AKC Statement on Dutch Kennel Club ‘Brachycephalic Decision’: Context and a Cautionary Tale
In recent weeks, there’s been discussion, debate, and even some inaccuracies posted online about a recent decision by the Dutch Kennel Club to limit the registration of certain brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs based on length of muzzle, while also allowing crossbreeding in those breeds to increase muzzle length.
In May, the Dutch Kennel Club, Raad van Beheer (RvB), began a policy of limiting registration of certain breeds, citing health concerns related to muzzle length. The affected breeds are the Affenpinscher, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Griffon Belge, Griffon Bruxellois, Petit Brabançon, Japanese Chin, King Charles Spaniel, Pug, Pekingese and Shih Tzu. As part of this policy RvB effectively encouraged crossbreeding to increase muzzle length, and offered to allow for future generations descended from those mixes to be registered as purebred.
The AKC and kennel clubs around the world are right to be extremely concerned by the decision. This week, the AKC sent a statement of concern to the RvB, urging the club “to continue to aggressively work against overt attempts to control breed type and to continue to pursue education and scientific discussion of thoughtful ways to address health issues within a breed in a way that protects and preserves the essence of the breed.”
The RvB’s decision did not occur in a vacuum. It did not wish to limit registrations and it noted in a response to FCI that it had been seeking to avoid this “solution”. Last week, the RvB provided reasoning including existential threats that put RvB in danger of criminal violation of the law and potential prohibitions on registering dogs and conducting events. The key takeaway is that the underlying cause of the decision – passage of laws that advance radical animal rights/anti-breeder agendas under the guise of simple (but arbitrary and overreaching) “animal welfare” laws – represents an even greater and more universal threat for dog enthusiasts.
In 2014, two laws, the Animals Act and the Animal Keepers Act, were passed into law in the Netherlands. Together, the laws limited the Dutch Kennel Club’s autonomy and established government-based prohibitions related to animal breeding. The Animals Act allowed the Dutch Government “to draw up rules for the organization that manage the breed registry” and establish requirements that animals must meet before being registered or bred.[i] The Animal Keepers Act established specific requirements for the breeding of pet animals.[ii] The laws included some reasonable provisions and were passed in the name of animal welfare, but neglected to recognize the value of expertise and independence of veterinarians and breeders in making responsible breeding decisions on a case-by-case basis. The laws were rooted in a radical animal rights/anti-breeding viewpoint already pervasive in Europe, and increasingly commonplace in the United States.
Today, similar laws addressing the breeding and the sales of pet dogs are introduced on a regular basis in the United States. Organizations that push legislation governing pet breeding do not focus on science or empirical challenges such as the needs of pet owners or a shortage of pets. Instead they push the same kinds of arbitrary limitations seen in the Netherlands, and almost universally equate breeding with animal cruelty.
While the restrictions RvB placed on registering its breeds seem shocking, the sad truth is it shouldn’t be. A study of legislation over the years illustrates a trajectory of policy changes that forced limitations on breeders and breeder organizations. Registry restrictions were yet another step in a long series of incremental efforts to end the breeding of purebred dogs.
The same kind of policy proposals in U.S. legislatures today are often supported and sponsored by legislators who don’t even realize the agenda they are supporting. They’re simply responding to the constituents who contact them. These laws can be stopped, but they need the efforts and support of all of us. Legislators need to hear from their constituents and know that responsible dog owners oppose radical infringements on breeder expertise and dog owners’ rights. They need to know we the people care about these issues – even when they don’t seem to impact us personally … yet.
We can stop a similar crisis here in the U.S. through constant vigilance. AKC’s Government Relations team will be your partner. Are you willing to play your part? To learn more about canine legislation and advocacy, visit AKC’s Legislative Action Center at www.akcgr.org and consider becoming a legislative liaison for your club and social groups.
[i] Raad Van Beheer, Provisions of The Animals Act of 2014 as cited in The Current Position of the Short-Muzzled Dog Breeds in the Netherlands and What Preceded It, May 25, 2020.
[ii] Raad Van Beheer, Provisions of The Animal Keeper Act of 2014 as cited in The Current Position of the Short-Muzzled Dog Breeds in the Netherlands and What Preceded It, May 25, 2020.