Frustrated by The Kennel Club‘s refusal to receive an 8,000 strong petition at Crufts this week, dog lovers have started a “virtual march”. Owners who are caring for sick pets hope this will make the Club take on board their concerns about a health crisis in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
The ‘Cavaliers Are Special Virtual Health March to the Kennel Club’ is taking place on Facebook. Many of the virtual marchers have posted photographs of Cavaliers who have died at a young age from painful inherited disease.
Over 8,000 Cavalier lovers, including a host of celebrities, have signed a petition asking the Kennel Club to only register puppies whose parents have been tested for the breed’s two most serious hereditary conditions.
Damon Scott spoke to K9 Magazine about why he and Craig Revel-Horwood, pictured above with their dog Sophie, are supporting the campaign back in December.
Speaking about the campaign, Ryan O’Meara, a former professional dog trainer and editor of K9 Magazine said, “When we breed dogs to a set of physical standards and ignore the health consequences, it’s really unforgivable.The public must be educated to see dogs not for their aesthetic appeal but to think about their health.”
The BBC ditched its coverage of Crufts after a 2008 TV documentary raised serious concerns about Cavalier health and breeding practices. Despite labelling itself “the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs”, the organisation has refused to accept the petition, claiming it is not “appropriate” for its “positive celebration of dogs”.
“As someone who has lost one Cavalier from heart disease and is now caring for a two-year-old Cavalier with an extremely serious neurological condition, this feels like another kick in the teeth for pet owners,” says mother-of-three Charlotte Mackaness, who started the online march. “As far as Cavaliers go, Crufts is a celebration of beauty at the expense of health.”
According to Margaret Carter, who started the petition: “It is possible to produce healthier puppies by health testing and removing young, affected Cavaliers from the breeding programme but the KC’s own registration figures reveal 50 per cent of the Cavalier breeders exhibiting at Crufts are not following the Cavalier heart protocol.“
“This is discrimination against pet owners who have signed the petition and posted thousands of heart-breaking comments,” says Carter. “Why is the Kennel Club so reluctant to accept the petition? I suspect because there is a conflict of interest between its claim to represent all dogs and the fact that acknowledging health problems will antagonise the breeders who provide its main source of income.
“Most Cavaliers are in pet homes and it is pet owners that are left to pick up the pieces. They care for the sick dogs and they are the people fighting for the survival of this loving breed – doing the job that the Kennel Club and breed clubs should to be doing,” she says.
The campaign has also received support from the RSPCA alongside a host of celebrities including Pixie Lott, Craig Revel-Horwood and Damon Scott, Deborah Meadon, Linda Robson, Made in Chelsea’s Binky Felstead, Tony Parsons, Fern Britton and TV vet Mark Evans.
If you would like to support the virtual march, please join online here.