Irish dog breeders under fire after Crufts controversy

Irish Kennel Club rejects criticism of practices amid debate over dog show winner

The trophy for the best in show category at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England. Dog breeders have reacted to criticism of Irish practices following the latest controversy to hit Crufts. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The trophy for the best in show category at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England. Dog breeders have reacted to criticism of Irish practices following the latest controversy to hit Crufts. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

 

Dog breeders have reacted to criticism of Irish practices following the latest controversy to hit Crufts.

The dog show has come under fire due to the winner in this year’s German shepherd category, which, according to subsequent commentary, “looked to be deformed” with an “oddly sloping back and weedy, wobbly legs”, issues that were attributed to its breeding.

Breeding practices and trends have often been a bone of contention.

However, this controversy has dragged in the Irish dog-breeding industry - although it is not linked to the German shepherd in question.

Writing in a Guardian column, Michele Hanson rounded on various breeding practices, including those in Ireland.

Discussing the controversial practice of “docking” - where a puppy’s tail is removed - Ms Hanson said it was illegal in both England and Wales since 2006.

“So why did I see docked dogs at a dog show in 2011? ‘They’re Irish dogs,’ said another breeder’,” she wrote in the piece.

“In Ireland, you can apparently do more or less what you like with dogs.

“Every year, we import thousands of dogs from Ireland, and from Wales, which are awash with horrible puppy farms, some even legal, licensed by councils, churning out sick dogs.

“Then we buy the puppies, often online, only to find out that they’re poorly. It’s distressing for dogs and owners, who end up spending hours and fortunes at the vet.”

Industry response

However, Ms Hanson’s remarks were rebuked by the Irish Kennel Club, the body tasked with promoting the responsible ownership and breeding of dogs.

Its president, Sean Delmar, told The Irish Times that docking is illegal in the State but still possible in the UK if an owner applies for a certificate.

“Nobody does it now [but] you can’t disenfranchise people whose dogs were legally docked and it’s all over the world,” he said.

At Crufts, Mr Delmar said, the large majority of Kerry Blue Terriers had been docked.

“In the UK, their legislation says that if you can prove that you need the dog to work clearing vermin on the land you can get a certificate to legally dock them.”

He dismissed Ms Hanson’s notion that in Ireland “you can do more or less what you like with dogs”.

Whereas microchipping - which allows for a check of provenance - was made mandatory by the Irish Kennel Club 10 years ago, the same measure had only been enforced in the UK at the end of last year, he said.

‘Puppy breeding centre’

Meanwhile, the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) said while Ireland had a reputation as a “puppy breeding centre” in Europe, much was being done to address the problem, including the enforcement of animal passports.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said while puppy farming was not necessarily illegal, the DSPCA had a problem with the sale of animals and their welfare.

“The DSPCA is regularly telling people not to buy online, it’s a buyer beware situation.

“You will have no guarantee that the animal you are buying is what [the breeder] says it is,” she said.

“Any good breeder will interview you the same as a shelter will. No proper breeder will just give you an animal based on [an attitude of], ‘no problem, give me the cash’.”