by specialists on the thread, but nevertheless I believe there is a great deal to be said for this theory.

I wrote, ‘I am sure many people appreciate your dilemma, Sophie, and the problem you have come across is endemic in a number of breeds. As far as Siberians are concerned there is at least a relatively simple explanation and it is all to do with the work which they do – although not everyone will agree with me. Huskies were originally bred to guard and help move ‘stuff’ about for their owners who lived largely in lands where snow and ice comprise most of the environment. They needed to be strong, hardy and have stamina but over the years the needs of their owners divided them into two generalised types: those similar to the heavier Eskimo Dog, Greenland Dog and Alaskan Malamute which were used to pull heavy loads (the Alaskan Malamute has been described as the ‘carthorse of the Arctic’) and those more suited to carrying lighter loads over long distances. Competitions such as the Iditarod popularised a lighter dog but it still had to have excellent musculature and immense stamina. So far so good. However, when the breed was introduced into a more ‘normal’ environment there was still an understandable and admirable ambition among owners to work their dogs but the snow and ice opportunities were few and far between. To solve the problem, wheeled carts were introduced which provided such opportunities but the demands of the modern world and the number of people who wanted to be involved meant that races needed to be relatively short if the various categories were to be accommodated. To win, speed was more important than stamina and so breeders, again understandably, began to select and breed dogs which were ‘racers’ which could cover the ground faster. The consequence was a lighter, finer type. They are still Siberian Huskies and there are many judges who prefer them: it just takes time for you to become familiar with what each judge believes to be correct.

My own view, as one who has been judging the breed since it was first recognised by the Kennel Club, and as many Siberian owners will tell you, is for what I consider to be the type which would best work in their original environment. That does not make me ‘right’ it is, after all, just my opinion and others will select different examples of the breed. Good luck: becoming successful in the world of dogs takes time but I promise you that it is worth it. You will make many friends, some enemies but it will always be interesting and exciting.’

As you can imagine the response has been very varied, some supportive, some clearly stating that I did not understand the breed while others have sent private messages of support saying that they would be uncomfortable doing so publicly for they feared being bullied. I think this last is a great shame because the conversation/s on the thread which took place over three days was, although spirited, always civilised.

Understanding the unique character and structure of the Spitz breeds

Some have suggested that as I am not a breed specialist I have no right to become so deeply involved in this discussion. I do not agree: in my view breeds benefit from receiving a considered outside perspective, especially when they find themselves grappling with these particular dilemmas. In any case I do have some knowledge other than just judging the breed and attending seminars. I was lucky because when the breed first came into the UK, I was show manager of the Nordic Show, helping to run the ‘Spitz Spectacular’ at Ascot and writing my first book, All About the Spitz Breeds (still available for a few pence on the Internet even though it is very much out of date) so I was already doing research with the help of such committed Spitz breeds breeders as Jenetta Parkyns (Alaskan Malamutes and Eskimo Dogs), Jean Sharp (Bale) and Mike Stockman, (Keeshonds), Len Hammond (Schipperkes), Averil Cawthera senior (Pomeranians), Betty Moody (Samoyeds), the mother and daughter duo, Liz and Sally Leitch with their partner Ali Coops) among many others, all of whom had wonderful archives and helped me to begin to understand the unique character and structure of this most attractive group. Consequently, although not a specialist I believe I have enough experience and knowledge to comment constructively.

Unfortunately, words are very often not as descriptive as they might be and several contributors, because of my initial remarks, made the assumption that I was in favour of the rather heavy, often showy types which often do well under all-breed judges in the UK. This is not the case (as my judging record clearly demonstrates) and I referred those involved in the conversation to Sally Leich’s brilliant article (originally circulated to all those on the Siberian Husky Judges List as a ‘briefing note’) which was reprinted in both Our Dogs and Dog World back in 2014. You can read it by clicking on the ‘Download’ button at
I suggest for further reading The Siberian Husky, A Guide to Soundness and Type (1975 and updated in 1990) and the 25th Anniversary Yearbook published in 2002/3, all published by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain.

