When you decide as a family to bring a puppy into your heart and home it's an exciting time. Once you've decided on the breed and met 'the one' all that's left is to wait until he can come home, all the while building up to the exciting moment.
Thoughts undoubtedly turn to the future; things you'll do and places you'll visit. But how would you react if you lost your dog at the tender age of nine-months old and their breeder tried to destroy your reputation?
That's exactly what happened to one family who recently shared their story with us.
The Hyde family had been long time dog lovers and in March 2015 they took dark coated Afghan Hound home at eight-weeks old. While meeting the puppy they would name Mason they had fallen in love with a second puppy from the same litter with a cream coat and so two weeks later, they brought home Lunar. The family, including eight-year old daughter Grace, were overjoyed and had promised to keep in touch with the breeder.
Mason, pictured left with Lunar, pictured right
What followed over the next few months has led to the family receiving threats, police phone calls, abuse and character defamation - but all this pales into insignificance with the health problems ahead for their two boys as a result of hip dysplasia (HD). And they wouldn't be the only ones.
Something was wrong
Mr Hyde says, "We brought the boys home in March. In September we had to urgently take Mason to vet as he was screaming in pain when he jumped off the sofa. On checking him over, our vet found Mason’s hip had dislocated completely and he was put on strong pain relief till he could be x-rayed the following morning. In our vet’s opinion dislocation of this severity should not have happened in such a young puppy."
He continues, "The following day Mason was X-rayed and was found to have severe hip dysplasia in both hips. The x-ray showed that one hip had come completely out as there was no socket for the hip to sit in and that the other hip was no better. We informed the breeder that our vet had told us the x-rays confirmed that Mason suffered from severe hip dysplasia. The breeder’s response was not of concern, as would have been expected, but that ‘we were not to inform anyone of this as it would ruin her reputation as a breeder.’ We were shocked and upset at her response.
"Five days after his first vet visit, Mason was seen by an orthopaedic specialist vet who confirmed he had severe HD and he was placed on pain relief and complete crate rest as he was too young to have a hip replacement. Operating was not an option until he had stopped growing as he needed to be at least 10 months before the surgeon could do it."
Two months later his second hip dislocated and there was nothing anyone could do to save him from the horrendous pain.
The family's vet told them they should put him to sleep in their arms. Mason lost his battle at 9 months old and the family had to return home to break the news to their devastated daughter.
Mr Hyde says, "Grace was heartbroken. She had watched Mason grow from a puppy and to suddenly lose him was very hard for an eight-year old child to understand. Mason’s death affected Grace for a long time. She became withdrawn, destructive and wrote many letters to him. She missed him terribly and was struggling to cope emotionally without him. She even imagined he was running around the field at her school."
Throughout this, the family attempted to keep in touch with the breeder, assuming at the very least she would want to know. After initially letting the breeder know the situation, costs involved the breeder said 'I am supposed to ask to take the dog back, but I know that’s not an option', and I cannot help as I am maxed out on my credit cards. The family told us they said that they wouldn't have asked this anyway as their dogs were part of their family, but they may need to fundraise online for the operation costs. Mr Hyde says, "Again, she was only concerned with her reputation."
The following month the family received a phone call from the police who had been told by the breeder the Hyde’s had been harassing them for money. They tell us this was simply not true but the story changed when the police, happy that they needn't intervene, went back to the breeder.
Mr Hyde says, “The Police were invited to check all our emails and phone calls to prove what breeder said was totally untrue and they confirmed there was no evidence to substantiate her accusations of harassment. The Police informed us it was a civil matter but advised us to only have contact with the breeder through a solicitor. The Police later got in touch with us, having had contact with the breeder again, and stated it was not us who were harassing her, but a third party. We have no idea of who this is, or indeed if it is even true!
"These lies being spread could have had serious implications for me. I require a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check every year as I work with vulnerable people and I could have been suspended from work which would have had a severe impact on my family. Fortunately, after explaining what was going on to my boss, my employers believed me and were very supportive."
