Friday, July 19, 2013
The Newfoundland Club Of America - Only Proven Show Dogs Should Be Bred (Even Those With SAS)
During a trial this week, when continually asked for this basis of his opinions, an expert witness for the defendants repeatedly stated, "me." This brought to mind something I had read earlier in the week: on July 15, 2013, the Newfoundland Club of America wrote the following:
"Tip of the Week - Red flag - 'The dog has been shown and has first place ribbons to prove it.' This does not guarantee good quality. Dogs may get first place ribbons at practice sessions (matches) or at a dog show where there is only one dog entered, or at non AKC dog shows. A breeder needs to participate in AKC conformation dog shows on a regular basis. This is how they prove their dogs are of excellent conformation (structural) quality, and the only ribbons to earn championship points at an AKC show are purple."
Putting aside the absence of any mention of the quality and health of working dogs (and working titles), which the Newfoundland dog is, first and foremost, let's examine the NCA's premise that the top show dogs are the best dogs from a health/structural point of view, and therefore the only dogs to breed.
The 2012 Newfoundland National Specialty show was promoted as "Best of the Best" by NCA. That is, the dogs being shown there were considered the best Newfoundlands in the world and, of course, the dog who would win best of breed would be crowned the "Best of the Best" of all Newfoundlands, the healthiest Newfoundland, the quintessential Newfoundland for purposes of breeding.
The dog who was awarded best of breed at the 2012 National Specialty was Good as Gold Anmalamual del Basaburua, aka, Nacho. Nacho is a beautiful Newfoundland, has won countless breed competitions, and is an international champion. He has been considered by many as the top conformation dog in the world for some time. But is he the dog you want a puppy from?
This takes us back to 2010 when we were offered the pick boy from a litter between Nacho and another Basaburua Newfoundland, Chelsea. Based on previous interactions with the Basaburua kennel (and even going so far as to say friendship), we were in place for the best puppy from the top Newfoundland, conformation wise and therefore, according to NCA, the healthiest Newfoundland. Our boy was born on December 15, 2010, along with five littermates, four boys and two girls.
We decided who our puppy would be, based both on photographs and videos over many weeks, and the input from the owners of the Basaburua kennel. We named our boy "Primo" (he was the prime puppy) and had very high hopes for him as a family member, working dog, and show dog.
The arrangements were made: Primo and one of his brothers would be flown over with a couple who were getting the second pick male and wanted to pick him up in person. All of the necessary legal paperwork was in order, and we were assured by the owners of the Basaburua kennel that Primo had passed all health checks, including a complete clearance of any heart defects by way of echo-doppler. All seemed in order.
Primo arrived here at the age of twelve weeks. It was immediately apparent from simple touch that Primo had a substantial heart murmur. The very next day, he was taken to a cardiologist and an echo-doppler was performed. The results of the echo-doppler showed that Primo had Grade 5 subvalvular aortic stenosis, a genetic heart condition in Newfoundlands and some other breeds (including humans). How could this be? Two days earlier, the owners of the Basaburua kennel assured us, in writing, that his heart was perfectly clear via echo-doppler. Even if Primo had only been checked by auscultation, no vet could have missed a murmur associated with Grade 5 SAS.
We immediately sent our cardiologist's report to the owners of Basaburua and asked for their echo-doppler report. We never received theirs. Instead, we were accused of having falsified our cardiologist's report because it only contained Primo's name and our names, and not his micro-chip number. While that is the practice in Europe, vets in the U.S. do not normally put the chip number on a test result. While highly offended, we had our cardiologist redo the echo-doppler (with the same Grade 5 SAS finding) and send it directly to the owners of Basaburua with the chip number included on the report. They were also provided with the DVD of the echo-doppler showing the blood flow rates for Primo. The cost of our echo-doppler was $2,300.
