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May 9 , 2003

GDC Data on New OFA Website

OFA has launched their updated website which now includes the GDC database (except the Eye and Tumor registries which are still maintained by GDC).

The new OFA site features great search functions and easy access to the close relatives of the dog you want information on. GDC dogs and their various screenings are clearly marked, and the results of the evaluations are displayed.

Please visit the new OFA website and send us your comments at


Feb. 3, 2003

OFA Processing GDC Data for Merge

In December, GDC transferred data for all registries except the Eye and Tumor registries to OFA. OFA now is in the process of preparing that data for merging with their online data base. GDC will provide progress reports as OFA prepares for the actual merge of data, and we will make an announcement when the GDC information becomes available on the OFA site.

The GDC information continues to be available through the GDC searchable registry site. You can search that site to find if a dog in question is GDC-registered, and then order online a KinReport™ for evaluation information on a specific dog and any close relatives also in the GDC registry.


Oct. 1 , 2002

New Office up and running

GDC Phone: 603-456-2350


Address: GDC, P.O. Box 177, Warner, NH 03278

Hours: 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (EST) Mon.-Fri.

The new office will handle the Eye registry indefinitely, and the Tumor registry until OFA develops their more comprehensive version.



GDC now will be devoting a large portion of our effort to working with OFA and other individuals and organizations to produce educational and informational material for breeders on genetic disease and open registry issues. GDC will also continue on a limited basis to work with breed clubs to set up special open registries and data archives in areas that are not currently served by OFA.

KinReports will continue to be available through the online order form on all dogs registered with GDC.

Email for more information.


July 8 , 2002

GDC Closes all Registries except Eye and Tumor

As the June 30 deadline for applications approached last week, the stack of films to process on Marie's desk grew higher and higher. We have received a very large number of last-minute applications, and will be working to get them out to the readers by mid-July.

Applications received the week of July 1 will take at least 4 weeks to process, and we will keep the office in Davis open until all reports are finished.

We will merge the GDC data base with OFA in early August, or later, depending on the date when all the current GDC applications have been processed.

In mid-August we expect to close the office in Davis and move to Warner, NH and operate with an all-volunteer staff.

We will continue to operate the Eye and Tumor registries. In addition, we will focus on developing informational resources to help breeders with genetic disease issues, as well as providing support to OFA as they add improvements to their website.

June 5 , 2002

GDC to Keep Eye and Tumor Registries Open after OFA Merge

As of June 30, GDC will be closing all registries except the Eye Disease and Tumor registries. Because OFA does not operate an eye disease registry using the data from CERF exams, the GDC Board of Trustees voted to keep the GDC eye registry active indefinitely.

OFA will be creating a tumor registry based on the GDC data, but needs six to nine months to develop a system that will be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of many breeds and researchers. GDC will continue to operate the GDC tumor registry until the OFA registry is up and running.

Please call the GDC office (530/756-6773) or email for more information or to receive email notifications.






June 6 , 2002

Merge Info Update
IMPORTANT NOTE: All GDC data will be available on the OFA Website after the merge. If you do not want your dog's information merged with the OFA database and missed the June 1 deadline for informing GDC, contact

Application Deadline is June 30:

GDC will accept applications postmarked through June 30, unless you have made special arrangements. We will contact the owners of all late applications received during July and arrange to return your film or forward it to OFA. GDC will have OFA application materials and instructions available.

Wind Morgan Program:

OFA will not be adopting the Wind Morgan Program. Several breeders who are interested in seeing the program continue are looking into various possibilities for creating an independent Wind Morgan registry. For more information contact

OFA minimum hip certification age:

OFA will continue to evaluate dogs for certification at a minimum age of 24 months or older. Early preliminary evaluations are available at OFA.

June 6 , 2002

Dr. Paul W. Poulos Hands GDC Board Leadership
to Dr. S. Gary Brown

Dr. Paul W. Poulos, Jr., GDC executive director and board president since 1991, announced his retirement from those positions as of June 1, 2002.

Dr. Poulos led GDC from its early days through 11 years of growth, and finally to a successful merge with OFA. Poulos has also worked on an international level to raise understanding and acceptance of the principles of open sharing of health information. GDC and the purebred dog community recognize the major contributions that Dr. Poulos has made towards improving the health of dogs, as well as the passionate advocacy with which he pursued those goals Dr. Poulos will continue his consulting veterinary radiology practice from his office in Ukiah, California.

At the GDC Board of Trustees meeting May 23, Dr. S. Gary Brown, a founding board member, was elected president.

Dr. Brown is a veterinary orthopedic surgeon with a practice in California. He breeds and shows Irish Setters, and serves on the national Irish Setter Genetic Anomalies Committee.

"During this next year, GDC will have the opportunity to focus on becoming a key resource for breeders," said Dr. Brown. "We will operate with a small, all-volunteer staff, and keep our expenses to a minimum by closing all but our Eye and Tumor registries. It's a new era for GDC, and we are very excited about being able to continue in our mission to help improve the genetic health of dogs. We couldn't have reached this point without Dr. Poulos, and I want to extend my deepest gratitude to him for all the work he's done in the past 11 years."

The GDC Board also elected Lori Littleford to the position of Secretary. Littleford takes over from Barbara Packard, one of the founding members of GDC. Lori is a member of the Newfoundland Club of Northern California and Newfoundland Club of America and lives in San Jose. She is active in judging and obedience and other instruction. Until recently, she managed an international soil testing and consulting firm.

February 15, 2002

GDC Announces Plans to Merge Database
with OFA in Summer 2002


We are very pleased to announce that this coming summer GDC will merge its entire database with OFA. OFA will adopt almost all of the GDC disease registries, and will improve its website to make it easier to view information on groups of closely-related dogs, much as the GDC KinReport does.

Since OFA allows users to choose to release all results, you will be able to continue to share your health information openly for the benefit of breeders and owners.

After the database merge, GDC will no longer evaluate or register dogs. You can continue to register your dogs through OFA, and by choosing to release all results, your information will be available through the OFA website.

GDC will continue to provide KinReports on all dogs registered before the merge.

We have notified GDC customers about these plans by mail and will announce the date of the merge by email and on the website.

For email notification of developments in the GDC/OFA merger plans, send a request to subscribe to the GDC email Newsnote to


Feb. 15, 2002

Purebred Dog Health Databases to Combine Forces

COLUMBIA, MO -- Officials from two of the nation's major purebred dog genetic health registries, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Institute for Genetic Disease Control (GDC), announced their plans to combine forces in the ongoing effort to help breeders raise healthier dogs.

"We are very pleased to be able to bring the strengths of these two organizations together," said Eddie Dziuk, OFA's chief operating officer. "Improving the health of companion animals is our single focus, and this combination of resources will offer significant benefits to breeders and owners alike."

"This is a very promising development," said GDC executive director Dr. Paul W. Poulos, Jr. "We are seeing a high level of concern about genetic disease from breeders in the US and many other countries. We've got the tools that can make a difference, and it's clear that the time has come for us to link arms to reach a much larger number of breeders."

The organizations currently provide similar services to breeders, including health databases and evaluating dogs for hip dysplasia and other serious inherited problems. OFA, formed in 1966, is recognized throughout the purebred dog world for its huge database and for its work in evaluating the health of individual dogs. GDC was created in 1990, offering an innovative service that emphasizes sharing both positive and negative health information on whole families of dogs.

According to Dziuk, staff from OFA and GDC will soon begin work to merge the GDC database into OFA. In addition, the OFA will be releasing a revised website. The new website will provide breeders with easier ways to search and view the health test results from both databases. The merge will increase the number of dogs whose data can be seamlessly accessed by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), the new program jointly sponsored by the OFA and the AKC/Canine Health Foundation. CHIC is a database that pools information from multiple sources based on recommendations that are parent club driven.

OFA and GDC staff will also begin to develop a joint educational and informational focus. Both GDC and OFA will continue to operate independently until the merge goes into effect sometime during the summer of 2002. At that point, all registrations would go to OFA.

"All of the information currently in the GDC database will be available through the OFA site after the merge," Dziuk explained. "And with the recent OFA option that lets breeders share information about affected as well as unaffected dogs, we expect to see a steady increase in the number of people interested in looking at the genetic health of whole families of dogs rather than simply at the health evaluations of an individual dog."

Most canine genetics experts agree that breeders can make the best progress against genetic diseases by not only knowing which individuals in a dog's family are normal, but also which are affected or carry defective genes.

"There are huge benefits to breeders in combining the GDC and OFA databases," said Dr. Poulos, "but at the same time we needed to be certain that GDC customers will have essentially the same access to the information as they now have. With OFA's commitment to encouraging the open sharing of health information, we see this merge as a significant advance for the future health of purebred dogs."

Dr. Gary Johnson, associate professor of pathobiology at the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine and a leading researcher in canine health issues, commented, "As more breeders realize the importance of health testing and information sharing, the database services of the OFA and GDC are playing a growing role in assisting breeders to make more informed breeding decisions."

For more information, or to follow progress of the planned merge, please visit the OFA and GDC websites at and


OFA/GDC Merge: Questions and Answers

Back to top

Q. What are the reasons behind the merge of GDC with OFA?

A. When GDC was formed in 1990, it was the only US multi-breed open registry. GDC promoted the concept and gave breeders the ability to openly share genetic health information on their dogs. In January 2001 OFA began to offer a similar service, allowing users to make abnormal results available on affected and carrier dogs in addtition to normal results on unaffected dogs. Rather then have two national registries serving essentially the same purpose and audience, GDC and OFA feel that all open registry health information should be gathered in a single location. As a large, financially stable organization, OFA is in a better position than GDC to reach, inform and educate breeders and breed clubs about the benefits and uses of the open registry. For its part, GDC brings to OFA well-developed open registry concepts and experience, as well as several additional genetic disease registries.

Q: How will the merge take place?

A: In the summer of 2002 GDC will merge its entire data base into the OFA database, and will close its offices in Davis, California. OFA will make changes to its web site based on GDC concepts that will allow users to view evaluation information much more easily on dogs and their close relatives. Both OFA and GDC recognize the crucial need for breeders to be able to access both normal and abnormal results on family groups of dogs in the most useful way possible.

Q. Will the merge destroy any information on dogs in the GDC data base?

A. None of the evaluation information on dogs in the GDC data base will be lost. Both GDC and OFA information will be available on-line through the OFA website.

Q. How will GDC users get access to information in the GDC database?

A. Information on dogs originally registered with GDC will be available through the OFA web site. OFA will add features to their web site that will give users easy access to information on a dog's close relatives, including siblings, half-siblings, parents and offspring. This will provide "family" information on a dog similar to what the GDC KinReport provides. Users will continue to be able to get information and KinReports on dogs registered with GDC prior to the merge through the GDC on-line web site.

Q. When GDC closes, what will breeders who want to use an open registry do?

A. Breeders may register results with the OFA and select, on the OFA form, the authorization to release all results. As with GDC or any open registry, the key to real usefulness is having lots of family groups of dogs registered, so it will continue to be extremely important to encourage breeders and owners to health test, register and release all results on as many dogs as possible.

Q. Will OFA change its registration forms as a result of the merge?

A. OFA is currently upgrading its data base system and making changes to its forms. OFA will add new forms and informational material related to the GDC disease registries that OFA does not currently have (example SA - sebaceous adenitis).

Q. How will the differences in requirements between OFA and GDC be handled? For example, GDC allows hip dysplasia evaluation at a minium 12 months, in contrast to OFA's 24 month requirement.  

A. OFA already makes distinctions in its database for dogs evaluated at less than 24 months, and for other variables such as heart evaluations performed by cardiologists versus general practitioners.  Any such distinctions will continue to be used, and new ones will be added as needed. All GDC hip evaluations on dogs 12 months and older done prior to the merge will be available on the OFA website.

Q. Does this mean OFA will now evaluate dogs for hip dysplasia at 12 months, like GDC?

A. OFA will continue to do preliminary evaluations for hip and elbow dysplasia for dogs under 24 months.  Results from preliminary evaluations are only released to the owner.

Q. GDC has several disease registries, such as SA (sebacious adenitis), that OFA doesn't have. What will happen to those registries?

A. OFA will adopt all of those GDC registries except the GDC eye disease registry since a defined protocol for examination and registry for eyes is already in place through CERF. However, the ability for individual owners to choose to release all results of CERF evaluations through OFA does not exist at this time.

Q. GDC also has a number of research databases on diseases such as cancer, dwarfism and portosystemic shunt disease. What will happen to that information?

A. All research data will continue to be archived at GDC.  The OFA and GDC will explore the possibility of continued data collection on particular diseases, such as cancer, based on demand.

Q. How will this merge affect the OFA database?

A. The merge will not affect information currently in the OFA data. Merging the GDC database will have no negative affects on the existing OFA data, and will add extensive information gathered during the past decade on more than 20,000 dogs.

 Q. How will you avoid confusion between dogs that are currently registered with both GDC and OFA?

A. OFA and GDC results will remain distinct in the merged database. In other words, when you view information online on a dog with hips evaluated by both GDC and OFA, both results will be shown.

Q. What is the relationship between the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), OFA, and GDC?

A. The merge will increase the number of dogs whose data can be seamlessly accessed by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), the new program jointly sponsored by the OFA and the AKC/Canine Health Foundation.  CHIC is a database that pools information from multiple sources based on recommendations made by breeders through their parent clubs. GDC is not involved with the CHIC program, but after the merge the GDC data will be available for use in CHIC.

Through the CHIC program breeders use a single OFA database to maintain health test results that may come from a variety of sources. The program is based on the realization that each breed may face a unique set of health issues, as well as challenges to gaining maximum participation in health testing..

Breeders who want to use the program work with CHIC through their parent club to identify the most troubling genetic diseases for their breed and the most acceptable tests for those diseases. (Any CERF and OFA test results in a club's requirements are shared automatically with the CHIC program.) Clubs may also decide to collect anecdotal information on a disease for the database. Later, as screening tests and modes of inheritance are determined, the club may choose to add a test for that disease to its CHIC program requirements.

As a breed's database grows, breeders and owners can use the information on closely related groups of dogs in a number of ways. For example, they can assess a dog's risk for carrying the defective gene for PRA or determine the probability that the offspring of a mating might inherit a number of the genes involved in hip dysplasia. In addition, researchers may use the data for DNA or epidemiological studies.

CHIC encourages owners to release all test results for public access, including results on affected dogs and carriers. Dogs for whom all results have been released receive a CHIC number and a CHIC report listing those results and other information.


Oct 1, 2001
Back to top

The Genetic Pedigree: a powerful tool against canine genetic disease

By George G. Packard
(Copyright 2001 George Packard) (Permission for non-commercial electronic distribution granted. Contact author for permission to reprint.)

