Dogs as an endangered species

Susan Thorpe-Vargas Ph.D., John Cargill MA, MBA, MS, D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.

Why the dog opted to share his fate with men, may never be known, we suspect it had something to do with filling his stomach, but when he did, mankind took on a moral and ethical obligation. When we started to selectively breed dogs for our own ends, our responsibility only increased. How have they done under our stewardship? We will let you and your conscience answer that, but from our perspective it seems we have "improved" Canis familaris into a genetic nightmare. We have created designer dogs which cannot whelp freely or even breathe correctly. Concern for cosmetic attributes have selected for dogs who get lost at the end of the leash. Every year billions of veterinary dollars are spent ameliorating the effects of our tampering. Is it too late? For some breeds it may indeed be too late. If they were a wild species certain breeds of dogs would be on the endangered list. That is why this series of genetic articles is so important. If you are a breeder, you need to pay your intelectual dues. Every breeder who professes to love his breed needs to know more than rudimentary genetics. At a recent genetics conference hosted by the Canine Health Foundation, auther Susan Thorpe-Vargas cringed to hear "What you see is what you get" at the dinner table, from a parent club representative.

This is the first, in a reference series of six breeding-related articles by a special task force of four authors. The learning curve is apt to get steep at times and if your eyes start to glaze over then put the paper down for a bit, but it is your obligation to pick it up again. Under discussion will be such diverse subjects as the origin and domestication of the dog, a mini primer on Population Genetics, the techniques being used to discover the causes of genetic disease at the molecular level and tests currently available to breeders for genetic screening. We will be providing both general and technical information to a level one expects of a serious breeder. We hope to make this an exciting journey and if you are a breeder, a very necessary one. The authors will presume some knowledge of the subject as we will draw on previous articles published during 1996 and 1997 in Dog World. They start with A Genetic Primer for Breeders ; The Mapping of the Canine Genome ; Open Registries Promote Honesty in Breeding, , Canine Genetic Disease: is the situation changing? Part 1-4 , and Tipping the Genetic Scales , For those of you on-line, some sites will be mentioned and a glossary of genetic terminology will be available by e-mailing the authors. Words throughout this series in bold-faced type, other than headings, are included in the glossary.

Some of you may question the need for such a series and may ask yourself why it should concern you. This quote by Jay Russell Ph.D. perhaps explains that WHY far better than we can.

"Every breeder has the ability in a free society to "determine their own stopping point." But, a single breeder's actions may have consequences that are far-reaching. A breed is necessarily maintained by a society of breeders. As such, the actions of each breeder affects the actions of every breeder who dips their brush in the gene pool and every buyer -- present and future -- who buys one of these "works of art." Pragmatically (and ethically), a breeder loses his/her right to independence and his/her ability to be independent the minute he/she puts up a shingle that says "Puppies for Sale."


For the remainder of the series, go here: