A PROPOSAL FOR THE BCA
Perhaps the most significant role a parent club can play is to lead the way in health research. For more than 100 years, the Bulldog Club of America (BCA) has been developing and fine-tuning its structure to protect and promote the breed through a network of local clubs. For the last 25 years, we have emphasized funding The Bulldogger magazine, the Bulldogger Digest, the new illustrated standard and the historical national gallery, and establishing guidelines for our national. Each endeavor contains elements of great educational value to breeders, owners and exhibitors, but much more remains to be done.
In my view, the education committee should be reorganized, refocused and properly funded to take advantage of advances in modern science and technology.
Our new executive committee, which was seated in January, would be well advised to read the speech on canine health delivered by Lee Arnold at the AKC Canine Health Foundation parent-club conference in St. Louis, in which the clubs were challenged to share the financial burden of helping to resolve some of the more than 300 known genetic diseases and defects through genetic research. A few clubs have already committed themselves to specific genetic research goals, investigated sources of matching funds, and contracted with research institutions and laboratories to help accomplish their goals.
In 1995 the BCA national council took a tiny first step in this direction by funding a health survey aimed at identifying some of the breed’s most common genetic and congenital problems that ultimately result in death. The survey was conducted in 1996 by member Elizabeth Hugo-Spector. Despite a disappointing number of responses, a telling summary of the results appeared in the May 1997 Bulldogger. Among the most prevalent problems mentioned were cancer and heart disease, but the survey also uncovered several less-daunting and possibly more manageable genetic problems Bulldog breeders often encounter. Wouldn’t you want to know whether mating certain dogs is likely to produce offspring prone to pyometra, severe hip dysplasia, hypothroidism, spina bifida, bloat, extremely narrow tracheas, autoimmune deficiencies or anasarca (water puppies)?
The remarkable new method to test for genetic disease called DNA analysis (not to be confused with DNA profiling, used to determine parentage) promises the ability to identify defects before they appear and to identify unaffected carriers. The next step is to develop DNA analysis tests. The prospects are tantalizing indeed.
The keys to limiting the incidence of genetic disorders are, of course, meticulous record keeping by breeders and veterinarians and formal health research program that provide incentives for breeders to cooperate. I believe the BCA should provide, or at least promote, most of these incentives. But before it can make such a major commitment, it must reorder its priorities by establishing and preparing to fund a permanent health research and genetics committee comprised of members who are vets or are associated with university or research laboratories. The possibilities for improving our breed’s flawed genetics are endless. Such a committee would leave the education committee to do what it does best: develop and distribute educational materials and publications, and conduct seminars and programs on topics such as breeder ethics and good sportsmanship.
In addition to recognizing members who finish their dogs, the BCA should honor those who participate in and promote health research and DNA analysis projects. As Lee Arnold said, “Resolving canine genetic disease is not a matter of fate. It is a matter of will. We are… making health a choice and not just a chance.”
- William Andree, 204 S. Beach Dr., Monticello, IN 47960.