LOWDOWN Summer 2012

NEWS HOUND
All the news that’s fit to bark!

1. CRUFTS 2012 - THE UPROAR AND THE AFTERMATH

Crufts 2012 proved to be the most memorable and controversial Championship Dog show in living memory - and for our breed, certainly one of the most upsetting.

I make no apologies for this rather long report of the situation, but these events could have far reaching implications for the breed beyond just the show ring.

Perceived problems with certain pedigree breeds surfaced some years back and were addressed in international fora such as the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) and the Council of Europe’s discussions about the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW).

Even before the screening of the controversial television programme, Pedigree Dogs:Exposed and the ensuing publicity three years ago, and the publication of the 2010 Bateson Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding which was commissioned by the then government, the Kennel Club has sought to demonstrate that it is doing everything possible to promote healthy pedigree dog breeding. A wholly laudable objective - one would think - and certainly one to which all responsible pedigree breeders would aspire and subscribe.

Using the battle-cry ‘Fit for function Fit for life’, the Kennel Club brought in several measures which it believed would defuse some of the criticism it had received from the anti-pedigree dog lobby.

It instigated an Accredited Breeders Scheme (changed in 2011 to the Assured Breeders Scheme). This was a register of breeders who had adopted certain principles set out by the KC. To some of us, this scheme had some fundamental flaws and seemed more like a public relation exercise. For a mere £15 subscription and £10 each year, anyone, more or less, can join - and there is very little monitoring. The ABS has been criticised in several quarters for being ineffective. Certainly, the scheme offers nothing that a conscientious breeder would not already do.

Another far more significant measure was that KC Breed Standards were revised. For those unfamiliar with dog showing, these are the written blueprints against which all dogs in the show ring are judged.

Breed clubs were consulted as part of this process of revision and the final standards were published in 2010.

A Basset Hound Health Group was established by the eight UK Basset Hound clubs to monitor and promote the health and welfare of the breed.

The changes made to the Basset Hound standard related to exaggerations - excessive skin, being too low to the ground, the exposed lower lid of the eyes (commonly referred to as ‘haw’) etc. Basically those characteristics which give our breed such unique charm - though, of course, these are not so attractive when they appear overly extreme.

In addition to these, the KC also issued a list of ‘high profile’ HHP) breeds. These are defined as:

    ‘A breed from time to time designated by the General Committee as requiring particular monitoring by reason of visible condition(s) which may cause health or welfare concerns.’

The Basset Hound was included on this list.

Fifteen breeds in total were added to the HP list: the Basset Hound was joined by the Bloodhound; the Bulldog, the Chinese Crested, the Chow Chow, the Clumber Spaniel; the Dogue de Bordeaux; the French Bulldog; the German Shepherd; the Mastiff; the Neopolitan Mastiff; the Pekinese; the Pug; the St Bernard and the Shar Pei.

Prior to Crufts 2012, it was announced that all of the Best of Breed winners in the HP breeds would be required to have a health check by an independent vet before being allowed to compete in the Group stage of the competition.

If these health checks are considered important - and in principle no exhibitors would object to the principle that all show dogs representing their breed should be healthy - why isolate fifteen breeds? Why not vet all breeds? To discriminate seems totally unfair.

The KC stated that its motivation for the health checks was:

    ‘. . . . in order to ensure that the fifteen high profile breeds enter the group competition free of signs of discomfort or suffering associated with exaggerated conformation.’

The inspecting veterinary surgeons were instructed to specifically assess four areas of concern on the health front: eye disease, respiratory problems, skin disease and mobility issues. It was stated that no instruments or apparatus would be used in these examinations and:

    ‘They will not be permitted to exclude dogs merely for aesthetic reasons or because of exaggerations alone unless these are causing some adverse clinical effect on its health or welfare’.

With so much attention focused on the fifteen HP breeds, one could image that that the KC deliberated long and hard about who they would appoint to judge them at Crufts. Indeed they did. The Basset Hound judge was the vastly experienced and highly respected, Zena Thorn-Andrews. An international judge, she is qualified to award Challenge Certificates in every breed allocated them and was Best in Show judge at Crufts in 2007.

So, the scene was set for the ‘greatest dog show in the world’; and we all travelled up the NEC, excited as ever to be part of this event.

Hound day was scheduled for the final day of the four day show. Hearing news of the first three days of Crufts on More4 (the BBC has not broadcast it since the Pedigree Dogs: Exposed programme), one felt that competing the Basset Hound classes would be an interesting experience.

The Pekingese was the first HP Best of Breed to undergo and fail the vet’s examination and was prevented from being judged in the Toy Group. This dog was followed by the disqualification of the Bulldog, the Mastiff, the Neopolitan Mastiff.

Basset Hound exhibitors could read the writing on the wall when on Friday the Danish-bred Clumber Spaniel, Chervood's Snowsun also failed the veterinary inspection and was disqualified from taking part in the Gundog Group.

Though the vet’s reasons for failing these breeds were not officially publicised, the distraught owner from Croatia, Ms Lana Levai gave press interviews and explained that her five-year old Clumber bitch failed because the vet had said the dog had conjunctivitis.

The shock of the disqualification of this lovely dog spread far beyond the Clumber fraternity. Chervood’s Snowsun was well known, having won champion status across the world and, ironically, had won the Bitch Challenge Certificate two years ago at Crufts.

Ms Levai denied that her dog had conjunctivitis and two days later had an eminent Viennese ophthalmic veterinary surgeon examine the dog. The result was that the Clumber was 100% clear with absolutely no eye health issues.

On Sunday, over one-hundred Basset Hounds descended on Hall 5 at Birmingham’s NEC - to my mind, many of them looking more hound-dog that usual.

Mrs Thorn-Andrews judged the classes with a practised professionalism - though perhaps appearing a little grim. It was very evident that heads and movement were getting special attention - I have never before seen a judge look inside the hounds’ ears. This was a very thorough going over.

After sixteen classes, she awarded the Dog CC to Derek and Heather Storton’s really lovely boy, Champion Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath; her Bitch CC to Rudy Smits’ Netherlands Champion Darwin’s Dream V Grunsen.

When judged against each other to determine Best of Breed, Mrs Thorn-Andrews chose Buzz.

Buzz certainly looked as good as I had seen him - an incredibly sound, healthy-looking dog and a credit to this always reliable and highly respected kennel.

Derek Storton with Ch Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath; and Judge Zena Thorn-Andrews (taken before the vet check).
(Photo courtesy of Derek Harris©2012)

After the normal photo call Derek - who handled Buzz - was approached by a KC official and asked to go to the veterinary health check.

It seemed like thirty minutes before a despondent Derek returned with Buzz, clutching a certificate which stated that the hound had failed the examination and would be disqualified from going on to compete at the Hound Group stage of the competition. This also meant that his Best of Breed award would not be confirmed.

The vet had failed Buzz over perceived problems with his eyes.

This devastating news was greeted with incomprehension, sadness, and anger around the exhibitors; and many offered the unfortunate Stortons commiserations.

Rudy Smits - a German Vet, Basset Hound competitor and international judge - whose bitch had just been beaten by Buzz - inspected his eyes and found them healthy.

Derek said that the KC vet had remarked that, ‘For a Basset, he had good eyes’, but had added that she ‘was not judging him as a Basset, but as a dog’.

The irony here is that the Kennel Club appointed judge had assessed the hound using its own breed standard and found him the best; and yet a KC appointed vet has over-ruled this by not considering the dog as a Basset Hound.

We made the long journey home from Crufts - normally having had a brilliant day spent with our lovely breed - more than a little depressed. It seemed so evidently unjust that such brilliant breeders and nice people as Heather and Derek should have been so publicly humiliated.

No appeals by the six disqualified breeds had been permitted by the Kennel Club.

The judge, Mrs Thorn-Andrews, who had been placed in an invidious position, - awarding Best of Breed, but not having it confirmed - has since been reported in the canine press as saying that, ‘The Kennel Club has shot themselves in the foot’.

It was hard to disagree with this assessment.


After Crufts finished the new Kennel Club chairman, Steve Dean (himself a vet), issued a statement that boasted:

    ‘We were delighted to see that nine of the fifteen (HP) breeds passed the checks that were carried out by an independent veterinary surgeon. Although the individual reasons why six of the breeds failed will remain a private matter, between the owner, the Kennel Club and the vet, the overriding issue was related to eye conditions. This gives us a clear idea about the areas that still need to be improved but we are also able to see where there has been a great deal of improvement.

    It is very encouraging to see nine of the high profile breeds pass their health checks. I am aware some exhibitors were disappointed about those breeds that did not pass but this should not detract from the very real progress several of these breeds have made in improving breed health. The trend noted with eye problems is perhaps a signal that across all breeds we need to pay particular attention, when breeding, to the health of the canine eye to ensure dogs have the best chance of living life with good vision, free of discomfort.’

With reference to the parts of the breed standards which related to eyes, he added rhetorically:

    ‘Should we now not accept showing of haw and triangular eye shape’. (Ed: my emphasis)

Given the circumstances, there seemed an implicit threat to the non high-profile breeds when it was stated:

    ‘In short the risk to health is greater for the 15 listed breeds but breeds can be added to the list if a case is made that health and welfare is significantly compromised by exaggerated conformation.’

The days immediately following Crufts were busy with postings of outrage and anger on the internet fora.

The Pedigree Dogs: Exposed website carried blogs gloating at the evident success of their anti-pedigree dog campaign.

The South East Branch committee sent the BHC and Derek and Heather messages of support in whatever actions they were considering taking. A statement of support for the B.O.B winner was issued jointly by all the B.H. clubs and the B.H. Health Group and posted on the Basset Hound Club website.

Before Crufts was over, a Facebook group had appeared called, Exhibitors Choice & Voice. This very quickly established itself, attracting 5,000 members. It focussed the protests of many people in dogdom at the unfair way that the Crufts health checks had been conducted. Members sent in donations and a public meeting was hastily arranged for the Wednesday evening following Crufts.

One hundred and thirty breeders (including Heather and Derek Storton), exhibitors, and judges (many of them Kennel Club members) attended.

The meetings discussed various aspects of how the high-profile breeds were treated at Crufts. It was reported that the Pekingese Best of Breed was led straight from the show ring to the veterinary check and was denied water to drink when requested by its owner.

Mr Storton gave details of how the vet examined the eyes of his Basset Hound pulling the lids in a way that a less sweet-natured dog would not have tolerated. He said that the whole examination had lasted around twenty minutes in total.

This meeting agreed to form a new group called Canine Alliance (CA).

International judge and journalist, Andrew Brace, addressed the meeting. Also present were former Crufts Best in Show winning breeder, Mike Gadsby; and judge, breeder, and solicitor, Howard Ogden. These gentlemen were elected by the meeting to be part of the steering committee, with Martin Wyles as Chairman. Among the fourteen-strong committee was Basset Hound breeder and Basset Hound Health Group co-ordinator, Phil Freer.

A motion was unanimously passed which expressed concerns of unfairness, discrimination, and a lack of clarity and transparency in the way in which the health checks conducted at Crufts 2012.

It was clear that CA objected strongly to the fifteen breeds being segregated and treated differently to all others.

After the public meeting concluded, the CA steering committee held its first meeting.

On the 28th March, a three-person delegation from the CA steering group had a meeting with officials at the Kennel Club, at KC headquarters in Clarges Street, London.


