The Silver Labrador Controversy: Official Statements

The Silver Labrador Controversy: Official Statements

Public statements about the Silver Labrador Controversy by all the major world authorities.

The World Canine Federation

Also known as the Federation Cynalogique Internationale (FCI), is based in Belgium, was  founded in 1911, and unites 86 kennel clubs from around the world. In total, the FCI recognises 343 breeds of dogs and each breed standard is assigned to a country and managed by a kennel club within that country.

The Labrador breed standard is assigned to England and managed by The Kennel Club. On the issue of color, the standard is:

Wholly black, yellow, or liver/chocolate. Yellows range from light cream to red fox. Small white spot on chest permissible

Which is then qualified as follows:

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on its ability to perform its traditional work.

Source: FCI Labrador Breed Standard

The Kennel Club

This was the first Kennel Club in the world and many of the practices it developed during 1850 to 1900 were later adopted by other Kennel Clubs around the world.

Official statement:

In 2001 the Kennel Club received a direct request from the Labrador Breed Council to restrict the registration of Labrador colours to black, yellow and chocolate/liver and for any other colour to be registered as non-standard (the Kennel Club changed the wording of non-standard to non-recognised in 2007 as it was perceived that this removed any rarity value to it). Any silver Labradors should fall into this latter category and should have non-recognised printed in the colour field on their registration certificate.

It is our understanding that the silver Labradors resident in the UK originated from the US. The American Kennel Club has advised us that following an investigation into the original silver coloured dogs in 1987, they had no reason to doubt that these were not purebred Labradors. This decision appears to have been arrived at with representatives from both the AKC and from the LRC of America.

The genetics of the silver colour in the Labrador is not known, at least not to us. However, there are breeds where silver is a colour and the genetics has been worked out, the silver Poodle, for example. Silver in the Poodle is the result of an interaction between two different genes, the dilution gene and the grey gene.

The dilution gene has two different forms, 'D' and 'd', as does the grey gene, 'G'; and 'g'. 'D' is dominant to 'd' and 'G' is dominant 'g'. The silver Poodle is 'dd' and has at least one 'G' version of the grey gene. It is probably fair to say that silver in the Labrador will have a good chance of having a similar origin. The 'd' version of the dilution gene will certainly be present in the Labrador gene pool, although possibly at a low frequency. Most breeds are 'gg', so the G could well be a new mutation, or has been introduced at some time in the past by cross breeding a Labrador with a breed that has the 'G' version of the grey gene. 

Provided a dog has been born from two registered parents (either registered with the Kennel Club or with another KC with which we have a reciprocal agreement) the legal position is that it is not possible to debar an application to register a litter unless a formal due process has taken place with a formal disqualification being imposed. 

As far as judging goes, it is down to the judge of the day to determine whether the dog conforms to the breed standard - this includes colour too - and to award or penalise accordingly. Whilst the Kennel Club can understand and share the concerns about this issue, unless proof can be obtained that these dogs are not purebred, the Kennel Club has no justification to refuse registration based upon colour alone.

Source: Email contact with the Press Office of The Kennel Club.

The American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the governing body for all dog breeds in America and is notably the only major kennel club in the world to not join with the FCI.

The AKC draws its breed standard from The Labrador Retriever Club, and appears to have made two significant public statements regarding the Silver Labrador Retriever:

The registry of the American Kennel Club is based on parentage and not the coat color of a member of any breed. In 1987 the AKC, in corporation with the Labrador Retriever Club of America, conducted an inquiry into the breeding of litters that contained members that were registered as silver. 

An AKC representative was sent to observe these dogs. The report and color photographs of these dogs were reviewed by AKC staff and representatives of the Labrador Retriever Club of America. Both Parties were satisfied that there was no reason to doubt that the dogs were purebred Labrador Retrievers, however they felt that the dogs were incorrectly registered as silver. 

Since the breed standard at the time described chocolate as ranging in shade form sedge to chocolate, it was felt that the dogs could more accurately be described as chocolate rather than silver. This remains the current policy of the American Kennel Club. 