Kennel Club Judges Education Programme 1999

Posted May 14, 2017 by davidcavill
Categories: pedigree dogs

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

David Cavill offers a section by section guide to the Kennel Club Judges’ Working Party extensive plans for shows and judges over the next two years. This article first appeared in Our Dogs on December 10th & 17th 1999

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working Party. Almost by definition, much of The Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by The Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that they have had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

Looking through cuttings from the canine press in the nineties there is no doubt that there were calls for change from every quarter. There was little agreement on what, precisely, those changes should be but The Kennel Club was the subject of increasing criticism and the focus was on the quality of judging and general concerns by almost everyone (other than the compilers) about judging lists. At the same time there was increasing dissatisfaction with the open show scene. Privately, The Kennel Club accepted that the licensing of open shows had been too liberal. Not only were there too many shows but the number of classes had increased to the extent that in many breeds there were more classes than the number of dogs available to enter them. The Judges’ Sub-committee was concerned that the experience of judges being put forward to give challenge certificates was limited and, despite changing the criteria, there were still serious problems. It was becoming increasingly clear that judges were being passed for tickets who had little knowledge either of conformation and movement or of The Kennel Club’s regulations and once passed, could go on to become non-specialists at every level – without there being any formal assessment of their competence. They may have had knowledge of breed characteristics but dogs being presented at group level at championship shows often gave group judges considerable cause for concern.

The Judges’ Working Party was set up to address some of these problems. From the beginning it was recognised that:

  1. a) the task would be extremely difficult
  2. b) short-term solutions were not likely to be effective
  3. c) whatever decisions were made they would only satisfy a proportion of participants
  4. d) it would be important to be able to review and change decisions if there was evidence that they were not working
  5. e) time would be necessary to ensure that future ideas were built on solid foundations
  6. f) a proper strategy for change would have to be agreed and implemented.
  7. g) the widest consultation would be necessary to ensure that changes could be seen to have the support of those they would effect.

The difficulties were summarised by Ronnie Irving when he said “Everyone, including the JWP and The Kennel Club, wants a simple and fair system and structure. The problem is that if we are to be fair the regulations will necessarily be complicated; while if we want to keep it simple then, given the range of regulations to be covered, we will find it difficult to treat every one equally and fairly. What we must do is to develop a playing field with a minimum slope in any direction”

First steps
The basic premise was not just to address the specific problems which had been identified but to create a structure which would ensure that in the long term, the world of showdogs in the UK could be seen to give every dog and every exhibitor a fair chance of success based on the quality of the dog. This requires a reasonable level of competition (little has been achieved from a first place in a class of one) and judges who are knowledgeable and unbiased.

It was always envisaged that the project would develop over a period of years and that some aspects needed to be put in place before others could be addressed. It was decided that the basic problems of the status of the open show and the development of judgeÕs lists should have the first priority. At the same time, work began on best practice recommendations for the three stages of judges training which were considered vital – show regulations and ring management, conformation and movement and the characteristics of individual breeds. It was felt that in most breeds, it should be more difficult to be passed to give tickets as a specialist and for the first few non-specialist appointments but should become progressively easier to be passed for further breeds as experience increased.

The JWP began by designing questionnaires to be distributed to all breed clubs. Full details of the JWP remit were published in the canine press and everyone was invited to put forward their views. Almost 4,000 questionnaires were distributed and over 40% were returned. Kennel Club staff carefully collated them and the conclusions were considered by the JWP before work commenced. On average there have been ten meetings of the JWP each year and in the meantime, both Kennel Club staff and members of the working party have put in many hours on every aspect of the proposals. It was agreed that members of the JWP should make themselves available to all those involved through a series of open meetings, not just to explain the thinking behind the project but to listen to the views of everyone and bring them back for discussion. As a result a number of decisions were changed, but most of the initial ideas were progressed so that a reasonable length of time could be allowed to evaluate the results of the changes. For the future, the changes implemented will be kept under review and, given the agreement of the general committee, the JWP will continue with the reforms in line with the original requirements and in the light of continuing input from the show community.

