Hugs, not pugs: public urged not to buy cards with flat-faced animals this Valentine’s Day

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The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling on members of the public not to pick Valetine’s Day cards or other merchandise featuring brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog or cat breeds.

BVA’s ‘Hugs Not Pugs’ campaign, first launched in 2018 as part of the #BreedToBreathe campaign, calls on greeting card retailers to “stop using images of animals with potentially serious health and welfare issues on their cards and other merchandise to avoid normalising these problems.”

These dogs’ rise in popularity in recent years turned out to be a disaster for their welfare: badly bred with extreme but fashionable features for a quick buck and often bought by people unprepared to deal with the resulting health issues, they hardly resemble the far healthier animals their ancestors were a hundred years ago.

A painting of Pug by Richard Ramsey Reinagle (1775-1862) versus a modern Pug.

Vets fear that while the images are meant to be harmless fun, giving further visibility to pets with extreme features which lead to serious health issues may “create higher demand for the animals”.

BVA President Justine Shotton has written to the Greeting Card Association and several big retailers – including Moonpig, Paperchase and WH Smith – asking them to pledge to stop using such images in their designs in the future.

She said, “Flat-faced dogs and cats like Pugs, French bulldogs and Persians and ‘long and low’ breeds like dachshunds continue to remain popular on greeting cards and gifts this Valentine’s Day, even four years after vets started the #BreedToBreathe campaign.

She added, “These animals add a ‘cute’ appeal to merchandise, but their looks mask a host of potential health and welfare problems. Valentine’s Day is a day for showing love, so giving a gift or card depicting an animal that can suffer because of how it has been bred is not the right message to give a loved one.

“That is why we’re asking everyone to choose hugs not Pugs to show your love this year. Some card retailers and associations engaged with us when we wrote to them back in 2018, but sadly, we have yet to see any real change.

“While stock for this year is already in the shops, we hope that card retailers will work with BVA to reduce the visibility and, hopefully, the popularity of these breeds in the future.”

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