A few posts ago, titled “Why we need Codes of Conduct,” I noted that the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America, of which I am a member, was preparing a new Code of Conduct to propose to the membership. I ended that post by saying that I hoped it would propose one that I could agree with. The club is planning to require members to agree and adhere to the Code of Conduct, and I’d really like to stay a member if I can.
Unfortunately, although much of the proposed code is well written and well thought out, there is a requirement I can’t agree with (although, so far, I have adhered to it).
I wrote a letter to my fellow members, asking that they reject the proposed code. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote:
Dear fellow club members:
I got my ballot yesterday, and with it, the printed proposed Code of Conduct and its Addendum. And I want to thank the committee for their very hard work on this. It can’t have been an easy task.
I love the Addendum to the Code of Conduct. It embodies everything I have tried to work toward in my own behavior in owning, caring for, competing with, and breeding my dogs.
I can agree with most of the Code of Conduct, but in my opinion, it has a serious flaw. My issue is with these sections:
“1.Breeding the purebred Irish Water Spaniel with a non-‐purebred Irish Water Spaniel can jeopardize the continuance of the unique characteristics of the breed.”
“It is our desire that the Board of Directors take appropriate action against any member who does not uphold these basic tenets.”
It is true that, done irresponsibly, breeding an IWS with a non-IWS could potentially jeopardize the breed. But this section does not discuss only irresponsible mixed breeding. It implies an assumption that all mixed breeding is irresponsible, and therefore, sanctionable.
I had a wonderful IWS. He was my dear companion, beautiful, talented, and recognized for his many and varied achievements. He had the unique characteristics of the breed in both appearance and in behavior. But he also inherited propensities for health issues that significantly impacted his quality of life and shortened his lifespan.
He was not alone.
If you are on Facebook, or are otherwise following the many IWS around the world, you have seen how so many recently have died way too young of cancer, like my dog. Like my dog, a number of IWS have suffered through Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, which has recently been implicated in the same genes that regulate thyroid levels. I’m sure many of you could come up with many more examples of genetically involved health issues in our breed.
What I don’t want our club to do is make impossible a project like the The Dalmation Study: The Genetic Correction of Health Problems. In this project, concerned Dalmation breeders wanted to keep the characteristic Dalmation spots, but not the high uric acid levels that seem to come along with those spots. So, this project included a backcross of an English Pointer, which have the spots but not the high uric acid levels. It took planning and many generations, and a lot of discussion and disagreement, but these healthy Dalmations are now registered in the AKC as Dalmations.
Instead, I would like us to support breeders who responsibly mix IWS with non-purebred-IWS as part of a breeding program with the goal of creating physically and temperamentally healthier IWS. If we really feel it’s necessary, we can sanction those members who do it just to sell “designer” puppies or who mis-represent their puppies.
You might be one of those people who think, “Well, I’m not a breeder, so this doesn’t apply to me.” But it does apply to you if you want IWS who are as healthy as they are beautiful, now and into the future.
You might also be thinking, “Well, how do we define the difference between responsible and irresponsible mixed breeding?” Or you might be dreading the inevitable disagreements that would come with that discussion. Or possibly you are thinking that if everyone would just get on with this and agree with the Code of Conduct, then this would all just be over and done with, and we don’t have to think about this anymore.
Well, I think about it. I don’t want any more IWS to suffer like my beloved Cooper did. And if we as a club can support efforts to prevent that, then I think that’s what we should do.
Please vote no on this Code of Conduct. Let’s try again.