Editor’s Page: Dalmatian Accepted in the UK

Genetic health under fire from purebred advocates

In January in Britain the Kennel Club General Committee accepted an application, filed last year, to register a Dalmatian imported from the United States that descends from a cross between a champion Pointer and a champion Dalmatian 30 years ago. The crossbreeding was utilized in what became a successful effort to introduce the gene for low, or normal, uric acid levels in Dalmatians. High uric acid (HUA) is endemic to AKC-registered Dalmatians in the US, meaning that all of them carry the mutated gene for the disorder. The DNA test available for the HUA mutation shows that the frequency of the normal gene is “close to zero.”

HUA often leads to urate stone disease in the bladder, a condition that is painful and sometimes life-threatening for the dog and can be costly for owners, both financially and emotionally. American breeders who have bred on dogs that come down from the original backcross, almost all members of the Dalmatian Club of America including past officers and directors, have not been able to persuade the DCA or the American Kennel Club to register the dogs that have resulted from these breedings, although they continue in this pursuit. No doubt now that the Kennel Club — after consultation with the Dalmatian clubs in the UK — has accepted the import for registration, further pressure will be brought to bear on the DCA and AKC to do the same here. DCA members opposing registration of the LUA Dalmatians contend that they would like “more research” — although the parent club has not offered to become formally involved in such research — and object to introduction of the dogs with normal uric acid levels because they say that dogs down from the backcross “do not have crisp, clear” Dalmatian spots.

In light of the current political climate where purebred dog breeders worldwide are incessantly attacked for alleged disregard of genetic health in their dogs, I can’t help but wonder how the parent club and AKC can repeatedly deny the necessity of introducing the normal uric acid gene into the Dalmatian gene pool. The impression made on the general public when this is discussed is not one we want to make regarding the importance of purebred health. Last August when news reports surfaced in Britain that the Kennel Club was considering the registration application, the public reacted in both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail online. This is typical of the comments: “How can these people call themselves dog lovers when they knowingly breed dogs that will have health problems and may not have long healthy lives? It is cruel to keep breeding the same genetic problems just because you want them to look one particular way. A healthy dog is surely preferable to one that is not. The Kennel Club needs to get (its) priorities right and stop sitting on the fence.” Now that the KC has accepted the LUA Dalmatian for registration, it is left for the DCA and AKC to answer those charges. 

Photographer Attacked

Well-known photographer Kitten Rodwell was attacked on Sunday, Jan. 24 at the dog shows in Ventura, Calif., when she was preparing to photograph a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. According to Rodwell, as she bent over to make an adjustment to the sign she heard the dog growl just a fraction of a second before he attacked. As she apparently instinctively turned her face away, the bite ripped the ear from top to bottom, mangling the ear and tearing out about an inch of tissue and cartilage. A three-hour reconstructive surgery was later performed by a plastic surgeon. Rodwell was told that the ear will take six months to a year to fully heal and there will be permanent scarring.

Rodwell would like well-wishers to know that she is “very shook up, but physically I will heal.” She also wants to thank everyone for their well wishes, e-mails, phone calls and cards. Rodwell and all who know her are grateful for the “good dog sense” that led her to turn away when she heard the growl, protecting her eyes and the rest of her face from what could have been an even worse disaster. — CM

Christi McDonald, Editor

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