Why Transparency?

Mrs. A. Univ. Prof. Dr. med. vet. Irene Sommerfeld-Stur explains very clear and concrete why transparency is so important. In conclusion the significance of information exchange within the breed of Schapendoes is shown. At this point a very big thank you to Mrs. Dr. Sommerfeld Stur.

"Lack of transparency. Motivation for dog breeding is based on emotions to a very high extend. Therefore breeders tend not only to wrong assessment of faults of the own dog but also to keep quiet about them. In many cases breeders dread finger pointing by other breeder or feel ashamed by defects in the own line. But also monetary and logistic aspects may play a role in this context. Breeders that concede defects of own dogs bare the risk, that nobody will adopt their puppies. Other breeders often blame them to damage the reputation of the breed and by that also endangers the adoption of puppies of other breeders.

The consequence in each case is a high estimated number of unreported cases of genetic diseases in a breeding population. Even when the breeders association pursue a politic of transparency (for instance by mandatory screening, or by open registry) there always will be breeders or dog owners that are not willing to communicate diseases of their dogs or such that not permit screening of their dogs.

Moreover, screening diagnostic is not available for all genetic diseases. And in many cases the clinical manifestation of a disease takes place when a dog has already produced offspring.

Hence all investigations in diseases prevalence, in heritability of diseases, estimation of breeding values etc. are unfeasible or at least give results with limited validity.

On the other hand one should not mix up transparency with the rumour mill that is somewhat usual in breeders’ circles. Information about diseases prevalent in breeds, lines or families should only be communicated when they are confirmed by distinct clinical diagnosis. Each dog that is declared as to be affected only by rumour and therefore is excluded from breeding is consistent with a “false positive finding” and induces loss of genetic variance of the respective population.

Transparency that is managed by single breeders only is to be assessed as problematic too. In such cases the public understand that a special line or family is burdened with the genetic defect communicated. But at the same time the public thinks to understand that all lines or families that are not reported as to be burdened in fact are not burdened with that defect. This situation may be consistent with a “false negative finding” in some cases, when a family not reported as to be burdened in fact is burdened with the respective defect.

In this context one of the basic rules of evidence based medicine can be modified for dog breeding:

“Lack of evidence of a genetic defect in a breed (a line, a family) is not to be understood as evidence of lack of that defect in the respective breed (line, family).”Or, to be expressed more simply: When breeders do not speak about genetic defects in their breed that does not mean that defects are not prevalent in that breed. Transparent management of genetic defects therefore is useful only when it is understood as basic philosophy of a general breeding organisation and when it is implemented by all breeders respectively".

(the complete text you can find at the website http://sommerfeld-stur.at/intro/populationen