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" Could our setters suffer a genetic disaster"

I open this discussion from concern that if honesty and openness is not forthcoming, our beautiful Irish setters could once again be on the brink of genetic disaster in the near future, ( especially on problems where there are no genetic tests available).       

I love my setters, and I love yours too so don’t let this happen again, PLEASE.

                                                                                                                                                                          During the 1930`s, PRA began to appear in several prominent lines of Irish setters. As more and more, dogs became affected, PRA was widely debated over the next ten years. By 1940 it had been determined that PRA was indeed hereditary and would lead to partial and eventually total blindness.

By 1945 the problem had reached such proportions that The Kennel Club issued a ruling that no Irish setter could be registered or transferred without a signed statement declaring neither parents nor grandparents were actively affected with the disease, and that the dog in question had not produced a case of PRA.

Mr. Rasbridge, as secretary of the Irish setter Association, then devised a plan requiring test mating to identify carries and clear animals. Such a design was obviously not popular with the important breeders of that decade. As affected pups were identified, the breed was devastated with many champions, and other famous Irish setters retired after their test matings failed. In what may be the most energetic attempt to salvage any breed, conscientious Irish setter breeders  continued to test mate and clear their stock. The next ten years were spent rebuilding Irish setter lines and Kennels.Their efforts produced several influential dogs that carried the breed back from the brink of genetic disaster.


We are only a small number of setter lovers but we could make a difference if others follow, everthing has to start somewhere.

If we keep to the subject, we may learn so much more. Adding the source of any information posted will give more credibility to that post.

What do you think ?

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Hi Wilko, At no time have I replied to any post as if I have any solutions, if I had solutions then I would not have started this discussion.You are correct that I am not a member of any clubs.

There is a big difference in PRA (rcd1) publications in Our Dogs that I've read for this topic (1974 + 1975) and  epilepsy cases now. In first case, it is including pedigree details open for all to be read and analysed. In last cases I do not know recent open and honest shared information about all concerned pedigrees. This means that -contrary to first case-, every breeder can make unknowingly mistakes and breed more cases. We have a problem!

Mel, lovely post, you have given your opinion and that is what the tittle of this discussion was " What do you think?" You are obviouly open and honest about any problems you may have had. Also in my opening to this discussion I wrote  "I open this discussion from concern that if honesty and openness is not forthcoming, our beautiful Irish setters could once again be on the brink of genetic disaster in the near future, ( especially on problems where there are no genetic tests available)." 

I dont look for sypathy for Abbie, I love my girl with all her faults, she is my joy and my first setter love.I do not blame her breeder for any of her problems, I would still be in contact with her but she chose to break off comunications with me when I tried to contact her to warn her before she breed from Abbie`s litter sister.

Hi Angela, Mel has made some very sound comments in her blog.  And she is quite right that whoever, however a data system is established it would have to be by an independant body thus ensuring unbiased, malicious content.   When I responded to the blog about "colour coding" of breeders it would obviously be difficult to "spot check" etc but I think the original blogger who's idea it was had good intention to try and start a ball rolling on how to go about initializing a health data base.  I am not the brightest spark being a bear of little brain and as I have said before, Mel's experience, skill with computers would be invaluable in setting up such a programme.  Her deep love of Irish, knowledge of the breed over a long period and her "computer" skills would be great.  Mel is also right to point out the Health Surveys etc etc and maybe that with a bit more discussion it could be used to fulfil a more detailed, public,open, transparent information base.

As Mel says the uptake on the PRA 4 was fast and if more people in the breed become aware of the other issues they will respond just as quickly for input of information.

Just going back to the gathering of information from the public who own a sick Irish Setter, does anyone have an idea on how to put requests for the data of the sick puppy to the owner assuming of course, that they haven't informed the breeder who, if they were aware of it, would have submitted it to the data base?

I think I suggested a "flyer"/"poster" which would be on the database and that each person could print off a copy and pass it to their local vet/pet shop/newspaper shop or wherever they thought suitable.




Can't explain the Assured Breeders exactly, Finn, but the principle is this:

There are a number of 'Rules' that members agree to comply with - regarding the welfare of their dogs, including feeding, housing, exercise AND health testing, also puppy rearing and choice of home and all sorts of things to do with the dog that escape me at this moment (you can see all the rules etc in the KC Website.)

At a Breed Health Conference a couple of years ago, the A B Scheme was closely examined  by the delegates and many questions asked - particularly regarding the monotoring of members.  There is a team of 'Inspectors' in the regions of the country who visit members to confirm that they are fulfilling the aims of the ABS.  Those found wanting are advised how to correct their failings and are then revisited, unannounced, to see if improvements have been made.  Anyone falling short of the accepted aims of ABS are thrown out.  We asked if anyone HAD been thrown out.  The answer was yes!

However the Assured Breeders Scheme is voluntary and there are breeders who 'know better', 'do all those things anyway', 'don't want to join' etc.

The KC is basically only a register for dogs whose lineage is documented into 'Breeds'.  It tries to gather breed people together, but that is up to individuals and each individual has his/her own ideas and opinions - and acts according to them.  The only hope is the Breed Club.  It is up to the Breed Club to deal with problems and to be proactive rather than reactive.  This again depends on individuals - individuals who will run Breed Clubs, those who will support them and those who will act in the interest of the breed.

Get this working and the KC can be approached to establish a proactive system eg. as in Irish Setter CLAD and IRWS CLAD and vWD - to the benefit of these breeds. 

Angela, I think we are making a difference and the breed is moving ahead with every new bit of research and DNA test that becomes available.  Breeders and pet owners were quick to access the DNA tests for rcd4 last year and I'm sure if/and when the tests become available for the much more serious conditions of Epilepsy; Bloat and MO, the access to the tests will be just as swift if not more so!  Unfortunately it is not easy and it is not a quick process.

A health database is an excellent suggestion, but instead of targeting breeders, it should be a listing, similar to the one on SEIC for the rcd-4 results. The results speak for themselves.  A health database would need to be run by a controlling body and therefore becomes a problem to be a worldwide database, but I believe there are already good sources in some countries and all countries around the world need to embrace this concept.  Unfortunately nothing is available in Australia!!!

The controlling body needs to have a legislative process to ensure that all breeders and owners sign that results will be posted in the public domain.  I believe this is what has occurred in UK with the rcd4 results.  This is such a litigious society we have, so it all needs to be done correctly.  I have heard of threats by some that any defamatory comments made against their dogs will cause legal action.  If this is true, then this does not help the cause to improve the health of the breed but only hinders it and therefore is possibly why all things are not always discussed in open forums.  However, you can be assured things are being discussed.

So, we are again, back to the basic requirements of open and honest communication between all custodians of the breed, the breeder, the stud dog owner, the pet owner (most breeders would put themselves into the category of a pet owner first and foremost). 

The continual "beat-up" of breeders and showlines does nothing to help the issue as all breeders are custodians of the breed and ultimately responsible for making the right decisions to keep this breed as healthy as possible.  This responsibility comes with much heartache and deliberation and for most breeders is not taken lightly. 

This doesn’t give everyone license to make derogatory remarks and dump all breeders into the same basket.  The same can be said for puppy buyers as we all know, some people shouldn't be allowed to own a dog.  If there is such a database to grade and report on breeders, then perhaps there should be a database for breeders to report irresponsible puppy owners as well so we can keep a full picture of the issues raised.

We need to forget about pointscoring which type (UK; USA or Field……..) is the healthiest!!  This is not helping the cause of the general health of the breed.  I have heard of health issues within all types of this breed and we need to all take a step forward together so that we can improve the overall health of all Irish Setters around the world.




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