The CA website included this detailed report which I reproduce in its entirety:

MIKE GADSBY’S PRESENTATION TO KATHRYN SYMNS AND CAROLINE KISKO AT THE KENNEL CLUB - 28th March 2012

Comments on the Kennel Club veterinary examinations at Crufts 2012:

Before we can consider a plan from which to move forward it is essential that we look back to Crufts 2012 and the Kennel Club’s health inspections. We must recognize and accept the fundamental failings of that launch, the outcome of which has had such a damaging effect throughout the world of dogs

1. Victimisation
The Kennel Club elected to target only 15 breeds, and therefore from its conception a health initiative based on only a sample of breeds was fundamentally flawed. To suggest exaggerations which could have an impact on health might be limited to 15 breeds was naive and was bound to lead to justifiable complaints. A group winner at the show with an exaggeration more severe than that which had exempted the Basset Hound and the Clumber Spaniel could be clearly seen. This one case alone demands that the current Health Initiative be suspended immediately until a more suitable replacement is agreed upon.

2. Veterinary Checks
Flawed in so many areas. At two health meetings and on a subsequent television interview the chairman Steve Dean gave assurances of how veterinary procedure would replicate a judge’s examination; this would of course exclude the use of any instruments. On the first day of Crufts Steve Dean stated in an broadcast interview with vet Nick Blaney that the BOB winners would be subject to a “superficial check in four areas” . . . a dictionary definition of ‘superficial’ states ‘not profound or thorough ’ !!!! Yet in each case those subjected to the process accused the vet of being overzealous, claiming the examination to be so intrusive as to cause distress to the exhibit and to the owner/handler. In all cases the process far exceeded the time a judge would take to examine an exhibit and finally in several cases instruments were used to aid excessive eye examinations.
The fact that no one with authority was in place to ensure that guaranteed protocol was upheld was yet another serious flaw in the process.

3. Selection of vets
The appointments were made at the eleventh hour, the closing date for applications being Friday 17th February 2012. Assuming the first opportunity to consider these applications would be Monday 20th and allowing a minimum of a week to organise interviews that left just ten days to make an offer before the first day of Crufts. In that same interview with Nick Blaney, Steve Dean said “we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the breeders, the organizers and to the vets doing the inspections” . . . the reality was that there was an insufficient amount of time given to such a vital role in the same way that there was insufficient time given to ensure that suitable vets were appointed.
We formally request a copy of the briefs given to the appointed vets; if not forthcoming we can conclude that they were not formally briefed properly or indeed not briefed at all.
In view of the very late selections the vets could not have been vetted properly and nowhere on the application form was a requirement that any antagonistic views the candidates may have to the discipline of showing dogs be revealed.
Was it naive of the KC not to consider that those ‘independent’ vets who volunteered might be aligned with activists against our sport?
It was obvious that no training had been given and that the vets appeared to be unfamiliar with the breed standards for the 15 targeted breeds. The brief that ‘excessive exaggeration which adversely affects the health and welfare of the exhibit’ appeared either to be ignored or had not been sufficiently explained to the vets, as perfectly fit and functioning animals with no real welfares issues were excluded from further competition at group level.
Finally, and probably most damning, is the actual KC vet inspector’s report which says “I would like to state that I consider this dog’s eye anatomy to be relatively normal and that the inflammation is the main deciding factor in this case”.
A second vet who examined the dog within five minutes of failing the official inspection states that the inflammation mentioned was simply the darkening of the conjunctivae caused by the exercise during BOB competition.

4. Appeal Procedure
One of the biggest indictments against the Kennel Club was the failure to have in place an appeal procedure with no ‘second opinion’ that could be implemented on the spot, should an exhibit fail the initial examination. The Kennel Club therefore failed in its responsibility to represent fully the interests of their own exhibitors.
Four BOB winners were excluded for eye issues ... the Kennel Club had BVA eye specialists working throughout Crufts that could have been called upon had such an obvious appeal procedure been in place.
At Crufts 2009 a precedent was set. Ringside observers recommended the Pekingese BOB winner be vet checked, she was subsequently disqualified from appearing in the group. An appeal by a second vet led to the disqualification being overturned.

5. Empathy for the Exhibitors
The exhibitors’, the Kennel Club’s paying customers, feelings were never taken into account. And in an example of this contempt, presenter Claire Balding asked “what will now happen to the Peke and Bulldog BOB winners?” to which chairman Steve Dean responded “well they could stay and watch the groups” (at which point he laughs) “but then again I don't suppose they’ll want to”.
It is incredulous that there could be a display of such appalling poor taste and amusement when the reputation of our sport and its exhibitors was being brought into disrepute.

6. Assured Breeders
One of the breeds excluded was the Basset Hound winner, the breeders of which are one of the Kennel Club’s esteemed ‘assured breeders’. This accolade is surely the ‘jewel’ in the Kennel Club’s PC crown, so how could it be, that with the high levels of scrutiny employed by the Kennel Club to police the quality of this scheme, that the very best of this particular breeders’ stock was considered to have ‘exaggerations that adversely effected its health and welfare’? The Kennel Club endorses the puppies available from their assured breeders on one hand, feeding them to the wolves with the other. It is interesting to note that the term ‘assured’ means guaranteed; sure; certain!
On its website the Kennel Club states that ‘the assured breeders scheme was introduced to raise the standard of breeding and to help puppy buyers ensure that they are given the best possible chance of buying a puppy that will lead a happy healthy life.’
Also interesting is the fact that there are over 230 Kennel Club assured Bulldog Breeders and yet during an informal lunch with health coordinators Steve Dean stated that he believed that no Bulldogs should pass the current vet health checks.


7. Press Releases
Were more damning because of what they didn’t say ... There was an understandable assumption that exhibits that failed the health inspections must have been unhealthy; after all the mantra from the Kennel Club was that dogs with exaggerations that affected their health and well-being would be excluded from group competition. The support that Steve Dean states he has received is based on this misrepresentation and it is interesting to note that the glorification of these results during broadcasting was confined to the first two days.

