Lewis, R., McBride, E.A. and Lamb, D.
The pedigree dog – welfare ethics versus aesthetics
At Universitites Federation for Animal Welfare Animal Welfare Conference 2008.
03 Jul 2008.
The domestic dog Canis familiaris has been selectively bred by humans for thousands of years and exhibits a greater morphological diversity than any other single species (Clutton-Brock 1999). Initially the selective breeding of dogs was primarily to satisfy functional requirements; however, with the inception of dog shows in the mid 19th century, the aesthetic quality of these animals was soon to have a bearing on breeding practices (The Kennel Club, 2000).
Dog breeders have produced animals which are morphologically far removed from their progenitor the wolf, but in doing so 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 and 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. We report on the results of a postal questionnaire sent to the secretaries of breed societies. The study aimed to investigate breed society views of ethical aspects of dog breeding, through an understanding of the current practices of breed clubs and the content of the breed society’s published rule books and codes of ethics. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative data was used to analyse and evaluate the responses.
This study found that, although efforts are being made to improve the health and welfare of pedigree dogs in the UK, the selective breeding of pedigree dogs to meet breed standards does not fully satisfy the principles of welfare ethics.
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