from Charles Born, President, American Spaniel Club
As our members know the validity of the merle pattern and associated health issues in the Cocker Spaniel have concerned breeders for some time now. After some progress, in 2009 the ASC Board began a concerted effort to identify and understand the depth of the issue and what to do. In addition to our request to the AKC for Z registration status on merle Cockers which has been approved, at the direction of the ASC Board of Directors I asked the ASC Foundation to conduct a three-part study that included:
- Researching the evidence showing whether merle is or is not a Cocker Spaniel color.
- Researching the scientific evidence that the merle color can produce significant health issues.
- Developing an approach for educating breeders, owners and the general puppy buying population on the results of their investigations
The Scientific Research Committee assisted by the Grants Committee was tasked with conducting this study by ASCF President Dee Torgerson-Rismyhr. This combined task force was led by Doug McFarlane, a long-time Cocker fancier and English Cocker breeder and judge and a former member of ASC Board and many other Spaniel Boards and joined by Karen Yager, a PhD geneticists and Clumber breeder. You can read about their approach and methodology in the full study report.
My layman’s summary of their report is as follows: