Animals & Money: Horrified by BBC purebreed documentary


The BBC spent two years researching the grim realities of purebred dogs for their documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which aired in August. The BBC's big findings were that, much like we've all suspected, lots of pedigree dogs are more likely to be sickly because they're chosen for breeding on cuteness or how tiny their snout can be--not how healthy they are or even how good of a companion.

The show hasn't been shown here yet. (Though it's available in clips here. And you can buy it from the production company.) But expect a big uproar when BBC America does show it. And a big backlash against spending money on purebreds, especially from puppy mills. The Guardian says the "Kennel Club is facing the greatest crisis in its history." That's how big the tidal wave is that about to hit the breeding industry in the U.S.

Already the U.S. dog community is riled up. Patrick Burns, known as TerrierMan, has offered one smart blog after another on breed-specific health problems--both from the documentary and other sources. In England and Australia, the reaction has been intense. The RSPCA and other sponsors pulled out of Crufts, England's fanciest dog show. Now many British dog lovers are pushing for the BBC to stop airing Crufts.

The Kennel Club says the documentary was unfair to them (especially that bit about how dog breeding is like the eugenics program of the Nazis.) They were already working on problem breed standards--small consolation for those who bought their family a puppy doomed to disease in that time. They say most purebreds are totally healthy. So far they've changed the breed standards for the Pekingese, making its face less pushed in.