8. Inaccuracy
Fosse Data were instructed to put in the online results that ‘BOB was not awarded’.
This was not true as in accordance with the KC’s own regulation f(1) 3.61. 21L which states ‘a judge’s awards will be final’ - since in all cases the judge did award BOB - then this directive by the Kennel Club to Fosse Data was incorrect. This ruling also highlights the fact that the Kennel Club has broken its own regulations, thereby rendering the Crufts entry contract legally null and void.

9. Inconsistencies regarding the lighting in the vet pods
Caroline Kisko stated that the eye instruments were used because the lighting in the pods was of poor quality. We have however photographic evidence to prove that the lighting inside the pods with the strip lights off was identical to the quality of light in the rest of the main hall. In fact this can be seen quite clearly on Day One of Crufts on ‘More4’ in the interview between Steve Dean and Nick Blaney when a Chow Chow is featured in the veterinary inspection pod. It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that the conditions for the vet inspection were supposed to be aligned with those of the judges. 10. Scarring
Information on the Bulldog health inspection states that damage to the cornea caused by facial folds, distichiasis, ectopic cilia or poor eye lid anatomy will disqualify. It is not possible in many cases to determine whether scarring has been caused by one of the above or indeed by some physical trauma sustained as a result of the freedom of a healthy life which, as caring dog owners, we afford our pets. Indeed I have several dogs not on breed watch such as my Standard Poodles that have old eye injuries and blemishes. If damage to the eye is to be a disqualification and the health and welfare of our exhibits questioned as a result, then indirectly the Kennel Club is endorsing the practise of restricting the freedom of show dogs. It is vital that we treat our dogs primarily as companions and give them the freedom so essential for ‘quality of life’.
An indirect endorsement of this nature could have welfare implications.

11. Integrity of the Judges
This has been brought into question with the Kennel Club preferring to uphold the opinion of ‘independent vets’ rather than to support our leading judges. If indeed our judges (all of whom have been put through the most rigorous training and testing procedures) are incapable of determining ‘exaggerations leading to health and welfare issues’ then we must seek to withdraw their judging licences. On this note, what penalties have been applied to those judges who failed in this most important area of their role during Crufts?

12. The Kennel Club’s failure to react the moment that the massive failures in the process unfolded. T he urgency to attempt to minimize the damage should have been the priority from Thursday afternoon. Despite desperate attempts for dialogue we were told that results of the inspections would be considered the week following Crufts.

13. Timing
The Kennel Club choosing to implement this new inspection at Crufts when obvious flaws had not been ironed out was at best questionable. It was ludicrous not to adopt a ‘softer launch’ to sort out teething problems or, in this case, to rework the whole initiative.
The implications of Crufts 2012 have firmly brought our sport into disrepute. The public have been misinformed, whilst press releases and broadcast commentaries have upheld the hideously inaccurate views of PDE.
Any support that Steve Dean has received for his veterinary inspections are based on misleading reports and failures within this initiative.
The Kennel Club requested changes and improvement to the 15 breeds on their health watch. Steve Dean stated during broadcasting “my experience is where we’ve explained our intention, the breeders are reasonably content that what we’re doing is to the benefit of their breed”.
The show breeders from the beginning have got behind the Kennel Club’s health initiatives and progress had been made with the relationship between the breeds and the Kennel Club. The ill conceived inspections at Crufts have obliterated that relationship as the assurances the chairman and the Kennel Club gave were proven to be false; the encouragement that was having such a positive effect has gone and been replaced with utter contempt for the ‘grass roots’ breeders and exhibitors.
Subtle changes that will be of benefit to our breeds cannot be achieved overnight, this takes breeding programmes at least a couple of generations before obvious results are achieved. There was already significant evidence that we were heading in the right direction for which our breeders should have been applauded. This one ill conceived act has now rendered this Kennel Club/breeder relationship unworkable and we are left with a justifiable mistrust of our governing body.
We are not here today simply to highlight the failures in this health initiative, but to insist that these inspections in their current format are ceased until a solution better suited to ensure fairness and openness is agreed. We need to demonstrate to the world that we are very serious about the health and welfare of our dogs not just 15 exhibits. We have to ensure that ALL our pedigree dogs have acceptable levels of health enabling them to lead happy healthy lives. The KC needs to reinforce and defend the actions of the vast majority of show breeders who have displayed for decades their resolve to breed with health and temperament as a priority.
Furthermore they must exclude and condemn those who fail to demonstrate positive breeding practises to achieve this ideal. They must once and for all address the puppy farmers and back street breeders whose puppies they happily register without care for their welfare.

(Ed. End of CA statement).


A joint KC/CA statement was issued which made it obvious that the Kennel Club were determined to maintain the vet checks at championship shows for the fifteen breeds. This was very disappointing, indeed. Supporters of CA who were also KC members tabled a resolution at the KC Annual General Meeting held in May demanding that the vet checks should be suspended and made subject to review. This motion was defeated.

It seems that CA has still some considerable obstacles to overcome in its campaign for fairer treatment for the Basset Hound and the other discriminated HP breeds.

I understand that legal action against the KC is being considered by some parties.

So what is the consequence of all this? Well, I think that it is not overly dramatic to say that the Basset Hound as we know it is under threat.

After Crufts, Heather and Derek Storton announced that they have withdrawn from all further showing. So sad, they are superlative Basset Hound breeders.

I suspect that the KC’s actions will lead to a dramatic fall in Basset Hound numbers shown at all dog shows as established breeders realise that they are playing on an uneven playing surface. Some will move out of the breed all together, leaving greater opportunities for puppy-farmers and dodgy breeders.

My guess is that the Kennel Club will make further changes to the breed standard which will fundamentally alter the Basset Hound we all love. I am convinced the KC is prepared to jettison the fifteen high-profile breeds to pacify the various animal-rights lobbies that simply don’t approve of our low hounds.

