In November 2008, the Kennel Club wrote to all breed clubs describing the difficult times being experienced and the need for tangible change to underline the fact that we all care deeply about the health of pedigree dogs. As part of this, the KC imposed a newly amended Code of Ethics across the board, to replace any existing codes of ethics. Clubs must apply to the KC to have any other clauses included. The IW clubs have now agreed these additional clauses and the KC has approved them, which in effect restores the breed code of conduct to its original state.
The KC also demanded that all clubs should establish a breed health committee as a requirement for ongoing health surveillance by Kennel Club registered clubs. In this case, the requirement is already met by this group.
The Health plan also included a review of all breed standards to ensure that the guidance given therein leads to the breeding and exhibition of healthy dogs. Happily, the KC saw no changes required to the Irish Wolfhound standard, save the introductory paragraph that must now be applied to all breed standards:
'A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.'
We were also asked to identify the three key health concerns for the breed and those remain heart disease, bone cancer and bloat.
The Kennel Club intends to examine genetic diversity. This matter will be addressed on a breed specific basis once the health plans have been issued and feedback has been received on the information provided regarding breed health issues.
The KC wants to ensure that the reporting of newly diagnosed conditions in dogs becomes the norm. That way each breed will have immediate access to its current health status and will be able to act accordingly and in a responsible manner. The KC see one of the important functions of the health group will be to collate and record this health information and feed their data into a central resource that will be able to monitor health across all breed. To achieve this will mean by annual or bi-annual health reports from individual breed health groups, presenting the health statistics that have been collected since their previous report. Their aim is to enable more immediate consultation between the KC, specialists and breed clubs if/when a newly emerging condition is discovered within a breed or breeds.