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Merle Color In Cocker Spaniels

Merle Color In Cocker Spaniels, ASCF Study
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:

  1. Researching the  evidence showing whether merle is or is not a Cocker Spaniel color.
  2. Researching the scientific evidence that the merle color can produce significant health issues.
  3. 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:

  • Is merle a Cocker Spaniel color? A peer-reviewed and validated scientific study of six different breeds with a merle mutation found the gene to be exactly the same in all the six breeds.  The study concluded that the merle mutation predates all dogs and is behind all breeds—quite possibly going back to their wolf ancestors.
  • Is the merle mutation a health risk? Yes.  While not every single merle Cocker has health issues, the preponderance of health issues directly and specifically associated with the merle genetic mutation has been identified in the peer-reviewed scientific studies highlighted in the study by the task force.
  • Lastly, education. We are starting this education with our members by providing the results of the study conducted by the task force and providing an open forum for questions and dialogue.  I wanted a study that was absent of opinion or bias and strong on scientific fact; my deepest gratitude goes to the committee and the ASCF for delivering on this.  American Spaniel Club members will have opportunities for Q&A with the task force through their Zone Representatives and other forums.  The details of this will be in the Bulletin coming out in March.

It is the opinion of the American Spaniel club Board of Directors that the breeding of this mutation should be stopped for the obvious health reasons identified in the study.  Our standard is already clear that this pattern is a confirmation disqualification.  We hope that through a combination of education and the tracking made possible with the Z registration we are providing information and knowledge to current breeders and to future generations of breeders to make informed choices.

Thank you,

Charles Born, President, American Spaniel Club, Feb. 2011


American Spaniel Club Foundation
Merle Color In Cocker Spaniels

December, 2010

Prepared by ASCF Scientific Research Committee

Douglas P. McFarlane, BS Mathematics, MS Computer Science
Karen L. Yager, BS Microbiology, Ph.D. Developmental Biology (Genetics)

Introduction

Background

  • The Board of the ASC asked the ASCF to take on the task of researching the hereditary aspects and related issues of Merle Cocker Spaniels. The specific hypothesis presented to the ASCF was that the Merle color was not a Cocker Spaniel color but was instead introduced into the gene pool by a specific breeding that occurred in the 1980s.
  • The ASCF tasked the Scientific Research Committee, assisted by the Grants Committee, with conducting this study with the goal of confirming this hypothesis
  • The Study objective was defined and approved by the ASCF Board and work began early in 2010

Approach

The study was separated into 3 specific goals

  • Goal #1: Determine if scientific evidence can be provided to prove Merle is not a Cocker Spaniel color. If yes, provide such scientific evidence.
  • Goal #2: Provide scientific evidence the Merle color can produce significant health issues
  • Goal #3: Develop recommended approach to educating breeders, owners and general puppy buying population the results of the investigations and facts determined from goals 1 and 2

The Committee reviewed:

  • Prior work done by ASC members
  • Numerous published scientific studies
  • Articles discussing Merle color issues

Findings and conclusions were based on scientific evidence presented in peer reviewed published reports

Report Structure

  • Each goal is presented and the findings are summarized in this report. Based on the findings, conclusions are drawn and provided in this report
  • Specific details of the findings and research reference material is provided as an appendix

 

Membership Notice for 2017 Dues - Deadline: February 1, 2017

CLICK HERE to Order ASC Flushing Show Video/DVDs

Below are the links to youtube clips of the 2017 Flushing Spaniel show.

News on the Cataract Research Project - Updated 12/31/2016


 

WON’T YOU VOLUNTEER?

This is a quote I love with regard to volunteering - “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

Needless to say in an all-volunteer organization like the American Spaniel Club and the American Spaniel Club Foundation, volunteers make a vital difference because neither organization would exist without dedicated volunteers. Simply stated -- volunteers are essential for the health and well-being of both Clubs and ultimately our beloved flushing spaniels.

Studies show that there are six main reasons people volunteer: to make a difference in others’ lives; to support an organization or cause; to learn something new; to develop personally or professionally; to feel better about themselves; and to meet people. In other words, volunteering is personal. Advertisements that simply state an organization needs volunteers are not generally successful and I know ASC and ASCF have both found that to be true. However, just think if you could make a difference, support a cause you love (cocker spaniels and the other flushing breeds), feel good in accomplishing an important goal, and meet other people who also love spaniels, wouldn’t you want to volunteer?

As the ASC Board announced at the National Specialty in July, ASC has embarked on a strategic plan to make ASC stronger and more relevant in today’s world of pure bred dogs. There are many areas in which ASC needs help – ASC communications, including a new breed magazine, social media, the new website, breeders education, judges education and public education; membership development and events; marketing; branding; national conformation and performance events; and field events. To accomplish this strategic plan a wide variety of volunteers are needed.

I know ASC has an amazingly talented membership with diverse experiences and expertise that can help ASC accomplish its strategic goals. Accordingly, ASC would like to be sure its knows about your expertise and interests. In ASC’s Annual Mailing, which everyone should have received by now, and on the ASC website and by survey monkey, there is a Volunteer Interest Form. PLEASE fill out the form and return it to either Dee Torgerson Rismyhr or Laurie Foley. From the Annual Mailing, Laurie has already received a number of completed forms. Thank you to those members for your immediate response, but we need a response from everyone!

To give one's time and talent for a good cause is a special feeling. And to see what a group like ASC’s membership can accomplish will be amazing. WON’T YOU HELP? WON”T YOU VOLUNTEER?

I am always open to hearing your thoughts, so email me anytime at lmoore@estesokon.com


January 2016 - UPDATED NEWS ON Cocker Spaniel Cataract Research 

View Dr. Aguirre's Presentation on Cataracts & His Research Project

ASC and ASCF Join forces to Fund Cocker Spaniel Cataract Research !!

Click HERE to Make a tax-deductible donation NOW to the genetic cataract research project - Please Support our Cockers!!