International Partnership for Dogs

16th October–

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!

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