As a breeder of purebred dogs, you don't need a PhD in Genetics to understand that your job comes down to a balancing act between selecting for the traits you want, and selecting against the traits you don't want. Easy to say, but not so easy to do.

In fact, one of the measures of the real difficulty of dog breeding is the current alarm among breeders and buyers about the increasing amount of genetic disease in just about all breeds. And the concern that nobody seems to be able to do much, if anything, about it.

Common wisdom about getting rid of a genetic disease like hip dysplasia in your line is to try to breed away from it by finding dogs which seem to be unaffected by, or clear of, the disease. It's an approach that works fairly well, unless one or both of the dogs happens to be carrying defective genes.

And, unfortunately, canine geneticists tell us that all purebred dogs carry several defective genes. So trying to reduce genetic disease in your line by selecting apparently normal dogs will, at best, move you towards the breed average for the disease you are worried about. At worst it will bring even more defective genes into your line. Imagine trying to fix your car's engine by randomly swapping parts from your neighbor's car.

Select against defective genes

The only really effective way to attack the problem of genetic disease is to actively select against the defective genes, rather than trying to select for the most normal dogs you can find. It's a way of thinking about breeding that seems counter-intuitive, until you realize that if you know who the affected and carrier dogs are among the close relatives of the dogs you want to breed, you can lower your risks dramatically by making smart choices.

That's why breeders (and puppy buyers) show more and more interest in having dogs screened for genetic disease (using conventional diagnostics as well as the new genetic testing) and in sharing that health information openly. Why share the information? Because you can't select against the defective genes unless you know which dogs are carrying them.

But whether that health information is in an open registry, or penciled into notebook as a result of hours and hours of research and detective work on your part, you still need a way to visualize the relationships between the members of a dog's family in order to figure out where the least amount of risk is.

The genetic pedigree as a tool

That's the beauty of what is known as a genetic, or geneticist's, pedigree. This is not the traditional lineage pedigree that lists parents, grandparents, etc. It's a chart of close relatives that shows in as much detail as possible which dogs do, and don't, carry defective genes. This tool is invaluable if you are trying to select against a polygenic disease like hip dyplasia. Even though you can't tell how many of the genes that create hip dysplasia a dog may be carrying, you can, with enough information about affecteds, make a relatively strong assessment of risk. For a single gene disease like PRA, you can do an even better job of predicting risk.

Remember that you are selecting against defective genes, and not defective dogs. You need to be able to preserve as many of the good traits of a particular dog as you can. So you can use the genetic pedigree to analyze the risk of whether or not a particular mating will increase or decrease the probability of producing carriers and affecteds in the puppies. You may be able to preserve the traits you need from a sire, but select against genetic disease in his line by mating him with a dam with a very low risk for passing along the defective genes. (But you must evaluate the puppies!)

"So, now I can look at the geneticist's pedigree and see at a glance what genetic defects my dog, Kyra, has in her lines," says White Shepherd breeder Judy Huston, the health and genetics chairperson for her breed club. But that's only a part of the job, Judy explains. "What's next? Now I need to make a list of the potential studs and find out what their defects are. Oh no, not again! I thought I was finished. But the good news is that these dogs are related and most of their information I already have--but not all of it. So, more email goes out, more requests for information and more willingness on the part of the breeders to help me out."

The genetic pedigree can be as simple as a chart of a dog's parents and littermates. Or as complicated as a 10-year overview of the entire family of a dog, listing a hundred relatives and all the litters produced by all matings, and showing carriers, multiple traits, deaths, birth dates and more. Accompanying this article is an example of a very simple genetic pedigree, based on information from a GDC KinReport (GDC maintains a national and international open registry and provides health information on a dog and its close relatives). For information on how to draw and use a genetic pedigree, see Dr. George Padgett's recent book, Control of Canine Genetic Diseases (Howell Book House, 1998). (Text continues below picture)

Collecting the information to draw a genetic pedigree based on the GDC open registry requires several steps. The first would be to search the GDC database for the dog you are interested in to find out how many close relatives are also registered. If you find a dozen or more, you would then order the GDC KinReports™ that cover those dogs.

You can then draw the pedigree and include the evaluations for each dog. You could then fill in missing information on a litter, perhaps, by contacting the breeder or other sources.

As an example of a basic way to use a genetic pedigree, let's say that this one shows information on a simple recessive trait such as PRA (progressive retinal atrophy). Each darkened square or circle is a dog affected with PRA, but we need to figure out which dogs may be carriers. If one of the puppies is affected, it means that both parents carry the gene. Remember that unless you have a DNA test for PRA for your breed, you can't tell if a parent is a carrier until he produces a puppy that is affected.

Because a puppy in Litter C is affected, we know that both Ann and Art are carriers. And because two puppies in Litter H are affected, we also know that Bob is a carrier. Using the same logic, you can use the genetic pedigree to learn a lot about these dogs.

Note that there is only full information on one litter in this pedigree. And that litters K and L are very important, but there is no useful information currently in the registry. Registries are only as good as the amount of information in them, and that is why GDC emphasizes registering entire litters.

