THE “SILVER LABRADOR” IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

In the United Kingdom it was never possible to register dogs with the “dilute” (d) gene as Labrador Retrievers. Until 2006, when a British breeder imported several “silver Labradors” to the United Kingdom and started breeding them. These dogs all came from a worrying long line of dilutes.

The “dilute” (d) gene surfaced in the United States in the late forties and early fifties of the last century. In those years there were no DNA tests available, and unfortunately these dogs were registered as Labrador Retrievers. The breeder who produced these dogs, Mayo Kellogg from Kellogg Kennels, was an important customer of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Kellogg bred several breeds, including the Weimaraner, a breed which carries the “dilute” (d) gene, and the dogs often ran free. Initially these dogs were registered as “silver” or “charcoal”, until the Labrador Retriever Club Inc. (LRC), the parent club of the American Labrador Retriever clubs, objected against these practices. From that moment the “dilute” (d) dogs were registered with the recognized three coat colours of the Labrador Retriever.

More than half a century later we sadly have to observe that the American studbook of the Labrador Retriever, as maintained by the American Kennel Club (AKC), contains more than 35,000 dogs that carry the “dilute” (d) gene. Not all carriers are also phenotypically affected. However, these dogs that only carry the gene are passing it on to their offspring. This means that we simply can not be satisfied with a phenotypical (” by eye”) check, let alone by simply looking at an AKC pedigree certificate. Genetic research of these dogs by means of DNA tests will need to take place to make sure that the stud book stays closed. Any presence of the “dilute” (d) gene in the Labrador Retriever is unacceptable.

The Kennel Club maintains the studbook of the Labrador Retriever, with guidance of the LRC, and has the task of ensuring that only purebred Labradors are registered in the studbook .

In that respect, it seems that the registry of the Labrador Retriever has gone wrong. This concerns not only me, but also the Labrador Clubs in the United Kingdom and abroad.

DOUBTFUL PEDIGREE CERTIFICATES

The cause of these concerns lies in the fact that more and more dogs are imported from the United States, with pedigree certificates from the American Kennel Club (AKC), which state that the dogs are Labrador Retrievers with the colours black, yellow or chocolate, while in reality these are dogs that are carriers of the so-called “dilute” (d) gene. The d gene is characterized by a “diluted” coat colour and light eyes, which are called “charcoal” or “blue” if the base colour is black, “champagne” if the base colour is yellow, and “silver” if the base colour is chocolate. In particular, the “silvers” are becoming more and more popular with the general public and substantial amounts of money are paid for puppies and adult dogs.

On first sight it seems that there is nothing to worry about these practices, because these dogs are imported with the recognized colours on their pedigree certificates, and as such they can formally be entered in the Kennel Club studbook. However, the duties of the Kennel Club as keeper of the studbook surpass that of formally administrator. One can not pretend that nothing is wrong, only because of the fact that the paperwork looks okay.

The fact is that the “dilute” (d) gene or locus is alien to the Labrador Retriever breed. This gene is simply not present in the breed as we know it. In order to keep the studbook closed, and maintain the purity of the Labrador Retriever breed, the Kennel Club should ensure that no genes alien to the breed are entering the breed. Covert operations like opening a closed studbook in a sneaky way is not what the public expects from a respectable organization like the Kennel Club.

We, the people who love and value the Labrador Retriever breed as we know it from Boothgates, Sandylands, Stormley, Fabracken, Foulby, Mardas, Kupros, Donalbain, Lindall, Poolstead, Ballyduff, Beechcroft, Dickendall, Jayncourt, Lobuff, Chablais, Tormentil, Tabatha, etc., are expecting a quite different dog when we think of Labrador Retrievers. We expect to see a Labrador that looks like a Labrador, a Labrador that’s black if its pedigree says it’s black; a Labrador that’s yellow if its pedigree says it’s yellow; a Labrador that’s chocolate if its pedigree says it’s chocolate. The dilution gene (d) is alien to the Labrador Retriever breed, so diluted dogs, “silver”, “charcoal”, or “champagne”, cannot be purebred Labradors. The American Kennel Club (AKC) however begs to differ. And The Kennel Club has a deal with the AKC: thou shall not doubt our pedigrees.

