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Municipality Of Amsterdam Moves To End Dog Shows In The City

The municipality of Amsterdam announced earlier on this month that they are seeking to end formally organised dog shows hosted in or by the city, including the annual Winner Dog Show held at Amsterdam’s large and bustling RAI convention centre. The RAI centre will also be hosting the large and prestigious World Dog Show in August, a large, international event that is once again held annually – but that won’t now be able to return to the city in future years.

As the current licences for dog shows at the RAI expire during 2018, the municipality has stated that it sees no benefit in extending the current licences for a further term, citing showing practices that are harmful or not beneficial to the health and welfare of competing dogs.

In this article we will examine why the municipality has reached this decision, the concerns that led to the decision to refuse to grant future licences, and how this move might have a knock-on effect on dog shows and showing practices in other countries like the UK. Read on to learn more.

What is changing in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam might not be an area most of us in the UK associate with large and prestigious dog shows, but like many major European cities, Amsterdam organises and hosts several medium to large formal pedigree breed shows each year, as well as playing host to other international shows in the capacity of a guest venue.

These shows include the city’s annual Winner Dog Show, and this year the World Dog Show, which attracts entrants from 66 different countries numbering over 33,000 individual dogs. The shows that are scheduled to take place at the RAI in the city this year – 2018 – will all go ahead as planned, but the municipality has announced that in future years, they will not grant the required licence to the RAI conference centre that hosts such shows. It is also highly unlikely that even should a suitable alternative venue be found in the city for future shows, a licence will be granted.

This means that from 2019 onwards, large formal pedigree dog shows probably won’t be able to take place in Amsterdam – and certainly not at the RAI centre, Amsterdam’s equivalent of the Birmingham NEC, host to the annual Crufts event in the UK.

Why has the municipality chosen to refuse future dog show licences in Amsterdam?

The municipality of Amsterdam faced questions about the World Dog Show’s Amsterdam event from a local council member, and held a number of meetings and consultations, as well as compiling information and reports on dog shows in the city, and their impact on the dogs that compete in them.

The concerns raised had several elements, including the welfare, handling and appropriate natural behaviours of competing dogs, as well as the wider issues of qualifying pedigree dogs and pedigree health issues.

Ultimately, the municipality found that granting future licences for the dog shows in question had no positive benefits that were not outweighed by animal-unfriendly practices.

The concerns that led to the decision

The reports and research upon which the council based their decision covered two main issues, which we will examine in more detail below.

The welfare of dogs at dog shows

The key findings in terms of the welfare and wellbeing of dogs that compete in dog shows were the first point of concern, with the following points featuring prominently:

  • Dog shows cause undue stress to competing dogs.
  • Transporting dogs to and from shows further adds to this stress, particularly if the dogs are transported over long distances or internationally.
  • Excessive grooming and trimming of competing dogs.
  • Being touched, handled and forced into close quarters with strange people at shows.
  • Tight leash walking and show ring practices being stressful and unnecessary.
  • Being in close quarters with a lot of other dogs.
  • Dogs being caged for long periods of time and sometimes, in too small or otherwise inappropriate kennels.
  • Dogs being pushed into performing for entertainment, which the reports cite as unnatural behaviour.

Pedigree breed concerns

As well as concerns over the welfare and natural behaviour of dogs when at dogs shows, the wider impact of show standards and breeding pedigree dogs for dog shows have also come under fire.

Veterinary surgeon Piet Hellemans, who was one of the specialists consulted, stated that big prizes are commonly awarded to dogs with a wide and diverse range of hereditary health and conformation defects including breathing difficulties and chronic lameness. The key conclusions cited within reports also include the rewarding of exaggerated physical traits in dogs in the show ring, and the number of winning dogs with health problems or physical defects.

Additionally, show winning dogs are often in great demand for stud and breeding, and breeding winning dogs with health issues increases the risks of inbreeding as well as the wider spread of hereditary health defects.

How might this decision impact upon other countries?

Amsterdam’s move to refuse licences for large pedigree dog shows is naturally a very controversial one, both within the Netherlands and further afield. The refusal is a bold step to take, and one that will see a significant impact on the city’s revenue; dog shows are big business, and making a decision to refuse licencing for future ones is not something that has been undertaken lightly.

It seems highly unlikely that the UK or other large and prominent countries with formal dog show circuits will follow Amsterdam’s decision; however, the Kennel Club and UK breed organisations cannot ignore the publicity that Amsterdam’s move has generated, and the spotlight that this will shine on pedigree dog showing practices in other countries too.

Whether the Amsterdam decision will have any real impact on the UK dog show circuit is something that remains to be seen. You can read more information on the Amsterdam decision (available in the original Dutch, with a translation option available) here.


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