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Virginia Zurflieh, editor

Editor’s note: When two members of one of the e-mail lists recently disclosed to the list and to the Boxer Review that their very prominent show dog had been diagnosed with Boxer Cardiomyopathy (BCM), their disclosure not only generated a storm of controversy on the list, but many concerned and confused breeders put pressure on the ABC to stop what had become a very acrimonious debate ("MY testing program is better than YOUR testing program!") by formulating an "official" ABC policy and action plan for the control of BCM. The ABC president responded with a statement on the ABC website, in which he said that the research that is currently being funded jointly by the ABC’s American Boxer Charitable Foundation and the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation has not yet produced conclusive data about BCM, and therefore, the ABC could not make any recommendations - official or otherwise - at this time. Because some breeders were not satisfied with the ABC’s response, we have asked Cecilie and Henning (a veterinarian and geneticist, respectively) to give us their professional perspective on the ABC’s response to BCM.

A BU GUEST EDITORIAL

DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER!
By Cecilie StrÝmstad and Henning Lund
Boxerhaven Boxers - Norway

While everyone would want the breed club to take action against diseases like BCM, until the data are conclusive the club can't do much. There are several reasons that it would be premature of the club to take more concrete action at this time. So far, only a small percentage of the breed has been holtered, and the situation in the breed as a whole could only be guesswork at this stage. When you don't know what is normal regarding BCM in the population, and where to draw the line between fit and unfit for breeding, there is a significant risk that you will discard too much of the population, because you may be calling unfit for breeding a large percentage of the animals that are better than average, and which could only help improve the breed as a whole!

It is also important to keep in mind that boxers have other health problems that we as breeders have to deal with - SAS, allergies, cancer and spondylosis, to name a few. If we focus on only one problem (as it would be easy to do once we have an overview of the BCM situation and know where to draw the line), and set restrictions that are too rigid on that one, the other problems will inevitably increase. ALL restrictions put together in a breed should not exclude more than 50 % of the population!

A last point that should be considered, is that a breed club must rely on their members to be motivated to follow their regulations and recommendations. If the breed club decides on breeding regulations that are not backed by conclusive data, it will be almost impossible to get members to comply with them. In fact, premature regulations might do exactly the opposite of what was intended, by creating a "contempt for the law," and for the organization that tries to enforce such a rule. Many members will react negatively to what they feel is unnecessary control from the top end of the club, and therefore won't bother to test at all.

Disease control isn't easy, and as we have said before, if you want to get anywhere, most of the breeders must agree on where we are going.

 

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Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
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