‘CELEBRITY culture’ has driven demand for dog breeds who suffer for their looks, according to The Kennel Club.
As Crufts 2023 comes to an end, the RSPCA has called on dog-lovers to sign an open letter to the organisers in a bid to end flat-faced dogs who are bred for a certain look – which could be harmful to their health.
The charity has urged organisers to ensure 2023 was the last time dogs who can suffer – French bulldogs, pugs and British bulldogs among them – are paraded in front of judges.
Concerns this year included the British bulldog Best of Breed winner failing a vet check, while the French bulldog Best of Breed winner who went through to the Utility Group final had pinched nostrils, the charity said.
The Kennel Club, which organises Crufts, says it works to educate dog breeders and owners about the issue and a ban on the breeds at shows would be counterproductive, leading to ‘underground’ dealing.
The RSPCA launched its Save Our Breath campaign this month to highlight concerns flat-faced brachycephalic breeds can suffer from breathing issues, with many not able to live normal lives due to the way they’ve been selectively bred.
The animal charity’s dog welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines, said: “This year, the RSPCA closely watched the world’s biggest dog show, and just like in previous years, we were left feeling hugely frustrated again.
“Year after year, judges choose breed and group winners based on how closely they match the ‘breed standard’ – even dogs who have visibly exaggerated features that are associated with serious health issues.”
Bill Lambert, spokesperson for Crufts and The Kennel Club, said: “Far from creating demand for a ‘must have’ pet, Crufts actually educates people about important issues around dog ownership and health, which is why a ban from this important education platform would be completely counterproductive.
“The reality is that media and celebrity culture sadly drives demand for a particularly exaggerated look, which can lead to health issues – by contrast less than one per cent of all dogs take part in dog shows, which assess dogs against moderate guidelines that, alongside show vet checks, explicitly call for the avoidance of unhealthy extremes.
“To try and improve the health of future generations, The Kennel Club has been the only organisation to harness the power of health testing and to develop with Cambridge University, the Respiratory Function Grading scheme – something we offer for free to those at Crufts, and which assesses the future likelihood of a dog developing the respiratory disease known as BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome), which affects some of these dogs.
“Crufts plays an important part in urging people to ‘stop and think’ before buying a brachycephalic dog and ensuring that they are armed with the information that they need to make a responsible decision.
“A ban from Crufts, which is a forum for promoting improved health and moderation, could very well be a precursor to calls to ban them in the UK – a move that we think will do nothing to dent their popularity and lead to a surge of brachycephalic breeds, pure or crossbreed, being bred underground, away from any influence.”
The public can show their support for the campaign by signing an open letter to Crufts organisers The Kennel Club on the RSPCA website.
For more information on the Save Our Breath campaign, visit www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/saveourbreath.