The push to crack down on selective breeding coincides with Norway’s recent ban on the breeding of Cavalier King Charles spaniels and English bulldogs due to concerns the practice is causing respiratory, heart and eye problems.
The Australian Veterinary Association is concerned about the recent rise in popularity of brachycephalic dog breeds such as British and French bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs. It calls for a ban on the breeding or display of dogs with a snout less than one-third the length of their skull.
“Continued selection for a dramatically shortened face has resulted in multiple anatomical changes that cause brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome… [which] it affects the animal’s ability to breathe, exercise, thermoregulate, sleep, play, and engage in other normal behaviors,” it states in a new policy document.
The main body of veterinarians would also like to see these flat-faced breeds examined for spinal problems associated with their corkscrew tails.
Veterinarian and association spokesman Dr David Neck said that while there were laws in Australia aimed at preventing the breeding of animals with defects, these were not routinely enforced.
In Victoria, it is an offense to intentionally or recklessly allow an animal with a hereditary defect to breed. But Dr. Neck said the state’s list of defects did not include common defects like the respiratory problems that plague brachycephalic dog breeds or intervertebral disc disease in dachshunds.
It is not known how many breeders, if any, have been charged. A spokeswoman for Animal Welfare Victoria, a branch of Agriculture Victoria, said the state government department kept no enforcement data for these offences.
“Victoria’s commercial dog breeding laws are the strictest in the country,” the spokeswoman said.
Dr. Neck said most of the flat-faced dogs had trouble breathing due to reckless breeding and would benefit from airway surgery, a high-risk procedure that costs between $1,500 and $4,000.
“We want the dog to have his best life and that involves airway surgery so he can breathe later in life,” he said.
An RSPCA senior scientific officer, Dr. Sarah Zito, said breeders should be required to inform potential buyers about the health and welfare risks of dog breeds with “exaggerated characteristics” and the cost of control these disorders.
“Unfortunately, exaggerated characteristics remain part of the pedigree ‘breed standards’ … even though these exaggerated characteristics cause health and welfare problems,” he said.
Dogs Australia, the apex body for purebred breeders, opposes any ban on dog breeds and believes this would drive the industry underground.
The organization’s ambassador, Dr. Rob Zammit, said in a statement that dogs and owners were suffering at the hands of unethical breeders who were circumventing checks carried out by accredited kennels, such as DNA testing to check blood lines. blood.
“Legitimate breeders are registered and regulated, so they can be easily identified,” he said. “Illegal operators usually only have a mobile phone contact; they are largely untraceable, so there is no pressure on them to look at health and wellness issues.”
Every week, a steady stream of dogs arrive at the Melbourne Bulldog Clinic in Cheltenham, in south-east Melbourne.
Then, surgeons at Dr. Marcus Hayes’s clinic get to work, removing tissues from the bulldogs’ nostrils to improve airflow, thinning and shortening their elongated palates, and removing tonsils and saccules in the larynx.
“Breeders will tell you that most of these dogs don’t have any problems,” said Dr. Hayes. “But these dogs suffer from nausea, chronic vomiting, an inability to enjoy normal exercise under normal conditions, and most lead sleep-deprived lives because they have restricted airflow. The surgery allows them to live their most comfortable life. What we have done to them as humans is absolutely horrendous.”
Dr. Hayes has been advocating for a number of changes to end unethical selective breeding. He said breeders were not incentivized to change their behavior because “flatter faces are more popular.”
Sara Strachan paid nearly $3,000 to have her 10-month-old British bulldog, Maggie, undergo airway surgery at Dr. Hayes’ clinic.
While the surgery was largely preventative, it dramatically improved Maggie’s quality of life. She no longer snores, vomits or has reflux and she can walk two kilometers with minimal recovery time. Before the surgery, she could not walk more than a kilometer and then collapsed on the ground for an hour, panting heavily.
Mrs. Strachan wishes she had known more about the health conditions associated with flat-faced dogs before purchasing Maggie from a local breeder.
“We went into this so ignorant,” he said. “We feel very guilty.”
While the Strachan family adore Maggie, and even 9-year-old Isla and 6-year-old Holly paint her claws, they won’t be rushing out to buy another British bulldog.
“I don’t think we can buy another one ethically,” Strachan said. “I feel like we would be encouraging bad breeders.”
It’s a similar story for Mrs. Holbrook, who has vowed never to buy another dachshund.
While Ms. Holbrook can’t bring back her beloved Angus, she would like to make consumers aware of the health risks associated with certain breeds of dogs.
“We need to take a step back from how incredibly cute and lovable dachshunds are,” he said. “We need to ask questions about animal welfare. What is correct?
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