Crufts 2023 at NEC: Calls to ban flat-faced dogs including bulldogs & pugs

The RSPCA has called for Crufts to stop the most popular ‘flat-faced’ breeds of French bulldogs, pugs and British bulldogs

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More than 58% people think flat-faced dogs shouldn’t be competing at the annual dog show - Crufts. The RSPCA is launching a campaign to highlight concerns that flat-faced dog breeds can suffer terrible issues that stop them from living normal lives.

The RSPCA has called for Crufts to stop the most popular ‘flat-faced’ breeds of French bulldogs, pugs and British bulldogs competing at the annual dog show. The warning comes as the Crufts dog show prepares to kick off in Birmingham this week from Thursday, March 9.

The charity believes that including flat faced dogs in the show will further popularise them and will lead people to buy one without knowing the true cost both to their dogs’ lives and financially.

But Crufts organisers, The Kennel Club, said that such a ban would prove counterproductive - and stressed that the world’s biggest dog show educates on important issues around dog ownership, including Brachycephalic breeds - aka flat-faced dogs.

Brachycephalic breeds such as French bulldogs, British bulldogs and pugs can suffer from terrible breathing issues and many dogs cannot live normal lives due to the irresponsible way they’ve been selectively bred.

A new research by the charity shows that most people in the West Midlands agree. As Crufts gets underway, new research by the RSPCA has shown that, in the West Midlands:

  • 58% believe breeds such as the British bulldog, French bulldog and pugs should not be allowed to compete at Crufts
  • 79% support mandatory health testing for brachycephalic animals in order to compete at Crufts
  • 88% think that Crufts has a responsibility to show only healthy dogs
  • After being shown information about brachycephalic animals and Crufts, 71% agree Crufts is leading others into believing that brachycephalic animals are healthy.
Flat-faced dogs face severe health issuesFlat-faced dogs face severe health issues
Flat-faced dogs face severe health issues

What animal experts said

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “We’ve long held concerns about the main element of Crufts - a dog beauty pageant which judges entrants primarily on their appearance awarding those who most closely match the standard that describes their breed.

“This sadly means numerous dogs have competed and been awarded prizes despite having visibly exaggerated features that are associated with serious health issues.

“It saddens us that each year, large numbers of flat-faced dogs such as French bulldogs and pugs qualify for the competition despite the selection for their extreme features posing risk of serious health and welfare issues.

“Last year, despite less exaggerated versions presented in other classes in the competition, we still saw a more exaggerated bulldog coming first place in the best of breed - so judges thought he was the ‘best’ example of his breed, but at what cost to his health?

A french bulldog is a A french bulldog is a
A french bulldog is a

“Every year Crufts awards these types of dogs with certificates for best of breed with the potential for one to be named best in show. While some changes have been made to the breed standards, it is far from sufficient and there remains an urgent need to protect these dogs.

“The Kennel Club has the power to inform real change, and has an incredible influence. They get to decide what a Crufts ‘winner’ looks like, and by taking a stand against brachycephaly - and ending the involvement of French bulldogs, British bulldogs and pugs from competitions until these breeds are returned to health - they can help protect future generations of these dogs.”

People across the West Midlands can show their support for the campaign by signing an open letter to The Kennel Club on the RSPCA website.

The Kennel Club has responded to RSPCA’s claim (Photo - Unsplash/For Chen)The Kennel Club has responded to RSPCA’s claim (Photo - Unsplash/For Chen)
The Kennel Club has responded to RSPCA’s claim (Photo - Unsplash/For Chen)

What the Kennel Club said

Bill Lambert, spokesperson of The Kennel Club, commented: “Far from creating demand for a ‘must have’ pet, Crufts actually educates people about important issues around dog ownership and health, which is why a ban from this important education platform would be completely counterproductive.

“The reality is that media and celebrity culture sadly drives demand for a particularly exaggerated look, which can lead to health issues – by contrast less than one per cent of all dogs take part in dog shows, which assess dogs against moderate guidelines that, alongside show vet checks, explicitly call for visibly healthy dogs and the avoidance of unhealthy extremes.

“To improve and protect the health of future generations, The Kennel Club has been the only organisation to harness the power of health testing and to co-develop with Cambridge University, the Respiratory Function Grading scheme – something we offer for free to those at Crufts, and which assesses the future likelihood of a dog developing the respiratory disease known as BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome), which affects between 2.4 and 6.6 per cent of French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs.

“Crufts plays an important part in urging people to ‘stop and think’ before buying a brachycephalic dog and ensuring that they are armed with the information that they need to make a responsible decision.

“A ban from Crufts, which is a forum for working together to promote improved health and moderation, could very well be a precursor to calls to ban them in the UK – a move that we think will do nothing to dent their popularity and lead to a surge of brachycephalic breeds, pure or crossbreed, being bred underground, away from any influence.”