The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has doubled down on calls for an urgent crackdown on unregulated dog fertility clinics as new statistics reveal the depth of vets’ concern over a steep rise in fertility clinics being run without any veterinary involvement and fuelling irresponsible puppy breeding practices.
It is urging owners who want to breed their dog to think twice before using the services of such clinics.
Statistics from BVA’s latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey show that 93 percent vets across the UK are concerned about the spike in canine fertility clinics, with vets in the North West being significantly more likely to be very concerned as compared to other regions.
Worryingly, among vets who work in small animal practice, 30 percent said they were aware of dog fertility clinics in their area which appear to be working without any veterinary involvement.
The recent spike in fertility clinics can be linked to the pandemic puppy boom and the demand for designer dog breeds.
Many such dogs, such as bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds, struggle to mate and whelp naturally and are known to have a range of breed-related health and welfare problems.
A Naturewatch Foundation earlier this year uncovered evidence of at least 332 canine fertility clinics operating in the UK, a steep rise from the 37 known clinics found by a Vet Record investigation in 2020.
Canine fertility clinics offer a range of dog fertility and breeding services, from artificial insemination and ultrasound scanning to progesterone testing and semen extraction.
While some non-invasive procedures can be carried out by unqualified people, all forms of artificial insemination and invasive acts involving intravenous blood sampling must only be carried out by a vet by law.
BVA is concerned that many canine fertility clinics are being run without a vet’s oversight, with unqualified people carrying out veterinary procedures.
A BBC exposé last year also lifted the lid on some unregulated clinics offering courses on canine fertility to people with no veterinary or animal handling qualifications.
The undercover footage showed illegal blood sampling, lay people advocating the unlicensed use of human medicines on dogs and potentially illegal acts during artificial insemination.
British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Justine Shotton said:
“Anyone looking to breed their dog should always speak to their vet first. That’s because unsuspecting owners and breeders may not be aware that many canine fertility clinics are being run by people offering veterinary services without any qualifications.
“Our advice would be to think carefully before engaging with a canine fertility clinic and to ask the right questions before using their services.
“This includes questions around the staff’s qualifications and training, how they are regulated, and about relevant health tests to make sure the dog is fit to breed in the first place.”
In vets’ written responses to the survey, the need for stronger regulation of such establishments emerged as a common theme.
BVA is calling for urgent and appropriate regulation and an ongoing, multi-agency approach to clamp down on these unregulated and dangerous practices.
It is engaging with organisations including Dogs Trust, Naturewatch Foundation, Scottish SPCA, and the Canine and Feline Sector Group to explore options for regulatory change.