Animal campaigners are calling on the next Scottish government to take steps to discourage the breeding of “flat-faced” animals, such as pugs, French bulldogs and Persian cats.
The charity OneKind said such breeds can have “extensive and serious welfare concerns”, saying they can suffer from breathing problems throughout their lives.
But it added during the coronavirus lockdown there had been a demand for brachycephalic, or “flat-faced”, dogs as pets – with the charity claiming that the French bulldog is now the most popular dog breed in the UK.
As a result of their popularity, the charity argued measures to discourage the breeding of such animals should be introduced after the next Holyrood elections in May.
OneKind director Bob Elliot said: “During the pandemic, there has been demand for brachycephalic, or ‘flat-faced’, dogs and the French bulldog is now the most popular dog breed in the UK.
“OneKind has actively campaigned to raise awareness of the extensive and serious welfare concerns associated with these breeds and the high demand for them has prompted us to include an ask in our manifesto to end the breeding of these ‘flat-faced’ dogs, cats and rabbits.”
The charity’s manifesto said that for brachycephalic animals such as pugs and Persian cats, the “majority” of such creatures “suffer severe breathing problems for their entire lives”.
Calling for measures to discourage the breeding of animals with these “exaggerated features”, it said that “breeding regulations should include a proviso that selective breeding favours welfare over appearance”.
Retired veterinary surgeon Dr Andy Cage, who worked for the PDSA animal charity for some 40 years, said: “Over the last few years, due to the increasing popularity of the flat-faced dog breeds, I was seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers presented to the hospital.
“French bulldogs predominated, but we saw many pugs and bulldogs too.
Most, if not all, were suffering from breathing difficulties and many had additional problems, such as ulcers on the surface of the eyeballs and spinal and limb deformities.”
He added: “Before Covid restrictions intervened, we were having to carry out risky surgery on some of these pets every week to open up airways and attempt to save sight.
“Some of the spinal deformities resulted in paralysis and incontinence which meant the animal couldn’t be saved.
“The worst thing was that many owners weren’t aware of the suffering their pets were enduring and thought the bulging eyes and snorting were ‘cute’.”
OneKind also wants to see the next Scottish government act to ban the sale, manufacture, possession and use of snares, and to introduce new legislation to “make the ban on hunting with dogs effective and enforceable”.
It says Scottish ministers should press the UK Government to replace animal testing with alternatives, with the manifesto stressing that “animals are individual beings, not commodities, and that decisions affecting their welfare should be based on evidence and ethics”.
Mr Elliot said: “We are calling on all parties and candidates for the 2021 elections to the Scottish Parliament to prioritise animal welfare in the next parliamentary session.
“OneKind’s vision is a world in which animals are recognised and respected as individuals and treated with kindness, empathy, dignity and compassion.
“That is why we’re asking parties and candidates to make decisions based on evidence and ethics and recognise animals as sentient, individual beings, through a series of animal welfare commitments.”