A paradigm shift in the Netherlands?
In July 2014, a change of law concerning article 3.4 in the Animal Keepers Decree, came into effect. Since then it has been prohibited to breed companion animals in such a way that it affects the welfare and health of the parent and/or the offspring. This concerns hereditary diseases, serious physical abnormalities as well as behavioral abnormalities. However, the standards were still open for interpretation, changes in breeding standards only developed slowly.
This year, the report of Dr. Marjan van Hagen, Department of Animals in Society and the Expertise Center of Genetics of Companion Animals of the University of Utrecht, filled in the criteria for the breeding of short-muzzled dogs. Since the Minister of Agriculture and Food adopted this report and set it as the standard for article 3.4, all breeders must adhere to these criteria when they want to breed with their short-muzzled dogs. Even when it is an occasional litter. The Dutch Kennel Club has also adopted these criteria. Since May 18, 2020, a veterinarian has to measure the head, as described, and provide a report of the results to the breeder. Measurement has to be taken on eg Craniofacial ratio and nostril stenosis. If the minimum criteria are not met, a pedigree will not be issued and breeding will not be allowed according to the law.
For the sake of animal health and welfare, the KNMvD is very happy with these developments. We understand it won’t be easy to let go of the beloved features of some dog breeds. And it may take several generations of dogs to change. But the amelioration of the welfare of extreme brachycephalic dogs is in motion! And veterinarians have a role in it now.
A valid concern is that people will go abroad to get a dog with the desired features, or that these dogs will be imported to avoid Dutch law. That is why it is so important to create national and international public awareness and political support for this issue. Together we can truly change the welfare of brachycephalic dogs!
In the meantime, the KNMvD is involved in the project ‘Fairdog’. This is an initiative of many stakeholders to provide people with a healthy and well-socialized dog, pedigree, and non-pedigree. Partners include the Dutch Animal Protection, The Dutch Kennel Club, and the Expertise Center of Genetics of Companion Animals. Six project groups are focusing on specific issues, such as the development of quality criteria for breeding, quality criteria for importing dogs, and a platform for legal dog trade as well as improving the import of healthy and social stray dogs from abroad.
We will keep investing in awareness about the health and welfare of dogs and we hope all the members of FECAVA will join us and spread the word.
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