George Packard manages Information Services for GDC. [] To subscribe to the GDC email Newsnote, send your request to


Sept. 20, 2001
Back to top

How to Select Against Genetic Disease with Knowledge, not Hope

By George Packard

(Copyright 2001 George Packard)

(Permission for non-commercial electronic distribution granted. Contact author for permission to reprint.)

High anxiety about genetic diseases comes with the territory for anybody who is considered to be a responsible breeder these days. In fact, if you are breeding dogs, and you aren't worried about genetic disease, you'd better hold off on that next mating until you've done your homework.

Canine geneticists estimate that the average purebred dog is carrying at least 4-5 defective genes. To put it another way, when you are looking at that gorgeous champion with normal hips you are also looking at a dog who is carrying the genes that can cause several types of genetic disease. And unless his owner has a detailed genetic pedigree on this dog and is willing to share it with you, you have no way of knowing what those disease genes are.

That champion may be carrying a recessive gene for PRA, and if he's bred with a bitch who is also carrying the PRA gene, the disease will show up in the puppies. And even though he has normal hips, he may be carrying some of the recessive genes involved in hip dysplasia. If you mate him with a bitch who is normal but also carrying recessive genes for dysplasia, you'll suddenly find yourself, heartbroken and bewildered, with dysplastic puppies.

"I'm not worried," you may say, " because soon we'll have DNA tests that will solve these problems." That's all well and good if researchers have developed a test for the single gene disease your line is troubled by. But if that test doesn't exist, are you willing to wait five or ten years for your turn to come? And that's assuming you'll persevere as a breeder beyond the six-year average when most people give up, often because they can't seem to stop producing puppies with genetic diseases.

Of course, we are only talking about tests for single gene diseases. Most of the severe diseases like hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer and epilepsy, are polygenic, caused by the complex interplay of many genes, and no researchers have come close to developing a polygenic gene test.

Are you willing to wait 20 years for a gene test for hip dysplasia? Are you willing to watch another 30 years go by with no significant decrease in hip dysplasia among purebred dogs?

Breeders in Sweden in 1976 weren't willing to wait, and so they set up an open registry and started screening all their dogs. By 1989 they had achieved a 50 percent decrease in moderate to severe hip dysplasia in almost all breeds ("Breeding Healthier Dogs in Sweden": Ake Hedhammar, Tijdschrift voor Diergeneeskunde, April 1991).

What is the secret of this astonishing success? Nothing more profound than the fact that each breeder made it his or her business to find out where the carriers and affecteds were in a dog's close family — siblings, half-sibs, offspring, parents and parents' siblings. Using relatively simple methods, they could then predict the risk of inheritance of defective genes in any mating. A few breed clubs in the US have shown similar successes with targeted genetic diseases.

But the majority of our purebred dog breeders, and the major institutions that support them such as AKC and OFA, have shown little or no interest in using open registries combined with proven breeding methods to reduce genetic diseases. Times are changing, however. In 1990 GDC (Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals, ( established an international all-breed open registry based on the success of the Swedish model. In the following decade thousands of breeders began to register their dogs and to make breeding decisions in accord with the knowledge of where the carriers and affecteds were in a particular dog's family .

Recently, GDC started an advocacy campaign to call for the widespread use of open registries and appropriate breeding methods. The strong response they are getting from breeders throughout the purebred community confirms that the demand for open registries is increasing rapidly. But the reality is that no open registry, whether it is the international GDC registry, or an open registry set up by a breed club, can be useful until it contains significant number of dogs registered in close family groups.

Detractors of the open registry concept point to this weakness but ignore the fact that even without enough information in an open registry, breeders can still make progress against genetic disease by doing the legwork themselves.

What can you do?

-- Register your dogs in an open registry and urge every breeder you know to register also.

-- Do whatever you have to do to find out where affecteds and carriers are among a dog's siblings, offspring and other close relatives.

-- Don't breed to a dog whose owner will not supply that information.

-- Screen as many of your own dogs as possible, and supply that information to buyers and breeders.

-- Contact your breed's health committee, the AKC and OFA and strongly urge them to actively promote the use of open registries. Urge your health committee to put GDC on the list of approved registries.

For specific information on breeding methods and genetic disease, start with these books: Control of Canine Genetic Diseases; George A. Padgett, DVM, Howell Book House, New York, 1998 Genetics of the Dog; Malcolm B. Willis, Howell Book House, New York, 1989 Several very good articles on basic genetics for dog breeding:

Subscribe to the GDC email Newsnote. Send your request to END

June 25, 2001

The Breeder's Toolkit:

A GDC interview with geneticist, breeder and author Malcolm B. Willis, BSc, PhD

Many breeders are familiar with geneticist Dr. Malcolm Willis' articles in the AKC Gazette and his books, including "Genetics of the Dog". In this interview Willis talks with GDC's George Packard about the British scheme for reducing hip dysplasia and about the essentials that every breeder needs to know.

Following is an excerpt from the interview:

"Finally, all breeders will produce defects if they breed long enough. Those who tell you that they do not produce defects have either stopped breeding, breed hardly at all or are being economical with the truth. There is no crime in producing a defect. The crime, if any, lies in what you do about a defect. If you bury yours quickly and keep quiet about it, and I do the same with mine, then sooner or later we may use each other's dogs and pay the penalty for not having been honest with one another and with the breed we probably profess to love."

To download an Adobe Acrobat PDF of the interview, click here: Willis Interview

To receive an email version, email your request to:

GDC sees strong support for advocacy campaign

In the past month GDC has received hundreds of emails in support of the GDC advocacy campaign for open registries, including many from people who were not aware of GDC and our existing open registry.

The following two quotes from breeders are typical of what we are hearing from people:

"...I am interested in helping to promote the Open Genetic Registry. I have been "in dogs" since the late 60's and have always felt that the only way to help stop the suffering because of the many genetic problems found in dogs is for breeders to share all knowledge. Please sign me up for your email discussion group and feel free to contact me for any assistance that I might be in promoting this cause."

"...after I read the latest GDC news note, I sent several emails to various AKC departments stating my point of view that I would like to see AKC give substantial support (financially and in public education) to "open registries." I know many breeders feel the same way I do but the wheels so slowly turn!"

Our goal is to build a list of 5000 breeders and owners who want to ensure that open registry services remain available in the U.S. and who are actively working to promote the use of open registries to help breeders reduce the prevalence of genetic disease in their lines. This group is already heading towards 1000 members, and with numbers like that, we will definitely have the clout and the numbers to get the word out. For information on what you can do to help, contact


May 15, 2001

GDC sees challenges ahead, announces new focus on advocacy   

After a decade of running the only national/international all-breed genetic disease open registry, GDC has become the registry of choice for thousands of breeders throughout the purebred dog world. Unfortunately, we are finding that volumes of registrations continue to be lower than expected, in part because of resistance by a majority of breeders to sharing information on affected or carrier dogs. Low numbers of registrations decrease the usefulness of the registry to breeders, and put heavy financial pressure on GDC.

In the light of this challenge, GDC is shifting focus this coming year to exploring new and more effective ways to make an impact on the widespread prevalence of canine genetic diseases. We need to reach a significantly larger audience of breeders with information about using the open registry and the need to know where the affecteds and carriers are in a dog's family before making breeding decisions.

Links for more information:

April 30, 2001 Letter to GDC Customers

Frequently Asked Questions: Challenges for GDC

Article: "GDC Calls for Widespread Use of Open Registries"

April 30, 2001      Back to top

Important news for GDC customers, friends and supporters:

As you know, GDC and thousands of dog owners and breeders, veterinarians, and researchers have been working for more than 10 years to build the GDC open registry into a valuable tool in the fight to control genetic disease. We have made real progress, but despite repeated calls from the world’s top canine geneticists in magazine articles, books, and even at AKC conferences, the majority of breeders and breed groups in the US still actively oppose or do not understand the importance of using an open registry.

For an open registry to be useful, large numbers of closely related dogs (siblings, offspring and close family members) must be registered so that breeders can create valid genetic profiles of the dogs they are interested in. Building this type of a registry has been GDC’s principal effort during the past decade, but it is an uphill struggle. Even with very strong support from many breed groups, breeders and owners, GDC has not been able to build the necessary large volume of useful registrations to make the registry both financially stable and effective as a tool for breeders.

In the light of this situation, the GDC board of trustees has looked carefully at how the GDC open registry is contributing to the control of genetic disease in purebred dogs. Their conclusion is that without significantly higher volumes of useful registrations as well as better information for breeders about effective breeding practices, the GDC registry will have very little impact on the prevalence of genetic disease. Additionally, without widespread support from the major breed clubs and national organizations such as the AKC, GDC (or any other national multi-breed open registry) will be unable to achieve a “critical mass” of registrations.

Yet breeders and owners are desperate for help, now. While DNA testing may be useful for a few single gene diseases like PRA in particular breeds, tests for widespread polygenic diseases like hip dysplasia are many years or even decades away. This past year at GDC we have seen a sharp increase in requests from breeders for help with breeding decisions that are currently beyond GDC’s scope. These are responsible people who are alarmed by the amount of genetic disease they are seeing in their breeds. And they are distressed because they are not getting the straight answers and practical information they need from the AKC and other traditional sources.

Therefore, in order to use its resources most effectively in the coming year, GDC has made the decision to shift its emphasis. We will work to produce educational programs for veterinarians and breeders and to create a multi-breed advocacy organization that will push for the use of open sharing of health information as the fundamental means for reducing genetic disease. Our shift in focus is driven by the realization that the best open registry in the world won’t help if breeders won’t use it or don’t understand how to use it in their day-to-day breeding decisions.

During the past ten years, GDC has depended on several very generous donors to make up the wide gap between our expenses and income from registrations. During this coming year, however, we must develop new sources of support or seek an institutional affiliation that will ensure the future of the GDC open registry. Without new sources of donor support and significantly increased registrations GDC may be forced to suspend the registry service.

