With their squashed noses and wrinkled faces, French bulldogs and pugs have become a favourite with dog lovers.
And it is not uncommon to see their cute flat-faces used in adverts to promote mobile phones, insurance and skincare products.
But animal welfare groups and vets are now blaming marketing companies for the increase in demand for dogs with deformities.
Animal welfare groups and vets are now blaming marketing companies for the increase in demand for dogs with deformities
They have written a joint letter to the companies demanding they stop using these dogs – even in cartoon form – in order to prevent a welfare crisis.
Flat-faced dogs, popular with celebrities including David Beckham, Lady Gaga and Holly Willoughby, are often so intensively bred that in can lead to ‘serious life-long issues’ as they ‘can’t pant, exercise, eat or sleep properly’.
The number of French bulldogs in the UK has risen by 300 per cent in the past 15 years and it is set to become the country’s most popular dog which means the demand has sparked a rise in bad breeding and illegal imports.
The number of French bulldogs in the UK has risen by 300 per cent in the past 15 years and it is set to become the country’s most popular dog which means the demand has sparked a rise in bad breeding and illegal imports
As a result many flat-faced ‘designer’ dogs suffer with brachycephalic syndrome meaning they can’t breathe through their windpipes and small nostrils.
The amount of French bulldogs registered with the Kennel Club has risen from 670 in 2007, to 21,470 last year.
Bulldog numbers have doubled, while pugs have trebled.
The letter penned by the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), which includes the Royal Veterinary College, University of Cambridge, Dogs Trust, British Veterinary Association, PDSA, Kennel Club and the RSPCA says the increase in flat-faced dog ownership has been ‘fuelled by their increased prominence in advertising and the wider-media’
It says this type of marketing is spreading the appeal and desirability of these breeds’ and that companies and advertisers ‘have an important role to play in promoting positive animal welfare and working with us to reduce the inappropriate promotion of flat-faced breeds’.
The group wants to remove images, such as Churchie, the renowned animated bulldog used by Churchill insurance ever since 1994.
Other firms being targeted include Virgin Media, which ran an advert featuring ‘Barry the pug’, Amazon, who used French bulldogs to sell its Echo speakers and Wall’s, which also used French bulldogs to sell sausages.
The letter was also directed towards Halifax, which displays a pug on its banking app. The bank agreed last night to stop using the pug and to change its policy to keep in line with BWG’s demands.
The group wants to remove images, such as Churchie, the renowned animated bulldog used by Churchill insurance ever since 1994
A spokesman told The Times: ‘Since being made aware of the health issues associated with flat-faced dogs, we have reviewed our marketing and advertising materials and will be removing any use of these breeds from our imagery at the earliest opportunity.’
Churchill insurance said: ‘We have and continue to use his profile to advocate responsible pet ownership and animal welfare.’
Amazon and Virgin Media declined to comment.
The move comes just a day after the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) announced that advertising using potentially harmful gender stereotypes, such as mothers cleaning up after the family alone or fathers failing at simple household tasks, is to be banned next year.
Vets warned earlier this month that pet lovers should stop buying pugs or French bulldogs as Christmas presents, saying the desire for ‘cuteness’ is leading to severe deformities and health problems.