In a resounding judgment, the Oslo court banned the breeding of the English bulldog and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, on the grounds that the practice inflicts on them suffering incompatible with animal protection law. Hailed by animal rights activists and criticized by breeders, the verdict is against the backdrop of a growing debate on the planet: is the quest for “cuteness” for pets at the expense of their well-being? ?
“Many of our farm breeds are very inbred and carry a heavy burden of disease,” Åshild Roaldset, president of the Norwegian Humane Society, who initiated the lawsuit, told AFP. against canine societies and individual breeders. “We need to change the way we breed dogs. The way we did it may have been acceptable 50 years ago, but it isn’t today,” she says. By dint of consanguinity, the two breeds have developed hereditary diseases affecting most individuals, if not all. The list is long.
Patibular dog — but gentle — notably popularized in the cartoon Tweety and Sylvester and associated with the spirit of English resistance during the Second World War, the bulldog accumulates breathing difficulties due to its flattened muzzle, but also dermatological problems , reproductive and orthopedic. More than half of these mastiffs born in the last ten years in Norway have been delivered by caesarean section. “The breed’s genetic inability to give birth naturally is itself a reason the bulldog is no longer used in breeding,” the judges said. As for the Cavalier King Charles –who have conquered the hearts of many personalities in history such as Louis XIV, Ronald Reagan and Sylvester Stallone–, their constitution means that they are often subject to headaches because of a skull too small, heart failure or eye problems. For Ms. Roaldset, the lack of genetic diversity on a global scale is driving these breeds straight to extinction. “And it’s going to be painful for them because they’re going to have more and more illnesses,” she says.
Towards an influx of undocumented dogs?
Having been the subject of an appeal, the judgment handed down on January 31 does not yet have the force of law but it has sown amazement among professionals. “It is said that dogs are born with headaches. I can’t believe it,” says Lise Gran-Henriksen, a breeder for 25 years, watching half a dozen of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels frolic on the ice outside her Oslo home. “If that was the case, they wouldn’t wouldn’t be as happy. They’re happy dogs that run around and look healthy — because they are,” she said. As a whole, the professionals do not question the “challenges” encountered by the two breeds, but believe they can overcome them by practicing selective breeding with animals screened through several tests. And then, they point out, the judgment does not prohibit the possession, sale or import of bulldogs and Cavaliers, only their breeding.
Walking her bulldog Oscar in a park in Oslo, Anne Grethe Holen therefore fears the influx of “undocumented dogs” from “puppy mills” located abroad. “The demand will not dry up but the dogs sold will be much sicker,” she predicts. “They will not be subject to any veterinary requirements and nothing will be known of their lineage.” For the Humane Society, the salvation of the two breeds depends on their crossing with other species to erase their genetic weaknesses. “If the Cavalier ends up having a slightly more spacious skull to house his brain, he will remain the dog the cutest in the world,” Ms. Roaldset said. “And if the bulldog becomes less wrinkled, with a slightly longer muzzle and a more robust skeleton, that won’t make it a horrible dog and it will still be a bulldog.”
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