LEGISLATION AGAINST EXTREME TYPING, DEFORMITY AND GENETIC DEFECTS
EUROPEAN LEGISLATION AGAINST HYPERTYPES AND BREEDS WITH DEFECTS?
European bodies are concerned about the gradual shift towards American-style ultra-types (referred to as "hypertypes") in domestic pets. If made law in the member states of the Council of Europe, a number of cat breeds risk being banned: ultra-typed Persian/Exotic, Manx, Scottish Fold, Sphynx, Munchkin.
A controversial edict regarding genetically defective and ultra-typed breeds was issued by the Council of Europe which covers 41 member States including the UK. Though not (yet) law, the March 1995 draft of their "European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals" would ban ear cropping and tail docking in dogs and potentially ban abnormal or defective dog and cat breeds. The Council recommends that if the breeders do not amend their own breeding practices, the affected breeds should be "phased out".
Chapter One, Article Five of the Treaty says: "Any person who selects a pet animal for breeding shall be responsible for having regard to the anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent." The resolution demanded that breed standards be rewritten to eliminate (by fiat if voluntary efforts failed) certain characteristics or potential genetic abnormalities (some of which were defining traits of a breed). It ruled that certain breeds, deemed to have defects, be discontinued.
As far as cat-breeding is concerned, the Recommendation by the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals encourages breeding associations to:
Reconsider breeding standards and amend any causing potential welfare problems. This means reconsidering the standards and selecting breeding animals taking into account aesthetic criteria and behavioural problems and abilities. It would ensure, by educating breeders and judges, that breeding standards are interpreted so as to discourage development of extreme characteristics (hypertype) which can cause welfare problems. In other words, it is up to breeders to curb, and even to reverse, the excesses of ultra-typing before matters are taken out of their hands by European legislation.
It might phase out and prohibit breeding, showing and selling of certain types or breeds whose characteristics are linked to harmful defects such as abnormally short face and abnormal positions of teeth (brachycephaly and brachygnathia in Persian cats) to avoid difficulties in feeding and caring for the newborn.
If severe defects cannot be eliminated, cat breeders would have to avoid or discontinue breeding of animals carrying semi-lethal (deferred lethal) factors (e.g. Manx cat where the homozygous state is lethal and the heterozygous state can be crippling), those carrying recessive defect-genes (e.g. Scottish Fold Cat where the homozygotic state causes hind leg/tail skeletal defects), hairless cats (lack of protection against sun, chill and environment), cats carrying the "dominant white" gene (significant disposition to deafness in blue-eyed white cats), the Manx cat (movement disorder, disposition to vertebral column defects, difficulties in urination and defecation, semi-lethal factor).
European breeders justifiably argue that any ban would be unfair since targetted breeds will be unaffected in countries outside of the Council of Europe. They argue that a global approach is needed to prevent cat breeds being taken to unacceptable extremes. Meanwhile, a small number of breeders will produce hypertypes, regardless of the adverse effect on the cats' health, in order to be competitive on the showbench. It really is up to judges and breed societies to curtail these excesses.
Cultural differences cannot be ignored. In Europe, common American breeds with structural differences (Scottish Fold, American Curl) or hybrid origins are considered, rightly or wrongly, to be undesirable. By contrast, American breeders are quick to adopt structural changes but remarkably reluctant to introduce new colours, already common and admired in Europe, into existing breeds. What one registry perceives as desirable or admirable, another seeks to ban as deformed, harmful or impure. Readers from both regions must understand that the definition of "defect" is country specific. One American breeder asked me what defects she could expect to see when breeding Sphynx. In the eyes of some European legislators, hairlessness (the Sphynx's defining trait) is the defect!
Some nations have accepted all or part of the treaty. Britain has rejected the restrictions, but the German government has accepted them. The German animal welfare law prohibits breeding that brings suffering to offspring, but has been poorly administered and planned for change. The German standpoint has been widely reported on the web and in the media. For example, Rex breeds are apparently banned from shows due to the abnormal coat and whiskers. The following summarises those applied to specific "defects" which may be the defining characteristic(s) of a breed. Note: What is termed a "defect" in the report may not be considered a defect elsewhere.
GERMAN RESTRICTIONS ON BREEDING OF CATS WITH DEFECTS
Some nations have chosen to abide by some sections of the treaty but to ignore others. Fifteen nations have agreed to the provisions of the pet protection treaty: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland. Britain has rejected the restrictions, but the German government has accepted them and the other member European States may find themselves forced to follow suit. In Sweden a general act of Parliament prohibited breeding cats with defects that could be passed to the offspring. The German animal welfare law prohibits breeding that brings suffering to offspring, but has been poorly administered and planned for change.
The Germans have a succinct word for extreme breeding leading to health issues: Qualzucht ("torment breeding" or "torture breeding") which refers to the breeding of animals with characteristics associated with physical or behavioral problems.
