All photos by Vince Hogan
At the end of October and into November an excellent event took place south of the border … yes, down Mexico way! This was the first-ever world congress on welfare and health for dogs … and, boy, don’t we need something like this right now to start to fight back against the high level of activity by animal-welfare groups around the world.
Very troubling scenarios are being played out across mainstream European countries where pedigree breeds are being attacked, banned and limited in various ways, while the unscrupulous and unregulated puppy farmers seem to carry on unabated. Currently the breeding of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels has been banned in Norway, brachy breeds in Holland are under threat, and in Germany many breeds have to go through sundry health tests before they are even allowed into a dog show. Dog shows in Austria and Germany have been either cancelled or severely truncated because of locally enforced welfare acts … Yet if you want to breed and sell any kind of doodle … well, the floor is yours, as no one seems to worry or care about that!
And so, a congress or meeting of like minds on the pedigree side of the fence has been long awaited to at least galvanize the thought processes of kennel clubs, breeders and people in the dog game. Delegates and speakers included breeders, judges, veterinarians, scientists, dog organizations with a shared interest in dogs, leaders from the FCI national organizations, and dog owners and handlers.
Delegates, speakers and FCI board members at the congress.
As some have asked, why in Mexico?
Pretty simple answer is that they put their hand up and could do it! Anyone who has been to the headquarters of the FCM (Mexican Kennel Club) will tell you, they have it all in one spot.
Not just a fabulous showground, but — essential for this congress — their own auditorium, together with areas for hosting dinners, coffee breaks, areas to meet the vets … the list goes on. They also have people at the top with the right attitude, headed by popular President Dr. Jose Luis Payro, backed up by Vice President Juan Luis Martinez and ace organizer the ever-present Gerardo Bernard.
Don’t just take my word for it … hear what some of the others had to say.
Pat Cruz attended the congress alongside Mark Dunn of the AKC. “Just want to add my thanks to everyone who helped make my visit to the 1st FCI-FCM a happy one,” said Pat, who was attending after a recent hip surgery. “Most of all, the presentations and the interaction between the participants were enlightening, and I trust that the cooperation shown between the participants continues to produce answers to some of the questions – health and legislatively – that affect the sport all over the world.
Linda Clark from Tulsa, Oklahoma, attended the congress and one day of the show. “It was an honor to attend the FCI-FCM world Congress in Mexico City, followed by the 82nd anniversary of the Intercontinental Dog Show. The whole experience was educational, informative and entertaining,” she said. “The Federation Canofila Mexicana (President Dr. Payro) hosted a fabulous venue for the World Congress event. Another highlight I enjoyed was touring the veterinary hospital and teaching center.
Linda Clark and friends.
“One of the most impressive parts were the speakers from around the world on the educational and awareness topics for the health and welfare of dogs. The outstanding auditorium (actually on the grounds of the club) and the translating system were an excellent addition and helped make the communication and understanding clear. I enjoyed gathering at the coffee breaks, meeting friends and new acquaintances. I was extremely proud to be among my AKC attendees.
From left, FCM President Dr. Jose Payro with the minister for tourism in Mexico and FCI President Tamas Jakkel at the opening ceremony of the congress.
“Monday, October 31, was the opening celebration with an elaborate lunch which included music and entertainment. The evening dinner was a ‘celebration of the dead’ event and famous national holiday. This included an elaborate dinner, art, face painting, music and humorous talented entertainment. I was thrilled that the ceremony also included the unveiling of a very impressive life-size painting depicting an ancient native image and pictured with a Xolo, the national breed.
Xolo painting at the Mexican Kennel Club/
“Wednesday, November 2, was another glorious day full of education at the World Congress. followed with by a fabulous lunch and further entertainment. We all were gifted with a complementary version of the large painting unveiled on Monday evening. The closing celebration was a gala dinner at an excellent local restaurant and attended by all the speakers and many delegates. Another exciting celebration filled with fine dining, music and dancing. A great way to unwind and bid the Congress a farewell.
“My highest compliments to Dr Payro and staff on this most enjoyable and awareness venue.
“Thursday, November 3, saw the start of the international dog shows, which took place over four days at the Citi Banamex event center in the north of the city. It was enjoyable to see the quality entry of dogs and the quality level of judging and particularly exciting to watch my friend Pat Cruz, the AKC delegate from the USA, judge Best in Show that evening.”
FROM THE FOOD COMPANY
Royal Canin was the principal sponsor of the event and had representatives from Mexico and Spain as well as France. Elodie Morel, a Royal Canin Pro Ecosystem manager from France, called the congress an “amazing experience.”
“I am very grateful that Royal Canin had the opportunity to participate in this conference,” she explained. “I met passionate and engaged people all committed to a better world for pets and to make breeds and breeders shine as they deserve it. It was a real pleasure to discover the beautiful FCM facilities and to enjoy the Mexican culture in a such particular moment. Everything was perfectly organized, and I would like to thank you all for all these moments shared together.