NOT JUST A DIFFERENT COLOUR

Throughout the years, Labrador breeders have worked hard to eliminate undesired traits and illnesses in the breed. With the fouling of our trusted bloodlines with the dilution gene, various expressions of the dilution gene have been noted. Some dogs with dilute color display minimal or no health problems; other dogs experience hair loss and skin problems. Color dilution alopecia (CDA) and black hair follicular dysplasia (BHFD) can accompany coat color dilution. These diseases cause recurrent skin inflammation and drying, bacterial infections of hair follicles and severe hair loss. Other disorders that could travel with the dilution gene are trembling disorders and behavioral problems that are more common in the Weimaraner.

The Labrador Retriever Club Inc. is the AKC Parent Club of the Labrador Retriever. On May 12, 2014, the LRC published the following message on their website: “Very exciting news – the OFA has agreed to maintain a database of Labradors who have been permanently identified (microchip or tattoo ) and have been tested for the d gene. Dogs having the genotype dd will be listed as affected, Dd as carriers of the dilute gene and DD as clear of the dilute gene. This is great news for us.”

Note: The Orthopedic Foundations for Animals (OFA) only registers hereditary diseases (or the lack of those) in their databases. So it’s not a simple matter of “a different colour”.

Three renowned genetic laboratories, Vetgen, Laboklin, and the Van Haeringen Group, have confirmed to me in writing that it is perfectly possible to show the presence of the “dilute” (d) gene. These studies have already been developed and can be used today. The costs are about 50 pounds.

The National Kennel Clubs have the means to prevent non-purebred dogs to enter the studbooks. If in doubt about the presence of the “dilute” (d) gene in Labrador Retrievers, one should require the applicant of a pedigree certificate to proof that this particular dog or litter is free from the “dilute” (d) gene, by means of DNA testing by accredited laboratories.

I would like to ask the Board of the Kennel Club to require that any Labrador Retriever that is imported in the United Kingdom has to show the results of a DNA test proving that the dog is free from the “dilute” (d) gene. This should also apply to any Labrador Retriever when there are doubts about the purity, regarding the presence of the “dilute” (d) gene.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SET THIS SITUATION RIGHT AND PREVENT FURTHER DISASTERS?

1. The thirteen Labrador Retriever Breed Clubs in the United Kingdom and the Labrador Breed Council can decide that any dog carrying the dilution (Dd or dd) gene can not be a purebred Labrador Retriever.

2. The thirteen Labrador Retriever Breed Clubs in the United Kingdom and the Labrador Breed Council can decide that therefore such dogs should not be registered by The Kennel Club as Labrador Retrievers.

3. The thirteen Labrador Retriever Breed Clubs in the United Kingdom and the Labrador Breed Council can decide that a DNA test of the dilution locus of every Labrador Retriever is required before registration by The Kennel Club.

4. The thirteen Labrador Retriever Breed Clubs in the United Kingdom and the Labrador Breed Council can decide that any offspring of any diluted “Labrador Retriever” already registered by The Kennel Club, will not be registered by The Kennel Club.

Finally, I would like to ask the Board of the Kennel Club to look into the practices of registering “dilutes” with the remark “Colour Not Recognized”. Although these practices might seem to be effective, they are not. Breeders and owners of “dilutes” are clever enough to register their dogs with the recognized colours black, yellow and chocolate, and some Kennel Clubs, like the AKC, willfully cooperate with these frauds. A “silver” Labrador is not a chocolate Labrador, a “charcoal” Labrador is not a black Labrador, and a “champagne” Labrador is not a yellow Labrador, not even when a foreign Kennel Club has registered the dog as such. They are simply not purebred Labradors. The task of the Kennel Club is to guard the purity of the breed. This is a very serious task .

In September 2014 I was able to identify 384 “Labradors” in the Kennel Club’s registration which were either carriers or affected by the dilution gene.Ddilutes are being produced in the United Kingdom on a near industrial scale, and The Kennel Club sits still and does nothing about it. Registrations of these dilutes on a large scale is not a problem whatsoever, and if you ask the Kennel Club about this, they say, “We trust the people to be honest when they register their dogs.”

Well, as you can see, this “honesty” approach doesn’t work. In the mean time the dilute breeders keep filling their pockets and keep fouling the Labrador gene pool with their dilutes, on an ever larger scale. Without any restrictions.

Only a strong and determined Breed Council can stop this very serious situation.

Jack Vanderwyk.
September 2014

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About Jack Vanderwyk

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