How Mason's story changed everything
Sharing what had happened with friends and family, Mrs Hyde posted on her own Facebook wall to explain what happened to Mason and why he had to be put to sleep.
Mr Hyde says, "My wife was harassed after posting Mason's story. This was when all of the nasty and vile things started to happen. The breeder stated on her wall that we were under Police investigation for harassment. She started telling people we had failed to take Mason to the vet in time as he had in fact broken his leg jumping off the sofa! Far from the truth. We then found out that the breeder and a few of her friends were telling people that the problem was because we had over walked the puppies and underfed them. Again, untrue.
"The breeder also private messaged a friend of my wife’s to say that we had a Police Caution placed by them against us and they were waiting on a Court date for this - this lie was perpetuated by her friends telling anyone who would listen. We rang the same Police Officer who had contacted us previously to explain what the breeder had written. He stated that at no time did we receive a Police Caution. He confirmed again that it was a civil matter and not a criminal one. He stated he would go and see the breeder, explain this to her, inform her that she had no right to say this about us and warn her not to carry on doing so.
"We found some people within the Afghan Hound breed were informing others that the breeder was continuing to spread further lies about us, telling people that she was still awaiting a Police Court date and that we were still under Police investigation. We went again to our local Police station to inform them of the further accusations being spread against us and they forwarded it to the Police officer dealing with it. The officer at the Police station confirmed that we had done nothing wrong and there was no Police investigation on us either currently or previously. All of these accusations were made by the breeder to destroy our credibility, grind us down emotionally and protect her reputation."
Half of Mason's litter had Hip Dysplasia
Throughout all of this, the family coped with Mason's loss and noticed Lunar beginning to show signs of hip dysplasia (HD) - a condition that as time would tell would reveal a third dog from their litter named Arnie would also suffer and, like Mason, lose his life as a result of it.
Of the three dogs who would go on to be diagnosed, Lunar is the only one to survive.
He was first diagnosed with HD in December 2015. He needed 24/7 care and rest, the family were determined they wouldn't lose a second dog. Anyone who has ever lost a dog will be able to sympathise.
A month later Lunar was x-rayed to be hip scored by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club scheme and results came back in March. My Hyde says, "He had a hip score of 33/44 with a total of 73. This is terrible."
He continues, "We wrote to the breeder to inform her of the findings of the BVA and hip score and also they had looked at Mason’s x-rays. We enclosed a copy of the letter sent to us by the BVA stating that Mason also had severe HD. With two puppies out of the same litter having severe HD I asked the Kennel Club to write to the breeder, which they did. They told me this was all they could do and offered her advice on what was the ‘best practice for breeding healthy dogs’.
Lunar has since had both hips replaced and battled post-op health complications.
"When people found out Lunar also had HD we were again blamed for causing it and we went through all the vile nasty things all over again, and yet again attempts were made to destroy our credibility. It has been a bad 18 months and it has changed our lives. We had been posting Lunar’s story on Facebook and his recovery was being watched by many people around the world who were shocked at what happened to him and to how we had been treated by his breeder."
It was through sharing their story on Facebook the Hyde family found out about Arnie, the third puppy from the litter who also had HD and was owned by the Daykin family.
Mr Daykin told us, "My wife had researched the breed carefully and was aware that according to the internet 5% of Afghan Hounds can have a problem with hip dysplasia. The Kennel Club Registered breeders were quite clear that it was not a problem in the breed and they had certainly never come across it in any of their dogs.
"Reassured by this we purchased the puppy and we called him Arnie. He was an absolute delight and began developing into the most wonderful dog." In October 2015 the family noticed his hip was clicking intermittently. Mr Daykin says, "My wife started to worry so we took him to the breeders for advice. Having seen him walk around they said he was absolutely fine and he was fit and healthy. They reassured us there was absolutely nothing to worry about. We came away feeling very relieved and so appreciative of the breeders giving their advice.
"Arnie continued to develop into a beautiful dog and was a real character and typically for an Afghan Hound was very lazy.
"In late March 2016 Arnie was playing with one of our sons when he suddenly yelped in pain and had to lie down. We took him to the vets who were quite concerned and arranged for Arnie to have an x-ray.
"To our complete shock the x-ray revealed that Arnie had severe hip dysplasia on both hips, one of which was in a serious condition. The vet described them as being an absolute mess and he could click one of them in and out. I telephoned and e-mailed the breeder who said she was in shock and could not believe it had happened.
"He was referred to the Liverpool University Small Animal Teaching Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed in May 2016 and the only option was a replacement hip operation on the worst hip and when he had recovered from that the other hip would also need replacing.
Arnie was a terrible traveller according to his owners, so every journey was very stressful for him. He really struggled being away from home.
Mr Daykin continues, "Arnie had the operation in June 2016 and we nursed him until he was due to return for a check-up. Arnie had 24/7 nursing and he found being in an enclosed pen very difficult. He was never able to walk unaided.
"The breeders came around to see him at short time before Arnie was due to go back to the animal hospital for a check up. They confirmed that they wouldn’t assist financially with his treatment and were astounded at our commitment in looking after Arnie as well as our tremendous affection and bond with him.
"The breeders found it quite amusing and reminded them of one of their old friends. They said they could never commit so much time and effort to a dog. They made a bizarre offer to take him with them and we concluded that as they wouldn’t commit their time and money their next visit would have been the vets to have Arnie put to sleep.
"Sadly when we took him back to hospital Arnie’s replacement hip had dislocated and the other hip had deteriorated so much that it had also displaced and would need replacement as soon as possible. The only option was to try and repair the hip again and go through the same nursing period. We took Arnie home and cared for him and then returned two weeks later for the operation. We waited hopefully and the operation went well but next day it was found that the replacement hip had dislocated again, whilst he was in his cage in hospital, a very rare event.
"We went to the hospital and after a long discussion with the surgeon who was brilliant, we saw Arnie. He looked so dejected and uncomfortable. His eyes were so dull and sad. He just didn’t cope well with being in hospital. As the surgeons did not know why the hip kept dislocating, the surgeon said there was no guarantee that yet another operation would be successful or that he may have very little movement in his back legs. In addition there was no support from the other hip and there was very little muscle to give the joint any real chance of success. We felt we had no option but to do what was best for Arnie and make the devastating decision to have him put to sleep. We took him home and he is now buried at my Sister in Law’s Farm.
"It is now that the true deceit and dishonesty of the breeders was revealed. My son posted Arnie’s loss on facebook. He noticed that a white Afghan Hound who had had a successful hip operation. He contacted the owners Mr and Mrs Hyde to see if it was related to Arnie."
Grieving families connected
Mr Hyde says, "Two months after his first hip replacement we received a private message regarding Lunar and the person told me that they had just lost Arnie, their young Afghan boy who had to be put to sleep at just 19 months old. When I read who the sire and dam of this boy were, I saw he was a litter brother to Mason and Lunar. There were only six puppies in this litter and three had severe HD. I wondered what the chances were for the other dogs and whether they would have it to some degree. I suspect though we will never know as the breeder has one, one went to Finland and one to a friend of the breeder.
"What is even worse regarding Arnie's story is his owners approached the breeder in November 2015 concerned about his movement and that he may be having problems with his hips. The breeder told them there was nothing wrong with Arnie and when they asked if there were any issues with any other puppies in the litter. The breeder totally denied there were any problems. This was all while knowing full well that Mason had to be put to sleep due to severe HD. The breeder continued to deny there was a problem and even when in April 2016 after she had been informed officially by the BVA and us…..she still chose not to tell Arnie’s owners!
A thought echoed unsurprisingly by Mr Daykin who says, "If any time during the many telephone conversations or e-mails they had informed us there was a problem with hip dysplasia in the litter we could have had Arnie checked at any early stage and an operation would have taken place six months earlier giving him a much chance of it being a success."
Mr Hyde continued, "If this breeder had been honest and concerned for the welfare of the puppies she bred, she would have told Arnie’s family of the HD problem and perhaps he would have stood a better chance of surviving. Sadly she was, as before, only concerned with her own reputation and to this date, she has shown no compassion for neither family nor the puppies.
"Since the publicity of a third puppy in this litter having HD was made public, people have seen the situation in a different light and have left us alone, but sadly it has taken the death of another puppy from another family for people to accept none of us were to blame for causing the HD and it was in fact a hereditary condition.
Will The Kennel Club intervene to stop future litters suffering?
Mr Hyde tells us The Kennel Club have told both families that there is nothing they can do. They will not insist on hip scoring before breeding even as a precautionary measure in Afghan Hounds.
He says, "In my opinion, The Afghan Hound Breed Council are equally ineffective in health issues and have declined to recommend hip scoring also, this in spite of HD having occurred in several UK breed lines in the last 15 years. Their view is that it is not sufficiently prevalent in the breed to require hip scoring. Both families requested to attend the Breed Council meeting in November 2016 at which this issue was being brought up for discussion but our request was refused, as was our request to attend the following meeting. We are still waiting to hear what was said regarding the discussion.
"It has been confirmed by our orthopaedic specialist and also by a specialist at Liverpool Veterinary Hospital that for three puppies to show such severe signs at such a young age this is a genetic problem and the recommendation is to have all breeding stock hip scored prior to considering mating. Sadly many of the Afghan breeders still refuse to accept that HD is a genetic problem and their silence is deafening."
According to current BVA records, in the last 15 years only 18 Afghans have been scored on the HD scheme
Mr Hyde tells us he has spoken with breeders about making changes. He says, "Since we brought this issue into the open, we are told a few breeders have hip scored their dogs and intend to before breeding, so a small amount of progress there.
"Unfortunately many still have the attitude that 'it’s not in my lines' To this I say 'Really?' Perhaps if they experienced the pain and loss we have experienced as a family and the screaming pain our puppies were in, then more might consider hip scoring and make efforts to reduce the chance of HD occurring in our precious breed."
A veterinary perspective
TV vet Emma Milne has spoken out on behalf of dog breeds suffering at the hands of bad breeding for some time. After reading the Hyde family's story she told us, "This is absolutely heartbreaking. One of the reasons I have been so outspoken against the Kennel Club is because they simply refuse to act for these animals. Even in breeds with well-known hip dysplasia issues like GSDs and Labradors they still won’t introduce mandatory tests which have made unequivocal improvements in welfare in other countries. In undeniable cases like this, why can’t the Kennel Club be more proactive?
"An individual breeder could be told they will not be registered again if action is not taken and tests are not done. Vets in practice everywhere see similar cases; the breeder is contacted and denies any involvement or previous problems. It is us vets and nurses that counsel the absolutely distraught families through the loss of young animals and it is heartbreaking for everyone concerned. How long can breed clubs and the Kennel Club continue to sit passively by and let this continue?"
What does the future hold for dogs like Mason, Lunar & Arnie?
"The dishonesty, deceit and callousness of the breeders as well as their attempts to cover up the problem within their breeding line for both financial reasons and to protect their reputation has prevented us giving Arnie the best chance of us sharing a full life with him. This is something we can never forgive", says Mr Daykin.
He continued, "We contacted the Kennel Club and despite some bland supporting sympathetic words all they would do, if I paid for a vet’s letter would be to notify the breeders of Arnie’s death."
By sharing their story he hopes it will serve as a warning to all potential dog purchasers "that professional breeders cannot always be trusted and most importantly the problems in this beautiful breed need to be addressed and not covered up."
K9 Magazine is calling upon the Kennel Club to act now to save future dogs.
The sad fact is that every day, week, month dogs are born who have minimal chance of a life without suffering as a result of breeding practices.
We believe if they truly want to echo the sentiments of their primary objective which states on their website is "to promote the general improvement of dogs" then they must change because what they're presiding over and have presided over has got us to this point in time.
If they continue to do the same, they cannot expect any different results and it's the dogs who will continue to suffer.