“The breeding world is currently experiencing an unprecedented shift with an increased pressure about dogs’ welfare. At Royal Canin we see this as an opportunity to showcase breeders’ expertise and designed PROactive, a program to help ensure that breeders thrive in a sustainable and responsible way to reach together our common mission: the health and well-being of cats and dogs.
Blai Llobet and Roberto Velez Pico from Puerto Rico attended the congress.
“Genetic tests for dogs’ traits and inherited diseases have become increasingly available over the past few years, offering exciting opportunities for improving the health of dogs at both individual and population levels.
“Thanks to genetic tools, dog breeders can make educated breeding decisions that will improve the health of future generations. Proper interpretation of genetic test results and understanding the limitations of a test are important to avoid their misapplication, which can negatively impact genetic variability within a breed, rather than improve its overall health.
“Genetics is a key to improve general breeds’ health without compromising breed standards. More than ever, public awareness, education and most importantly the support of breeders and breed clubs are the key successes factors to accelerate the genetic testing usage, to sustain the breeding world and ensure the future health and well-being of pets.”
Speaking for the international animal-welfare organization Four Paws, Julie Sanders noted that she presented on two very important topics: the illegal puppy trade in Europe and stray dogs worldwide.
“During the first presentation we focused on showing why the illegal puppy trade should be considered an organized crime, how it is causing many of the welfare issues we see today in the puppy trade including breeding of defects and what can be done by kennel clubs to help address it,” she said.
“During the second presentation we showed that to address the issue of stray dogs you really need to change human behavior to have a positive outcome for both animals and people so that not only the symptoms of stray animals are addressed but also the causes. Four Paws believes that to effectively address animal-welfare issues, you need all stakeholders to work together, and we hope that by being part of the FCI Health and Welfare Committee we have shown that we can work effectively together with very good results.
“We believe that this congress is a clear signal to everyone that we are all committed to working together to create a better world for dogs.”
One of the most eagerly awaited presentations was by Jane Ladlow (U.K.). Jane is an experienced European and Royal College Specialist in small animal surgery with a thorough knowledge of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. She is currently working with the Kennel Club to promote health screening in the Bulldog, French Bulldog and Pug.
“We were very pleased to attend the inaugural FCI -FCM World Congress on Health and Welfare in Dogs in Mexico at the end of October. The topics raised were relevant, with good lectures on avoiding exaggeration to prioritize health,” said Jane, who attended the congress with Fern McDonnell from the English Kennel Club. “My area of conformational-related breathing difficulties, BOAS (brachycephalic obstructed airway syndrome), was raised in several different lectures with an acceptance that it is a significant health issue in many of our flat-faced dog breeds.
“I covered the lesion sites for different breeds and the health screening that we have introduced in the U.K. that has also been licensed in a number of other countries. The Kennel Club and University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading (RFG) Scheme will hopefully mean that breeders in different countries can screen and compare their dogs, prioritizing dogs that can breathe well for breeding.
“Four Paws discussed very clearly the origin of puppies in the European continent and the rise of the illegal puppy imports as demand for certain breeds exceeds the number of puppies that can be produced by Kennel Club health-conscious breeders. The conditions that the dogs in these puppy farms have to endure were harrowing and re-enforced the message that we need to support good breeders.
“The FCM were incredibly hospitable and the facilities at the FCM were most impressive. It was an added bonus that the conference was during the Festival of the Dead with suitable entertainment.”
FCI President Tamas Jakkel attended the congress and the four days of show afterward. He also attended a big German Shepherd event on the FCM showground.
“This pioneer event was a huge success,” he said of the congress. “Stakeholders from 12 countries, more than 200 participants from 30 countries on four continents and thousands of followers on live-streaming interviews and photo coverage of the event! We are attached to young professionals who makes a great combination for the future. The second World Congress was decided yesterday for next year, will be organized again by the FCI and its Health and Welfare Committee (probably in Norway). The core topic will be the Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome with practical trainings.
“The world was watching us.”
AKC's Mark Dunn pictured with Tamas Jakkel the President of the FCI with Attila Marton and moderator Gopi Krishnan.
Members of the three-year-old health-and-welfare committee had many Zoom meetings during the Covid crisis, including Gopi Krishnan from Malaysia, who was a moderator at the event and also a speaker. Wenche Skogli from Norway was also a member of the group and looks like will be an organizer for the next event in Norway next year.
“I think this work reflects what we do in the whole of the FCI, but needs to be communicated and elevated to all of our members, and the society outside our FCI family,” she said. “To all speakers and participants of the congress, I learned and gained something positive from meeting all of you, and I hope this inspires everyone to go home and continue to work for our community and dogs. We need to work together and stay strong.”
