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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Australia

Is there a problem with pedigree dog breeding in Australia?
Yes. A wide range of serious welfare problems currently exist in pedigree dog breeds in Australia due to selective breeding to breed standards. This is a major concern for the RSPCA. These problems include: difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, difficulty giving birth without veterinary intervention, serious problems with their eyes, serious problems with their skin and chronic back and hip problems.

What are Australian breed standards?
In Australia, pedigree dogs are judged primarily on their appearance and how closely they adhere to the breed standard. Unfortunately, we have seen a preference for some of the more exaggerated and extreme physical traits such as excessive skin folds, extremely shortened and flattened faces, large bulging eyes, very long backs, very short legs and massive heads. These exaggerations can seriously compromise the animal's quality of life.

“There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way purebred dogs are selected and bred in Australia.”

What is the RSPCA asking for?
There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way purebred dogs are selected and bred in Australia. The RSPCA would like to see breeders put health, welfare and functionality ahead of the appearance of pedigree dogs. This will involve acknowledging the health and welfare problems in each breed and reviewing and revising breed standards. We'd like the ANKC to prohibit the registration of 1st and 2nd degree matings, to open studbooks and outcross (with another breed) then backcross where necessary to increase the genetic diversity within particular breeds.

Prospective buyers also need to be able to recognise responsible breeding and to be aware of any potential problems in breeds before they purchase an animal. Buying an animal from a breeder without asking the right questions will only contribute to this problem. We need to support responsible breeders who are breeding ethically and ensure prospective buyers are well informed.

Whose responsibility is this?
Ultimately, decisions on what dogs are bred lie in the hands of pedigree dog breeders. However overcoming the welfare problems faced by pedigree dogs is a complex challenge that will need the cooperation of all interested stakeholders, including breeders, buyers, dog show conformation judges, the Australian National Kennel Council, State Canine Councils, Breeder associations/clubs, the veterinary profession, geneticists and other scientists and companion animal welfare groups.

Does the Government have a role to play?
Governments can encourage responsible breeding. RSPCA Australia advocates a compulsory registration and licensing system for breeders, which would include aspects of breeding practices.

What constitutes a responsible breeder?
A responsible breeder prioritises health and welfare over appearance: they work to breed away from known inherited disorders, they provide a very high standard of care for their dogs and conscientiously work to match supply with demand. They are open and transparent, ensure compatibility between the pup and new owner and provide a health guarantee and ongoing support.

What are the most popular ‘registered' purebred dog breeds in Australia?
According to the ANKC National Registration statistics, in 2008 the ten most popular purebred dogs were:

• Labrador Retriever
• German Shepherd
• Staffordshire Bull Terrier
• Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
• Golden Retriever

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