The Basset Hound is generally a very robust and healthy breed that possesses wonderful temperament. It has far fewer inherited diseases than many others. As an ancient dwarf breed, it has developed and altered over the centuries, in its modern form it has never been sounder.

At this time, a huge obligation falls upon all UK Basset Hound Clubs to do all in their power to promote the many virtues of the breed and counter the ill-informed criticisms. We can only hope that they have the abilities and determination to address this challenge and do not let our beloved Basset Hounds down.


Crufts 2012 proved to be the most memorable and controversial Championship Dog show in living memory - and for our breed, certainly one of the most upsetting.

I make no apologies for this rather long report of the situation, but these events could have far reaching implications for the breed beyond just the show ring.

Perceived problems with certain pedigree breeds surfaced some years back and were addressed in international fora such as the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) and the Council of Europe’s discussions about the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW).

Even before the screening of the controversial television programme, Pedigree Dogs:Exposed and the ensuing publicity three years ago, and the publication of the 2010 Bateson Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding which was commissioned by the then government, the Kennel Club has sought to demonstrate that it is doing everything possible to promote healthy pedigree dog breeding. A wholly laudable objective - one would think - and certainly one to which all responsible pedigree breeders would aspire and subscribe.

Using the battle-cry ‘Fit for function Fit for life’, the Kennel Club brought in several measures which it believed would defuse some of the criticism it had received from the anti-pedigree dog lobby.

It instigated an Accredited Breeders Scheme (changed in 2011 to the Assured Breeders Scheme). This was a register of breeders who had adopted certain principles set out by the KC. To some of us, this scheme had some fundamental flaws and seemed more like a public relation exercise. For a mere £15 subscription and £10 each year, anyone, more or less, can join - and there is very little monitoring. The ABS has been criticised in several quarters for being ineffective. Certainly, the scheme offers nothing that a conscientious breeder would not already do.

Another far more significant measure was that KC Breed Standards were revised. For those unfamiliar with dog showing, these are the written blueprints against which all dogs in the show ring are judged.

Breed clubs were consulted as part of this process of revision and the final standards were published in 2010.

A Basset Hound Health Group was established by the eight UK Basset Hound clubs to monitor and promote the health and welfare of the breed.

The changes made to the Basset Hound standard related to exaggerations - excessive skin, being too low to the ground, the exposed lower lid of the eyes (commonly referred to as ‘haw’) etc. Basically those characteristics which give our breed such unique charm - though, of course, these are not so attractive when they appear overly extreme.

In addition to these, the KC also issued a list of ‘high profile’ HHP) breeds. These are defined as:

The Basset Hound was included on this list.

Fifteen breeds in total were added to the HP list: the Basset Hound was joined by the Bloodhound; the Bulldog, the Chinese Crested, the Chow Chow, the Clumber Spaniel; the Dogue de Bordeaux; the French Bulldog; the German Shepherd; the Mastiff; the Neopolitan Mastiff; the Pekinese; the Pug; the St Bernard and the Shar Pei.

Prior to Crufts 2012, it was announced that all of the Best of Breed winners in the HP breeds would be required to have a health check by an independent vet before being allowed to compete in the Group stage of the competition.

If these health checks are considered important - and in principle no exhibitors would object to the principle that all show dogs representing their breed should be healthy - why isolate fifteen breeds? Why not vet all breeds? To discriminate seems totally unfair.

The KC stated that its motivation for the health checks was:

The inspecting veterinary surgeons were instructed to specifically assess four areas of concern on the health front: eye disease, respiratory problems, skin disease and mobility issues. It was stated that no instruments or apparatus would be used in these examinations and:

With so much attention focused on the fifteen HP breeds, one could image that that the KC deliberated long and hard about who they would appoint to judge them at Crufts. Indeed they did. The Basset Hound judge was the vastly experienced and highly respected, Zena Thorn-Andrews. An international judge, she is qualified to award Challenge Certificates in every breed allocated them and was Best in Show judge at Crufts in 2007.

So, the scene was set for the ‘greatest dog show in the world’; and we all travelled up the NEC, excited as ever to be part of this event.

Hound day was scheduled for the final day of the four day show. Hearing news of the first three days of Crufts on More4 (the BBC has not broadcast it since the Pedigree Dogs: Exposed programme), one felt that competing the Basset Hound classes would be an interesting experience.

The Pekingese was the first HP Best of Breed to undergo and fail the vet’s examination and was prevented from being judged in the Toy Group. This dog was followed by the disqualification of the Bulldog, the Mastiff, the Neopolitan Mastiff.

Basset Hound exhibitors could read the writing on the wall when on Friday the Danish-bred Clumber Spaniel, Chervood's Snowsun also failed the veterinary inspection and was disqualified from taking part in the Gundog Group.

Though the vet’s reasons for failing these breeds were not officially publicised, the distraught owner from Croatia, Ms Lana Levai gave press interviews and explained that her five-year old Clumber bitch failed because the vet had said the dog had conjunctivitis.

The shock of the disqualification of this lovely dog spread far beyond the Clumber fraternity. Chervood’s Snowsun was well known, having won champion status across the world and, ironically, had won the Bitch Challenge Certificate two years ago at Crufts.

Ms Levai denied that her dog had conjunctivitis and two days later had an eminent Viennese ophthalmic veterinary surgeon examine the dog. The result was that the Clumber was 100% clear with absolutely no eye health issues.

On Sunday, over one-hundred Basset Hounds descended on Hall 5 at Birmingham’s NEC - to my mind, many of them looking more hound-dog that usual.

Mrs Thorn-Andrews judged the classes with a practised professionalism - though perhaps appearing a little grim. It was very evident that heads and movement were getting special attention - I have never before seen a judge look inside the hounds’ ears. This was a very thorough going over.

