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Virtual Science Speakeasy: What the Pug?! Should we ban selective breeding for pets?

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During lockdown, many of us have turned to furry friends for comfort. Designer pets have never been in more demand. Flat faced Chugs (that’s a Chihuahua and pug cross breed to me and you), short-legged Munchkin cats, English Lop rabbits with soft floppy ears are all on the ‘most wanted’ lists. Social media is awash with cute and loveable designer pets, but is it fair to breed them in the first place?

It’s no secret that the North East loves its dogs, with 36% of North East households owning at least one dog (compared to the UK average of 26%)* but crossbreeding to produce designer dogs may result in a much less predictable litter in terms of health, wellbeing and temperament. Not that purebred dogs are always better; one study** found that only 25% of owners of flat faced dogs, like pugs and French bulldogs, are aware of the breed-specific health problems their pets can face before choosing their pet, and only 10% of owners could spot that their dog was struggling.

Vets are often left trying to surgically improve unhealthy animals’ quality of life, but many of them feel like they can’t pass on the warnings to owners for fear of pushback. Should vets be more vocal? Should we to ban these breeds? Or, if they bring happiness to people – should we just leave well alone?

Over 18s only


Speakers:
•Vim Kumaratunga, Veterinary Ophthalmologist at Langford Vets.
•Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the Royal Veterinary College.
•Dr Joshua Jowitt, Lecturer in Law at Newcastle University.
•Bill Lambert, Head of Health and Welfare at The Kennel Club.

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