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Public urged to follow new flat-faced dog national plan to protect canine welfare

5 min read Partner content

The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), a national group of the UK’s leading dog health and welfare organisations, has launched a new three-point plan that calls on the public to play their part in protecting the health of flat-faced dogs.

The launch of the plan comes during Crufts – which offers a platform to talk about the serious health and welfare issues of some flat-faced dogs and the opportunities there are to drive improvement – and follows the recent announcement from online card retailer Moonpig that Pugs and French Bulldogs will no longer feature on its products.  

Many flat-faced dogs such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs, especially those bred for profit and for extreme features like very flat faces or excessive wrinkles, can face serious health and welfare issues related to breathing difficulty, eye problems, skin fold infections, spinal problems and difficulty giving birth. Endless exposure that portrays these dogs as ‘cute’ looking in the media has resulted in an explosion in their popularity in recent years, with high demand being met by poor quality breeding both within the UK and via illegal importation from the EU. 

The BWG, which is made up of veterinary associations, welfare organisations, universities, the government, breeders and dog owners are highlighting the public’s shared responsibility to protect dogs from the health and welfare harms that can result from breeding for the flat-face ‘look’. The new BWG plan lays out how dog owners and the wider public can help protect the health of flat-faced dogs. The new national plan comes at a critical tipping point when growing evidence suggests that the UK dog-buying public may finally be beginning to 'Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’ as the BWG recommends.  

BWG has been working for the past seven years to reduce public demand for flat-faced dogs in the UK, and this work now appears to be taking effect.  Figures from the UK’s largest canine welfare charity, Dogs Trust, show a significant decline in the importation of flat-faced breeds over the last five years*, while results from classified advertising website Pets4Homes suggests similarly decreasing interest in flat-faced dogs from buyers to their site**.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), says:  

“Maximising good health, welfare and temperament overrides all other considerations for dogs. Our new three-point national plan sets out how everyone in the UK can play their part in ending the flat-faced dog crisis.

“The BWG national plan asks prospective dog buyers to ‘Stop and think’ before buying breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs or before promoting images of flat-faced dogs publicly, for current owners of flat-faced dogs to be prepared for the extra health needs that can come with these body shapes, and finally in the future to only buy dogs with non-extreme body shapes.  

“The recent decision by Moonpig to cease selling products with imagery of Pugs and French Bulldogs is a welcome move that reflects growing public sentiment about the serious health issues of many flat-faced dogs. However, there is still plenty of work to be done and we need everyone in the UK to pitch in and help turn the tide on the flat-faced dog crisis for good.”

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for Crufts and The Kennel Club – a founding member of the BWG – added:

“We all have shared responsibility to flatten the demand from the general public for unhealthy extremes in dogs which has been driven by popular culture.

“Whilst some flat-faced dogs lead healthy lives, some have severe respiratory disease and we must tackle these serious health concerns, which is why we have developed a test for this condition – the Respiratory Function Grading Scheme - offered free at Crufts.

“It’s so important that educational platforms like Crufts highlight these issues, provide resources to drive health improvements and signpost people to make responsible decisions when it comes to dog ownership.”

British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Dr Justine Shotton says:

“The news that Moonpig will remove Pugs and French Bulldogs from its cards, following years of campaigning by vets and animal welfare groups, shows how powerful collective action can be in bringing about positive change. It underscores the importance of our shared responsibility as advertisers, owners, breeders and vets to improve the health and welfare of dogs.

“We’re now calling on dog lovers across the country to play their part, to ‘stop and think’ before buying these breeds of dog and help share the painful truths about the extreme health issues they can suffer. Together we have an opportunity to make a real difference to these terrible breed-related welfare problems.”  

BWG’s three-point plan suggests:  

1.‘Stop and think’ if you’re considering getting a flat-faced dog or breeding from a current pet. If you're planning to breed your dog, make sure it has passed the official Kennel Club/University of Cambridge respiratory function testing and other breed-specific veterinary health checks first. Avoid sharing social media posts that feature imagery of flat-faced dogs and encourage big brands to do the same. These steps can contribute to dramatically reducing the numbers and popularity of flat-faced dogs.

2. If you already own a flat-faced dog, help protect their health or welfare by learning to recognize the problems that these breeds can commonly suffer from. For example, audible breathing and/or snoring at rest is never normal or acceptable. If you have any concerns, always consult your veterinary practice and don’t rely on advice found or given on the internet or on social media. 

3. If you still plan to buy a flat-faced dog in the future despite awareness of their health and welfare risks, make sure the puppy and its parents have passed all relevant health tests for their breed. Use the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme and the Puppy Contract to help protect you and your puppy from unscrupulous and low-welfare sellers. Only get a dog that has been bred away from extreme body shapes, such as extreme flat faces, skin folds and lack of tail, all of which are linked to poor innate health. 

Visit the BWG website at  http://www.ukbwg.org.uk/?page_id=513 to view the full National Plan statement and to download the associated infographic. 

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