That must certainly be the message going forward and to make sure that these important three days are not confined to history as a talking shop. As I stated at the start of this lengthy report, there are people and groups who do not seem to want to work alongside the dedicated breeders who in the end become targets for the “antis” out there. It cannot be allowed to continue, and events like the one witnessed in Mexico City have to become beacons of hope for the future. Like the other delegates I was pleased to be there as the canine media to report on the event and to be able to give a wider audience reaching those who could not attend. I understand that videos of some of the presentations could be made available once editing and subtitles are added, as the presentations were mainly in English and Spanish.
Some of the exhibits in the library section of the Mexican Kennel Club.
After the congress, a four-day dog show took place in a massive exhibition center to the north of Mexico City, and earlier in the week we got to experience Mexico in the middle of its celebrations known as The Day of the Dead.
Quite a week, one way or the other!
Dog Lovers United
Peke breeder, judge and presenter Raymundo W. Lo from the Philippines summarized much of what the congress was all about with this piece.
Let’s talk about man’s/woman’s best friend, the dog. The human-dog relationship goes back hundreds of thousands of years. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The dog gets food, shelter and warmth from the campfire while humans benefit from the companionship, guarding, hunting and herding abilities of the dogs. Human civilization couldn’t have evolved and progressed this much without the dog, and that’s even an understatement.
The dog’s genetic make-up is so malleable that we have been able, in just several generations, to selectively breed for particular physical and behavioral characteristics to further make the dog useful for particular purposes. Thus, we have various sizes, from tiny toys to massive mastiffs; different head and body shapes; various temperaments, from cuddly to fiercely protective; dogs with long tails and no tails, pricked or dropped ears, etc.
One thing should be clear. Dogs are now dependent on humans for their existence, having surrendered their independence for our fostering in exchange for their intimate role in human endeavors. There have been many examples of dogs defending their humans at the cost of their own lives. Yet we see many instances of humans mistreating dogs to the point of cruelty and/or extreme neglect. This isn’t living up to the pact we made with our best friends’ eons ago.
The first FCI/FCM Congress on Welfare and Health for Dogs Worldwide, which was held in Mexico City from October 31-November 2, 2022, tackled these concerns.
Mark Dunn, Linda Clark and Ray Lo in the Mexican Kennel Club library.
Among the topics discussed by distinguished speakers from across the world were responsible breeding (my topic in the congress), DNA testing for inheritable diseases of dogs, illegal puppy farming, stray dogs and other health issues.
Due to the incessant and shrill demands of animal-rights activists, governments all over the world have enacted dog legislation to the point of banning specific breeds of dogs. This is a challenge to conscientious breeders who strive to breed healthy purebred dogs fit for their functions, whether it be policework, hauling loads through snow, rescue-drug-contraband detection or just companionship, which is so vital in this day and age of alienation and loneliness.
Yet these activists and governments are missing the point. Responsible purebred dog breeders are not the enemy. They are actually allies in promoting dog health and welfare. The national kennel clubs where these breeders belong have rules and regulations on proper animal husbandry, follow strict guidelines on breeding healthy dogs, and hold conformation and sporting events to assess breeding stock for fitness for function.
The real enemies are the illegal puppy farms and backyard puppy mills that breed dogs indiscriminately in horrible conditions. These unscrupulous entities skimp on basic health requirements such as puppy vaccinations, proper nutrition, socializing and good animal husbandry. The puppies produced in these farms are sent to pet shops to be sold to unsuspecting customers. Many become very sick from abysmal conditions and lack of basic care, and the buyers end up paying huge veterinary bills only to have their puppy die, truly a heart-breaking event. There are reports of these dogs coming down with rabies, thus posing public health risks for this deadly affliction.
Another facet of these puppy farms is the collusion with certain animal “welfare” organizations that operate dog shelters with the slogan “Adopt, don’t shop.” In fact, the puppies they offer for “adoption” were bought from puppy farms. These dog shelters, far from being benevolent champions of dog welfare, are actually commercially run businesses themselves that charge hefty “adoption” fees to make the adopters feel good that they are doing a good deed. These entities also run smooth public-relations campaigns that net them loads of money from well-meaning dog lovers’ generous donations.
Meanwhile, they vilify the conscientious breeders, who adhere to strict sets of rules in breeding limited numbers of litters, primarily to show dogs for evaluation of breeding stock. They offer well-bred, healthy puppies for sale. Responsible breeders spend large sums of money to acquire good breeding stock, provide good and clean quarters, buy the highest-quality dog foods, and get the very best veterinary care for their dogs with up-to-date vaccinations.
The disinformation that infests the internet about dog ownership is also to blame for this state of affairs. It’s high time we reverse the narrative with a well-planned public-relations campaign to counter the lies, highlighting the best practices of responsible breeders who belong to national kennel clubs and contrasting these with the above-mentioned modus operandi of the puppy farms-dog shelters cabal.
National governments have to be educated on these matters. The animal-rights activists have cornered the conversation with legislators. The national kennel clubs should gear up by establishing committees on dog legislation and ensuring that the lawmakers are given the correct information through ethical lobbying. Otherwise, there will be hell to pay for the true champions of dog welfare.