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Are show dogs starving to be skinny?


Could the starvation-for-the-sake-of-thinness that many of us associate with fashion models become a problem for purebred dogs? 

In advance of Britain's Crufts Dog Show, some experts (among them filmmaker Jemima Harrison, whose documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" led the BBC to drop its Crufts coverage) say it's already happened. 

"This is Size Zero for dogs," Harrison told the Telegraph about what she says is a "serious welfare issue": owners deliberately depriving their show dogs of food and water before events due to show-ring weight requirements. 

The debate centers on the miniature Dachshund, a breed whose standard of perfection (both the U.K. version and the American version) states that the animals should weigh no more than 11 pounds. 

It's common practice to weigh the dogs during shows; responding to the controversy, Britain's Kennel Club announced that it "has, for potential welfare reasons, taken a line against weighing and has discontinued the practice at its own show Crufts" and further suggested that water bowls should be placed in miniature Dachshund rings at shows. 

But some argue that the Kennel Club hasn't gone far enough.  From the Telegraph:

Beverley Cuddy, editor of the pet lovers' bible Dogs Today, said the Kennel Club's position was "bordering on neglectful" because it had allowed the practice to continue at most shows.

She said: "They could have banned scales for [miniature Dachshunds] at all shows but instead they have gone for a cosmetic ban at high-profile Crufts while allowing them everywhere else, which is disgraceful.

"We have had calls from owners and even some judges who are extremely concerned by what they have seen."

Ian Seath, chairman of the Dachshund Breeding Council, told the Telegraph that a "small number of people are stirring it up but there is no evidence of a welfare problem."  Weighing miniature Dachshunds, he said, was important to prevent a "gradual change in size that has been seen in some other countries" but pointed out a tenet of the breed's standard which states:

Exhibits which appear thin and undernourished should be severely penalised.

Seath called the allegations "hearsay" and said no formal complaints had been registered.  But Harrison disagrees, and told the Telegraph:

"I have testimonies from those who say it is happening," she said. "Placing water bowls at shows is pointless because the owners keep the dogs on leads. It doesn't achieve anything."

She stressed that the primary purpose of [her follow-up to "Pedigree Dogs Exposed," due out this summer] would not be to shock viewers but to "inspire breeders to rise to the challenge of breeding healthier, long-lived pedigree dogs."

Do you believe the allegations that British Dachshund exhibitors are deliberately starving their dogs?  If so, do you think the Kennel Club is doing enough to stop it?

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Peter Kramer / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (5)

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I breed and show mini smooth Dachshunds and I spend more time feeding them UP than slimmimg them down! Ridiculous! Hit the puppy farmers and those poor souls sold on places like epupz. Oh - of course, tackling cruelty genuine takes guts and determination, so pick on those who love their dogs and are there to be counted instead!....

If in doubt, come to some shows and judge the truth for yourselves.

Whether it's starving and dehydrating show dogs, and threatening their health and longevity through bad breeding that aims for showy physical attributes over genetic soundness -- or whether it's breeding racehorses that are fast but way too fragile, and then forcing them to race before their bones even have a chance to fully form, leading to tragedies like the horrific death of Eight Belles -- or whether it's just killing bulls for sport -- whenever humans involve animals in their competitions the animals lose.

When are we going to stop treating animals like their lives don't matter and they're just props in our frivolous, manufactured dramas?

It is ridiculous to describe Jemima Harrison as an "expert". She is a journalist who has maade one biased and misleading TV film about pedigree dogs.

If there is evidence of Dachshunds being kept undernourished then this should be made available to the Kennel Club for proper investigation. We cannot react to hearsay or anecdotes and there is a formal system in place for issues to be raised and investigated.

The Breed Standard makes it clear that dogs which appear thin and undernourished should be severely penalised by judges. There is no incentive for exhibitors to show dogs in that condition. It simply would not be possible to win top honours in the show ring with unhealthy or temperamentally unsound Dachshunds.

If any of these so-called experts could be bothered to come to our shows they would see fit, healthy and happy dogs.

They could also speak with us about the huge amount of work the Breed Clubs are doing, with the Kennel Club, to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs.

The real health issue that needs to be addressed is that of puppy farming (puppy mills), where no account is taken of the Breed Standard or recommended health screening and where animals are raised in appalling conditions.

It is the dog showing community, with the breed clubs, that have led the way with efforts to improve health and welfare whereas the puppy farmers blatantly ignore these issues.

Oh come on. It's very clear that this blogger is deliberately trying to stir problems where none exist. I've been in show dogs for over 25 years and I have never, EVER seen a dog too thin. In fact, it's more often the opposite; most show dogs are kept a bit overweight. Commonly we take off several pounds before we allow them to compete in sports like agility.

Crufts is a showcase of some of the best dogs in the world. The great majority of show dogs live lives most everyday dogs could only dream of. It's too bad that a bunch of radical animal rights idiots, most of whom have never been to a show in their lives, are believed over the people who actually show dogs.


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