Changes affecting the exhibitor

  • Restriction of size of shows by applying a surcharge to classes over 200
  • Establishment of supported entry shows
  • Regulation to ensure variety classes (including groups and Best in Show) are judged by someone who is already passed to award challenge certificates
  • Limit on the number of classes which can be judged by anyone not supported by the breed
  • Changes to the structure of the Junior Warrant award

The long-term objective is that entries in breed classes at open shows, where they are currently very low, will see significant increases. It was felt that simply to restrict show society licences by, say, only allowing one show a year would penalise those societies which were running two successful shows and still allow those shows which did not have the full support of exhibitors to hold an event.

There was a great deal of discussion about the best way in which one could assess whether a show was or was not successful and it was decided that the key element was the number of entries received. It was finally agreed that a class average of three was reasonable. If a show could not command those sorts of numbers from its exhibitors then it would be better off holding a Limited Show.

There was no doubt in the minds of the JWP that many societies were putting on classes for which there was no demand so shows were limited to 200 classes unless the society was sure enough of its entry to put on more and pay the appropriate surcharge. At the same time, the principle of supported shows was established. As a result, clubs of the smaller breeds (i.e.: the ones most likely to be affected by the change) are encouraged to select those shows which their members would want to support. This would enable show managements to put on the extra classes with confidence.

The JWP was also concerned that a number of show secretaries were using their positions to give and receive judging appointments. To ensure that more judges were appointed who had the support of the breed it was decided to restrict the number of classes which could be judged by those who did not have the positive support of a breed club. These restrictions, to three classes (five for the most popular breeds- those in Stud Book Band E), would still enable potential non-specialists to gain experience but help clubs and exhibitors to focus on those shows and judges which the breed felt were capable of properly judging the breed. Faced with reasonable sized classes exhibitors would also have a better chance of assessing the quality of the judge.

Another change adopted as part of the strategy to improve the status of the open show was a change in the structure of the Junior Warrant award. By insisting that a proportion of points had to be obtained at open shows those quality dogs capable of gaining the award would have to be exhibited at open shows. The award was also given increased status in that it is now more difficult to achieve. A certain number of dogs have to be present before the points can be awarded or specific awards must be achieved. Exhibitors are prevented from ‘chasing’ points by the clause which ensures a rest period between qualifying classes.

Changes affecting General Show Societies

  • Shows to be held within area of society name
  • Loss of license for succeeding year if average number of dogs per class is lower than three – KC suggests changing show status to Limited Show
  • Requirement to ensure judges are on breed club judges list if judging four or more classes (six for breeds in Stud Book band E)
  • Surcharge for classes over 200
  • Development of supported classes for smaller breeds
  • Restriction on the section of judges
  • Responsibility for training

Larger shows have led to difficulties finding suitable venues and so societies have often moved their shows many miles from their ‘home’ area, often to venues that are used by many other shows. Originally, general societies were set up to provide training and show services in their home area and The Kennel Club has felt for some time that it is in the best interests of dogs and the services that local general societies provide if clubs really reflect the needs of their home base. This view was clearly supported in the responses to the questionnaires that were received by the JWP – largely by societies close to popular venues who felt that distant clubs were poaching ‘their’ exhibitors. It was therefore decided that, as one of the objectives of the JWP was to reduce the size of those shows which did not have the support of exhibitors, it should be possible for them to find suitable venues closer to the home base. Although 25 miles has been suggested as a suitable radius from a society’s home town or area, there are many clubs which could be much closer and some which would find it impossible to comply. The Kennel Club has been particularly flexible over this requirement and few shows have found this to be a serious problem.