When we again demanded the echo-doppler allegedly performed on Primo by Basaburua's cardiologist in Spain, it was never provided. Instead, the owners of Basaburua asserted that our report could not be true - it had to be an anomoly. (We informed the owners of Primo's brother to have him echo-dopplered immediately, and the result was a diagnosis of Grade 2 SAS. There are only three of Primo's littermates on the Newfoundland Dog Database, so we do not know the fate of the other three. The database shows that Primo's brother with Grade 2 SAS was cleared only by ausculation at under two years of age - yet it is impossible for SAS to improve with age.)
While there are two forms of surgery for SAS in dogs (and a third in the works), they have not proven any better than the use of beta-blockers such as Atenolol in the treatment of SAS. There is no cure for SAS, and a Grade 5 diagnosis is essentially a death sentence, with time being the only question. So Primo was put on Atenolol, and his activity was carefully monitored. But even a moderate amount of exercise resulted in significant exhaustion. Primo was dearly loved and dearly cared for, but passed away in his sleep at the mere age of seven months from heart failure. (At least for present purposes, I have not included the Basaburua demand that Primo be returned to Spain, notwithstanding our cardiologist's opinion that such a trip would likely kill Primo.)
Our hearts (no pun intended) still remain very heavy for having lost such a precious boy to such a horrible disease at such a young age. And despite doing all we could for Primo, the feeling still lingers that somehow something more could have been done to have improved the quality of his all too short life. Primo was an angel; he did not deserve (nor does any dog or person) a life laden with SAS.
This brings us back to the NCA position on the top conformation dogs being the sin qua non for breeding. Despite the fact that SAS is, without question, an inherited disease, his father, Nacho, continues to be bred and his puppies continue to be sold all over the world. As of this date, Nacho has produced five litters (by the Basaburua kennel alone) since Primo and his littermates were born. In the eyes of NCA, Nacho is the top dog for breeding.
It is axiomatic that a reputable breeder does not breed from a dog or bitch that has thrown SAS or any other genetic condition. The goal of breeding is to improve the Newfoundland dog by producing healthier dogs. But here we encounter one of the dirty little secrets of breeding - one endorsed by NCA. If you have a top conformation dog, breed him no matter what he produces healthwise, whether it is SAS or hip/elbow dysplasia, or any of the other genetic defects in Newfoundlands. According to NCA, do not trust the breeding of a dog with mediocre show results or no show results but fantastic working results and no history of having produced genetic issues in offspring. All that matters is that nice looking Newfies with outstanding show records are bred. Health be damned. Curiously, NCA's mouthpiece, Marylou Hoffman Zimmerman, publicly condemns the intention of breeding of a bitch who has two grandparents, several generations back, with equivocal echo-doppler results.
That is the message of the Newfoundland Club of America. This is the practice of many a "reputable" breeder. As Basaburua says of itself on its website, "breeding healthy and quality newfoundlands." We find it revolting. God only knows what Primo thought during his short stay in this world. And for all the other Nacho puppies, both before and after Primo (over 100 just from Basaburua), by Basaburua and many other kennels worldwide, we pray for you, as breeders without any conscience but the almighty dollar and Euro at the forefront, continue to use him and his offspring in the ruination God's greatest creature.
In contrast to this, there are breeders (one of whose puppies we have) with dogs that are tremendous champions but who will not breed them because they have hip dysplasia and they value the breed so much that they will not take the risk of passing what is understood to be a genetic condition onto their offspring. Some of these breeders, ironically, are sneered at by NCA.
Where is NCA's "Tip of the Week - Red Flag" for "don't continue to breed from top conformation dogs who produce puppies with SAS"?
On July 21, 2013, the NCA wrote the following in an attempt to legitimize the junk science in the presentation on SAS given at the 2013 National: "Remember, very few responsible breeders are actually breeding SAS affected dogs." At first, I thought this had to be a typographical error. Is NCA really saying that some "responsible" breeders are knowingly breeding dogs that throw SAS? The answer is "yes." As incredible as it may seem, this is the position of NCA. More on this to come.