|Breeding restrictions come into force in the Netherlands
Dutch law already prohibits the passing on of external characteristics that could have harmful consequences for the parental animal or offspring. The new criteria, announced by Carla Schouten of the Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality department, will enable the Dutch food and consumer policy agency (the NVWA) and the national animal protection inspectorate (LID) to enforce this legislation.
The new criteria are based on a traffic light system.
Red applies to dogs with a snout length shorter than a third of the skull. This affects breeds such as the Pug, French Bulldog and Bulldog. Breeding of these dogs is prohibited immediately.
Orange applies to dogs with a muzzle length of a third to a half the skull. With this breeding is only allowed if they meet other criteria for breeding.
Green applies to dogs that have a snout at least half the length of the skull. Breeders can breed with this type of dog.
The government has been influenced by a report by the University of Utrecht which said, 'The so-called STOPLIGHT principle is used, whereby dogs with the most extreme external characteristics are set as the first (feasible) step and dogs with less extreme external characteristics are still tolerated and then (after, for example, two generations) the limits are set and tightened up, so that eventually all breeding animals will (have to) meet the ideal standard.'
Commedia, the Association of Dutch Pug Breeders, has said it will stop the breeding of Pugs with too short snouts.
They wrote, 'Since the Ministry believes that breeding dogs with harmful external characteristics has been banned since the Animal Husbandry Decree (2014) came into force, we must also conclude that our internal Regulations were in conflict with this decision.
'The VFR (Vereinszuchtordnung) that was previously valid, is currently not in force at all, because breeding is prohibited until further notice.'
Last year the General Assembly of Commedia voted, 'to open the studbook for the purpose of including look-alikes that may be important for the health of the Pug to improve.'
They went so far as to produce two outcross litters but this led to, 'Indignation that went so far that insulting and threatening messages appeared on social media.'
Rony Doedijns, President of the Raad van Beheer (the Dutch Kennel Club) and its veterinarians participated last week in the 4th International Dog Health Workshop, co-hosted by the Kennel Club and International Partnership for Dogs. It took place from 30th May to 1st June in Windsor.
From there, when news of the problem emerged on social media, Rony Doedijns sent the following message, 'THERE ARE NO BREEDS BANNED IN HOLLAND. Cooperation has been started between the Dutch Kennel Club and government.
'Help is appreciated of any kind but a simple attack by anybody is only a cheap populist action, not the right time for that! .... I personally think that uncontrolled, unregistered reproduction of Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“look-a-likeĂ˘â‚¬Âť dogs has to be ruled out by our societies, giving the responsibility to our professional kennel clubs! Any effective dog welfare programme can only start with careful and responsible breeding!'
The Dutch Kennel Club is to meet with the government this week to discuss the issue. It is hoped that the government will accept that dogs of such pedigree breeds can be bred if the breed clubs put forward acceptable breeding plans and that these are approved by an organisation funded by the government.
The Dutch animal rights campaign Dier & Recht (Animal & Law) was pleased with the government's decision. They said, 'Finally, there are standards for breeding purebred dogs for the minimum length of the muzzle. This will drastically change the appearance of popular dogs such as the French Bulldog and the Pug and improve their health.
'Now that there will be a ban after more than thirty years, the umbrella organization in the field of purebred dogs is reacting with anger and misunderstanding. They would rather have continued to breed sick animals.
'Dier & Recht considers this development to be the greatest success in its long-lasting campaign.'
This group last year set up a petition calling on a complete ban on dog shows in the Netherlands. In their petition they said, 'Dog shows are detrimental to the well-being and health of dogs. Dog shows cause chronic stress. Moreover, dog shows contribute to the already sick appearance and worsen inbreeding. Winners on the show are often losers in terms of health.'
Jemima Harrison, who made the TV programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed and has campaigned on the issue of brachycephalic breeds for many years posted on Facebook, 'The Dutch Pug club has announced an immediate cessation of the breeding of Pugs until they have discussed with geneticists etc how to meet the new breeding criteria in the Netherlands.
'This requires Pugs to have longer muzzles - ultimately 0.5 the length of the skull but in the interim 0.33 (with time given to achieve that).
'I understand there have already been two planned outcrosses (Pug x SBT and Pug x Shiba).'
This latest move follows the decision by Amsterdam to effectively ban dog shows in the city following pressure from the local Green Party.
In April the Scottish government announced that it planned to, 'end breeding practices which are likely to cause offspring suffering in later life.'
Camilla Shipley of the UK Pug Dog Club responded: 'The increased awareness surrounding the health of Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs is a positive thing and it is vital that we keep striving to find ways to improve their health. As such, we are very sad that the Dutch Pug Club has taken this decision. The crucial point is that breeders and buyers continue to be aware of what they can do to breed and buy the healthiest examples of these breeds.
'As a club we encourage and support our members and all Pug pet owners to take part in the Pug Breed Councils Five Star Health Scheme and as a minimum to ensure that when buying a new puppy that the parents have taken part in the Kennel Club/ Cambridge University Respiratory Functional Grading Scheme. Prior to buying a puppy, buyers should also ensure they take the necessary steps to make sure they see the mother (and father if possible) and ask the breeder of the parents' health, including any testing and/or treatment they have undergone.'
Comment: My problem with Pugs is the snorking noise they make when having trouble breathing. This cannot be good for their health. But is that the length of the muzzle ONLY specifically, or could the vibrating/collapsing soft palate be somehow improved by breeding away from dogs exhibiting the worst symptoms?