Crufts attacked as 'cruel' by dog health campaigners

Expert brands it a cruel 'parade of mutant mutts', with some unable even to breathe


Crufts has once again been embroiled in controversy after awarding prizes to dogs some consider to be hideously overbred. Here, dog health campaigner and TV producer Jemima Harrison argues many show dogs belong at the vets.

"To some, Crufts is the ­greatest dog show in the world. But for vet Mark Evans, in my BBC documentary ­Pedigree Dogs Exposed, it is ­simply "a parade of mutants".

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All of the dogs pictured here ­qualified for the canine extravaganza but should be at the vets.

Crufts is a disaster for dogs – particularly for flat-faced breeds such as the pugs, French bulldogs and bulldogs, more popular now than ever thanks to celeb owners like Lewis Hamilton, David Beckham and Lady Gaga.

Instagram is full of snoring, snorting, apparently smiling, ­flat-faced dogs. But they are gasping, not grinning, as we've bred the face off them. Their airways have been crushed and they suffer 10 times the amount of eye ­problems as they no longer have a muzzle to protect them.

Cambridge University research shows only about 10% of them can breathe completely normally and at least half need a vet's attention or surgery to draw in a decent lungful of air.

There are also problems at the other end – buy a pug and you will always need a packet of wet wipes handy as they can't reach round to clean themselves.

The average age of death for Frenchies and bulldogs is just six. Ten years ago, one in 50 dogs registered with the Kennel Club was flat-faced. Today, it is one in five. It adds up to a lot of misery – for both the dogs and the owners, who face huge vet bills to keep their pets alive.

Credits: Rex Features
Rex Features

It is now so bad that 40,000 vets have signed a petition calling for urgent action.

The British Veterinary Association and many welfare organisations say we must stop buying them, for the sake of the dogs.

Some insurers will not cover the breeds or charge impossibly high premiums. Other breeds, too, endure a host of health ­problems. We have bred them too big, too small, too heavy, too short-faced, too long-faced, too wrinkly, too hairy or too bald. In the crazy world of dog breeding, extremes are too often the norm.

My 2008 documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed led to the BBC dropping Crufts. The Kennel Club banned incest matings – until then it was acceptable to breed mothers to sons and fathers to daughters. It also introduced vet checks at shows.

But it is not enough. Nearly 10 years on there are still dogs with physical problems. We still have this absolute obsession with purity – something that can only be maintained through massive amounts of inbreeding.

Some breeds descend from fewer than 10 individual dogs. It has led to high levels of genetic disease in some – 60% of dobermans die of heart disease, often perishing on a walk, and an horrific number of cavalier King Charles spaniels have heart disease and the brain condition syringomyelia. Breeders have called me a witch, bitch and the c-word several times in the past few days but I don't care because the dogs have to come first.

You can do your bit by choosing breeds or crossbreeds that meet the minimum requirement for being a dog, not a freak of ­unnatural selection.'

The Kennel Club failed to comment but this week said it had introduced tough new health standards at Crufts.

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