July 2005


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Gina Bisco <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Farm Collie Breed Conservancy and Restoration <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 17 Jul 2005 15:01:40 -0400
text/plain (120 lines)
There was much tragedy in the situation on every level, and I don't wish to
rehashed much hashed over discussion nor re-open wounds that
time might have allowed a little healing. But feel I must register strong
disagreement on a point I know very well.

The result of the Valiant kennel large scale breeding effort was in FACT a
line of Collies that were NOT free  from all the usual genetic problems.

First of all, no kennel at this time can achieve "genetic freedom" from most
of the usual genetic problems because for most of those there is no genetic
test. For even one single gene trait, to eliminate it from the gene pool by
mass selection without genetic testing is an unrealistic goal, check out M.B.
Willis' Genetics of the Dog for the full explanation of why that is so. For
health problems of polygenic inheritance like CHD, there is even less
possibility of "genetic freedom" resulting from a few generations of
selection in any group of dogs for which the trait is known to have existed.
If in fact a dog happens to be in that happy state of "genetic freedom", no
one including the breeder knows it.

Secondly, there are some effective strategies a breeder can use to put some
selection pressure against some inherited problems (both single gene and
polygenic) in the absence of DNA test, and these strategies have been very
well researched as well as proven out with other species, but the majority of
even so-called "reputable" and "responsible" dog breeders at this time still
do not use those proven strategies at least not for the genetic diseases
(they may know to use these strategies for other valued aspects). Even if
fully utilized these strategies do not result in  "genetically clean lines"
but they help minimize risk and they are the only basis for progress against
health problems for which there is no DNA test. The two most important
strategies for any breeder are

(1)  routinely screen using available standardized scientific tests (DNA or
not) and

(2)  to do progeny testing.

In this context, progeny testing does not mean breeding to an affected dog to
reveal carrier status of any particular problem, it merely means to gather
health information on every pup born throughout its lifetime. As the late Dr.
George Padgett eloquently argued for years, every mating is a progeny test if
the information is gathered. But to this day it is amazingly rare for dog
breeders to require or receive information back from the dog owners, much
less to have actual standardized test information on even a fraction of the
pups they have produced. How in heaven's name can anyone claim to know they
are making "genetic progress" when they have no specific information on the
health of their pups after they leave the kennel is beyond my comprehension
and, anymore, sets my BS detector sirening off the charts.

I know from personal conversations with her as well as conversations with
people who got dogs from her, that Ms. Lethcoe Harman did not routinely do
standardized health testing on all the breeding dogs for the "usual genetic

Many breeders I've spoken with feel it is adequate to "spot check", and those
that take this approach tend to reinforce one another on this belief that it
is all that's necessary. "Spot checking" meant that if they had any
indication of a problem, THEN they would do some tests. It was not a matter
of routinely
testing all breeding animals and selection accordingly, nor did they test (or
require such testing on) most much less all the progeny produced. Many
breeders sincerely believe that if there is a problem with the dog, they will
perceive the problem without standardized testing. It doesn't dent their
confidence to point out that there is a problem of the dog affected but
without clinically obvious signs. Not to mention the fact that puppy owners
may not notice even obvious clinical signs and may not notify the breeder
even if they do.

And, many breeders go under the ASSUMPTION
that good lines (which their's of course is one) simply carry no genetic
problems so there it is a waste of resources to do any routine testing. This
idea is so genetically and biologically naive that in this day and age one
would think that idea would have gone the way of the dodo, but no in fact it
is alive, well, and reproduces at will like Norway rats and cockroaches.

Ms. Lethcoe Harman may even have done far more than the average Collie breeder
in the way of concern over genetic health. But that may be a matter of
perspective. If most do nothing at all, and a little is better than nothing
(and in statistical lingo 2 is a 100% increase over 1) a little spot checking
does not touch the basic necessary strategy to control much less improve the
genetic situation.

So, it is necessary to conclude that since she did not do available
standardized testing on all breeding dogs nor have all their progeny test
records for the common genetic problems, there is no grounds for claiming the
Valiant kennel population (if it was a line, I am not sure) was genetically
clean of any common genetic health problems.

And I repeat, no breeder, even one using these two current best tools--health
screening and progeny testing--to the max, has in this day the grounds to
claim their line is genetically clean of all the common health problems. The
best that any breeder can do, and the most they have grounds to claim, for
any problems for which there is no DNA test, is that they are using the tools
available to minimize risk. And those tools, if they are being used, leave a
paper trail that can be checked, which any breeder ought to be very glad to

In other words, i fa breeder says their line has no thyroid problems, ask why
they believe that, and consider very carefully what you believe would justify
that claim.

It is a real relief that, thanks to major funding from Border Collie people,
Optigen CEA test is now available so there is an easy and cost effective tool
for knowing the genetic state of the Collies for CEA. Now it can't be argued
(if it ever could be) that large scale breeding is needed to clean up the CEA
problem in the breed.

Another great tool sitting there waiting to be used, and maybe it will be used
or maybe it will just get dusty like the others.


 On Friday 15 July 2005 4:29, Michael and Jennifer WhiteWolf Crock wrote:

>  It matters not what one thinks of Athena and her husband, other
> than to reflect on the FACT that they DID produce a line of Collies with
> great looks, great temperment, and freedom from all the usual genetic
> problems associated with the breed in modern times.