The German animal welfare laws have been widely reported on the web and in the media. For example, Rex breeds are apparently banned from shows due to the abnormal coat and whiskers. The following summarises those applied to specific "defects" which may be the defining characteristic(s) of a breed. Note: What is termed a "defect" in the report may not be considered a defect elsewhere.
Tailless, Short-Tailed And Kink-Tailed Cats.
This covers various types of shortening of the caudal spine ranging from shortened rolled tails, shortened straight tails, stumpy tails, completely tailless cats or with an indention instead of the tail. It affects cats with Manx-type and Japanese Bobtail-type mutations and spontaneously occurring short-tailed cats of any breed.
Rationale: In short-tailed and tailless cats, locomotory disorders are likely and social communication is impaired. Manx cats are associated with a number of defects e.g. spina bifida.
Recommendations: Total ban on Manx-to-Manx AND Manx-to-Non-Manx breedings since offspring are likely to have pain, disease or defects. Japanese and Kuril Bobtails to be examined by a vet with regard to both increased sensitivity to pain in the tail area and possible fused vertebrae. Only pain-free cats to be bred. Medical Certificate required and all examined cats to be permanently identified by microchip or tattoo. Breed associations to keep stud books. Stud books and examination reports to be made available on demand (auditable). In the case of kinked tails, only cats certified negative for this defect permitted to be bred.
Dominant White and Albinism (Including Colourpoint)
A number of different genes govern white colouration in cats. Autosomal dominant white causes completely white fur colour and has complete penetrance for defective hearing, frequently combined with blue eyes.
Recommendations: For cats with dominant white a total breeding ban is recommended. Where the white colour may or may not be due to dominant white, a genetic test must be performed before breeding, as soon as an appropriate testing method is available. Test-matings cannot be justified, as impaired offspring are likely.
Rationale: Dominant white is associated with deafness and with defects of the tapetum lucidum (in eyes). Deaf cats are severely handicapped in their social and behaviour and in normal expression of predatory behaviour. Restrictions of vision, especially in semi-darkness and at night (the normal activity times of cats), increases this handicap. This is deemed a bodily defect that leads to permanent suffering.
Recommendation: Colourpointed cats (any breed) require veterinary ophthalmologic examination. Breeding allowed only with cats with unrestricted vision
Rationale: depigmentation of the iris and retina, absence of tapedum lucidum, impairment night vision, squinting or cross eyes (strabismus, nystagmus)
Recommendation: Other white or predominantly (over 50%) white cats require veterinary ophthalmologic and audiometric (hearing) examination. Breeding allowed only with cats with unimpaired sight and hearing. Microchipping and tattooing of examined cats, stud books (as previously).
Relates to cats with folded ears (Scottish/Highland Fold, Poodle Cat etc) due to the incomplete dominant gene expression for "folded ears". This gene is also associated with bone and cartilage defects. [Note: The American Curl was not mentioned in the source work]
Recommendation: Total breeding ban.
Rationale: Cartilage and bone defects often found in homozygote and, to a lesser extent, the heterozygote. These skeletal problems cause locomotor problems, permanent pain, diseases or defects. The ears serve as a signal system in establishing social contacts, a function lost in fold-eared cats.
Curled Hair and Hairlessness
Applies to cats with abnormal fur such as partial or total hairlessness, shortened or missing tactile hairs. It includes the various Rex cats and the various Sphynx-type cats [Note: the source work did not specifically mention the Wirehair mutation]. Rex cats have reduced growth of the hair and undercoat and may lack guard hairs. Devon Rex are affected by partial or temporary nakedness. Above all, in Devon Rex and Sphynx the tactile hairs (whiskers/vibrissae) are curled (useless) or absent.
Recommendation: Total breeding ban on affected cats and modification of breed standards to avoid cats with missing, shortened or curled whiskers.
Rationale: Vibrissae are an essential sensory organ. They are important for orientation in the dark, in predation, in examination of objects and in social behaviour. Loss of functionality due to absent or deformed tactile hairs is a physical defect which limits normal feline behaviour in a way which leads to permanent suffering.
Munchkins, Kangaroo Cats
Applies to cats with chondrodysplasias (e.g. Munchkin) and microbrachy (kangaroo legs).
Recommendation: Abstention from breeding cats showing these defects. The breeding population to be monitored regarding vitality and functionality with particular attention to the intervertebral disks (spine) including x-rays (radiographs). Examined cats to be microchipping or tattoed, stud books etc (as previously). In the case of microbachy, only cats certified as negative for the trait may be used in breeding.
Rationale: Structural defect affecting function and preventing normal feline behaviour/locomotion.
Applies to cats with polydactyly e.g. polydactyl Maine Coon and the American breed named "Superscratcher" which is deliberately bred for polydactyl [Note: I have never heard of a Superscratcher breed]. Polydactyly is an autosomal dominant and a semi-lethal defect.
