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Milestones for the BMDCA Organization

Milestones & Initiatives

  • in conjunction with the BMDCA and Michigan State University, the Berner-Garde Foundation established the Bernese Mountain Dog DNA Repository which maintains cheek swabs, blood, and tumor tissue.

  • the BMDCA elected to require AKC DNA registration for all entries at the National Specialty. This helps to ensure the accuracy of the stud book, but more importantly, it provides a greater accuracy of pedigrees — which is imperative for genetic research.

  • A member of the BMDCA Health Committee has attended the Berner International Working Group health symposium and meeting to interact with researchers and other BMD club health committee members, and to write summaries of all of the presentations on Berner health and research.



  • In the 1960's, two BMDCA visionaries named Barbara and Martin Packard recognized the need for openly sharing health information in order to help identify and reduce genetic diseases in the breed. They started a database to collect and share health information. Initially the San Francisco Bay Berners took ownership.

  • 1966 - the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) was established.




















  • the BMDCA voted to set aside $5,000 to study cancer.

  • a committee was formed utilizing Dr. George Padgett and the Data Registry to determine if there were hereditary factors involved with cancer in the breed, if so what the mode of inheritance is, and whether it could be controlled.

  • a tumor collection process was established with Dr. Madewell at UC Davis in California.

  • the database was taken over by the BMDCA, and it was called the BMDCA Data Registry, later the BMDCA International Database, and was part of the Cancer Committee.

  • The Packards were instrumental in starting the International Elbow Working Group [IEWG] to provide for dissemination of elbow information and to develop a protocol for screening that would be acceptable to the international scientific community and breeders. Barbara Packard served as their first Secretary. [The IEWG is the reason that almost every elbow rating system uses the same 0/1/2/3 results.]

  • it was announced that OFA, Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), and the AKC formed a coalition to sponsor a molecular genetic research project at Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine under the direction of George Brewer MD, a human geneticist. The project was to attempt to identify at least 400 molecular markers for problem genes that cause a variety of inherited diseases in the dog.

  • the Packards were instrumental in starting the GDC, the Institute for Genetic Disease Control. This registry was the first open registry in the US, and maintained registries for orthopedic diseases (hips, elbows, shoulders, hocks), as well as diseases of the eye, skin, heart, hearing, and Globoid cell leukodystrophy.

  • the BMDCA partnered with Berner-Garde and GDC to establish a tumor repository at UC Davis with Dr. Madewell. This helped to better diagnose and provide information about disseminated histiocytic sarcoma, which at the time was referred to as malignant histiocytosis.

  • (April) at the annual meeting in Coraopolis PA, Ruth Reynolds moved that a collection be made for the Cancer Fund during the meeting in honor of Show Chair Mary Dawson, who had been injured in a car accident. Carol Evert and Dennis Ostermiller announced that during the 1992 National Specialty in Colorado Springs, two hours of Sylvia Howison's undivided attention would go to the highest bidder. The proceeds of the auction would be given to the Cancer Fund.

  • the AKC first utilized DNA testing for parentage verification and genetic identity purposes which ensured the accuracy of the Bernese Mountain Dog Stud Book.

  • the AKC changed its registration numbering system to use a litter number followed by a two digit number designating the order of the dog on the litter form.

  • the results of Dr. Padgett's study were shared in the October issue of The Alpenhorn. Malignant histiocytosis was determined to be influenced by hereditary factors. Breed incidence was estimated to be 10 to 12 percent.

  • a committee was formed with Teresa Glenn-Godfrey as chair to investigate the possibility of forming an independent foundation as a nonprofit and tax exempt organization. It was called the Berner-Garde Steering Committee. Committee members: Anne Simonson-Gause, Lori Jodar, Stephanie Merchant, Susan Muick-Giangarra, Martin and Barbara Packard, Marsha Queer, Jerry Uhl, and Nell Ward.

  • at the Kansas City Specialty, the first funds were raised for Berner-Garde. A dog took a dollar bill from the hand of a person who offered it, and then went to a bucket to drop in the bills. It was a proud Pat Tackett who submitted that collection of bills to the computer room for Berner-Garde.

  • (October) the BMDCA's Board decided that Berner-Garde's primary mission would be genetic diseases, and the BMDCA Health Committee chaired by Kathy Berge would be health issues.

  • the BMDCA established a tumor registry with GDC.

  • BMDCA Health survey done, 691 total responses.

  • the Berner-Garde Foundation was incorporated. The database, which can be seen at, currently houses over 77,000 dogs.

  • the first health fund auction was held in Warwick Rhode Island. Mary Durham was the chair, and Paul Emerson was the auctioneer.

  • Members of the BMDCA Health Committee have attended the AKC Canine Health Foundation's health symposium to interact with researchers and other breed health committee members, and to write summaries of all of the presentations on canine health and research.

  • BMDCA Health survey done, 1,322 total responses.

  • the OFA agreed to absorb the data from a number of the GDC registries. It was at this time that the OFA decided to allow elective display of non-clearing data, and became a semi-open registry.

  • the BMDCA defined requirements for CHIC, and there are currently more than 300 BMDs with CHIC numbers. In contrast, however, there are over 50,000 health certifications recorded in the Berner-Garde database. There is no charge for submissions made to the Berner-Garde database.

  • BMDCA Health survey done, 1,418 total responses.

  • the BMDCA elected to require all advertisements in the club's The Alpenhorn publication to include the Berner-Garde ID number.

  • BMDCA DM Task Force headed by Dawn Gabig worked with Dr. Coates at U of Missouri to determine the value of the new DNA Degenerative Myelopathy test for Berners. This led to the identification of a second mutation on the same gene which has so far only been found in Bernese.

  • BMDCA Health survey done, 2,499 total responses.

  • Created the Pearson Fund in memory of Elizabeth Pearson and in tribute to Roger Pearson who dedicated so much of their time and themselves to the betterment of our breed. This fund reimburses some of the costs associated with confirming a preliminary diagnosis of histiocytic sarcoma or a presumptive diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy.

  • Julie Jackson has run Antagene Histio Pre-Test clinics in conjunction with the BMDCA National Specialty, with test costs subsidized by the BMDCA health fund.


  • The BMDCA Health Committee worked with Berner-Garde to establish the Berner Recommended Testing (BRT) designation showing a gold star for those dogs that have had all of the health testing recommended by the BMDCA done and shared in the Berner-Garde database.


The Bernese Mountain Dog has been the subject of a number of different studies involving cancer. We are currently funding and/or actively working with:


  • Dr. Ostrander at the National Institute of Health, studying the genetics of histiocytic sarcoma;

  • Dr. André at the University of Rennes in France, studying the genetics of histiocytic sarcoma;

  • Dr. Breen at the North Carolina State University, studying the genetics of histiocytic sarcoma;

  • Dr. Dow at Colorado State University, studying cancer immunotherapies;

  • Dr. Johnson at the University of Missouri, investigating other genetic factors underlying the risk of degenerative myelopathy;

  • Dr. Coates at the University of Missouri, investigating therapies for degenerative myelopathy;

  • Dr. Mason at the University of Pennsylvania, studying therapies for lymphoma;

  • Dr. Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan at Michigan State University, studying treatment for histiocytic sarcoma.

Cancer Research

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