The requirement for a reasonable average number of dogs per class has caused some societies to feel discriminated against. In fact, only a very small number of clubs has been unable to fulfil this demand – leading some to think that the average was actually set too low! In the first year of the scheme The Kennel Club has, in many cases, negotiated either a sensible reduction in classes or a conversion to a limited show for most of them. It is difficult to understand the reasoning of those who find this demand unacceptable when they must be disappointed that their efforts are not appreciated and where the alternative, a limited show or regular ring training classes, might be much more acceptable.

The demand that those judges officiating at more than three classes (five for breeds in Stud Book band E) should be on a breed club judging list, initially appears to be very demanding on open show secretaries but, of course, the onus is on the judge to ensure that they are on an appropriate list. All that is required is a small amendment to the contract.

General societies also need to be aware that anyone judging varieties, groups or best in show at open shows must already have been passed to award challenge certificates in at least one breed, in the same way as anyone officiating for such classes at championship shows must have been passed to do a group at championship show level.

Raising the standard of judging is not easy and, in the future, as judges awarding tickets will have had to completed the approved training programme, this is one way of ensuring that at least the basic knowledge required has been acquired.

It is also no secret that these measures have been introduced to help prevent the ‘swapping’ of judging appointments between secretaries and committee members of general open show societies. No longer will it be possible for a person who has not enjoyed success in his/her own breed to award CCs. How widespread the practice has been is difficult to assess but much of what might have been is now prevented.

The question of the surcharge on classes over 200 has led to considerable concern. The rationale behind the move was to ensure that societies gave serious thought to the classes that they intended to schedule. The lack of restrictions on the number of classes led to many societies scheduling breeds where there was very little likelihood of a worthy entry. The JWP would certainly want to encourage shows to schedule smaller breeds so the concept of the supported entry show was introduced to ensure that the classes and the judge had the support of the breed concerned. The scheme does require more commitment from both canine societies and breed clubs but the approach is already proving effective for the surcharge is small when compared with the increase in entry that many shows have achieved with supported classes.

On the recommendations of The Judges’ Working Party, The Kennel Club has agreed that as well as experience of showing, judging and stewarding, judges training should comprise three elements:

  • understanding rules, regulations and judging procedure
  • understanding construction, conformation and movement
  • understanding individual breeds

After July 2001, no one will be considered for approval to award challenge certificates unless they have completed an approved programme of training. The third element of the training structure is the responsibility of the breed clubs but general canine societies and other training organisations may organise training days for the first two elements using Kennel Club Accredited Trainers. Accredited trainers are listed each month in the Kennel Gazette. They have been appointed by The Kennel Club and are accredited for one year at a time. They are expected to provide feedback to the KC and meet formally once a year to be kept up to date with the ongoing work of the JWP.

Changes affecting Breed Clubs

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working party. Almost by definition much of the Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by the Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that it has had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

  • New criteria for the compilation of Judges’ Lists
  • Introduction of supported entry shows
  • Responsibility for training judges
  • Responsibility for assessing judges

Many breed clubs have found the demands being made on their organisation resulting from the recommendations of the JWP very difficult. A great deal of guidance has been provided by The Kennel Club and the relevant guidelines on club judging lists and breed training programmes are included as appendices.

It was clear from the outset that the compilation of lists was one of the most complex problems faced by the world of dogs. There were some lists which were constructed fairly – but it has to be acknowledged that the majority were unsatisfactory in that they were too short, too long, included judges who were recognised as not being very good or excluded judges who were known to be competent. The working party decided that the first requirement was that the compilation of lists should be as transparent as possible. To this end they set out a series of requirements for those that should be involved in nominating judges. If a club committee did not have at least 75% of its members authorised to award challenge certificates the club must now establish a sub-committee to nominated judges for the list that did fulfil the criteria.

Clubs are also expected to establish reasonable and transparent minimum criteria for inclusion on lists so potential judges could clearly see what was required of them. Initially, many clubs submitted lists with their annual returns that did not fulfil the requirements of The Kennel Club – and these were returned, with suggestions, for the way in which they could be improved. For instance, the criteria set out for many breeds was set at too high a level and the criteria for judges who were already passed to give tickets were anomalous and often included demands which, by definition, they had already fulfilled – the stewarding qualification is a case in point

After July 2000, (as some clubs have to actually change their club rules to fulfil the requirements) those lists which are not structured in accordance with the guidance initiated by the Kennel Club, will not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee during its discussions on first time CC approval!

However, it has been made clear that the criteria are for guidance – they are not set in stone. A potential judge who more than fulfils the requirements does not have to be placed on a list and a talented judge who the properly constituted committee can trust to judge well may be added, even if they do not fulfil the criteria.

It was also suggested that those breeds that did not have breed councils could consider establishing joint lists or combined lists. At the same time, although there could be no question of canvassing for appointments, it was announced that potential judges could indicate their interest in joining a breed judges’ list.

The breed club secretary’s work has increased substantially as a result of these changes. Apart from the extra work involved in compiling the lists, those judges who are included need to be notified and a much wider circulation to open show societies is envisaged. That being said, there is no doubt that many societies have risen to the challenge but sadly there is a small percentage of secretaries which do not bother to reply to letters even though SAEs are enclosed.

The essential elements of The Kennel Club’s approach has been to break down the training of judges into three sections, the third of which -training judges in the understanding of breed characteristics – is firmly in the hands of the breed clubs. After July 2001, new judges who have not attended the relevant training programmes will not even be considered by the judges’ sub-committee to award challenge certificates and KC Questionnaires are currently being amended to make this clear.

The Judges’ Working Party has made some specific recommendations as to breed training and the outline should be carefully studied by those breed club committees responsible for training. The JWP feels that the same committee that compiles the breed judges lists should be responsible for training, as they will tend to be comprised of the most experienced people within the breed.

The creation of a formal structure for breed club lists has given breed clubs and council’s considerable power and responsibility in the selection of judges as well as a preferred route bringing judges forward. The JWP recognised from the beginning that the best way of ensuring that judges had the full confidence of the breed before awarding challenge certificates was for the breed club to train them. The A2 system list gives breed clubs that opportunity through the completion of assessments by three assessors. The club may then submit the name to the Judges’ Sub-Committee for approval prior to an appointment being offered. It is very unlikely that judges on A2 lists will be turned down when they are offered an appointment. Assessors are selected by the breed club or council carrying out the assessment from those considered to be suitable evaluators (see below). However, there was no doubt that this significant change could not be accomplished overnight so the JWP suggested that all judges awarding challenge certificates for the first time (unless they come through from an A2 list) should be evaluated by an experienced judge nominated by the breed.

The Kennel Club accepted this method of assessment while clubs developed their own syllabuses and procedures for moving judges from B lists to A2 lists. Of course, The Kennel Club is responsible for who may and who may not award CCs and the Judges Sub-Committee and ultimately the General Committee will still have the final authority.

Selecting those suitable to be evaluators is obviously difficult but it was finally decided that when a new candidate was approved to award CCs, the breed council or area breed club would be sent a list of the fifteen most experienced judges in the breed. The breed club is then asked to select one of them to carry out the evaluation. Taking the fifteen people who have judged most often (and at least once in the previous five years) does not always present breed clubs with enough choice. If this is the case, then The Kennel Club will provide a further five and also consider any other names put forward by the breed club. If there is still no one suitable the Judges Sub-Committee will appoint someone, usually a group judge who on occasions might not award CCs to the breed in question. Evaluators are expected to keep both their appointment and their report confidential

Changes affecting judges

  • Changes in approach to breed clubs
  • New criteria for inclusion on Judges’ Lists
  • Range of experience required before being passed to award challenge certificates
  • Range of records to be kept

Over the last twenty years or so, many breed clubs have developed sets of criteria to ensure that judges of their breed have measurable knowledge and experience before being admitted to judging lists. Some of these have been excellent but because they were developed in isolation, there was a tendency for them not to be uniform. The two major problems were that the criteria were too difficult to achieve, especially for experienced non-specialists and/or that it was more important who you knew than what you knew! There was also (and remains) a culture which, rightly, disapproved to canvassing for judging appointments but this also meant that breed clubs could not have some talented and experienced judges brought to their attention.