Recommendation: Total breeding ban on cats showing these defects since defective offspring are to be expected.
Rationale: None was given, presumably the "semi-lethal defect"; certainly my own experiences have shown no problems with polydactyl cats and no adverse effects on their functioning.
This applies to cats showing brachycephaly and brachygnathia (Persians, Exotics), also to any cats with misaligned jaws (skew muzzle), brachygnathia inferior (under-bite) and brachygnathia superior (over-bite). Brachygnathia is particularly associated with short muzzled breeds but may be found in other breeds. Cleft lip, cleft palate and related defects are associated with brachycephaly. The mode of inheritance is not fully understood.
Recommendations: Breeding associations to determine an index defining over-typing. Breeding ban on cats not meeting this index. Breeding ban on extremely short-nosed cats where the upper edge of the muzzle is higher than the edge of the lower eye lid. Health check required for brachycephalic individuals: examination for breathing problems, tear ducts (not draining), shortened upper jaw, dental problems. Breeding ban on cats showing one or more of the described symptoms as these would produce offspring with similar defects. Examined animals to be microchipped or tattoed, stud books kept etc (as previously).
Recommendation: Modification of the breed standard of brachycephalic breeds to avoid an overly pronounced stop, too high nose, too short muzzle etc. Preference should be given to cats with longer facial bone structure. Breeders to avoid breeding from individuals affected by brachygnathia, cleft palate and other facial defects.
Rationale: Depending on the degree of muzzle shortening, food intake and chewing can be impaired.
The 4 categories of brachycephaly that were identified by Schueter et al:
Category I, mild: nearly vertically positioned upper canine teeth without a dorsally rotated jaw, an inconspicuous stop, and clearly developed facial and neurocranial (brain-case) bones.
Category II, moderate: characterised by an incipient dorsorotation (lifting) of the upper canine teeth and jaw to a dorsal direction, a distinct stop, reduced nasal bones and a rounded or even apple-shaped brain-case.
Category III, profound: pronounced rotation of the jaw and the upper canine teeth was obvious. Additionally, these cats showed a distinct stop with reduced nasal and neurocranial bones. Because of the dorsally rotated upper jaw, the tip of the nose was at a higher level than the lower eyelid.
Category IV, severe: a more extreme form of the characteristics described for category III. These handicapped cats showed nearly horizontally positioned upper canine teeth and a high-grade dorsorotation of the jaw. An overly pronounced stop, underdeveloped facial bones and a rounded neurocranium were visible.
In Germany, an unsubstantiated fact (or propaganda) states that polydactyl kittens suffer a 50% mortality rate during the first 6 months and that polydactyl cats live in pain. In fact the kitten mortality rate in polydactyls is no different to that in normal-foot cats. Possibly polydactyly is still being confused with the severely disabling radial hypoplasia.
BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) LEGISLATION AGAINST HYBRID AND FOLD-EARED CATS (APRIL 2019)
Being the home of the EU, it is not surprising to see legislation in Brussels. The banning of certain cat breeds was reported by The Brussels Times on 15th April, 2019. This has recently been decided by the Brussels government by approving at first reading of a preliminary draft of this new law. According to “La Dernière Heure” newspaper, the Brussels government has banned certain hybrid cat breeds from the city due to risks associated with their behaviour and health. The Bengal and the Savannah may not be bred or sold in Brussels anymore, because they are “not adapted to a life in captivity.” The Brussels Council for Animal Welfare is “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” and failing to distinguish between early generation hybrids and those that are many generations removed from a wild ancestor.
Secretary of State for Animal Welfare Bianca Debaets (CD & V) was supported in her choice by two opinions of the Brussels Council for Animal Welfare. "The first generations of hybrid breeds do not behave appropriately for life in captivity, which can cause serious problems. On the other hand, they present the problem of lack of fertility and their gestation period is not the same as that of domestic cats. During mating, the risk of aggression is very high.” The ruling overlooks the fact that from the F4 generation onwards these cats are so far removed from the wild ancestor that their temperaments, behaviour and requirements are those of a domestic cat and show only the variability seen in non-hybrid domestic cats. It is only the early generation hybrids that display non-domestic traits, meaning there is no need to ban the later generations. So why can’t Brussels selectively ban the early generations, as happens in some US cities? Undesirable genetic traits have been eliminated from the gene pool by selective breeding.
The Scottish Fold and Highland Fold will also become illegal in Brussels, following advice from the Animal Welfare Council, due to a serious genetic problem that can lead to cartilage malformations in the entire skeleton and severe pain. "This congenital malformation causes severe pain and chronic arthritis. To avoid this suffering, it is decided to ban the breeding, marketing and ownership of these cats, and to achieve a gradual extinction , " says Bianca Debaets, State Secretary for Animal Welfare CD&V). The Scottish and Highland Folds must be sterilized to prevent them from further breeding. By generations of breeding fold-eared cats to straight-eared cats, and never to another fold-eared cat, the problem has been limited, although thus far it has not been eradicated. Selective breeding of only the most healthy cats has hugely reduced the incidence of skeletal issues. The ruling has been made on out-of-date information.
