RSPCA urges government to stop 'frightening' puppy yoga as Italy bans classes

Undercover filming by ITV News found puppies as young as six weeks old being denied access to water, sleep and worked for hours at a time during the sessions.

Italy has banned puppy yoga on animal welfare grounds, as the RSPCA calls for the classes to be halted in the UK.

The events, which involve puppies roaming around and being handled during yoga classes, have exploded in popularity in recent years.

From Made in Chelsea to The Only Way is Essex, some of the top reality shows have attended these types of classes – with customers paying up to £40 a session.

But undercover filming by ITV News’ Sam Leader found puppies as young as six weeks old being denied access to water, sleep and worked for hours at a time during the sessions in July last year.

Many have called for puppy yoga to be banned after an ITV News investigation in July found the baby dogs were being put at “serious risk” in classes, Correspondent Dan Hewitt reports

As well as puppies being picked up and handled when they were resting.

The RSPCA and The Kennel Club both said the classes should be banned after seeing the ITV News investigation.

This week, Italy’s Ministry of Health banned the practice on animal welfare grounds, stating only adult dogs should take part in order to protect the health of animals and the safety of those who attend.

Esme Wheeler, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “Sadly, puppy yoga has gained more traction as time has gone on, with people thinking that it is ‘cute’ – but the puppies – sometimes younger than eight weeks – can be overwhelmed and frightened.

“It can have such a detrimental effect on their welfare, but we’re really worried the popularity of this trend is being fuelled by social media.

Undercover filming at ‘Puppy Yoga Essex’ hosted by The Bully Barn, shared in July 2023

“Many puppy yoga organisers say the classes help socialise the animals, but socialisation needs to be carried out gradually, where exposure to various experiences, people and other animals is controlled and calm. Not doing so can have a negative effect on the puppy.

“We hope the ban on puppy yoga in Italy sends a strong message to anyone considering attending one in this country to stay away.”

Last month, a report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs parliamentary committee raised concerns about puppy yoga.

It said the welfare of underage and potentially unvaccinated puppies in the yoga class setting may be detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

Dr Neil Hudson MP FRCVS, Member of the EFRA Select Committee and the only veterinary surgeon in the House of Commons said: “It is really welcome that Italy has taken the step to ban puppy yoga. Although it sounds nice and benign, this practice often uses underage and potentially unvaccinated puppies and raises real concerns for their health and welfare.

“Our EFRA Select Committee looked at this and made recommendations in our recent Report on Pet and Welfare Abuse for the Government to look at regulating this or indeed banning the practice.

“The developments in Italy add weight to the case for banning this unacceptable practice here in the UK.”

Anyone who has concerns about puppy yoga enterprises in their area is urged to contact their local council, the RSPCA advises.

Puppy Yoga Essex in Wickford, operated by The Bully Barn, where ITV News filmed declined to comment on the findings of our investigation in July.

Puppy Yoga Nottingham, Puppy Yoga Liverpool, and Puppy Yoga UK did not respond to our repeated requests for comment which ITV News made in July.

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