Last Wednesday, 18th September, I attended the KC Building at Stoneleigh for a Breed Health Co-ordinators Symposium.
After refreshments on arrival there was a short introduction followed by a talk by Philippa Robinson, founder of The Karlton Index. She explained how she first came to set up the Index and how that since her childhood her dream was always to have a puppy. Eventually, in adulthood, she bought a German Wirehaired Pointer after a lot of research. The dogs’ kennel name was Karlton, hence the name of the Index, pet name Alfie. Unfortunately she lost Alfie at the age of 4 after he had had a series of seizures.
After her initial grief and upset at loosing Alfie she was prompted by an article in Dog World and her working background in Management Consultancy to develop a framework for what became The Karlton Index based on other models for change and management practice. The framework is quite concise and is:-
1. Leadership; strategy, plans and objectives.
2. Communicate those plans.
3. Engage people in participation.
4. Evaluate the impact of that on the health of the breed.
Philippa then went through a toolkit outlining how her objectives could be achieved. The toolkit will be available on the GDC website and includes many useful and helpful links. The toolkits from the other speakers should also be available on the website.
One thing that Philippa said stuck in my mind and that was that after loosing Alfie, she was fairly sceptical about the pedigree dog world but that since she has been researching for The Karlton Index she has been amazed at the huge amount of work and money that the pedigree dog world has put into researching health matters with the assistance of others, notably the KC and the KCCT. She also mentioned that it took 3 solid months work to compile the Index.
There was then a positive 15 minute Q & A session.
Our next speaker was Aimee Llewellyn, the KC Breed Health Manager talking about Estimated Breeding Values (EBV). Her talk was very enlightening but much too involved for me to try to précis her presentation will be on our website to be read by you at your leisure. From what Aimee had to say, it was evident that EBVs are going to be very important as more genetic research is done into dog health. In other words it is up to the breeder to assess the findings and then apply them intelligently to their breeding programme.
Bill Lambert, KC Health and Breed Services Manager then updated us on the changes and improvements to the KC Assured Breeders Scheme. When he was explaining the changes and improvements it occurred to me that the KCABS is now much more selective and is policing the scheme more effectively. It is trying to involve clubs and peers more and has gone a long way to catching up with what it should have been at it’s conception. Bill Lambert was particularly proud that the KC is now accepted by the United Kingdom Accreditation Scheme. This is a nationwide body recognised by the government and includes many high profile household name businesses and organisations including the likes of Rolls Royce.
After a buffet lunch we were all split up into groups for a workshop on “Common problems encountered by BHCs”. There were 8 or 9 groups and the consensus was remarkable. Almost all the groups came up with similar problems. The most commonly used word was apathy, this was closely followed by breed politics and how to obtain substantial, reliable data. It was also felt that many paid lip service to health initiatives whilst not actually contributing and in some cases positively briefing against it.
Charlotte McNamara, the KC High Profile Breed Co – ordinator then brought us up to date on Breed Watch updates and improvements.
Finally, we were split up into our original groups and asked to come up with solutions for our previously identified problems for the BHCs. Again there was a general consensus amongst the groups. It was felt that good, enthusiastic and knowledgeable leadership was vital and that this would have a trickle down effect and help galvanise the breed. There was a feeling that the pedigree dog world had too much negative press and an air of doom and gloom pervaded the fancy. It was felt that we should promote ourselves much more positively and accentuate good news stories and how pedigree dogs bring so much pleasure and companionship to thousands and thousands of people. The recent criticisms have affected our confidence and shown us in an unfairly bad light with some of the public. We agreed that it was not easy to get good news stories into the media but that we should try to drip feed good stories into local and national press and television and try to find a positive way of using the internet.
We all then went our separate ways. The symposium, in my view, was very successful being educational and informative and giving us the opportunity to talk to people from other breeds and swap notes. I believe this is a good way to learn from other breeds’ experiences, good or bad.