Westminster Rewards Cruelty

Update: Qualzucht Wins Big at Westminster

Owner-handler Renee Beals wins BOB under Judge Walter Sommerfelt at 2012 Westminster with her son of Wyndlair Avalanche, the blind double merle matador.

The son of blind and deaf double merle stud, Wyndlair Avalanche, has won Best of Breed at the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club dog show. You can see “Vinnie” tonight during the Herding Group Judging.

GCH CH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication wins Best of Breed at Westminster 2012. He is the son of a blind double merle stud dog.

GCH CH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication is the son of Wyndlair Avlanche and Ch Twin City Cleopatra. He was bred by Anita & Matt Stetler and J Morris. He is also owned by Renee Beals and Laura Rizzo, handled by Beals.

“Vinnie” is not a double merle himself, but he was produced by one. Both of Avalanche’s parents are merle and he was intentionally bred by the Stetlers of Wyndlair Collies and “Mike” Cheatham of Southland Collies in hopes of creating a double-merle stud dog that would produce all merle offspring. His breeder’s succeeded by producing just one puppy in the litter (indicative of the severe harm to fertility breeding for double merle causes), and he was defective.

Judge: Mr. Walter Sommerfelt
Day: February 13, 2012
Time: 11:30
Ring: 3

7     GCH Wyndlair Cherokee Vindication
Breed: Collie (Rough)
Sex: Dog
AKC: DN 25429411
Date of Birth: June 24, 2009
Breeder: Matt & Anita Stelter & June Morris
Sire: Wyndlair Avalanche
Dam: GCH Twin City Cleopatra
Owner: Renee Beals & Laura Rizzo & Matt & Anita Stelter

This is what his breeders had to say about why they produced Avalanche:

Our decision to do a merle-to-merle breeding was the result of a couple years of frustration in not being able to find a quality non-merle stud dog that had the temperament, health, soundness, pedigree and breed type that we work to maintain in our breeding program. It was not a decision made lightly, but after much thought and consideration. Doing a merle-to-merle breeding should only be done by experienced and knowledgeable breeders, and only when a suitable non-merle with the desired quality is not available. Aiden’s sire and dam, both wonderful examples of correct Collie type, temperament and health as called for in the Collie standard, were the perfect complements to each other. Our hope in doing the breeding was not to produce a MM, but that is ultimately what we got. Aiden was a singleton puppy with no other littermates conceived. He has always been extremely healthy, happy and robust. He always has a smile on his face and his tail never stops wagging. Being a MM, you wouldn’t show him, as phenotypically he doesn’t appear as a recognized breed color. Genotypically, he is a blue merle with an additional merle gene.

We have never experienced or heard of any health issues in the Collie breed tied to the merle gene. Litter sizes, health and vigor are just as strong as with non-merles. Both Collies and Shelties have had notable MM producers of dogs without any illness or dysfunction. Each of the offspring of a MM inherit a single merle gene and are normal merles, phenotypically and genotypically.

Owner-handler Renee Beals of Cherokee Collies showing off "Vinnie" the son of shameful Wyndlair Avalanche.

Wyndlair Avalanche was never shown in conformation because he can’t see, he has been blinded by the entirely avoidable and easily preventable consequence of his breeding.  It’s very unfortunate that his breeders won’t even admit to the public that they produced a blind and deaf dog so others can make the honest choice to not repeat their mistake. Avalanche has never won a single title or even attempted one, never been in the inside of a ring to be judged, never seen a dog show (or another dog), and yet he is now the #1 sire in Rough Collies and the #1 producer of Champions.

Here is what one of the breeders who used Avalanche as a stud had to say about his disability and his conformation:

I knew ahead of time that the breeding to Avalanche was taking a chance…Avalanche is basically blind and deaf. He will never be in the show ring. I don’t think I ever would do a breeding at Riverrun that would produce MM puppies. I want my puppies to all be healthy and I don’t want to ever take a risk of having a blind and deaf collie. Avalanche is also not very balanced – He is straight in front and doesn’t have a strong rear. He doesn’t move very well and that is the drawback on many of his puppies. At our National Specialty…there were many beautiful puppies sired by Avalanche, but most of them had very bad movement. I was getting worried after I saw them.

The Collie Club of America is currently plagued by chaos over the acceptance of sable-merle as an appropriate color, the President has resigned over the issue and factions are forming on each side. There are no known health issues with sable merle other than those with single merle and double merle, and yet the arguments over the ethics of crossing color lines in this case is paramount in the breed and little to no attention is being paid to the horrible ethical consequences of allowing breeders to create infertility, dead fetal puppies, and blind and deaf Collies simply to get a few more merle dogs each litter.

Collie breed clubs and Kennel Clubs around the world have rightfully banned the breeding of merle to merle to prevent the creation of crippled dogs like Avalanche.  In the rest of the world, it’s unethical, at Westminster it’s Best of Breed.

More on this topic:


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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.