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No more flat-faced dogs on our cards and gifts!

No more flat-faced dogs on our cards and gifts!

I'm a huge animal lover, so when I read about the call that vets are making for an end to the use of flat-faced dogs on greeting cards, I knew immediately that it was something I had to help out with if I could. It sounds weird, doesn't it, that vets would be asking greeting card designers and manufacturers to to stop using flat-faced breeds of dogs and cats on their products? And yet the popularisation of such images has undoubtedly contributed towards the continuing increase in demand for these breeds.

Four years ago in 2018, The British Veterinary Association (BVA) launched its #BreedtoBreathe campaign. The aim of the campaign was a call for collective action to improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic (or flat-faced) dogs such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Pugs. The BVA stated that the explosion in the use of these breeds in social media and marketing in recent years has driven a huge demand for them as pets. In 2018, the French bulldog overtook the labrador retriever as the UK's most popular dog breed, with an almost 3000% increase in numbers in the previous 10 years!

Fast forward to 2022 and the popularity of these breeds, that often suffer from a range of serious health and welfare issues (including breathing problems, eye disease, inability to give birth or mate naturally, and skin and dental problems) remains very much at the forefront of popular culture. This year the BVA wrote to the Greeting Card Association and major card retailers about their concern with the popularisation and proliferation of flat-faced pets on greeting cards and launched a new campaign #HugsNotPugs the aim of which is to curb the worrying demand for flat-faced pets. According to The Guardian "The BVA believes using images of pugs on cards and gifts is normalising these breeds' short noses and big eyes, which can cause pain for the animal and prove costly for the owner to treat."

In a letter sent to retailers, the BVA's president, Justine Shotton wrote: “Animals with extreme features who have been bred for looks over regard for their health have boomed in popularity over recent years, fuelled by the media, celebrities and the use of these animals in merchandising and advertising.

“These are breeds that struggle with serious and often life-limiting health problems. For example, dogs and cats with short muzzles (pugs, French bulldogs and Persians, among others) can struggle to breathe and can also suffer from a range of other problems including eye ulcers, skin infections and spinal abnormalities.

“We appreciate that the images on your cards are meant to be fun, however, we fear that further visibility of flat-faced dogs and cats or ‘long and low’ pets will only create higher demand for the animals.”

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My personal opinion on short-muzzle breeds is a really mixed one. I appreciate that anyone with one of these animals will love it as much as I love my pets, and to have anyone come along and say their pet is unhealthly or should be banned is just hugely aggravating. What I do believe in is that animals should be bred for health first. Pugs and other short nosed breeds are nowhere near the only examples of poor breeding in the canine (and feline) world, the desire for "certain looks" has been detrimental to many breeds throughout the last 100+ years. When I first started researching into writing this blog post, I came across something called a "retro pug" where, essentially, a pug and a jack russell were mated, to give a much greater chance of a dog with healthy airways. It's just one of the things that responsible breeders are now doing to reverse decades of ill health in certain dog lines. There will always be exceptions, there will always be healthy pugs, and if you have a short-nosed breed I really do wish you years of happiness with your animal. This is not an article designed to incite hate or shame anyone.

As a new supporter of the #HugsNotPugs campaign, The Curious Pancake pledges to buy no more cards or products that picture these flat-faced animals. Although we have a small number of such cards in stock now, they will not be re-stocked and I'm hoping, through our actions, to boost the signal from the BVA to reduce the visibility and, hopefully, the popularity of these breeds going forward.

Read more about the BVA's #BreedToBreathe campaign.

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