After sixteen classes, she awarded the Dog CC to Derek and Heather Storton’s really lovely boy, Champion Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath; her Bitch CC to Rudy Smits’ Netherlands Champion Darwin’s Dream V Grunsen.

When judged against each other to determine Best of Breed, Mrs Thorn-Andrews chose Buzz.

Buzz certainly looked as good as I had seen him - an incredibly sound, healthy-looking dog and a credit to this always reliable and highly respected kennel.

Derek Storton with Ch Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath; and Judge Zena Thorn-Andrews (taken before the vet check).
(Photo courtesy of Derek Harris ©2012)

After the normal photo call Derek - who handled Buzz - was approached by a KC official and asked to go to the veterinary health check.

It seemed like thirty minutes before a despondent Derek returned with Buzz, clutching a certificate which stated that the hound had failed the examination and would be disqualified from going on to compete at the Hound Group stage of the competition. This also meant that his Best of Breed award would not be confirmed.

The vet had failed Buzz over perceived problems with his eyes.

This devastating news was greeted with incomprehension, sadness, and anger around the exhibitors; and many offered the unfortunate Stortons commiserations.

Rudy Smits - a German Vet, Basset Hound competitor and international judge - whose bitch had just been beaten by Buzz - inspected his eyes and found them healthy.

Derek said that the KC vet had remarked that, ‘For a Basset, he had good eyes’, but had added that she ‘was not judging him as a Basset, but as a dog’.

The irony here is that the Kennel Club appointed judge had assessed the hound using its own breed standard and found him the best; and yet a KC appointed vet has over-ruled this by not considering the dog as a Basset Hound.

We made the long journey home from Crufts - normally having had a brilliant day spent with our lovely breed - more than a little depressed. It seemed so evidently unjust that such brilliant breeders and nice people as Heather and Derek should have been so publicly humiliated.

No appeals by the six disqualified breeds had been permitted by the Kennel Club.

The judge, Mrs Thorn-Andrews, who had been placed in an invidious position, - awarding Best of Breed, but not having it confirmed - has since been reported in the canine press as saying that, ‘The Kennel Club has shot themselves in the foot’.

It was hard to disagree with this assessment.

After Crufts finished the new Kennel Club chairman, Steve Dean (himself a vet), issued a statement that boasted:

With reference to the parts of the breed standards which related to eyes, he added rhetorically:

Given the circumstances, there seemed an implicit threat to the non high-profile breeds when it was stated:

The days immediately following Crufts were busy with postings of outrage and anger on the internet fora.

The Pedigree Dogs: Exposed website carried blogs gloating at the evident success of their anti-pedigree dog campaign.

The South East Branch committee sent the BHC and Derek and Heather messages of support in whatever actions they were considering taking. A statement of support for the B.O.B winner was issued jointly by all the B.H. clubs and the B.H. Health Group and posted on the Basset Hound Club website.

Before Crufts was over, a Facebook group had appeared called, Exhibitors Choice & Voice. This very quickly established itself, attracting 5,000 members. It focussed the protests of many people in dogdom at the unfair way that the Crufts health checks had been conducted. Members sent in donations and a public meeting was hastily arranged for the Wednesday evening following Crufts.

One hundred and thirty breeders (including Heather and Derek Storton), exhibitors, and judges (many of them Kennel Club members) attended.

The meetings discussed various aspects of how the high-profile breeds were treated at Crufts. It was reported that the Pekingese Best of Breed was led straight from the show ring to the veterinary check and was denied water to drink when requested by its owner.

Mr Storton gave details of how the vet examined the eyes of his Basset Hound pulling the lids in a way that a less sweet-natured dog would not have tolerated. He said that the whole examination had lasted around twenty minutes in total.

This meeting agreed to form a new group called Canine Alliance (CA).

International judge and journalist, Andrew Brace, addressed the meeting. Also present were former Crufts Best in Show winning breeder, Mike Gadsby; and judge, breeder, and solicitor, Howard Ogden. These gentlemen were elected by the meeting to be part of the steering committee, with Martin Wyles as Chairman. Among the fourteen-strong committee was Basset Hound breeder and Basset Hound Health Group co-ordinator, Phil Freer.

A motion was unanimously passed which expressed concerns of unfairness, discrimination, and a lack of clarity and transparency in the way in which the health checks conducted at Crufts 2012.

It was clear that CA objected strongly to the fifteen breeds being segregated and treated differently to all others.

After the public meeting concluded, the CA steering committee held its first meeting.

On the 28th March, a three-person delegation from the CA steering group had a meeting with officials at the Kennel Club, at KC headquarters in Clarges Street, London.

The CA website included this detailed report which I reproduce in its entirety:


MIKE GADSBY’S PRESENTATION TO KATHRYN SYMNS AND CAROLINE KISKO AT THE KENNEL CLUB - 28th March 2012

Comments on the Kennel Club veterinary examinations at Crufts 2012:

Before we can consider a plan from which to move forward it is essential that we look back to Crufts 2012 and the Kennel Club’s health inspections. We must recognize and accept the fundamental failings of that launch, the outcome of which has had such a damaging effect throughout the world of dogs

1. Victimisation
The Kennel Club elected to target only 15 breeds, and therefore from its conception a health initiative based on only a sample of breeds was fundamentally flawed. To suggest exaggerations which could have an impact on health might be limited to 15 breeds was naive and was bound to lead to justifiable complaints. A group winner at the show with an exaggeration more severe than that which had exempted the Basset Hound and the Clumber Spaniel could be clearly seen. This one case alone demands that the current Health Initiative be suspended immediately until a more suitable replacement is agreed upon.