According to Yvan Beck, a Brussels veterinarian. "This is a minority problem compared to other issues to be addressed in terms of animal welfare. During my career I was dealing with very few cats of these breeds and those that I could cure did not have these characteristics, "he explains. "At the Savannah level, it is true that it is a very independent cat but I have never observed behavioural problems. As for the Scottish Fold, there are now almost no issues. Regarding the owners of hybrid cats, what will they do when the law comes into force? Euthanize their cats? It's absurd. I will never accept euthanizing a hybrid cat that is in good health."
Indeed, once the law is applicable, keeping hybrid cats will be totally forbidden. Owners who wish to keep their cat will have to report it to the Brussels government in order to get a permit. The latter will give an opinion and if the report is negative, they will euthanize their animal. However, the Secretary of State emphasised that such extreme measures will be very rare. "The opinion will almost never require owners to euthanize their cat, except in extreme cases."
“We want to know where those cats are,” said Eric Laureys of the Debaets cabinet, “officially, there are currently 65 of those cats in Brussels, but there may be more.”.
BELGIUM: OPINION OF THE WALLOON COUNCIL FOR ANIMAL WELFARE CONCERNING THE SPECIFIC CASE OF HYPERTYPES AND GENETIC DISEASES LINKED TO CAT BREEDS.
(Approved on November 24, 2020)
[This is a full translation of a French language document. I have added some notes because it is fundamentally flawed, genetically out-of-date and lacks input from cat genetics experts.]
The objective of breeding domestic animals is to select and set the characteristics that humans consider relevant (e.g. coat length or type, size, working skills, etc.). Cat breed standards were created in the 19th century and list the distinctive characteristics common to individuals of the same breed. A "typical" animal is considered a good representative of its breed. In cats particularly, we can see that part of society pays particular attention to the beauty, well-being and health of animals. In certain situations, selective breeding results in animals which are "hypertyped" and/or carry genetic diseases that are (potentially) harmful or dangerous to their well-being and/or health.
The Walloon Council for Animal Welfare (CWBEA - Conseil Wallon du Bien-Être des Animaux) instructed a working group (WG / GT – groupe de travail) to give an opinion on the "problem of hypertypes and genetic diseases linked to cat breeds". The WG considered advising the Minister of Animal Welfare on dividing cat breeds and racial types into 3 groups: “ban,” “corrective measures essential to remove the hypertype,” and “undetermined corrective measures.” The attached document, finalized on 18th September 2020, develops each of these groups. The Council at its meeting of November 24, 2020 adopted the conclusions of the working group .
[Note 1. The Royal Society of Saint Hubert issues a minority opinion on behalf of the Union des Clubs Félins Belge (UCFB): The UCFB, which did not participate in the work of the WG, does not agree with these conclusions. It disputes
CONCLUSIONS OF THE "PROBLEM OF HYPERTYPES AND DISEASES LINKED TO RACES AND RACIAL TYPES IN THE BREEDING OF CATS" WORKING GROUP.
To carry out its work, the working group (WG) defined the following terms:
Race = lower taxonomic rank of the species. An animal population resulting, by selective breeding, from the subdivision of the same species and possessing a certain number of common characteristics that can be transmitted from one generation to another (Larousse, 2012). Humans choose a number of traits from the parents, whether aesthetic, utilitarian or behavioural, and control reproduction in order to select for these traits (Michel, 2017).
Variety = a subdivision within the breed with particular characteristics (fur, colour, size,…).
Breed standard = a detailed theoretical description of the morphology, coat and behavioural characteristics (gait, temperament) of individuals belonging to a specific animal breed. It is the product of agreement between breeders of a given breed and it represents their consideration of “ideal” conformation.
Hypertype = Extreme emphasis on distinctive breed traits which deviate from the mean value of the breed standard (Guintard and Class, 2017). It is problematic when the health and/or well-being of the hypertyped animal is affected.
(In Guintard et Class, 2017, Bull. Acad. Vét. France, 170(5): 230-248)
[Messybeast note: this graph is fallacious and shows lack of feline genetic knowledge. Cats do not following a standard distribution curve. Most genes are either "on" or "off" without intermediate states.]
Welfare = The welfare of an animal is the positive mental and physical state related to being able to satisfy its physiological and behavioural needs, as well as its expectations. This state varies depending on the animal's perception of the situation (Anses, 2018).
Deleterious phenotype = A set of characteristics that alter the well-being of an animal. The phenotype depends on the expression of genes (genotype) and the environment.
Deleterious genotype (hereditary genetic disease) = An alteration in health and/or state of well-being, transmissible to offspring and caused by DNA mutations.
Integrity = The integrity of an animal is defined as 'the whole and intact character of an animal, representing the right balance for its species, as well as the ability to meet its needs in an environment adapted to the species' . "However, if an intervention is aimed at the good of the individual, we are not talking about an attack on his integrity ".
Respect for integrity can be conceived in an absolute way (no intervention of any kind whatsoever would be allowed on the animal) or relative (this type of attack on the integrity ("dignity") of the animal is described in the Swiss federal law on animal protection in article 3). The WG has chosen not to set an acceptable limit to this integrity, due to a certain difference of opinion among its members.
Thus, the need to have, for example, a tail, whiskers or hair in order to determine the whole and intact character of the animal, relates to both the notions of integrity and well-being. For some WG members, integrity and well-being are intertwined and breaches of integrity should be avoided. For others, the effects of an alteration of integrity on the well-being of cats are not always quantifiable, due to a lack of current knowledge in the matter (this is contested by some members of the WG). The WG, by virtue of its composition, was therefore unable to reach a consensus opinion on the existing relationship between integrity and well-being.
[Note 2: Freely translated from: ‘“Wholeness and intactness of the animal and its species-specific balance, as well as the capacity to sustain itself in an environment suitable to the species.” L.J.E. Rutgers and, F.R. Heeger. “Inherent Worth and Respect for Animal Integrity” in Recognizing the Intrinsic Value of Animals: Beyond Animal Welfare, ed. M. Doletal. (Assen: VanGorcum, 1999).]
Note 3: Freely translated from: "However, when the intervention is directed toward the animal’s own good, we do not speak of a violation of its integrity" (Brave New Birds: The Use of 'Animal Integrity' in Animal Ethics. Bernice Bovenkerk, Frans W.A. Bromand Babs J. van den Bergh. The Hastings Center Report, Vol.32, No.1 (Jan.-Feb.,2002), pp.16-22.)]
On the basis of these definitions, the WG has identified 3 groups of problem breeds and proposes measures according to these groups. So that this classification of breeds and the measures that accompany them are well understood by the general public and breeders/fans of these breeds, the WG insists on communication with regard to the well-being of these animals (pain, suffering and/or potential discomfort related to race). As far as possible, the measures taken by Wallonia following this opinion should be standardized at national or even European level.
For all feline breeding, genetic tests are constantly being developed. The WG recommends using them as soon as they are available. In addition, the risk of inbreeding linked to a significant decrease in numbers must be taken into account. On the other hand, for the first two groups, urgent measures must be taken.
GROUP I – PROHIBITION.
Group of races, or groups of individuals within a race (genetic variants) whose reproduction, advertising, import, exhibition, acquisition and possession are to be prohibited because the majority of individuals of these races or genetic variants develop suffering, pain or discomfort. Animals already held when the legislation comes into force are not affected by the prohibition on possession. Classification in this category requires urgent measures to stop the production of these animals. The long-term objective of these is to eliminate the representatives who compose this group.
One (or more) mutations in one (or more) genes is associated with the problem makes it possible to apply the above prohibition measures if the mutation(s) affects all carrier animals (e.g. Fold) and would make it possible to prevent the breeding of those animals likely to develop a health problem (e.g. Manx and Munchkin).
- Fold: Considering the opinion of the Brussels Council for Animal Welfare, the CWBEA met and addressed the subject of Scottish Fold breeding in the plenary session of November 26, 2018 and during a dedicated working group (WG) on January 22, 2019. On the basis of this, the CWBEA submitted an opinion dated 02/11/2019 (accessible online). [Messybeast note: this refers to a link, but no URL is given]
- Munchkin : Cats suffer from hypochondrodysplasia ("short legs") due to an autosomal dominant mutation. The presence of this mutation is lethal before birth in dominant homozygotes, heterozygous cats are dwarfed. Homozygous recessive cats do not present any peculiarities. Many feline associations do not recognize this breed. The phenotype can be considered sufficient to determine whether the animals are carriers of this mutation (identical to Folds but there is no genetic test for Munchkin). [Note 4: Minority opinion of the FIFe representative: In the breeding of Manx and Munchkin, no structural problem is known in the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe.) We agree that the precautionary principle should apply by removing those individuals with medical problems in breeding, but not by eliminating the entire variety. ]
Specific recommendation [Munchkin]: No holding, reproduction, advertising, import, exhibition or acquisition or be permitted. No action is required for recessive homozygotes who are of normal size. Only the breeding of animals without the “Munchkin” phenotype is acceptable. [Messybeast note: this defeats the definition of the Munchkin breed]
The same recommendations are given for crosses:
o Bambino (Sphynx x Munchkin),
o Napoleon (Persian x Munchkin)
o Dwelf (Munchkin x Sphynx x American Curl)
Animals already owned when the legislation comes into force are not affected by the prohibition on possession. [Messybeast note: Bambino and Dwelf also prohibited on grounds of hairlessness, Napoleon – obsolete name for Minuet breed - also prohibited if it has brachycephalic head type.]
