Showsight Presents The Bedlington Terrier

A LOW ENTRY BREED Bedlington Terrier

BY LUCY HEYMAN

I t has been most disturbing to observe the steady decline of the population of our Bedlington Terriers over the past two decades. The American Kennel Club developed a characterization of this, labelling low-ranked breeds as Low Entry Breeds. Our Bedlingtons currently rank at 133 among all AKC recognized breeds, but I was amazed to see that our breed actually ranked ahead of nine other Terrier breeds, most notably Kerry Blue Terriers, which surprised me. In the 1970s and '80s, Bedlington breeders had to cope with a lethal inherited liver disease that affected over half of our dogs. The '90s brought relief with the development of a molecular genetics diagnostic tool that detects the presence of copper toxicosis, with the subsequent years bringing further perfection to the test. It would be logical to think that the dramatic minimization of the incidence of copper toxicosis would lead to a robust boom in population. Unfortunately, this was not the case and a small handful of our breeders continue to produce affected individuals, rationalizing that testing diminishes population and the gene pool. We must stand back and examine the possible reasons for the decline. In gener- al, animal rights organizations have glamorized adopting mixed breed strays from shelters, vilifying purebreds with misinformation; with national media doing the same. As our population has become denser, homeowners associations and legisla- tion passed by uninformed lawmakers have become far more restrictive, making it difficult for hobby breeders to raise puppies and keep dogs for exhibition. The cul- ture of breeding did not accommodate change rapidly enough. Decades ago, it was fashionable to state “puppies only occasionally” on breeders' calling cards. How could they hope to establish a strong, dominant bloodline that way? High volume breeders, no matter how ethical and conscientious, were shamed and branded as puppy mills. All of this contributes to the diminishment of population. More recently, a spin was added to the decline in our breed population, ranging from the ill-advised to the clearly unethical. Requiring owners to pledge spay and neuter agreements for quality puppies is a form of control; apparently emanating from a lack of trust, and in light of our low entry status is not sound judgement. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that early sterilization, in particular, does not have the health benefits that veterinarians and owners once thought it did.

194 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, APRIL 2022

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