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The current Norwegian Animal Welfare Act was passed in 2009 and replaced the previous Animal Welfare Act. The law promotes animal welfare and respect for animals and affirms that all animals have intrinsic value. Section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act regulates the breeding of animals. The law requires that all animals are bred with good function and health and prohibits breeding that alters or perpetuates hereditary traits that adversely affect the animals’ physical and mental functions, reduces their ability to engage in natural behaviour, or provoke general ethical reactions. In other words, our companion animals are entitled to a good starting point in life.

«Our companion animals have a statutory right to a good starting point in life. Despite this, some dogs are bred with guaranteed disease.”

The sad reality, however, is that many companion animals are born into a life of congenital pain and chronic disease. Breeding that does not comply with the Animal Welfare Act is a betrayal to our animals and a violation of the Norwegian law. Section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act clearly states that animals are to be bred with good physical function and health. To achieve this, we must use parent animals with good function and health, both physically and mentally. A large portion of today’s breeding is therefore not in accordance with the legal text, and this must be addressed.

Individual breed clubs create their own breeding strategy (RAS) for their breed. The breed standards are determined in the breed’s country of origin and used by the Norwegian breed clubs. The breed standards are in many cases promoting extreme physical features, which have a negative effect on both health and function of the dogs. During the process of selection of parent individuals, many dogs have been excluded and now one is left with limited genetic variation and subsequent inbreeding. We believe that inbreeding in small populations for many generations cannot produce robust offspring, as required by law.

The Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) clearly states that the breed should be developed according to the RAS. Dogs that are not bred accordingly are not allowed to be registered with the breed club. These puppies can be difficult to sell, and they often achieve a much lower price than their registered friends. We believe that the NKK is abusing the power they have by promoting breeding traditions that systematically violate Norwegian law.

The Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (NSPA) would like to point out that it is not sufficient that the aim of the breeding strategy is to eliminate unhealthy traits over time, such as BOAS grading of English bulldogs or heart screening of Cavalier king Charles spaniels. The Norwegian Ministry states “The Ministry assumes that breeding must be assessed in accordance with this provision, regardless of whether an objective has been set over time to breed away unhealthy traits.”

It has thus been established by the Ministry that it is insufficient to have a long-term goal to eliminate unhealthy traits. Illegal breeding is illegal, even if your intentions are good. We believe that some breeds have such a high degree of disease burden that breeding can only be continued by crossing them with healthy individuals of other breeds.

The Animal Welfare Act also requires, through section 27, that any person selling or giving away animals must provide the new owner with information about conditions that are important for the animal’s welfare. The NSPA believes that the dog’s breeding index for temperament, health, usability, and conformation is of great importance to all dog owners and should be included as a statutory part when buying and selling dogs, in addition to information about the animal’s coefficient of inbreeding (COI).

“The sad reality, however, is that many companion animals are born into a life of congenital pain and chronic disease. Breeding in a way that is not in line with the Animal Welfare Act is a betrayal to our animals and a violation of the Norwegian law.”

Regulations to the breeding section (§25)

In the summer of 2019, we received good news; the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has asked the Norwegian Food Safety Authority to prepare a draft regulation for section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act. Even though we see a systematic violation of this section, the provision is not enforced, and no one has been convicted under this section. It is therefore appropriate to have a regulation that clarifies how the law is to be interpreted and administered.

We believe that the regulation must be designed in a way that allows breeding to be monitored on a database level.  It is common knowledge among professionals that good breeding is based on science, registration of the animals’ characteristics and function, as well as access to comprehensive health data and breeding data.

In Norway we are fortunate to already have in place a database for disease registration (Pyramidion), a database for registration of traits and characteristics (Biotail) and databases for relationship data. To allow breeding to be based on science we must develop these databases further and require that they be used by all parties involved in breeding. We expect that the Norwegian Food Safety Authorities and anyone who loves dogs, will come to the same conclusion and that they will require the use of all available tools in the coming regulation.

New guidelines from EUs platform for animal welfare

Just before Christmas the EU released their new guidelines regarding breeding of dogs and cats. We are very pleased that the EU is acknowledging the importance of using estimated breeding values (​​EBV) in dog breeding. Estimated breeding values are also the best way to say something about the puppies’ health and hence provides vital information for any puppy buyer. EBVs should be based on comprehensive health data and breeding values ​​for different traits. By doing so, breeders will also fulfil parts of the requirements of section 27 of the Norwegian Animal Welfare Act, which among other things, requires puppy sellers to provide necessary information to puppy buyers about conditions that are important for the well-being of the animal.

We are also delighted that the EU guidelines now says that no forced matings must occur. Furthermore, the guidelines state that semen collection and artificial insemination should only be performed by a qualified veterinarian.

The EU guidelines pinpoint the need to change and modernise the way stud dogs are selected and urge the use of the different tools already available. We now expect the Norwegian government and The Norwegian Kennel Club to ensure these guidelines are endorsed in Norway. The first step will be registration of all traits in a database, as this is largely lacking for many traits and most breeds. These guidelines are a big step in the right direction for the welfare of our dogs and cats.


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