GDC will continue to register dogs in existing registries at least during the next 12 months, but will limit the number of new registries it develops. Our major effort now has to be a call to action. If the AKC had established an open registry ten years ago, and used their position as leaders of the purebred dog fancy to push the concept, we would already have seen major reductions in the amount of genetic disease among our dogs. GDC is now looking to join forces with those groups and individuals who think that the time has come to use the tools we have in our hands to fight the genetic diseases that are ruining our dogs.

If you have questions about this new initiative at GDC, or would like to know how you can help support a grassroots advocacy effort to promote the concept and use of open registries to improve the quality of life of your dogs, please contact George Packard, GDC Information Services (Ph. 603-456-2286 in NH; email: or visit the GDC website.

Paul W. Poulos, Jr. DVM, PhD
Executive Director, GDC

P.S. As a cost-saving measure, we will restrict the number of mailed copies of the Exchange, the GDC newsletter, and will publish it on our website. We encourage you to print out copies for your friends. If you want to continue to receive a free printed copy of The Exchange in the mail, please make your request by phone, email or letter to GDC.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

The Challenges Ahead for GDC

May, 2001

For more information:


What's going on with GDC?

After a decade of running the only national/international all-breed genetic disease open registry, GDC has become the registry of choice for thousands of breeders throughout the purebred dog world. Unfortunately, we are finding that volumes of registrations continue to be lower than expected, in part because of resistance by a majority of breeders to sharing information on affected or carrier dogs. Low numbers of registrations decrease the usefulness of the registry to breeders, and put heavy financial pressure on GDC.

In the light of this challenge, GDC is shifting focus this coming year to exploring new and more effective ways to make an impact on the widespread prevalence of canine genetic diseases. We need to reach a significantly larger audience of breeders with information about using the open registry and the need to know where the affecteds and carriers are in a dog's family before making a breeding decision.

Is the GDC registry closing?

 No, the GDC registry is not closing.

GDC will continue to register dogs in existing registries for at least the coming year while we work to secure corporate sponsorship or other funding. However, the number of new registries we add will probably be very limited. If in the future GDC is forced to limit services, all the existing information will continue to be available.

Is GDC in financial trouble?

Since it was created, GDC has needed to raise funds to cover a significant portion of its operating costs. A small foundation has provided the major portion of those funds, but will no longer be able make large grants to GDC. GDC must find adequate funding through foundation or corporate sponsorships, major donations, an institutional affiliation or other sources during this next year.

What is GDC doing about these problems?

During the next year GDC will produce practical educational material on how to control genetic diseases by making breeding decisions based on knowing where the affected and carrier dogs are among a dog's close relatives. Most breeders do not understand these methods, and therefore do not understand the crucial importance of an open registry.

GDC will also form an all-breed advocacy group of breeders and others to help aggressively promote the need for open sharing of health information. And finally, GDC will do everything possible to find a new source of funding so that it can continue operations.

What can I do to help GDC during this next year?

One of the most important things you can do is help us build a large advocacy group from all breeds to demonstrate breeder and owner concern about genetic disease and the demand for breeding methods using open registries. Start a core group in your own breed club, and link it to the GDC email group.

We are also looking for volunteers to help us on a number of projects. Contact George Packard, GDC Information Services,, for more information.

Why is the usefulness of the GDC open registry dependent on registrations of closely related dogs?

Breeders use the GDC registry to help reduce the prevalence of polygenic or single recessive genetic diseases in their lines. To make smart breeding decisions, they have to know where most of the affected and carrier dogs are among a dog's close relatives (littermates, half-siblings, offspring, parents, and parents' siblings). If many of those close relatives aren't registered with GDC, breeders are missing crucial information and have to try to track it down by word-of-mouth, which is seldom reliable.

Why should I register my dog with GDC now?

The information on your dog's genetic screenings is extremely valuable data that adds to the overall usefulness of the GDC open registry. With each added dog, the registry becomes more valuable to breeders and to researchers. The individual dog you register may be one of the keys to the puzzle of genetic disease in your breed.

I just registered my dog with GDC, but if it s going to close, can I get my money back?

When you registered your dog, you agreed to make the information available as a permanent piece of the GDC registry. In doing so, you joined thousands of other dog owners who are thinking not just of their own dogs, but of the future of the breed. GDC does not refund registration fees, except for the registration of an affected dog.

Can our breed club transfer our GDC data to another registry?

Each individual is welcome to use his or her data in any way desired. Simply make the request to GDC for your data file.

If GDC closes next year, what will happen to the data and the x-rays?

The data base and all archived information will be maintained in whatever way necessary to allow it to continue to be accessible to breeders, researchers and all others who need to use it.

Whom should I contact to get more information, find out what I can do to help, or express a complaint or concern?

The GDC website will be expanding with the addition of lots more information. ( talk with GDC directly, contact George Packard, GDC Information Services,, Tel/FAX 603-456-2286, or email

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GDC calls for widespread use of open registries to fight canine genetic disease

DAVIS, CA — After more than a decade of operating the only national/international all-breed open registry for canine genetic disease, the Institute for Genetic Disease Control (GDC) will shift its primary focus towards advocacy for the widespread use of open registries throughout the purebred dog world.

