Collie Health Foundation

Paying It Forward for Collie Health
Collie Health Foundation


The importance of each breed’s health is as important as its Standard. Without health and vitality, no breed can thrive—much less survive. The birth of the Collie Health Foundation developed initially as the health committee for Collie Club of America. While its intent and concept were good, under this structure CCA was only able to provide limited support for Collie research and related activities.

As explained on the CHF website, “Health problems, such as Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Bloat, Epilepsy, skin disorders, Dermatomyositis (DMS) and Grey Collie Syndrome, that can affect the Collie breed, need significant funding if they are ever to be conquered. Thus, the Foundation was born, with the primary function of addressing the breed’s major health problems.

The demand to meet the health needs of the breed far exceeded the function of a parent club health committee.

Collie Health Foundation

Benefits of becoming a separate organization were two-fold. It would provide donors tax deductions and allow donations to fund research and related health activities. The Foundation’s primary function was addressing the breed’s major health problems. Its main purpose is to fund research in breeding, genetics, and health issues of all dogs, with the primary emphasis on research as it relates directly to Collies. So far, the Foundation has given grants to the following areas of research: Bloat, Grey Collie, Epilepsy, eye diseases (most notably PRA), DMS, and many other health-related problems. The message of the Foundation is that funding nurtures and provides for research and education.

In 1986, the Collie Club of America established the Collie Club of America Foundation, Inc. The concept for the organization was conceived and brought to fruition by a group of longtime breeders. With the Collie Club of America’s assistance and cooperation, the reality of the organization was set into motion, gaining strength and success annually. Its accomplishments have been inspiring.

The Collie Health Foundation was one of the first dog health-related foundations and preceded the AKC Canine Health Foundation, which was modeled on the Collie Health Foundation’s original structure,” explained Nancy McDonald, former President and current Board Member.

It is important to note that these projects benefit not only Collies but all dogs. It even goes beyond the dogs.

What does Collie Health Foundation engage itself in now? While its mission is to fund research projects that will benefit the future health of Collies, it also strives to educate the general public and Collie breeders about health issues. Currently, Collie Health Foundation has allocated over one million dollars in Collie and dog-related research, with the promise of more on the horizon. Its website contains an abundance of information, from pertinent genetic tests, articles, videos, and blood banking to grant overviews and current research samples needed.

Examples of current research samples in which Collie owners can now participate are the Coloboma research study to locate a genetic marker for the condition, the underlying development of DMS in Collies (and Shelties), and Identification of Genetic Risk in Collies with Epilepsy. Information about these studies and how to become a participant can be found on the Collie Health Foundation website.

How does the Foundation earn income to support worthy research? It is an “IRS 501(c)3 non-profit” corporation, receiving its funds through membership donations, fund-raising activities, and other contributions. Collie Club of America gives $1 from each CCA member’s annual dues to CHF. As the Foundation’s membership grows, grants can become more generous. In essence, the Foundation has filled a large void. Many other breed clubs, including the American Kennel Club, have followed suit and established their own Health Foundations (AKCCHF). The Collie Club of America was, and is, a leader in this area.

On December 17, 2002 the organization changed its name from the Collie Club of America Foundation to the Collie Health Foundation. This gives the Foundation a unique identity, separate from the Collie Club of America, while allowing it to represent its mission more clearly.

Robette Johns, current President of Collie Health Foundation, commented, “The Foundation serves its membership through the remarkable scientific health advances afforded by the diligent work of the incredible researchers it supports. When we award grant money, we stay with the researcher(s) until the conclusion of the project.” She continued, “I think it is important to have a good working relationship the AKC Canine Health Foundation also. We have been part of their projects as well. For example, in the past, Collie Health Foundation has allocated $50,000 towards bloat research, money towards tick-borne diseases, and $75,00 towards epilepsy.

It is important to note that these projects benefit not only Collies but all dogs. It even goes beyond the dogs.

She continued, “It is imperative for everyone to understand that what we do today researching health issues with our dogs could possibly become the catalyst to helping researchers discover cures/controls for people afflicted with related conditions. Canine researchers are already aligned with NIH, National Institute of Health. For example, early detection of bladder cancer in dogs. This leads to NIH trials on people to determine if the same early detection methods with dogs could be used with humans. Many researchers involved on finding an effective heart disease treatment in dogs are also working hand in hand with drug companies. Canine research is helping lead the charge in this arena. DMS does not affect only dogs. Related to people, children can genetically inherit DMS. The type of DMS in children is similar to that which we see in our Collies and Shelties. The magnitude of being able to treat children inflicted with this condition would be lifechanging. All because of research with our dogs.”

Interested in participation to pay it forward to Collie and dog-related health issues? “Currently, there is DMS clinical treatment open to both purebred Collies and Shelties at no cost to owners due to the generosity of funding by CHF, the ASSA – American Shetland Sheepdog Association, and through the AKC Canine Health Foundation,” explained Johns. “To participate, interested owners and breeders would contact any of the three mentioned organizations.”


Purpose and Goals of the Collie Health Foundation

The specific purposes and objectives of the Foundation include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. To foster and promote the public’s knowledge and appreciation of dogs in general and Collies in particular.
  2. To further understanding of the diseases, defects, injuries, and other ailments that afflict dogs in general and Collies
    in particular.
  3. To support and promote the study of, and research on, the history, character, varieties, breeding genetics, and particular health problems of Collies.
  4. To establish a national database of resource materials
    about Collies.
  5. To produce, publish, and distribute to the general public, educational materials about the proper care, treatment, breeding, health, development, and training of Collies.


For more information about the Collie Health Foundation, visit its website.

  • Patt Caldwell grew up loving Collies due to, of course, the Lassie television program. Growing up, the family had three pet Collies. As a teenager, Patt would ride city transportation to go to the benched Chicago International Dog Show to see all the beautiful Collies. As an adult, she started her emersion into AKC sports with two Obedience Collies and then moved into Conformation. Since then, Patt has served the Collie Club of America as a District Director, Assistant to the club’s Junior Showmanship Chairperson, Chairperson of the Breed Education Committee, and an Election Coordinator. She is the current Secretary for the Collie Health Foundation and holds memberships in the CCA, Collie Health Foundation, Collie Club of Austin, Central States Collie Club, and Chicago Collie Club. Within each of these clubs, Patt has served in various officer positions and on numerous committees. She is an approved AKC Conformation Judge for Collies and All-Breed Junior Showmanship. Retired from 42 years teaching general and special education, Patt is becoming more involved in AKC venues that are new to her.

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