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The pedigree dog – aesthetics versus ethics and law

McBride, E. Anne, Lamb, David and Lewis, Rita (2010) The pedigree dog – aesthetics versus ethics and law Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research, 5, (1), pp. 50-51. (doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2009.09.021).

Record type: Article


Selective breeding of the domestic dog, Canis familiaris, has resulted in greater morphological diversity than any other single species (Clutton-Brock, 1999). Initially this selection was to satisfy functional requirements; however, the inception of dog shows in the mid 19th century gave weight to the aesthetic perspective and in the late 20th and early 21st century this has become paramount.

Pedigree dogs are morphologically far removed from their progenitor, the wolf, and some dogs appear to have paid a high price, as selective breeding has led to the existence of over 350 known diseases and conditions in pedigree dogs (Gough and Thomas, 2005). Whilst the UK Kennel Club, and many breed clubs, recognise there is a need to ensure both the physical and behavioural health of pedigree dogs (Kisko, 2007), many breed standards are still linked to specific problems.

This study adapts the four principles of bioethics (Beauchamp & Childress, 1994) - beneficence, non-malificence, autonomy and justice - to welfare ethics, and considers whether the practice of selectively breeding pedigree dogs to meet breed standards is compatible with these four principles. Questionnaires sent to the secretaries of 167 national breed societies investigated the society views of ethical aspects of dog breeding, through an understanding of the current practices of breed clubs. Forty-Two (24%) responses were returned, and 22 (13%) codes of ethics and rule books were provided. Qualitative analysis was conducted on the content of the breed society’s published rule books and codes of ethics.

Although efforts are being made to improve the health of pedigree dogs, current codes of ethics, rule books and breed standards do not fully satisfy the principles of welfare ethics, and only 21.4% considered these would be affected by the provisions of the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006. These ethical issues need to be considered by the pedigree dog world and have implications for the show standards for other species (CAWC, 2006).

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Published date: January 2010
Keywords: dog, animal welfare, breeding, aesthetics, law


Local EPrints ID: 146329
ISSN: 1558-7878
PURE UUID: 581a35a4-76e4-4d3e-95c2-375bf458f73a

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Date deposited: 21 Apr 2010 11:34
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 23:04

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Author: E. Anne McBride
Author: David Lamb
Author: Rita Lewis

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