“Despite repeated calls from the world’s top canine geneticists during the past ten years for the use of complete and unrestricted open registries to fight genetic disease, the AKC and the majority of the purebred fancy have actively resisted adopting this proven tool,” said Dr. Paul W. Poulos, Jr., executive director of GDC.

Based on long-established principles of animal breeding, the open registry method was first used in the purebred dog fancy in the 1980s in Sweden with great success. An open registry collects results of all genetic screening tests (both positive and negative) on individual dogs, and makes those results available to the public. In less than ten years Swedish breeders were able to achieve a significant reduction in hip dysplasia using the open registry method.

For an open registry to be useful, large numbers of related dogs (siblings, offspring and close family members) must be registered so that breeders can create valid genetic profiles of the dogs they are interested in.

According to Dr. Poulos, GDC has not been able to meet its expectations for useful volumes of registered dogs in large part because of the reluctance of the majority of the breeding community to release information about any dogs who are affected with genetic disease.

“It is no surprise that here in the US we have made almost no progress in reducing the most serious diseases known or suspected to be genetic such as hip dysplasia and cancer if we refuse to share information about which dogs may be carrying the defective genes,” said Poulos. “Whether it is ignorance or active opposition to the use of open registries, the result is the same: breeders are dismayed with the amount of genetic disease among their puppies and owners are heartbroken with crippled, cancerous and otherwise affected dogs.”

In the coming year GDC will focus on producing educational resources for veterinarians and breeders and will take on a strong advocacy role for breeding practices that can reduce the amount of genetic disease in dogs. During this same time GDC expects to limit the number of new disease registries it develops and to search for sources of funding to strengthen its financial position. Because GDC is dependent on income from registrations, the continuing low volumes have put the organization under severe financial pressure.

“Our shift in focus is driven by the realization that the best open registry in the world won’t help if breeders won’t use it or don’t understand how to use it in their day-to-day breeding decisions,” explained Poulos.

During the past ten years GDC has worked with many breed groups to establish more than two dozen specific genetic disease registries and now has a number of new requests in progress. However, according to Dr. Poulos, getting a significant number of breeders and owners to actually register their dogs is an uphill battle. Without the registration of large numbers of closely related dogs, the data in the open registry cannot be used effectively by breeders to select against affected dogs for breeding purposes.

As many geneticists and writers have pointed out, a dog selected for breeding from the OFA registry, for example, might have been cleared for good hips but may still be a carrier for genes that produce dysplasia or may have other genetic disease problems that are unreported. That same dog may also have close relatives who are affected with one or more genetic diseases but are not reported in the registry.

Despite widespread resistance to the use of an open registry, a small but growing number of progressive breeders and breed groups are adopting the open registry concept and looking to GDC for answers.

"This past year at GDC we have seen a sharp increase in requests from breeders for help with breeding decisions," said Poulos. "These are responsible people who are very concerned about the amount of genetic disease they are seeing in their breeds. And they are distressed because they simply are not getting the straight answers and practical information they need from the AKC and other traditional sources. It is an ongoing tragedy that the purebred dog fancy has for the most part ignored proven breeding practices that can, in fact, reduce genetic disease in a given breed line within several generations.”

In 1990 GDC pioneered a system in the US modeled after the successful Swedish open registry for registering and screening dogs for several of the most widespread and serious genetic diseases. The premise was simple and proven to work. When breeders have virtually complete information on all the close relatives in a dog’s family, they can assess which dogs are carriers for disease genes and make smart breeding decisions based on that knowledge. The open registry system is effective for controlling both single gene diseases like PRA (blindness) or complicated, multiple gene diseases like hip dysplasia.

Dr. Poulos noted that the current excitement in the purebred fancy about the potential for genetic testing via DNA has all but eclipsed interest in the use of other methods to control genetic disease. Unfortunately, the practical help that might be provided by this type of genetic testing is likely to be many years away, and developing tests for even single genes is proving to be very difficult and costly. No tests have been developed for multiple (polygenic) gene diseases.

For example, the recent discovery of a much smaller number of genes in the human genome than was estimated implies that fewer genes interact in much more complicated ways than scientists expected. Many of the most serious and prevalent genetic diseases are polygenic, and most experts agree that gene tests for these diseases will be very difficult to develop. For these polygenic diseases like hip dysplasia and cancer, genetic pedigree analysis of open registry data rather than gene tests may be the only practical way for breeders to make any headway for years to come.

“GDC will continue to register dogs in existing registries over the next year,” said Poulos. “But our major effort now has to be a call to action. If the AKC had established an open registry ten years ago, and used their position as leaders of the purebred dog fancy to push the concept, we would already have seen major reductions in the amount of genetic disease among our dogs. GDC is now looking to join forces with those groups and individuals who think that the time has come to use the tools we have in our hands to fight the genetic diseases that are ruining our dogs."

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