Ban may mean British bulldog has had its day

Valerie Elliott
Bulldogs are a symbol of Britain's fighting spirit - Arterra

Fears have emerged for the future of the British bulldog after an international kennel club became the first to ban the registration of new puppies from the breed.

The symbol of Britain's fighting spirit is one of 12 flat-faced breeds outlawed by the Dutch Kennel Club.

The move has triggered uproar in canine circles in the UK and abroad, with experts claiming it will threaten the future of the dogs, and encourage rogue breeders.

The Dutch Kennel Club ban came into force last Monday, and followed a decision by the Dutch government to introduce breeding restrictions on brachycephalic - broad-skulled - dogs, which can suffer breathing problems, eye disorders and spinal conditions.

Other breeds affected are the pug, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Boston terrier, French bulldog, Pekingese, Japanese chin, shih tzu, griffon Bruxellois, griffon Belge, petit brabancon and affenpinscher, also known as monkey terrier.

Cavalier King Charles spaniels are also affected by the ban - EYEEM

The Dutch government's new rules stipulate that breeders can only use dogs with long noses and healthy features for mating, or should cross with another breed to produce a dog with a longer snout to reduce the health problems faced by a short-nose and flat-face.

Malcolm Presland, the chairman the British Bulldog Breeding Council, said: "This has come out of the blue, and we feel it could be the start of a slippery slope. It's a very serious situation.

"Animal rights campaigners have got rid of hunting. Shooting is next, and dogs are now on their radar. "

He said the council had worked with the Kennel Club to improve bulldog breed standards. "Twenty years ago at a championship dog show, you'd be able to hear Bulldogs snoring. You don't get that today due to new standards," he said. "But these aren't good enough for the Dutch who want Bulldogs bred with smaller heads. Outcrossing does not work with Bulldogs. You lose their sweet temperament, which makes them a popular family pet. The way to go is more health improvements and responsible breeding."

Bill Lambert, the Kennel Club's head of health and welfare, said: "We don't agree a simple ban on brachycephalic breeds is the solution. We're concerned this absolute approach could further fuel the crisis of irresponsible breeders, illegal puppy smuggling and uninformed puppy buyers."

Boston terriers are also on the list - GETTY IMAGES

He called for a more collaborative approach such as work with Cambridge University and the Animal Health Trust to develop a respiratory test for vets to check on the health of flat-faced breeds before they are used for breeding new puppies.

Dr Samantha Gains, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said: "We are particularly concerned about brachycephalic breeds at risk of serious health issues, and shall be following the situation in Holland closely to assess the impact of new breeding criteria on dog welfare."

A 2008 BBC One documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed showed bulldogs with heads so large they were unable to give birth naturally, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels with skulls too small for their brains. Jemima Harrison, the programme producer who founded the Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat-Faced Animals, said of the Dutch move: "This sends a very strong message about the unacceptable health and welfare of these dogs."

However, Dr Dan O'Neill, chairman of the UK Brachycephalic Working Group and a companion animal epidemiologist at the Royal Veterinary College, said: "When you make changes, you might also have unintended consequences, and make things worse."