Northampton dog owner organises ‘virtual protest march’ over painful spaniel

Cavalier King Charles spaniels
Cavalier King Charles spaniels

A woman from Northamptonshire has started an ‘online health march’ to the Kennel Club in protest at what she says is a lack of action in tackling a health crisis among Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Charlotte Mackaness, a mother of three from Boughton, is part of a group of pet owners campaigning to make testing for two painful inherited conditions mandatory.

She started the Facebook march after claiming the Kennel Club refused to receive a petition, signed by more than 8,500 concerned dog lovers, at Crufts this week.

“The Kennel Club claims to be an organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting the health and welfare of all dogs yet it doesn’t appear to give a jot about the suffering of Cavaliers or their owners,” claimed Charlotte, who lost her first Cavalier, aged eight, from hereditary heart disease, and whose two-year-old dog, Beebee, has a painful neurological condition called syringomyelia.

“It said it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ to receive the petition at Crufts as it is a ‘celebration’,” she said, adding that she felt that Crufts was “the celebration of beauty at the expense of health”.

“We can’t march to Crufts, so we’re doing the next-best thing, which is a march on Facebook.”

Mrs Mackaness said research had proved breeding from parents screened clear of these conditions improved the chances of producing healthy, disease-free offspring.

Yet there was no obligation for breeders to do these tests, even to become part of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme.

Many ‘marchers’ have posted on Facebook pictures of Cavaliers who have died or are suffering from hereditary diseases.

“It is pet owners who are left picking up the pieces: the costs of paying for often hugely expensive medication and then the heartbreak of losing a dog,” she said.

“Health tests aren’t a guarantee, but puppy buyers have the right to expect that breeders have carried them out and done everything possible to produce healthy puppies.

“We got Kitty from the small ads, which we now realise was very irresponsible. She died, aged eight, of Mitral Valve Disease, the biggest killer of Cavaliers under 10.

“It was devastating for my children losing Kitty at such a young age and then not long after receiving Beebee’s terrible diagnosis,” Charlotte revealed.

“Like many dogs with syringomyelia, Beebee can be very withdrawn and doesn’t like her head being touched.

“I’ve had to explain to my children why their little dog doesn’t like to play as much and why they can only pat her in certain places.”

The RSPCA and a whole host of celebrities is backing the Cavalier health campaign, including Pixie Lott, Craig Revel-Horwood, Deborah Meadon, Linda Robson, Fern Britton and TV vets Mark Evans and Steve Leonard. 
The Kennel Cub has reportedly said that while it cannot make screening compulsory, it was reminding all Cavalier Kings Charles spaniel owners of the importance of health screening their dogs and that pioneering work was being done to tackle conditions in the breed.

To join the online march visit
To sign the petition, visit: