Why popular dog breed could disappear

English bulldog sitting on the grass and watching
An animal welfare group has called for strict rules which would end the breeding of English and French bulldogs, who are more susceptible to health issues. Picture: iStock

Two popular dog breeds could all but disappear from one Australian state if an animal welfare group gets their way.

Sentient, the Veterinary Institute of Animal Ethics, has said laws are needed to restrict the breeding of popular flat faced dog breeds, like English and French bull dogs, pugs and cavalier King Charles spaniels, which are likely to be born with breathing defects.

Sentient’s president and secretary, Rosemary Elliott, said the breeds were plagued by respiratory issues and skin conditions, which meant the dogs were susceptible to costly surgeries and increased rates of euthanasia due to expensive vet bills.

fawn pug and black Pug sitting together on grass
Sentient, the Veterinary Institute of Animal Ethics president and secretary Rosemary Elliott fawn pug and black Pug sitting together on grass. Picture: iStock

While Dr Elliott didn’t advocate for “simplistic” legislation to ban specific breeds, she said the proposed reforms to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act would mean certain breeds would not be green lit to have litters.

“Puppy farmers pick the most popular breeds,” she told an upper house inquiry into the shortage of veterinary staff in NSW.

“People want pugs, they want English Bulldogs they want dogs with brachycephalic features because they look cute, and education is not actually working to stop this demand for these dogs.”

Dr Elliott called for legislation which would require veterinary approval to breed dogs that had a high chance of inheriting defects.

Dogs that didn’t meet the criteria would need to be desexed, leaving them unable to breed.

English bulldog sitting on the grass and watching
English bulldogs were also susceptible to health implications due to the composition of their face. Picture: iStock

“What you would end up probably doing is having a small number of these dogs that would then be cross bred. If it was bulldogs – you wouldn’t have enough left to breed.

She said allowing high-risk cross breeds to continue breeding as an “act of cruelty to breed animals who will struggle”.

“It does have an impact on veterinarians. It’s heartbreaking when someone puts a dog on the table who can’t breathe and there’s not much you can do about it if they can’t afford the surgery.

“(Even) if they can afford the surgery, it doesn’t always work.”

Dr Elliott was one of several animal welfare experts and vets who spoke at Tuesday’s upper house inquiry, which also touched on high levels of burnout and suicide in the workforce.

According to a 2022 survey from Professionals Australia, 30 per cent of 510 veterinarians said they were planning on leaving the industry in the next five years, while 70 per cent of respondents advised against embarking on a career as a vet.

Key concerns included a lack of work life balance, pay concerns and the increased pressure from 3 million ‘pandemic pets’ due to Covid.