THE final editorial for 2006 has arrived and a situation has come to my attention that is in need of discussion.
The New Zealand Kennel Club, if my sources are correct, has approved registration of 'silver' Labradors as a variation of chocolate Labradors. The controversy surrounding silver Labradors has been investigated for many years in USA and has never been proved because too much time and too many generations have passed since the appearance of the first ones to prove anything by DNA examination. In truth, its most likely origin is from a simple Labrador-weimaraner misbreed many years ago. The Labrador genes have never contained an allele for grey.
One wonders how the NZ Kennel Club allowed itself to be seen worldwide as gullible and totally lacking in knowledge of genetics - I am guessing that no other kennel clubs of any note will be following their example any time soon!
The American Kennel Club of course has recognised the silver colour as a form of chocolate since the 1930s, but history tells us that the first greys came from just two USA breeders of chocolate Labradors - both of which also bred weimaraners. The owners liked the colour and inbred them to retain it (which reveals their lack of genetic knowledge and their cavalier attitude to the pedigree standard). And later the kennel club, because the offspring looked like Labradors, allowed them to be registered as chocolate because they were bred through chocolate Labradors - there was no DNA testing in those days to back up any decisions.
The American situation is, however, rather different to that of New Zealand. The American Kennel Club does NOT set the show standard for the breed - that is set by the official National Labrador Club, which says that silver Labradors will never be able to be shown, as they are nothing but a miscolour in the same way a Labrador with brindle, patch or fleck markings is a miscolour. They are just not of show quality because their colour does not comply with the accepted pedigree standard and it never will!
But the damage for New Zealand is already done. Like the British Kennel Club that New Zealand usually follows, the NZ kennel club DOES set the standard for the New Zealand show scene and this ruling will allow any disreputable Labrador puppy farmer to import or breed and sell the puppies, for huge profits as the "first in New Zealand with the brand new coat colour" (actually nothing new about it - it is just that they are not pedigree and have been recognised as misbreeds in USA for about 80 years) unless the NZ Kennel Club is going to protect potential buyers by ruling that registrations must be accompanied by information about the origin, health problems and lack of show quality in the greys.
Personally I can not see them doing that when they have allowed silver-chocolate registrations. They can not register these dogs as pedigree and then call them a miscolour for show purposes! This is likely to mean that overseas judges will not now be asked to judge NZ Labrador classes as they will not accept 'silvers'? This will lead to New Zealand show Labradors being seen worldwide as of inferior stock, and will be rather a tragedy for genuine breeders of pedigree stock.
If New Zealand breeders follow the line of some unscrupulous USA breeders they will claim that these dogs are not bred to show but are nothing more than pets. However, I presume that most buyers do not know about that claim and are paying phenomenal pedigree prices for them, thinking they can show and breed them. This demonstrates the gullibility of the general population - a fact milked to the max by such puppy farmers.
The Kennel Club has certainly failed to think this through, and it has unfortunately taken a step that will alienate it from the show standards of Britain and other countries. The club has therefore badly let down its only member-breeders who actually work to uphold breed standards.
Because the greys have been so inbred in USA in order to maintain the colour, they are often not very healthy and now, many generations on, genetic illnesses are a very real threat. It is like the over-used stud dog - a few generations into the future and his recessive problem genes begin to make their debut because more and more dogs have his lines in their ancestry.
To any New Zealand resident contemplating buying one of these grey Labradors I would have to say: don't buy one of these if you want a pedigree dog for show or breeding. A search of their 'pedigree' should soon reveal that the records for this colour do not go back far (logically they should all go back to the chocolate 'mum and dad' who SUPPOSEDLY and suddenly threw a litter of greys... but we all know that is never going to happen!) and those who breed them have never been very diligent about recording parentage (I wonder why!!).
However, if you want only a pet, do not care that it does not comply with the colour standard of the breed, and are happy with the living conditions and health of the parents and grandparents, then by all means buy one. But please don't pay as much for it as you would a well-bred Labrador with good show conformation and health certificates. All you are getting is a miscolour that was misbred generations ago! - Elezabeth
Wishing all readers a very happy Christmas season and the happiest and healthiest possible New Year, 2007.