The Montgomery ad that the NTCA does not want you to see


Every year - usually on the first Sunday in October - terrier fanciers from around the world gather to attend the Montgomery County Kennel Club's terrier-only dog show held in eastern Pennsylvannia. Affectionately known just as "Montgomery", this is the largest annual gathering of terriers in the world. Around Montgomery has grown a week-long celebration of all things "terrier" - terrier-only agility, obedience, earthdog, plus several other all-breed dog (conformation) shows. Many national terrier clubs in the United States designate Montgomery as their national specialty (their most prestigious dog show).


The Norwich Terrier Club of America (NTCA) is the national breed club for Norwich terriers in the United States. Usually the NTCA designates Montgomery as its national specialty. The NTCA bylaws specify that its annual business meeting of members shall be held in conjunction with Montgomery, thus indicating Montgomery's special status.

As a fund raiser, the NTCA sells advertising space in the Montgomery show catalog to its members. This allows breeders to advertise their kennel and breeding program. These ads are often accompanied by professionally shot pictures of one or more of a breeder's dogs.

This year, I decided to place a Montgomery ad highlighting a recently discovered DNA health test applicable to Norwich terriers. I am a member of the NTCA (and am an AKC Breeder of Merit and an AKC judge). I submitted my ad to the NTCA Advertising Chair, and - other than a confirmation of receipt of my ad - I did not hear anything further about my ad until I received a letter on 12 September from the NTCA Treasurer. The letter reads in its entirety "After a consultation with the Montgomery County Show Chair the NTCA Board of Directors decided to not include your ad in the catalog. Enclosed is your check."

Here is the ad:


The mutation causing PLL was discovered and reported in the scientific literature in 2010 ([1]). The mode of inheritance is simple recessive. A DNA test was developed, and is available from several labs ([2],[3],[4]).

Two recent scientific articles ([5], [6]) conclude that the PLL mutation is widespread among both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs and thus most likely is a mutation that occured early in the development of dogs. That the mutation remains in the canine genome is due to the fact that its effects - glaucoma and blindness - usually occur after a dog has passed its primary reproductive years.

In 2012 the mutation was confirmed in a Norwich terrier who had been diagnosed with PLL ([7]). Subsequently several Norwich related to the affected dog were found to be carriers of the PLL mutation. I then wrote to every member of the NTCA telling them about the PLL DNA test and encouraging them to test their Norwich.

Here are the arguments I have heard from breeders who say testing PLL in Norwich terriers is not necessary:

  1. "PLL only exists in one line of Norwich terriers."

    This is incorrect. What is correct is that PLL has only been found (so far) in one line of Norwich terriers. So far only approximately 100 Norwich have been DNA tested for PLL ([8]).

    There are approximately 600 Norwich terriers registered every year with the AKC. Thus the US population of Norwich terriers is approximately 6,000. Consequently only about 2 percent of the US Norwich population has been tested.

    So unless someone has done a lot of testing and not reported the results, this statement is false. The only way to know is to test.

  2. Cost

    The PLL DNA test costs approximately $65, and is a simple cheek swab test. The current going rate for a quality Norwich terrier is over $2,000. (I personally know of two Norwich that were sold for $4,000.) For that amount of money, does not the pet-buying public have a right to expect that a responsible Norwich breeder would have performed the PLL DNA test?

  3. "The PLL DNA test does not affect the major health problems affecting Norwich terriers."

    I agree that PLL is a not a major Norwich health problem. (However it is only minor in the sense that few Norwich have been diagnosed with PLL. It is major if your Norwich has it!) Science has not (yet) given us any health tests for the big problems affecting Norwich - upper airway syndrome or epilepsy.

    But currently there are no other known DNA tests for any other health problems that affect Norwich terriers. So to refuse to do a test for a problem that we can address now - because it does not help with some other problem - does not make any sense to me. Do any of us stop going to doctors because doctors can do little about some of the big human illnesses that exist? By using the PLL DNA test, breeders can make sure that a dog will not get PLL, and by judicious breeding remove the PLL mutation from their breeding stock. (I have.)

    And is it not better to stop a problem now before it becomes widespread? A popular sire can quickly spread his genes among a breed. PLL is widespread in Miniature Bull Terriers. When I have talked with Mini Bull breeders, they think that Norwich breeders are crazy not to PLL DNA test.

  4. "All the dogs with this mutation are descended from the one affected dog. It was a spontaneous mutation."

    This is also not correct. A full-sister of the affected dog (different litter, same parents) was found to be a PLL-carrier by the PLL DNA test. So both parents of the affected dog had to have been PLL-carriers.

  5. "The affected dog was not a pure-bred norwich terrier"

    No one has made this argument to my face, but I have heard it whispered. However the affected dog was a conformation champion ... and thus was evaluated by several conformation judges. While it is true that impure-Norwich have been (fraudulantly) registered with the AKC, I have not heard of any impure-Norwich that has been granted the title of conformation "Champion". No one made the charge that the affected dog was impure until its PLL DNA status was mentioned. To me this denial sounds like "sticking one's head in the sand".


Should not the pet-buying public have the right to know about a health test, so that they can make sure that the test is performed prior to spending a large amount of money on a pet who will become a valued family-member?

The animal right's extremists say that dog breeders are only interested in money, ribbons, and winning at events - not health. By refusing my ad, the NTCA seems to be confirming their opinion.

I encourage every breeder to health test their dogs, and I encourage every pet buyer to do their homework prior to purchasing a pet and ask about health tests performed.

If you know a Norwich breeder, I encourage you to contact them and ask if they PLL DNA test ... and if not, why not.

And shame on the Norwich Terrier Club of America.

Blair Kelly
AKC Breeder Of Merit
26 September 2013


[1] Farias, FH., et. al.: An ADAMTS17 Splice Donor Site Mutation in Dogs with Primary Lens Luxation. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci :, 2010.

See for a further scientific explanation and references.

[2] Orthopedic Foundation for Animals,

[3] VetGen,

[4] Animal Health Trust,

[5] Gould, D., et. al.: ADAMTS17 mutation associated with primary lens luxation is widespread among breeds. Vet Ophthalmol 14:378-384, 2011.

[6] Bellumori, et. al.: Prevalence of inherited disorders among mixed-breed and purebred dogs: 27,254 cases (1995-2010). J Am Vet Med Assoc 242:1549-55, 2013.

[7] November 2012 AKC Gazette, Norwich Terrier Breed Column available at Also available at

[8] Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, - click on "Advanced Search" and use "Breed"="Norwich Terriers" and "Report Type"="Primary Lens Luxation".