FOR the second year the Kennel Club International Canine Health Awards have highlighted individuals who have gone a step further towards promoting the health and wellbeing of dogs through their revolutionary work in the world of veterinary science.

By rewarding and encouraging learning and development, these awards place the KC on the international stage to recognise partners overseas and at home who are pioneers in improving the health and wellbeing of dogs, said KC Charitable Trust chairman Mike Townsend at the ceremony at Crufts on Saturday.

The two recipients were professors regarded as leading lights in the field of canine genetic research, Peter Bedford and Robin Franklin, who received the Lifetime Achievement and International Awards respectively from the Trust. They were also presented with cheques for £10,000 and £40,000 from sponsors Vernon and Shirley Hill of the Hill Family Foundation and Metro Bank.

They were chosen by 11 judges from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. Prof Bedford was chosen for his ongoing and inspirational commitment to developing and improving the use of ocular disease control schemes during his well-established career. Since 1996 he has given considerable support and advice in relation to primary open-angle glaucoma, an eye condition which can cause pressure in the eye causing pain and at worst blindness.

He has worked with breed clubs including the Border Collie Club, the British Briard Club and the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Club to help institute eye testing schemes for those breeds.He has also worked with last year’s winner of the International Canine Health Awards International Prize, Dr Gustavo Aguirre at the University of Pennsylvania, looking for hereditary retinal disease.

Prof Bedford, 70, was president of the British Small Animals Veterinary Association from 1982-83 and founded the European Society of Veterinary Ophthalmology from which has grown the European College. “I feel like the luckiest man alive,” he told those gathered at the ceremony. “I have been a vet for 46 years and a veterinary ophthalmologist for 56 years, something I always wanted to pursue.

“I’m grateful that my work has been recognised; my relationship with the KC has not always been a happy one because when we started talking about conformational diseases and the control of hereditary defects it was a different climate to now. But the KC is now full square behind dog health and has made considerable investment in genetic health. “Don’t believe the headlines that breeders are producing monstrous dogs, that’s rubbish, I have met a lot of brilliant breeders and dogs.” Prof Bedford said the award meant a great deal to him.

“The work I have done in hereditary ocular disease has only been possible through close collaboration with breeders, and this award recognises this collaboration,” he said. “Fortunately, awareness of these diseases is so much better today; however, I hope that the existence of this award will go on telling people that we should all aim to produce healthy pedigree dogs and that the KC is right behind all the efforts.”

Prof Franklin was recognised for his world-leading work in the healing and repair of the central nervous system which focused on exploring whether a specialised cell from a dog’s nose could be used to encourage nerve regrowth in dogs with spinal cord injury. As a result, he and colleagues Nick Jeffery and Nicholas Granger transplanted an olfactory ensheathing cell into the injured spinal cord of a dog – the first time such a procedure had been used in clinical surgery in any species, and this succeeded in helping dogs who had lost the use of their hind legs recover an impressive degree of movement.

Prof Franklin said: “It is a huge honour to receive recognition for the work I’ve done developing new therapies for the treatment of devastating neurological diseases in dogs and other species, including humans.”

The student award was not made this year due to the small number of entries which, Mr Townsend said, the judges felt did not represent the ‘full gamut of student abilities’.