In the wake of an official court ruling in Norway banning the breeding of two popular dog breeds, English Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, many implications are being discussed. This ban, which cites health concerns common in these breeds, has experts feeling torn.
Salon consulted some experts in the fields of veterinary medicine, animal welfare, and ethics about Norway’s new policy. Here’s what they had to say about the legal, ethical, and biological implications of the ruling.
Will A Ban Stop The Breeding Of Popular Dogs?
Many of the common health problems English Bulldogs and Cavaliers face are the results of improper breeding. Dr. Jerold S. Bell, an adjunct professor of genetics at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said an official ban like Norway’s might lead to more illegal breeding, smuggling, and improper care.
“Short muzzled breeds have gained the affection of the public. Banning their breeding will only cause dogs to be bred illegally and imported across country borders without regard to their health and welfare. These breeds used to be healthier but breeding for a more extreme (flat-faced) anatomy has caused serious issues in many dogs of these breeds.”
Dr. James A. Serpell, a professor of ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said it’s important to shine a light on the health issues these two breeds tend to have. That said, the ban won’t change how popular these breeds are.
“I doubt it will do much to curb the popularity or sale of these breeds. As long as the dog-buying public continues to find these brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breeds attractive and appealing, there will continue to be a market for them. Norway’s ban on breeding them will simply shift that market to other countries or underground to unregistered breeders where there will be even less oversight of breeding practices.”
Serpell also posed the question: why Cavaliers and Bulldogs specifically?
“It also seems curiously unfair and arbitrary to single out the bulldog and the CKCS [Cavalier King Charles spaniels] for restrictions when many other breeds suffer from similar problems.”
Cross-Breeding And Health-Conscious Breeding
We here at iHeartDogs usually advocate for rescue, as there are countless dogs in shelters awaiting homes. Still, people will always have preferences for certain breeds, and that’s why there are many caring, responsible breeders out there to fulfill those needs.
The Norway court advocated for responsible cross-breeding because of the health issues bulldogs and Cavaliers face. Both Dr. Serpell and Dr. Bell suggested curbing the worst aspects of pure-breeding with careful breeding decisions based on individual dogs’ health considerations.
“The way to improve the health of short-muzzled breeds (and all purposely bred dogs) is through health-conscious breeding,” Dr. Bell explained. “The length of the muzzle does not differentiate members of these breeds who have breathing difficulty versus those that can breathe normally. Functional testing of prospective breeding dogs identifies those with BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome).”
Dr. Bell indicated that dogs considered for breeding should be able to “go on a brisk three-minute walk without evidence of airway turbulence or breathing difficulty. Otherwise, they should not be bred.”
Dr. Serpell similarly said he believes both breeds can be bred responsibly to reduce health risks.
“Legislation to curb the worst aspects of dog breeding should be evidence-based rather than knee-jerk. Attention should be focused on specific health problems and their causes — e.g., whether they are the inadvertent effects of in-breeding or the result of conscious selection for extreme aspects of conformation (physical appearance), as with the brachycephalics.”
On Breed Standards And Health Issues
The American Kennel Club opposes Norway’s official ruling. Brandi Hunter Munden, vice president of public relations and communications at the AKC, said:
“The AKC [American Kennel Club] is not in favor of anti-breeder legislation or courts interfering with breeders’ efforts to preserve breed traits and improve the health of their dogs.”
The rampant breathing problems and heart conditions are things to be taken seriously. The AKC can change breed standards based on information like that. Munden argues that responsible breeders can collaborate to breed healthier dogs while still ensuring “their breed’s type.”
“Breed improvement cannot happen without breeding. If the decision stands, the Oslo court may have effectively foreclosed on any efforts in Norway to contribute to the ongoing efforts to produce better and healthier dogs.”
If you are an English Bulldog or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover, know you can always search for rescue organizations dedicated to either breed. Plenty of already-born purebred shelter dogs need homes.