Don’t buy flat-faced puppies this Christmas, welfare experts plead

Christmas pug

The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) is calling for the public to exercise “caution” when buying a puppy over the Christmas period – and most of all, to “stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog”.

BWG was established to work for the welfare of brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers and English bulldogs. Its members include The Kennel Club, PDSA, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Cambridge, the British Veterinary Association, Bulldog, French Bulldog and Pug Breed Clubs, and DEFRA.

The health of flat-faced breed has been reason for concern over the past several years. Their exaggerated features lead to a vast array of health problems, including Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), which causes breathing issues.

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These dogs’ rise in popularity, partly fuelled by celebrity endorsement and their use in advertising campaigns, turned out to be a disaster for their welfare. More and more puppies were bred for a quick buck by unscrupulous breeders and often bought on impulse by people unprepared to deal with their health problems.

Members of the public buying puppies and kittens on impulse in the run-up to Christmas – with puppy farmers cashing in at the expense of animal welfare – is an issue that keeps presenting itself every year, and it is not new. ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ has been Dogs Trust’s slogan since 1978, and it remains sadly relevant over forty years later. Flat-faced breeds’ health issues and popularity add to the problem.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Chairman of BWG, says, “Unlike some commodities which are reportedly going to be in short supply this Christmas, and which we’re being advised to ‘buy now to avoid disappointment later’, puppies are living, sentient creatures and must not be bought on a whim.”

Flat-faced dog

He added, “We are particularly worried about rising demand for flat-faced puppies who often suffer from painful health conditions. This demand, spurred in part by the pandemic, coupled with rife puppy farming, rogue breeding and international smuggling of these dogs by profiteering cruel traders, means it’s incredibly difficult to responsibly source one of these dogs at any time of the year.

“Dog welfare concerns only grow at Christmas due to impulsive puppy buying decisions and gift-giving. With this newly released data showing a trend for ‘Christmas puppies’, the UK’s leading pet welfare experts are urging would-be owners to avoid buying any new four-legged friend at Christmas.

“This particular ‘perfect storm’ is worsening an already serious health and welfare crisis for flat-faced dogs.”


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