2. Veterinary Checks
Flawed in so many areas. At two health meetings and on a subsequent television interview the chairman Steve Dean gave assurances of how veterinary procedure would replicate a judge’s examination; this would of course exclude the use of any instruments. On the first day of Crufts Steve Dean stated in an broadcast interview with vet Nick Blaney that the BOB winners would be subject to a “superficial check in four areas” . . . a dictionary definition of ‘superficial’ states ‘not profound or thorough ’ !!!! Yet in each case those subjected to the process accused the vet of being overzealous, claiming the examination to be so intrusive as to cause distress to the exhibit and to the owner/handler. In all cases the process far exceeded the time a judge would take to examine an exhibit and finally in several cases instruments were used to aid excessive eye examinations.
The fact that no one with authority was in place to ensure that guaranteed protocol was upheld was yet another serious flaw in the process.

3. Selection of vets
The appointments were made at the eleventh hour, the closing date for applications being Friday 17th February 2012. Assuming the first opportunity to consider these applications would be Monday 20th and allowing a minimum of a week to organise interviews that left just ten days to make an offer before the first day of Crufts. In that same interview with Nick Blaney, Steve Dean said “we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the breeders, the organizers and to the vets doing the inspections” . . . the reality was that there was an insufficient amount of time given to such a vital role in the same way that there was insufficient time given to ensure that suitable vets were appointed.
We formally request a copy of the briefs given to the appointed vets; if not forthcoming we can conclude that they were not formally briefed properly or indeed not briefed at all.
In view of the very late selections the vets could not have been vetted properly and nowhere on the application form was a requirement that any antagonistic views the candidates may have to the discipline of showing dogs be revealed.
Was it naive of the KC not to consider that those ‘independent’ vets who volunteered might be aligned with activists against our sport?
It was obvious that no training had been given and that the vets appeared to be unfamiliar with the breed standards for the 15 targeted breeds. The brief that ‘excessive exaggeration which adversely affects the health and welfare of the exhibit’ appeared either to be ignored or had not been sufficiently explained to the vets, as perfectly fit and functioning animals with no real welfares issues were excluded from further competition at group level.
Finally, and probably most damning, is the actual KC vet inspector’s report which says “I would like to state that I consider this dog’s eye anatomy to be relatively normal and that the inflammation is the main deciding factor in this case”.
A second vet who examined the dog within five minutes of failing the official inspection states that the inflammation mentioned was simply the darkening of the conjunctivae caused by the exercise during BOB competition.

4. Appeal Procedure
One of the biggest indictments against the Kennel Club was the failure to have in place an appeal procedure with no ‘second opinion’ that could be implemented on the spot, should an exhibit fail the initial examination. The Kennel Club therefore failed in its responsibility to represent fully the interests of their own exhibitors.
Four BOB winners were excluded for eye issues ... the Kennel Club had BVA eye specialists working throughout Crufts that could have been called upon had such an obvious appeal procedure been in place.
At Crufts 2009 a precedent was set. Ringside observers recommended the Pekingese BOB winner be vet checked, she was subsequently disqualified from appearing in the group. An appeal by a second vet led to the disqualification being overturned.

5. Empathy for the Exhibitors
The exhibitors’, the Kennel Club’s paying customers, feelings were never taken into account. And in an example of this contempt, presenter Claire Balding asked “what will now happen to the Peke and Bulldog BOB winners?” to which chairman Steve Dean responded “well they could stay and watch the groups” (at which point he laughs) “but then again I don't suppose they’ll want to”.
It is incredulous that there could be a display of such appalling poor taste and amusement when the reputation of our sport and its exhibitors was being brought into disrepute.

6. Assured Breeders
One of the breeds excluded was the Basset Hound winner, the breeders of which are one of the Kennel Club’s esteemed ‘assured breeders’. This accolade is surely the ‘jewel’ in the Kennel Club’s PC crown, so how could it be, that with the high levels of scrutiny employed by the Kennel Club to police the quality of this scheme, that the very best of this particular breeders’ stock was considered to have ‘exaggerations that adversely effected its health and welfare’? The Kennel Club endorses the puppies available from their assured breeders on one hand, feeding them to the wolves with the other. It is interesting to note that the term ‘assured’ means guaranteed; sure; certain!
On its website the Kennel Club states that ‘the assured breeders scheme was introduced to raise the standard of breeding and to help puppy buyers ensure that they are given the best possible chance of buying a puppy that will lead a happy healthy life.’
Also interesting is the fact that there are over 230 Kennel Club assured Bulldog Breeders and yet during an informal lunch with health coordinators Steve Dean stated that he believed that no Bulldogs should pass the current vet health checks.

7. Press Releases
Were more damning because of what they didn’t say ... There was an understandable assumption that exhibits that failed the health inspections must have been unhealthy; after all the mantra from the Kennel Club was that dogs with exaggerations that affected their health and well-being would be excluded from group competition. The support that Steve Dean states he has received is based on this misrepresentation and it is interesting to note that the glorification of these results during broadcasting was confined to the first two days.

8. Inaccuracy
Fosse Data were instructed to put in the online results that ‘BOB was not awarded’.
This was not true as in accordance with the KC’s own regulation f(1) 3.61. 21L which states ‘a judge’s awards will be final’ - since in all cases the judge did award BOB - then this directive by the Kennel Club to Fosse Data was incorrect. This ruling also highlights the fact that the Kennel Club has broken its own regulations, thereby rendering the Crufts entry contract legally null and void.