Jack Norton 
Special Services Dept

So clearly the AKC is only concerned with proof of parentage, and so far insufficient evidence has been provided for them to rule that any Silver Labradors were being mis-classified as Labrador Retrievers. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but for now the AKC is operating under the presumption that there is no reasonable doubt.

Consensus at the "Silver Lab" meeting held on July 14, 1997. 

1) The foundation for the AKC registry is based on parentage and not color. 
2) We should register all Lab pups coming from purebred AKC registered Labs. 
3) We should not register Labs as "Silver". 
4) After a review of pictures, the file and history of this issue which goes back to 1987, we feel the most appropriate color for registration is Chocolate. 
5) We will entertain complaints of impure breedings on an individual basis, but complaints should be based on more than color. 

Robert Young AKC

Source: The AKC did not respond to an email requesting verification, however these two quotes are spread very widely online and I have no reason to doubt authenticity.

The Labrador Retriever Club (USA)

Given the strength of the statement made on its website, it appears that the LRC has taken a harder stance on the issue since 1987 when it jointly investigated reports of Silver Labs with the AKC.

There is no genetic basis for the silver gene in Labradors. The silver color is a disqualification under the Standard for the breed. The LRC does not recognize, accept or condone the sale or advertising of any Labrador as a silver Labrador. The Club opposes the practice of registering silver as chocolate.

Source: The Labrador Retriever Club

National Labrador Retriever Breed Council (Australia)

 An important part of that breed standard describes the three acceptable coat colours. Black, Yellow and Liver/Chocolate are the only recognised coat colours in our breed. Any diversion from these three standard colours indicates a cross breeding combination may have occurred. 

Disturbing evidence has now been uncovered which suggests that some unscrupulous breeders in Australia may be considering promoting a new coat colour to unsuspecting Australian Labrador puppy buyers – Silver (or Platinum or Charcoal). This concept is not new – for some years in the USA and more recently in New Zealand so called Silver Labradors have been pedalled by “backyard/designer dog” breeders as being rare or unique. Not surprisingly this advertised rarity comes at a significant price both financially to the buyer and in health concerns to the individual dogs concerned. 

The sad fact is that these Silver Labradors are cross bred dogs – the result of crossing a Labrador Retriever with a Weimaraner. Genetically these crossbred designer Labradors are at high risk of inherited structural and health defects. Neurological disorders such as epilepsy are widespread amongst “Silver” Labradors due to the inbreeding that is required to maintain the unnatural silver coat colour. 

These dogs also suffer debilitating skin and thyroid problems. It has also become evident that significant numbers do have problems with hip and elbow dysplasia due to generations of breeding from “untested” breeding stock. The NLRBC has issued a Silver Coat “high alert” to all State based member clubs around Australia. If you require more information or you wish to report the activities of a suspected Silver Labrador breeder please contact the Labrador Retriever Club in your home state. 

Source: National Labrador Retriever Breed Council Australia

The Labrador Club Incorporated (New Zealand)

The only recognised colours for Labrador Retrievers are black, yellow and chocolate – and chocolate is brown – like chocolate or liver.  Labradors of other colours do not conform to the Standard Description of the Labrador Retriever Breed. The Breed Standard which is universally accepted describes what is a Labrador. Breeding dogs that do not conform to this Standard is a move towards creating a new breed. We do not want to see ‘silver labs’, ‘charcoal labs’, ‘black and white labs’, ‘merle labs’, ‘roan labs’, ‘blue labs’ etc and the Club does not approve or condone the sale of such dogs as Labradors.

Source: The Labrador Club Incorporated

How the “silver gene” was introduced into the Labrador in the USA cannot at this time be proven but because it seemed to originate from one kennel it is most likely an accidental or deliberate mating with another breed. There is reference that the kennels in the USA from which the colour may have originated years ago at the time bred both Labradors and other hunting breeds including Weimaraner’s. 

Others have suggested it may have been that the colour was a natural mutation. Mutations however typically do not reproduce in a typical pattern. The ‘silver’ Lab expression follows the exact same pattern as any other (dd) dilution in other breeds. The ‘silver’colour has not been seen in any other country.

Source: The Labrador Club Incorporated

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