Going beyond our limits

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale is a truly global organisation and, as well as working towards a collective goal, it operates as a body where people can meet with the shared aim of exchanging ideas and experiences but without paying the slightest attention to their cultural, geographical, political or religious differences. We come together under the banner of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale to protect all dogs equally, no matter where they come from or where on Earth they live.

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Rafael de Santiago
President of the FCI
Do you think you provide your dog with well-being and health?
Ermanno Maniero

As far as we know, the first carnivorous mammals appeared in the Paleocene Epoch during the Tertiary Period of the Cenozoic Era, approximately 65 million years ago, although other scientists point to traces dating much further back, as far as the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era, an epoch which lasted from 146 to 65 million years ago. Although these are sensational achievements, there are still a few gaps in our knowledge which remain lost in the darkness of time and it may be that some of them will always remain open to question.

The Canidae family is the most advanced group of members within the carnivores. The evolutionary history of the Canidae is due to a series of changes involving successive radiations and a rapid expansion of diversity within a group of organisms, in response to environmental changes or new resources.

Although there are approximately 4,800 species of mammal, in the history of mankind, only two of them have been given permission to come and live in our homes: the dog and the cat. This involved a domestication stage which took place in early human societies, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. The scientific dating of this domestication varies, notwithstanding a news item published in Palaeontology & Archaeology on Wednesday, 6th March 2013, which reveals that a 33,000-year-old fossil was found in the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia, and based on the DNA sequence, this is one of the oldest-known domestic dogs. So, how are our dogs doing in terms of their well-being 33,000 years on?

We could tell hundreds of thousands of wonderful stories - although there have also been many atrocities - but it is worth remembering one sensational piece published in REDVET, the Revista Electrónica de Veterinaria 1695-7504 2007 Volume VIII Number 12B: it reminds us that a Royal Order was published in Spain in 1883 stating “that public schoolmasters and schoolmistresses must try to instil in children feelings of benevolence and a desire to offer reasonable protection to animals”. Did this happen in all countries?

In the United Kingdom, Ruth Harrison published a book entitled Animal Machines in 1964, criticising the way in which farm animals were kept in crowded conditions which both prevented them from behaving naturally and caused them suffering. This wake-up call to the human conscience led the British Government to set up the Brambell Committee in 1965, chaired by Professor Rogers Brambell and supported by a group of people, applying the scientific term “well-being”, to the feelings and behaviour of animals. The definition of animal well-being was accepted from 1992 onwards and what is known as the “principle of five freedoms” was proposed:

  1. freedom from hunger and thirst,
  2. freedom from pain, injury and disease,
  3. freedom from discomfort,
  4. freedom from fear and distress,
  5. freedom to express normal behaviour

Over time, concern for the well-being of animals in general has grown, becoming more obvious a few decades ago and with greater emphasis a little over ten years ago, since when dogs and cats have been included in these principles.

Once we have read these five freedoms, the first thing we have to do is to analyse and understand them, so that we can apply their terms - along with many others which are missing, such as social contact with both humans and other dogs, kennels which provide the dogs with enough room instead of tiny hutches, etc., etc.

The FCI engages in worldwide promotion of all canine activities and sporting disciplines which it considers to be beneficial to dogs, which is why it considers that dogs’ health, character and behaviour are the most important questions as far as both the dogs themselves and their breeding standards are concerned - and this is why current standards include the following:

FAULTS: Any departure from the aforementioned criteria is considered to be an offence and its seriousness will be considered with regard to the degree of departure from the standard and its effects on the dog ‘s health and well-being, or any dog showing clear signs of physical or behavioural abnormalities must be disqualified.
Elsewhere it says: Only dogs which are functionally and clinically healthy, with the typical conformation of the breed, must be used for breeding purposes.

However, this is not enough: we need the support and efforts of all good breeders, exhibitors, handlers, scientific bodies and clubs in order to educate people, lay down guidelines and ensure that they are followed. In addition to this, the various national canine organisations must be constantly carrying out physical checks on breeder's kennels, recommending those which care for the dogs’ well-being and having nothing to do with those which do not.

Ermanno Maniero
Honorary member of the General Committee of the FCI