Het zat er al even aan te komen, maar de kogel lijkt nu dan toch door de kerk: er komen strengere regels voor het fokken van honden. De aangescherpte regels hebben vooral betrekking op brachycephalen, oftewel kortsnuiten.
On 17th March the report was out everybody has been waiting for : there are stricter rules fr dog breeding. The tightened rules mainly relate to brachycehalic dogs.
The change is primarily an addition to the existing legislation. June 2014 the new Animal Holders Decree came into effect, which states that serious genetic defects must be prevented from being passed on to the offspring. The group of brachycephalic dogs is an important target group here: some of the brachycephalic dogs have difficulty breathing due to too short muzzles, nostrils that are not wide enough or a too long soft palate that partially closes the trachea. Other problems that can occur with this type of round skull are problems like protruding eyes and neurological problems when the skull shape affects the brain.
The above examples have been a pain for years for many parties: not only the political and animal welfare organizations, but the pedigree dog sector itself has been arguing for improvement for some time. A disadvantage of the law introduced in 2014 is that these things are hard to test in practice. To draw up good criteria for this testing help was requested from the Department of Animals in Science and Society and of the Expertise Center for Genetics Companion Animals of the Faculty of Utrecht. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality asked both parties to consider correct assessment of brachycephalic dogs. This report was published in January 2019 and extensively described which external characteristics will lead to problems. Minister Carola Schouten recently decided that the criteria mentioned herein can be used by the NVWA and LID to enforce the law.
In the report, the Expertise Center describes extensively what potential problems arise with brachycephalic dogs and how these external characteristics have developed over the past decades. Previous examinations are used as a basis for determining criteria against which dogs can be tested. The criteria are immediately measurable and associated with serious medical abnormalities such as BOS (Brachycephalic Ocular Syndrome) and BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome). For BOAS, for example, the nose length (from nose point to stop) in comparison with the skull length (from stop to occiput) is taken as the criterion. The relative nose reduction is measured by dividing the nose length by the skull length, which is seen as a good indicator of the severity of BOAS in a dog. In addition, the width of the nostrils is also measured with respect to the cartilage. Any narrowing of the nostrils is classified into four grades according to the "Liu determination", where there may be serious, moderate or mild stenosis, or at best an open nostril. But not only the head is discussed. Other body proportions that were linked to BOAS in previous research are also used as criteria. For example, the relative neck width (circumference of the neck is divided by the circumference of the chest). The neck is measured between the occipital bone and the point between the cranial corners of the shoulder blades. The chest is measured at the deepest point of the chest cavity. The physical condition of the dog can also be included in the measurements, because it has been shown that being overweight can increase the risk of health problems such as BOAS. The expertise center appoints the scale model that is used by the WSAVA, World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Other external characteristics that are measured in the criteria are the presence of a nose fold on the muzzle (without skin manipulation), the visibility of the whites of the eyes when a dog is looking straight ahead, the relative gap length ooft he eye opening (in relation to the skull length) that can indicate a higher risk of eye disorders and injuries because the eyes bulge. Dogs can also be subjected to a walking test, during which they trot for 6 minutes at a pace of approximately 5 kilometers per hour. The blood pressure and heart rate of the dog are tested before the walking test, just like after the six minute walk. The thought here is that this assignment for a healthy dog should be easily carried out.
Another test that can be used is the 1000-meter walking test. In this test the dog trots this distance within 12 minutes and is then looked at how quickly it has recovered from this effort. The heart rate and temperature of the dog are therefore measured 5, 10 and 15 minutes after the fitness test, whereby the dog is successful if its values returns to normal within this time after the test. During the test breathing noises are also taken into consideration. These running tests have been used for some time by two English Bulldog associations in a covenant with the Dutch Kennelclub.
Traffic light model
The aforementioned measurement methods and examinations have been submitted by the department and Expertise Center to a number of (medical) specialists and experts. They formed an advisory group on the feasibility of these criteria in practice. The fact is that in some populations, virtually no specimen would meet the new criteria. That is why a large part of the advisory group argued for a so-called traffic light model. In two or three generations, breeders can select their current population for less extreme traits so that they meet the criteria in the future. In a transitional phase work is then done on feasible steps: first, the most extreme external characteristics are addressed, followed by the less extreme characteristics, after which the ideal image can ultimately be achieved. This means that for a period of, for example, two generations, a tolerance policy can be implemented for a number of less extreme characteristics, so that purebred dog populations do not have to exclude a large part of their breeding animals. Breeders are given the time to breed towards a healthier type, but if this does not happen, a mandatory breeding program will be discussed. Outcross with other varieties is also mentioned as an option.
The intention is that the measurements carried out by inspectors can be found in a central registration. The speed of the traffic light model can be determined on the basis of these data because it is easy to keep track of how quickly a population develops to the less extreme characteristics. Standards have been established for all the aforementioned measurements that are classified according to the traffic light model in red (extreme), orange (less extreme) and green (ideal image). The starting point is that if a dog does not meet the then current standard, it cannot be used for breeding. This does not only apply to purebred dogs, but to all (brachycephalic) dogs in the Netherlands. Whoever decides to breed with such a dog is in violation.
Minister Schouten not only mentions the report as a guideline for law enforcement, but also considers it a valuable tool for breeders and veterinarians to select for healthier animals. She advises the Dutch Kennelclub to take the report into account in the subsequent steps of the Fairfok plan.