English Version

Long, healthy, happy – a dog´s Life?!

Why does a Bernese Mountain Dog, not even a year old, have to undergo surgery on elbows and hips, as otherwise she later would suffer badly? Why does a Labrador suddenly break down and die because of a heart failure? Why do two out of three US-Golden Retrievers die of cancer?

Why don´t dogs, especially larger ones, live longer than 11 or 12 years?  And why does all above count for mixed breeds too, although you might have heard the opposite? In average they might live longer – 1,6 years -, but they all have the same inherited diseases like the purebreds .

I started doing research on this topic ten years ago: the Business with (pedigree-)dogs. In the first years it was all about reproducers – breeders who tried to multiply pedigree dogs as fast as possible.

We visited them with hidden cams, in solitary backyards in Berlin or hidden in huts in the forrest somewhere near Dortmund. When we were lucky – in the bitter sense of our work to make it public; but believe me, it often was horrible to witness-, we caught an eye on the female breeding animal. The reproducers  let them deliver as often as possible, until they are disposed of. The small ads often sound like this: „It´s heartbreaking, but we are giving away a beautiful Golden Retriever.” The only saving feature of giving them away is, that they might have a more or less normal dog-life after the torture of giving birth to so many puppies. Didn’t the breeders show any sign of regret, after we confronted them? No, not that they would let us know. The dog, more or less a thing that you can trade with. Not a living being.

We did quite a few of these reports – in the end it was all the same: the breeders tried to throw as many puppies on the market as possible. Some even had various different breeds in their rumpus room. Another way of making money with pedigree-dogs that we discovered and filmed: to buy them on the black-markets in the poorer east of europe. It makes you sick to the stomach to see a truckload full of puppies and other poor creatures on four (or sometimes three legs) brought to  the wealthy western countries, and sold there for a tenth of what a breeder would charge here.

And: aren’t they ticking time bombs, as a Veterinarian said. What do you know about the parents and grandparents of these cute beings?  Nothing.

The breeds that make the most change from time to time: after a Disney-Movie Dalmatians were en vogue, after a commercial Pugs suddenly were the breed to have. That Dalmatians were born deaf in a pretty high percentage and Pugs have a good change to die early of heart failure, because the heart runs in full mode all their lifes, to cope with their breathing troubles. I learned these relationships, as my concern for the pedigree dog grew:

The result: two of my longer films (45 minutes each) were being broadcasted in 2011 and 2013.  Pure pedigree, low class – the business with dog-breeding (that´s the way I would translate the originale title: Viel Rasse, wenig Klasse – Das Geschäft mit der Hundezucht. WDR, German TV).

These films were inspired by a BBC-Classic: Jemima Harrison´s Pedigree dogs exposed (2008). Harrison´s film had brought lots of trouble to the English Kennel Club.

Five years later  we drove to Birmingham, to visit the Crufts, the largest dog-show in the world. And we met Jemima Harrison there. She greeted us with the down-to-earthly statement:  “We have to twist the knife in the wound, continuously. Otherwise there won´t be any change.”

Yes, it´s ugly at times: but we did just that;-)

If anything, what has been the changes in the motherland of dog-breeding?  Read that and more: in the next post!

Thanks for listening so far!
Philipp

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