UK’s Kennel Club computer system is losing dogs’ pedigree and health records

Kennel Club litter application form

NEWS AND VIEWS (COMMENT): The Kennel Club in the UK is in trouble again. A few years ago they were criticised for permitting and even encouraging, through breed standards, the breeding of unhealthy dogs which resulted in the BBC pulling out of filming the world’s leading dog show, Crufts. Since then they’ve done little, in my view, to improve this aspect of their organisation (the inherently unhealthy bulldogs are an example).

Now there are in trouble again with respect to a new computer system which they approved in January 2018. The computer database records the pedigree of dogs and their health. Such a database is vital to record registrations of purebred dogs so that breeders can receive certificates to confirm that the dog that they have sold to a new adopter is a genuine purebred dog registered with the Kennel Club, and not a puppy bred at a puppy farm under unhygienic and informal conditions, often against the law.

Kennel Club litter application form

Kennel Club litter application form. Image: Wikihow.

So the Kennel Club is vital to ensuring that the adoption of dogs is carried out in a controlled way and so that people know what they’re buying. This is especially important at the moment because during the coronavirus pandemic the scammers and puppy mill breeders have jumped in to take advantage of gullible people who have decided that this is a good time to adopt a companion dog because they are alone. And they have plenty of time on their hands thanks to the generosity of the British government’s furlough scheme.

Apparently there have been an “unprecedented number of calls and emails” over the computer problem from breeders who are complaining bitterly. One example is Samantha Dreary, a championship judge and breeder of Newfoundlands for 30 years. The Kennel Club’s computer systems recorded her as ‘deceased’ and all her dogs going back 10 generations have been erased from the system, or so it seems. Certainly the data cannot be found at the time of this post. Can it be retrieved and if not what happens next? Chaos, no doubt. Dreary said that, “people are desperate to get their dogs registered before they go to new homes. It’s crazy”.

Thousands of other breeders have complained about the system. They have identified another problem: new owners unwittingly buying from unregulated breeders operating from illegal puppy farms abroad, often in Eastern Europe, and then smuggled into the country where they are sold at inflated prices. People in the UK have suddenly developed a soft spot for the French bulldog with its cute flat face. The flat-faced dog is very popular nowadays but gullible adopters fail to realise that they are buying an inherently unhealthy animal which will lead them to spend a lot of money at their veterinarian’s clinic. Their dream may end up a nightmare unless they’re lucky.

This is why the health aspect of the Kennel Club’s computer database is so vital. Proper, legitimate breeders can reassure adopters that their dogs are relatively healthy and not overly inbred and that the breeders have paid attention to the health of their animals rather than simply their appearance (we hope).

Sharon Jarvis, a Labrador retriever breeder has set up a Facebook group called Kennel Club, Fight for Your Rights to publicise the problem and to try and coordinate action against the Kennel Club to force them to take steps to improve the matter. She has seven puppies earmarked to go to new homes but she is concerned that she won’t be able to give the buyers their pedigree certificates.

The breeders also complain that at the moment they pay £17 to register their puppies but are not getting the service in return. Puppy prices have risen tenfold with respect to some breeds. For example, prices for Staffordshire bull terriers have risen from £200 to £2,000. The cost of a German Shephard has more than tripled to about £2500.

A spokeswoman for the Kennel Club said that the new website, “will enhance our ability to help puppy buyers source dogs responsibly”. She added that there have been challenges in settling in the computer system in part because of the coronavirus which has resulted in delays in processing applications from some breeders.