- Manx (shorthair) / Cymric (longhair) : cats have an absent or short tail (4 variations because 4 types of gene variants). This peculiarity is due to an autosomal dominant mutation. In dominant homozygotes, this mutation is lethal before birth. Heterozygous cats have no tail or a short tail. Recessive homozygotes have normal phenotype. Heterozygotes present a risk of developing spina bifida but there is no predisposition to the musculoskeletal pathologies identified compared to European-type cats (Vapalahati and al., 2016). Spina bifida is a congenital malformation of the spine that appears in the embryonic stage (classic medical presentation).
Specific recommendation: Not to be kept. The WG cannot support a tailless morphotype knowing that it is associated with a risk of developing spina bifida. The proportion of Manx suffering from this condition (spina bifida) is not known. The genes and environmental factors that affect the genetic expression of spina bifida have not yet been identified and it is not possible to implement methods to reduce the adverse effects of the Manx gene. However, from an ethical point of view, maintaining a breed whose characteristic is based on such a deleterious gene should be considered. Animals should benefit from the precautionary principle. Recessive homozygotes (long tail) are not affected. Animals already owned when the legislation comes into force are not affected by the prohibition on possession.
- Twisty Cat / Kangaroo Cats: These cats present with atrophy and deformation of the radius and ulna leading to twisted limbs and a kangaroo posture. The mutation is caused by a single gene that varies in expression.
Specific recommendation: Even though the WG is not aware of Twisty Cats kept in Wallonia, this is an ethically and medically unacceptable breed. It recommends the prohibition of possession, importation, display and acquisition. Animals already owned when the legislation comes into force are not affected by the prohibition on possession. [Messybeast note: this is not even a breed – which shows the lack of knowledge within the WG, but is a term for cats with the condition, often rescue cats. This article would therefor affect the welfare of affected rescue cats by making it illegal to rehome them.]
- Dominant white trait: this trait is linked to blue eyes and can lead to deafness. A genetic test should determine if it is the dominant white trait (W locus). [Messybeast note: this is out of step with genetics of white and white spotting, which are mutations at the same locus.]
Specific recommendation: the pairing of 2 cats carrying the dominant white gene (homozygous and heterozygous) must be prohibited. A genetic test exists (e.g. Genomia).
GROUP II - CORRECTIVE MEASURES ESSENTIAL TO ELIMINATE THE HYPERTYPE.
Group of breeds or gene variants whose reproduction, advertising, importation, exhibition and acquisition require immediate corrective measures to be taken against them because, in their current state, the welfare of the animals concerned is impaired (breeding standards, genetic tests, morphometry, etc. ). The corrective measures envisaged by the WG are the responsibility of the Commission mentioned at the end of the advice.
- Persian/Exotic: too pronounced brachycephaly is accompanied by breathing difficulties, eye pathologies and dental malocclusion. The exaggerated squashed muzzle of the Persian can also lead to stenosis to the point where the tear ducts are blocked.
Among the breeds that present a shortened face, we identify the British Shorthair and the Burmese. The impact of their facial conformation on health and well-being is yet to be determined. [Messybeast note: this shows lack of knowledge of the working group because European Burmese should have normal facial conformation, it is the American Burmese type that has a degree of brachycephaly.]
GROUP III - CORRECTIVE MEASURES TO BE DETERMINED
Group of breeds where scientific studies regarding possible harm to their welfare are insufficient, but for which the ethical question of maintaining these breeds is raised by the WG. Given the controversy, the WG is not in a position to comment due to lack of objective data. The Commission cited below will be able to shed light on the choice of breeds in this group.
Special recommendations for Group III: Breeds in this group should be scientifically monitored for harm to animal welfare. Studies on this subject should be encouraged. It is important that they are re-evaluated in the near future, including taking ethical aspects into account.  [Note 5 Minority opinion of animal protection: for this group, the ethical issue and issues related to well-being are sufficiently important to apply a precautionary principle. Immediate corrective action relating to the breeding, advertising, import, display and acquisition of these breeds must be taken.]
Sphynx: hairless cats due to a recessive mutation in the KRT71 gene. The phenotype is characterized by an absence of hairs and vibrissae. Crossbreeds with this breed (e.g. Elf: crossing of a Sphynx and an American Curl) are also affected by this measure. [Messybeast note: what about Donskoy and Peterbald mutations?]
Devon Rex: This breed has the peculiarity of having a modification to the synthesis of keratin which leads to the appearance of wavy or curly hair (mutation of the KRT71 gene) and therefore, to shorter whiskers. The other peculiarities of the breed are the large ears, the broad head, and a very short nose. Ethically speaking, the WG recognizes that whiskers are an essential sensory organ. Breeding cats without whiskers can be a welfare problem. However, in the current state of knowledge, the optimal length of a cat's whiskers has not been determined.
