Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed” gets first U.S. airing

Watch the full documentary here

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed, ” the controversial BBC documentary that shed some much needed light on purebred breeding practices and the horrors they have produced, will get its first airing in the U.S. tonight (Dec. 10).

Probably the single most important piece of dog reporting in the past decade, the documentary led to the BBC dropping its coverage of Crufts, the UK’s equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show.

The documentary looks at how many breeds have had their physical appearance so exaggerated they’re unrecognizable from a century ago, and it examines some of the breed-specific health problems that have resulted from breeders emphasizing looks over health when breeding dogs for shows.

The show, which led to some changes in Kennel Club and breeder policies and practices, airs at 8 p.m. tonight on BBC America.

The documentary revealed that dogs suffering from genetic illness are not prevented from competing in dog shows and have gone on to win “best in breed”, despite their poor health. It says physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards in the U.K., such as short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails and dwarfism, have led to inherent health problems.

This excerpt from the program shows a prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for its brain.
The documentary looks at other problems that have resulted from mating dogs who are close relatives, all for the purposes of accentuating certain physical features deemed desirable by the dog show crowd — boxers suffering from epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs who are unable to mate or give birth unassisted because their heads are so big.

While picked up here and there by the U.S. media, the story of shaping purebred dogs to fit arbitrary and human standards of beauty — despite the health ramifications – remains best told by the BBC documentary. By all means, watch it.

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed” deemed mostly fair

Ofcom — the UK’s equivalent to our FCC — has ruled that the controversial BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” was mostly fair, but didn’t give Kennel Club officials a chance to fully respond to all of the allegations it made.

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” which is receiving its first U.S. airing tonight, alleged that events such as the Crufts dog show awarded top prizes to unhealthy and inbred animals and encouraged breeders to place appearance above health concerns.

The Ofcom ruling was in response to complaints by the Kennel Club, according to The Guardian.

Ofcom said that the way the film was edited was fair and that the Kennel Club was not, as it claimed, deceived about its purpose.” However, it added, the Kennel Club was “not given a proper opportunity to respond to an allegation about eugenics and a comparison with Hitler and the Nazi Party, or an allegation that it covered up the nature of an operation carried out on a Crufts Best in Show winner”.

The Kennel Club made complaints about the program in five areas. Ofcom — here’s the full ruling — rejected complaints in four of these areas stating that there was “no unfairness.”
Only the Kennel Club’s fifth complaint was deemed somewhat valid. The Kennel Club said it was not given an appropriate opportunity to respond to 15 specific allegations, and Ofcom agreed that was in the case for four of the 15.

In one of those, Jeff Sampson, the Kennel Club’s senior scientific adviser and spokesman, “was not given the chance to show how seriously he took the health problems confronting pedigree dogs,” Ofcom said.

The BBC said it stood by the program. “While we note Ofcom’s findings regarding some aspects of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, we stand firmly by the programme, which was clearly in the public interest, and we stand firmly by its conclusions,” said a spokesman for the BBC.

“The broadcast has accelerated unprecedented reform in the way pedigree dogs are bred, including new limits on inbreeding, changes to the written standards of 78 breeds of dog and a new code of ethics which prohibits the culling of puppies for cosmetic reasons,” he added.
Thank you to Ohmidog for these stories