CHRISTINE Grahame MSP and The Kennel Club hosted a group of vets, dog welfare representatives and breed experts along with Energy and Environment Minister, Gillian Martin MSP, at Holyrood Parliament building yesterday to present a new report which urges collaboration on the issues facing flat-faced, or brachycephalic dogs, such as French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs.

The report, ‘Play Your Part: Breeding, Buying and Bringing up Brachycephalic Dogs Better’, which launched on Tuesday 5 September, highlights the welfare crisis faced by some of these dogs due to their huge increase in popularity, and details the collaborative measures that need to be taken by puppy buyers, breeders, vets, Government and The Kennel Club to protect and improve the health of current and future generations.

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Brachycephalic breeds – often referred to as flat-faced dogs due to their short head – have increased in popularity substantially over the last two decades, resulting in irresponsible and high-volume breeding and importing from abroad with no regard for health or welfare.

Whilst demand has now levelled off and is declining, this has compounded a number of health problems, spanning issues with breathing, skin and eyes, and created one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs in the UK.

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Some of the most popular brachycephalic breeds – French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and Pugs – now account for one in five dogs in the UK, and The Kennel Club report recommends collaborative action focussing on:

Health screening, including increasing uptake of the only current tool to analyse and improve Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, the University of Cambridge/Kennel Club Respiratory Function Grading scheme

Education and behaviour change of breeders, puppy buyers and dog owners, and the role of online marketplaces which advertise pets

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Introducing mandatory contracts for breeders and overhauls to Codes of Practices on caring for dogs

The Kennel Club hopes the report will galvanise all those to ‘play their part’ and work together to improve the health and welfare of the current huge population of these dogs, and future generations. All the asks are non-breed-specific so that in the future, new breeds and types of ‘fashionable’ dog will also be better safeguarded.

Christine Grahame MSP, who is sponsoring today’s event, commented: “I am delighted to be hosting today’s event which brings together a range of dog welfare experts who are all committed to improving the health and welfare of these breeds.

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“I would like to thank The Kennel Club for presenting this report and look forward to engaging in further discussions with those attending today.”

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club, commented: “There will always be a demand for brachycephalic type dogs – they are much loved pets by millions in the UK – but it is imperative that we work together to improve how they are bred and bought, and how they are cared for throughout their lives.

“The recommendations outlined in this report, which is very much focussed on collaborative action, aim to improve the welfare of those dogs already owned by many and those yet to be bred.

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“As well as making this a priority ourselves, we are calling on the Government, breeders, dog owners, vets, rehoming centres, insurance companies and online sellers, to play a part, and to help us in our mission to ensure dogs are bred and owned responsibly, and live healthy, happy lives.”

As part of its commitment to encouraging responsible dog breeding and ownership, The Kennel Club, alongside the University of Cambridge, developed the Respiratory Function Grading scheme in 2019 which assesses Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs for BOAS. Whilst continuing to fund research into brachycephalic dog health, it has also licensed its RFG scheme to collect international data on BOAS and improve health globally.

In 2016, The Kennel Club instigated the Brachycephalic Working Group, which is made up of vets, BOAS academics and researchers, welfare organisations and breed clubs and aims to research, understand and take evidence-based action to reduce and ultimately eliminate the health problems that these breeds can face, and to educate uninformed puppy buyers and breeders who place looks over health.

The report, and more information about what The Kennel Club is doing to improve brachycephalic health, is available at