(Messybeast note: other breeds affected by this proposal are: American Bobtail, American Wirehair, Turkish Angora [dominant white issue], British Longhair, British Shorthair, Burmese [based on short-face American conformation], Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Donskoy, Exotic shorthair, Foreign White, German Rex, Japanese Bobtail, Karelian Bobtail, Khao Manee [dominant white issue], Kurilian Bobtail, LaPerm, Manx, Mekong Bobtail, Munchkin (and all similar short-legged breeds), Persian, Peterbald, PixieBob, Sacred Birman, Scottish Fold, Scottish Straight, Selkirk Rex, Sphynx, Turkish Van [high white issue?], Ural Rex. Also, all hybrids. The rationale for some is unclear, for example the non-Manx-gene Bobtailed breeds mentioned have no health issues.)
PROPOSAL OF ADDITIONAL ACTIONS
- Wide communication with the various stake-holders and the public.
- Creation of a Commission composed of experts (veterinarians and others) and members of the WG, which could ensure the implementation of the following measures:
1. Corrective actions for Group II:
- prohibit of reproduction of extreme types among these (the limit is to be determined for each breed or gene variant);
- mandate veterinary certification of the parents with regard to the respect of the physiological state of the animals;
- training and awareness of owners and breeders;
- evaluation of results obtained by the implementation of these measures (to be assessed after a number of generations); but a lack of improvement would eventually lead to banning the breed in question (it would move the breed to Group I).
2. Scientific research to support/improve the assessment of group III.
3. Position statement when introducing new breeds or racial varieties into the Walloon market.
ANNEX 1. COMPOSITION OF THE WORKING GROUP
1. Claire DIEDERICH. President of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare. Professor of Ethology and Animal Welfare at the University of Namur.
2. Sébastien DE JONGE. Member of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare as representative of animal shelters. Vice-President of UWPA.
3. Ann DE GREEF. Member of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare as representative of animal protection associations. Director of GAIA assembly.
4.Thierry TRAMASURE. (resigned on XX) V Neuvens (replacement) Member of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare as representative of the French-speaking Regional Council of the Order of Veterinary Doctors. Member of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare as representative of the Francophone Regional Council of the Order of Veterinary Doctors
5. Fabienne MARCHAND. Small Animal Veterinarian (feline clientele). Member of the UPV.
6. Johann DETILLEUX. Professor in Selective breeding of domestic animals (University of Liège).
7. Joeri VANRUSSELT. International cat show judge. Assembly Felis Belgica - president.
8. Philippe HENRY. Member of the Walloon Council for Animal Welfare as a representative of the pet breeding sector.
ANNEX 2. WORING GROUP MEETING DATES:
22-Jan-2019 (specific to Fold cats); 26-Feb-2019; 4-June-2019; 18-July-2019; 3-Sept-2019; 29-Nov-2019; 18-Feb-2020. (Due to Covid-19, worked remotely during the confinement period between mid-March and September 2020.) The WG stands at the disposal of Cabinet to respond to any request for in-depth analysis of any of these breed groups and/or their proposed classification and recommended actions.
American cat breeders are concerned that an equivalent "Convention for the Protection of Pets" could happen in their own country. Some humane societies, veterinary associations and animal rights groups would like to see comparable legislation on certain breeding practices (currently most are aimed at ear-cropping and tail-docking in dogs). The US government's Animal Welfare Act regulates conditions in breeding facilities, research facilities and shows., but breeding ethics remain the province of breeders and breed societies and are jealously guarded from interference.
So, at present there appears to be no comparable "legislation" (or potential legislation) in the USA although animal welfare organisations have voiced concerns against deliberate breeding of gross deformities such as Twisty Cats, while animal rights organisations additionally condemn many of the breeds/types targetted by the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals and for the same reasons (but in stronger language: "genetic disasters").
Responsible breeders are keen to point out that they not only minimize the potential for genetic abnormalities in their breeds, they raise money and participate in studies to find genetic markers for various diseases and to develop treatments and cures. Even so, some breeders are uneasy about seeing how far a certain look can be taken hence the slowly growing number of "Traditional" breeds.
In 2006, TICA proposed to clamp down on certain breeding trends. Their Genetics Committee report stated: "The Committee proposes that TICA does not accept any proposed breeds for Registration Only status that do not exhibit novel mutations. The current mutations would be reserved for currently recognized breeds exclusively. This would end the seemingly endless applications for "munchkinized" new breeds, and then deter the inevitable introduction of "rexed", "Bob-tailed" and Poly-ed" everything else."
AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION AGAINST BREEDS WITH DEFECTS
In Victoria, Australia, The Animals Legislation (Animal Care) Bill was released by the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Jo Helper MLA, on 11 Oct 2007. This included amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA) 1986 that would outlaw a number of cat breeds.
15C Breeding of animals with heritable defects:
For the Schedule to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 substitute Section 15C "Table of Diseases Caused By Heritable Defects". In cats, this means cats with the following must not be allowed to breed: Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD); Mutations causing aplasia or hypoplasia of any long bone; Folded ears due to osteochondrodysplasia.
This effectively prohibits the breeding of Munchkins and Scottish Folds, but interestingly (and demonstrating the inconsistency of the legislation) it did not mention Manx despite the effect of the gene on the vertebral column. The concern is that other states will follow Victoria's lead; in the meantime it would remain legal to breed Munchkins and Scottish Folds outside of Victoria. (In addition, in 2008 the Australian government has banned the importation and breeding of Savannahs through fears that dilute serval genes would turbo-charge the feral cat population.)
BRITISH (GCCF) DRAFT RULING
In Britain, during 2009 the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) strengthened its anti-polydactyl stance (this primarily affects the Maine Coon Polydactyl and Pixie-Bob). While other World Cat Congress member registries accept polydactyly as a harmless trait in these breeds, the GCCF remained close-minded and insistent that polydactyly is a genetic defect. At the April 2009 World Cat Congress meeting in Arnhem, The Netherlands, the GCCF delegate responded "Never" when asked if and when the GCCF would accept polydactyly. In spite of discussions by scientists at the meeting, the GCCF's position is that polydactyls are at "greatly increased risk of deleterious impact" and therefore should not be recognized nor accepted in the (Maine Coon) breed. The GCCF disregarded a British report into polydactyly known as the "Edinburgh Study".
The GCCF have gone even further and produced a extensive draft rewrite to the Breeding Policy. This could be a knee-jerk reaction after recent TV documentaries and RSPCA condemnation of dog breeds based on defects or it could be partially in line with European legislation. The new draft includes the GCCF refusing recognition to any new breed based upon structural anomalies, this specifically includes shortened limbs, shortened or bent tails, polydactyl feet, bent or deformed ears, hairlessness, or any miniaturized breed. Additionally the GCCF will require each Breed Advisory Committee to have in place a breeding policy by January 1st 2011, to be reviewed by the Genetics Committee to ensure they are comprehensive and consistent with the GCCF's General Breeding Policy. This could affect existing breeds with traits that would be unacceptable in new breeds (eg the Manx structural abnormality). Will the extreme flattened faces and high nose leathers of Persians, or the increasingly narrow skulled Siamese be banned? Somehow I don't think the GCCF will go that far for fear of losing members. The GCCF seems incapable of distinguishing between a harmless cosmetic trait such as normal polydactyly and the the unhealthy extremes already being shown. Put more simply, the GCCF has opted for the easy route of discriminating against mutations while failing at the difficult task of curtailing ultra-typing.
The appearance of spina bifida and other defects in the Manx/Cymric breed has led to Manx-type cats being used in biomedical research into human spina bifida. The cats used are those which have the Manx gene (where the cats came from is another matter - such cats are bred specifically for laboratory use, though the founding stock must have come from somewhere). This constitutes deliberate breeding of damaged individuals.
"The Manx cat is bred for an absent or shortened tail, but additional deformities of the sacrum and spinal cord are common. Osseous deformities of the Manx cat are variable and range from spina bifida to sacrococcygeal dysgenesis." (Disorders of the Lumbosacral Plexus, by Marc R. Raffe and Charles D. Knecht)
In papers relating to the use of cats in biomedical research (i.e. in vivisection), Michael S. Rand, DVM & Paula D. Johnson, DVM (Assistant Veterinary Specialist- University Animal Care, University of Arizona, Tucson) write "Spina Bifida: The spontaneous occurrence of this condition in the Manx cat has been offered by many investigators as a model through which to study the similar condition in humans. Detectable amounts of a-foetal protein in amniotic fluid have been reported in human pregnancies with neural tube defects. Similar detection has been verified in the Manx cat with neural tube anomalies. The clinical syndrome varies and can include megacolon, urinary incontinence with secondary predisposition to urinary infection, locomotor disorders, uterine inertia and chronic cystitis, along with the wide variety of bony anomalies. It appears to be an autosomal dominant trait with incomplete penetrance. The near absence of hydrocephalus and other CNS lesions in the cat model dims total homology, but this is the best known and most homologous model to date."
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
DeForest ME, Basrur PK. Malformations and the Manx syndrome in cats. Can Vet J 1979; 20: 304-11.
Marc R. Raffe and Charles D. Knecht: Disorders of the Lumbosacral Plexus
Schlueter C, Budras KD, Ludewig E, et al.. Brachycephalic feline noses CT and anatomical study of the relationship between head conformation and the nasolacrimal drainage system; Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009) 11, 891-900