After a BBC documentary titled "Pedigree Dogs Exposed", the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) raised concerns that hundreds of thousands of pedigree dogs are vulnerable to illness, pain and discomfort because they’re primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind. Following this, the BBC decided not to broadcast the world renowned dog championship Crufts in 2009 and Pedigree withdrew it’s sponsorship.
In response, the Kennel Club launched it’s "Fit for Function: Fit For Life" campaign, designed to prevent the kind of breeding that can lead to health problems. The first outcomes of this campaign include a review of all breed standards to ensure that all dogs are "healthy, of good temperament and fit for their original function", and a strict banning of the breeding of close relatives. Examples of the suggested amendments include a revised standard for the Shar Pei, which removes the exaggeration of loose skin folds across the neck, skull and legs. Other changes include the preclusion of excessive weight in Labradors and a move to stop breeders exaggerating substance in Clumber Spaniels, in order to ensure they would be fit for their original purpose of working in the field.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: "We want the New Year to begin well for pedigree dogs and the changes that have been announced today underline the Kennel Club’s deep commitment to ensuring that every pedigree dog has the best possible chance of leading a happy, healthy life."
And the RSPCA has warmly welcomed the changes. RSPCA chief veterinary adviser Mark Evans said: "The fact that from March the Kennel Club won’t register puppies from closely related parents is brilliant news and a significant step forward for pedigree dog welfare. We haven’t yet had the opportunity to look at the Kennel Club’s reviewed breed standards in detail, but our initial concerns are that the changes don’t appear to be radical enough to really make a difference."