Members present their campaigns on Flat-faced dog breeding and sales, Canine fertility clinics and Puppy markets

At the latest Alliance members' meeting in June 2023, three representatives from our member organisations prepared insightful presentations into a specific area of their work. A short summary of each presentation can be found below.

Kelly Kessen – Dier&Recht (The Netherlands) – Don't buy, breed or sell a flat-faced dog!

Together with other organisations, Dier&Recht started a campaign in August 2022 to raise awareness and eventually bring an end to buying, breeding and selling of brachycephalic breeds. The main aim of the campaign was to educate the wider public and start conversations with owners of brachycephalic dogs and those close to them.

The campaign posters are translated to German, English and Slovenian, while an Irish organisation is currently in the process of adapting the campaign locally as well. At present, the website is only available in Dutch, but is also expected to launch in English in November of 2023. The social media campaign was particularly successful, reaching an audience of over 2 million.

Breeding brachycephalic dogs is already prohibited in the Netherlands, however there are still cases of illegal breeding. The breeding ban includes breeds that commonly display problems such as snoring, closed nostrils, eye problems, skin folds and snout shorter than 1/3 of the skull length.

The campaign also included political lobbying to reinforce calls for a trade and import ban.

The Government has recently announced a law which prohibits owning dogs and cats with harmful external characteristics, such as flat faces in dogs – a ‘keepers ban’. The ban will come into effect in 5 years and will include harmful animal features other than flat faces, such as cats with no whiskers, baldness, breeds with no tails, Scottish Fold cats, etc. Ban will cover advertising and influencers, too.

Exemptions to the keepers’ ban will be permitted if the animal was born before the legislation comes into effect. If animals with prohibited features are bought abroad and brought into the country, their keepers face a large fine, but it is unclear what will happen to the animal. Enforcement of the ban is yet to be clarified.

In the meantime, Dier&Recht will continue to campaign and spread awareness, while also researching in collaboration with University of Utrecht the problematic features and conditions which would need to be prohibited.

Paweł Artyfikiewcz – Fundacja Viva! (Poland) – Puppy Markets as an exemplary case of pet breeders’ bypassing the law

The presentation by Viva! Poland addressed the topic of pet breeders bypassing the law by selling their puppies at puppy markets. An exemplary case of such a market is Słomczyn, located just south of Warsaw, that had been investigated a number of times by polish as well as foreign NGOs and media.

The phenomenon of illegal or at least unethical breeding of dogs and cats had been an issue over the last decades, but 2012 saw an amendment of the law coming into force, that aimed at settling the matter by prohibiting the breeding of dogs and cats for commercial purposes by persons not registered within breeders’ associations as well as placing a ban on selling animals outside of the breeding grounds, which includes markets. However, the breeders found a way around the regulations by founding their own associations that united the hitherto unethical breeders. Furthermore, some of them registered their new entities at the animal market in Słomczyn, what made their sale of puppies there seemingly legal.

Investigation carried out at the market over the years indicate that the market has become a hub not only for the unethical breeders’ businesses, but also for puppy traffickers or smugglers to UK and Scandinavia, with the sellers expressing eagerness to forge any necessary paperwork. Not to mention the findings concerning animal welfare issues at the market itself. 

Solutions proposed by Viva!, apart from further monitoring the business and drawing due consequences when possible, include the taxation of pet breeders, who currently remain privileged as a special branch of agriculture, for which there is no real justification. This change would mean treating pet breeders as regular entrepreneurs with all due obligations that include invoices, and regular tax and social security fees. 

Other recommendations are tightening the rules for international pet transport and trade as well as raising the minimum age of pets allowed to be transported.

Natalie Harney – Naturewatch (UK) – Canine Fertility Clinics: Insights from the UK

Natalie explained that canine fertility clinics are businesses that advertise and perform assisted breeding services for dogs, such as artificial insemination, ovulation tests, semen services and pregnancy scans. Most clinics do not utilise registered veterinary professionals, even though at least some of the services offered, such as canine artificial insemination, constitute acts of veterinary surgery in the UK. 

Since 2020, the number of clinics in the UK has grown from 37 to 404. The rise in clinics is due to: demand for breeds that struggle to mate and whelp through natural methods; the rapid increase in demand for dogs during the pandemic; and, the emergence of a subculture of owners and breeders who find extreme looking dogs desirable. 

While the increase in dedicated clinics on this scale appears to be unique to the UK, there are some similar establishments in the US, although these tend to utilise veterinary staff. The existence of clinics points to a wider problem in how certain types of dogs are being bred and the need for appropriate controls of assisted canine breeding techniques to tackle extreme conformation in dogs. 

Naturewatch Foundation’s recommendations include:

  • Only qualified veterinary professionals should perform assisted canine breeding procedures;
  • Such procedures should not be used to breed dogs who cannot physically mate and/or whelp due to innate health issues, and this principle should be reflected in dog breeding regulations;
  • Male dogs should be included in the scope of dog breeding regulations, as many clinics advertise stud dogs for hire.

A big thank you to all the presenters and best of luck with your campaigns!