A DOG club last night defended its breeding policy as it prepares for its international championship show at Blenheim Palace.

Animal rights group Peta has accused the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of causing suffering to the dogs by promoting in-breeding.

But the group denied the accusation, claiming health and welfare are its “highest priorities” and accusing puppy farmers of causing genetic problems in the breed.

Thousands of people from around the world will head to Blenheim next weekend for the start of the club’s annual two-day Championship Show.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are listed as “at risk” after years of in-breeding resulting in some animals suffering heart disease and a condition which leaves the dog’s skull too small for its brain.

The BBC has refused to broadcast the world famous dog show Crufts unless 14 breeds are banned, including the Cavalier.

Peta – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – says the breeding practices responsible must be stopped.

Policy adviser Alistair Currie said: “People who care about dogs as dogs, rather than their appearance or breeding lines, would stop the in-breeding and put health above human fancy.“ “Whether it’s for inner city ‘status dogs’ or fancy breeds like the Cavalier Kings Charles, it’s dogs who suffer and it needs to be banned outright.”

Club chairman Sheena Maclaine said the breed rules were “historic”.

She added: “Club members are responsible for a very small proportion of puppies that are bred, with the majority produced by puppy farmers and commercial breeders.

“The club has no way of controlling or influencing these people.

“On the other hand, we continually revise guidelines for ethical breeding, as new information becomes available from veterinary research specialists.”