The JWP therefore suggested that one of the changes in procedure should be that judges could formally approach breed councils and clubs with a request that their names might be considered for the judges’ list. Many clubs have responded by publishing extensive questionnaires to help their committees (or sub-committees) to be able to reach valid conclusions and in most instances, this system is working well.

The club concerned is under no obligation to place applicants on the list. Some judges feel that if they fulfil the criteria their inclusion should be automatic but this is not the case. However, they may ask why they have not been included and, in my view, the demand on breeds that the method of compiling judges’ lists should be ‘transparent’ entitles them to an answer. Breed clubs and councils must publish their criteria for compiling judges’ lists and these are checked by The Kennel Club to ensure that they are ‘reasonable’. The first attempts by most clubs were not very successful but by July 2000 it is expected that all will be acceptable. After this date, any lists that have not been approved by The KC will be deemed invalid and will probably not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee who will then make its decision on the facts before it

Although the status of breed judges’ lists has been raised, potential judges not on a breed lists may still be asked by shows that have been allocated challenge certificates to officiate as the JSC will treat each application its merits. However, it is hoped that over the next few years judges and breed clubs and councils will work towards an active and valid A2 list and it this list which potential judges should have ‘in their sights’. To gain admittance to the A2 list, a potential first time judge must fulfil the requirements of the breed and The Kennel Club. These are:

  • To have passed the Rules, Regulations and Procedure examination set by a KC approved trainer
  • To have attended a seminar on structure, conformation and movement taken by a KC approved trainer
  • To have stewarded at least 12 times (if not have previously been approved to award CCs)
  • To have attended a breed seminar conducted in accordance with the JWP best practice advice and sponsored by a registered breed club.
  • To have judged the breed (the number of occasions and the number of dogs being determined, in the final analysis, by the Judges Sub-committee although the breed criteria will provide a guide

Other experience is also valuable. Judging other breeds (particularly similar breeds) successful exhibition of the breeds or other breeds, successful breeding of the breed or other breeds, certificates or diplomas which indicate study of judging and of dogs in general are all taken into account.

It is essential that judges maintain complete records of their experience. This has always been necessary and although the specific details required have changed in recent years, the JWP recommendations do not change the requirements for those already passed to award CCs except for the provision of an attendance certificate at an approved breed seminar for a new breed.

For new judges coming forward to award CCs for the first time after July 2000 they will need to provide details of the shows, their dates, breed/s, number of classes, and number of dogs actually judged and include evidence of passing the rules and regulations examination, the certificate of attendance at a conformation and movement seminar, a certificate of attendance at an approved breed seminar and details of their stewarding experience.

The Judges’ Department instigates a number of spot checks on questionnaires so it is vital that all the evidence is physically available for inspection if necessary. Computer printouts are fine as backup but originals of catalogues, judging books and certificates should all be retained.

The Judges’ Working Party is already working on ways in which those who want to develop a career in judging dogs can be helped to gain the right sort of experience. A Kennel Club video on conformation and movement had been produced and educational programmes in conjunction with national group societies are being developed for the more experienced judges to help them to progress at a faster rate.

This summary is designed to give an overview of the recommendations and changes incorporated as a result of the suggestions made by the JWP and should be read in conjunction with the two Kennel Club papers. Guidance for the Development of Judging Lists and Guidance for Running Breed Seminars. Full details can be obtained from the Judges’ Department at the kennel Club who will also provide detailed interpretation where required. There is still a great deal of work to be done, for the rapidly changing elements of showing dogs mean that further modifications to the recommendations of the JWP will continue to be reviewed and alterations made as required.

It is hoped that over the next ten to fifteen years exhibitors should be able to develop greater confidence in judges. In the long term this should ensure that both judging and dogs will be more consistent and acceptable.