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Are show dogs starving to be skinny?

February 21, 2009 | 10:27 pm

Dachshund

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

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