INTRODUCTION TO THE COMMITTEE
How we were formed
The JBLC was formed in 2009 in response to a directive from the Kennel Club requesting that Breed Clubs form a health committee for their breed and appoint a Breed Health Co-ordinator (BHC) who would liaise between them and the Kennel Club on all matters relating to health.
It was agreed that each Club would have two representatives on the Committee, with Betty Aughey as our first Breed Health Co-ordinator. As well as health issues it was agreed that we would also consider topics of mutual interest, such as judging lists, judges education, shows etc.
Each of the Clubs donated a 'start up' amount and this small fund, together with a number of donations (from BOW calendars, the KC Charitable Trust and the sale of Liz Gaults jams etc.) pays for our activities.
What we do
Kennel Club Issues and the Breed Standard
We have considered several issues referred by the Kennel Club, and successfully petitioned on two of particular importance to the breed clubs:
We have used our funds on several occasions to support important activities related to breed health:
The Breed Health Survey was designed by Elizabeth Kershaw, the Breed Health Co-ordinator at the time, and Anne McBride from Southampton University. The results of the survey were published in Spring 2015
CEA: when a case of CEA was confirmed in the breed in 2012, an investigation by the JBLC revealed that there were carriers in the population. Following this the JBLC asked the KC to record the results of DNA CEA testing which they agreed to do. We then recommended widespread testing to Bearded Collie breeders. We continue to urge breeders to DNA test their dogs for CEA and hope that if one 'generation' of Beardies is tested now, further testing will no longer be required and CEA will be eradicated.
We also organise other activities which are largely self-funding or paid for by participants:
Seminars: we ran a 'Breeding for Health' seminar
in 2012 and have plans to run further seminars
DNA Databank: in 2014 we agreed with the Animal Health Trust (AHT) to set up the DNA databank for the breed, to provide valuable material for future research or as a resource should another genetic disease crop up.
How we work
Our structure was initially rather informal but as things progressed it became important to develop our own Constitution. The current version of the Constitution was approved in 2014. The Committee now consists of an independent Chair - Mr Bob Gregory, our Breed Health Co-ordinator - Elizabeth Ayrton, and an independent Secretary - Yvonne Fox, together with two representatives from each Club.
We currently meet twice a year in the Midlands, with extra meetings as required, although it can be difficult to get everyone together due to Club Committee commitments and the distances some JBLC members have to travel - our Scottish members deserve particular recognition!
Most items that are discussed will need to go back to all the Clubs' committees for further discussion so we can obtain the majority view - the JBLC is not autonomous although we try to facilitate any action if we can. It must be remembered, though, that all Club Committee members are volunteers with busy lives outside of Beardies!
We encourage openness and information-sharing about health issues. We recognise that no-one sets out to breed an unhealthy dog, and that breeders who bring their concerns openly to us deserve our unreserved support. Nevertheless, if confidentiality is requested it is VERY important to us to honour the trust placed in us. We must then balance conflicting needs and find a way which enables us to act when the health of the breed as a whole is involved - and achieving this balance is not always easy.
The JBLC is very much a partnership with Beardie owners and breeders and we do listen and take on board your views. We are the link between 'the breed' and the KC on matters of health but we can achieve nothing without the co-operation of owners and breeders (big and small) of Bearded Collies! If you don't do the tests, don't try and learn about best breeding practices, don't attend the seminars on disease, aren't open when problems crop up and generally think that 'this doesn't affect me' there will be little that we can achieve and our precious breed won't have much of a future.
We recognise that there are many challenges going forward - the concerns over auto-immune disease, the falling number of Bearded Collies that are registered, and the breed's small gene pool being just some - and we hope that we can recognise members' concerns and work towards solutions together.
Yvonne Fox (JBLC Secretary)