9. Inconsistencies regarding the lighting in the vet pods
Caroline Kisko stated that the eye instruments were used because the lighting in the pods was of poor quality. We have however photographic evidence to prove that the lighting inside the pods with the strip lights off was identical to the quality of light in the rest of the main hall. In fact this can be seen quite clearly on Day One of Crufts on ‘More4’ in the interview between Steve Dean and Nick Blaney when a Chow Chow is featured in the veterinary inspection pod. It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that the conditions for the vet inspection were supposed to be aligned with those of the judges. 10. Scarring
Information on the Bulldog health inspection states that damage to the cornea caused by facial folds, distichiasis, ectopic cilia or poor eye lid anatomy will disqualify. It is not possible in many cases to determine whether scarring has been caused by one of the above or indeed by some physical trauma sustained as a result of the freedom of a healthy life which, as caring dog owners, we afford our pets. Indeed I have several dogs not on breed watch such as my Standard Poodles that have old eye injuries and blemishes. If damage to the eye is to be a disqualification and the health and welfare of our exhibits questioned as a result, then indirectly the Kennel Club is endorsing the practise of restricting the freedom of show dogs. It is vital that we treat our dogs primarily as companions and give them the freedom so essential for ‘quality of life’.
An indirect endorsement of this nature could have welfare implications.

11. Integrity of the Judges
This has been brought into question with the Kennel Club preferring to uphold the opinion of ‘independent vets’ rather than to support our leading judges. If indeed our judges (all of whom have been put through the most rigorous training and testing procedures) are incapable of determining ‘exaggerations leading to health and welfare issues’ then we must seek to withdraw their judging licences. On this note, what penalties have been applied to those judges who failed in this most important area of their role during Crufts?

12. The Kennel Club’s failure to react the moment that the massive failures in the process unfolded. T he urgency to attempt to minimize the damage should have been the priority from Thursday afternoon. Despite desperate attempts for dialogue we were told that results of the inspections would be considered the week following Crufts.

13. Timing
The Kennel Club choosing to implement this new inspection at Crufts when obvious flaws had not been ironed out was at best questionable. It was ludicrous not to adopt a ‘softer launch’ to sort out teething problems or, in this case, to rework the whole initiative.
The implications of Crufts 2012 have firmly brought our sport into disrepute. The public have been misinformed, whilst press releases and broadcast commentaries have upheld the hideously inaccurate views of PDE.
Any support that Steve Dean has received for his veterinary inspections are based on misleading reports and failures within this initiative.
The Kennel Club requested changes and improvement to the 15 breeds on their health watch. Steve Dean stated during broadcasting “my experience is where we’ve explained our intention, the breeders are reasonably content that what we’re doing is to the benefit of their breed”.
The show breeders from the beginning have got behind the Kennel Club’s health initiatives and progress had been made with the relationship between the breeds and the Kennel Club. The ill conceived inspections at Crufts have obliterated that relationship as the assurances the chairman and the Kennel Club gave were proven to be false; the encouragement that was having such a positive effect has gone and been replaced with utter contempt for the ‘grass roots’ breeders and exhibitors.
Subtle changes that will be of benefit to our breeds cannot be achieved overnight, this takes breeding programmes at least a couple of generations before obvious results are achieved. There was already significant evidence that we were heading in the right direction for which our breeders should have been applauded. This one ill conceived act has now rendered this Kennel Club/breeder relationship unworkable and we are left with a justifiable mistrust of our governing body.
We are not here today simply to highlight the failures in this health initiative, but to insist that these inspections in their current format are ceased until a solution better suited to ensure fairness and openness is agreed. We need to demonstrate to the world that we are very serious about the health and welfare of our dogs not just 15 exhibits. We have to ensure that ALL our pedigree dogs have acceptable levels of health enabling them to lead happy healthy lives. The KC needs to reinforce and defend the actions of the vast majority of show breeders who have displayed for decades their resolve to breed with health and temperament as a priority.
Furthermore they must exclude and condemn those who fail to demonstrate positive breeding practises to achieve this ideal. They must once and for all address the puppy farmers and back street breeders whose puppies they happily register without care for their welfare.

(Ed. End of CA statement).


A joint KC/CA statement was issued which made it obvious that the Kennel Club were determined to maintain the vet checks at championship shows for the fifteen breeds. This was very disappointing, indeed. Supporters of CA who were also KC members tabled a resolution at the KC Annual General Meeting held in May demanding that the vet checks should be suspended and made subject to review. This motion was defeated.

It seems that CA has still some considerable obstacles to overcome in its campaign for fairer treatment for the Basset Hound and the other discriminated HP breeds.

I understand that legal action against the KC is being considered by some parties.

So what is the consequence of all this? Well, I think that it is not overly dramatic to say that the Basset Hound as we know it is under threat.

After Crufts, Heather and Derek Storton announced that they have withdrawn from all further showing. So sad, they are superlative Basset Hound breeders.

I suspect that the KC’s actions will lead to a dramatic fall in Basset Hound numbers shown at all dog shows as established breeders realise that they are playing on an uneven playing surface. Some will move out of the breed all together, leaving greater opportunities for puppy-farmers and dodgy breeders.

My guess is that the Kennel Club will make further changes to the breed standard which will fundamentally alter the Basset Hound we all love. I am convinced the KC is prepared to jettison the fifteen high-profile breeds to pacify the various animal-rights lobbies that simply don’t approve of our low hounds.

The Basset Hound is generally a very robust and healthy breed that possesses wonderful temperament. It has far fewer inherited diseases than many others. As an ancient dwarf breed, it has developed and altered over the centuries, in its modern form it has never been sounder.

At this time, a huge obligation falls upon all UK Basset Hound Clubs to do all in their power to promote the many virtues of the breed and counter the ill-informed criticisms. We can only hope that they have the abilities and determination to address this challenge and do not let our beloved Basset Hounds down.

Finally, the Kennel Club issued this statement after Crufts 2012:

BY TONY ROBERTS

For those of you interested in seeing the video recordings of the first CA meeting; interviews with the main personnel and read other details, Derek has uploaded a wonderful batch of items on our Blog: please check them out.

To learn more about Canine Alliance visit their website: www.caninealliance.org

The Basset Hound Health Group website is: www.bassetsrus.co.uk

Cover of the Basset Hound Owners Club newsletter Lowdown

first published in LOWDOWN

editor Tony Roberts