The Kennel Club launches "play your part" report in face of welfare crisis - Veterinary Practice
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The Kennel Club launches “play your part” report in face of welfare crisis

The report recommends collaborative measures across all aspects of brachycephalic dog breeding and ownership

A new report by The Kennel Club, launched on the 5 September 2023, is urging collaboration on the issues facing flat-faced, or brachycephalic, dogs such as French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs.

The report, “Play Your Part: Breeding, buying and bringing up brachycephalic dogs better”, highlights the welfare crisis faced by some of these dogs due to their huge increase in popularity, and details the collaborative measures that need to be taken by the puppy buying public, breeders, vets, Government and The Kennel Club to protect and improve the health of current and future generations.

Brachycephalic breeds – often referred to as flat-faced dogs due to their short head – have increased in popularity substantially over the last two decades, resulting in irresponsible and high-volume breeding, and importing from abroad, with no regard for health or welfare. Whilst demand has now levelled off and is declining, this has compounded a number of health problems, spanning issues with breathing, skin and eyes, and created one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs in the UK.

Some of the most popular brachycephalic breeds – French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and Pugs – now account for one in five dogs in the UK, and The Kennel Club report recommends action focussing on:

  • Health screening, including increasing uptake of the only current tool to analyse and improve Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome – the University of Cambridge/Kennel Club Respiratory Function Grading scheme
  • Education and behaviour change of breeders, puppy buyers and dog owners, and the role of online marketplaces which advertise pets
  • Introducing mandatory contracts for breeders and overhauls to Codes of Practices on caring for dogs

The Kennel Club hopes the report will galvanise all those to “play their part” and work together to improve the health and welfare of the current huge population of these dogs, and future generations. The asks are non-breed-specific so that in the future, new breeds and types of “fashionable” dog will also be better safeguarded.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club, commented: “There will always be a demand for brachycephalic type dogs – they are much loved pets by millions in the UK – but it is imperative that we continue to work together to improve how they are bred and bought, and how they are cared for throughout their lives.

“The recommendations outlined in this report, which is very much focussed on collaborative action, aim to improve the welfare of those dogs already owned by many and those yet to be bred.

“As well as making this a priority ourselves, we are calling on the Government, breeders, dog owners, vets, rehoming centres, insurance companies and online sellers to play a part, and to help us in our mission to ensure dogs are bred and owned responsibly, and live healthy, happy lives.”

As part of its commitment to encouraging responsible dog breeding and ownership, The Kennel Club, alongside the University of Cambridge, developed the Respiratory Function Grading scheme (RFG) in 2019 which assesses Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs for Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Whilst continuing to fund further research into brachycephalic dog health, it has also licensed its RFG scheme to collect international data on BOAS and improve health globally. In 2016, The Kennel Club instigated the Brachycephalic Working Group, which is made up of vets, BOAS academics and researchers, welfare organisations and breed clubs, and aims to research, understand and take evidence-based action to reduce and ultimately eliminate the health problems that these breeds can face, and to educate uninformed puppy buyers and breeders who place looks over health.

The report, alongside more information about what The Kennel Club is doing to improve brachycephalic health, can be found on their website.

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