TA: Victoria Cussen
Welfare Concerns of Pedigree Dogs
Issues relating to the health and welfare of pedigree dogs have been expressed for nearly 50 years (Hodgeman, 1963). Companion dogs were once selected for their ability to perform in a working environment. However, the dogs of today are selected for aesthetic qualities set out in written breed standards (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). This aspires the breeders to breed show-quality dogs with disregard to health because show-quality is their main concern. Many individuals within these select breed lines suffer compromised welfare either directly or indirectly due to selective breeding and reduced genetic variability (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). Problems associated with genetic change are serious for reasons such as; they affect large numbers of dogs, the effects perpetuate from generation to generation, the animal’s quality of life can be severely reduced, and the effects may be long lasting (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). These issues cause pain and suffering to the dogs. Since dog breeding for show is a hobby, there is moral obligation to maximize the dog’s quality of life and avoid risks to their health and welfare. I think that pedigree dog breeding would be ethical if we progressed towards individuals with a healthier future and improved the welfare of pedigree dogs, scientific evidence linking breed standards to clinically observed disorders needs to be gathered to give definitive proof that certain standards should be changed, and some breeding practices abolished (Nicholas et al., 2010).
We have this moral obligation to the dogs because they are able to feel pain and suffering which grants them moral standing. Since they have moral standing we owe them direct duties in which we will do our best to minimize and avoid any pain and suffering to them. Morphological extremes can result in directly or indirectly reducing the quality of life for the dogs. Some issues that touch on the surface of these problems are, overly large or heavy dogs that may suffer from joint problems, dogs with very short legs that may have limited locomotion, and short skulls and flat faces (brachycephalic breeds) that may lead to breathing disorders.
One of the main issues are breed standards, which are a set of written ideals open to individual interpretation, formulated through input from the Kennel Club and breeder clubs (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). These breed standards force the breeders to continually breed to present the morphological extremes, which predispose many of the dogs to diseases and disorders. Breeders also work from within a closed studbook, which prevents entry of new genes into the population (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). Many breeds have originated from only a few individuals, with inbreeding and “line breeding” being used to fix traits within the breed (Summers et al., 2010). Line breeding is a common term used that means breeding related dogs such as, parent to offspring. There is also a tendency to breed from only those individuals displaying the best example of the breed traits, further limiting the genetic variability of offspring produced (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). This has resulted in several breeds having a very limited gene pool, predisposing these dogs to genetic disorders (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). These health issues are categorized as either directly related to the conformation being sought through the breed standards, or indirectly as genetic disorders arising more frequently due to the limited genetics of the populations (Rooney & Sargan, 2010). In order to prevent these issues, changes need to be made within the breed standards where morphological extremes are not necessary...
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