UFAW welcomes new legislation to tackle genetic welfare problems in dogs

13 June 2018

New legislation which will come into effect on the 1st of October this year heralds a potential break-through in tackling genetic welfare problems in dogs.  Designed to offer greater protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease, the regulations, which refer to licenced breeders (businesses that breeds and sells dogs, or anyone who breeds 5 or more litters a year and sell any of the puppies) state “No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.”

The new law The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 has been prompted by the increasing popularity of “short-faced” dogs, such as English bulldogs and pugs.

Dr Robert Hubrecht, CEO of The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) said: “Many genetic diseases occur in dogs and other companion animals, often with a considerable impact on the welfare of the animal, from bacterial skin infections as a result of breeding for excess, deeply folded skin to respiratory problems.  Tackling genetic welfare problems requires a team approach; the concerted efforts of breeders, geneticists, vets, pet owners and others.  UFAW welcomes this new legislation which represents a major step forward in prioritising the genetic health of dogs and their offspring.”

For some years, UFAW has been highlighting the genetic health risks of selective breeding.  Following a Companion Animal Welfare Committee (CAWC) report in 2006, UFAW commenced work on a new section of its website to provide information to prospective owners and breeders on the welfare aspects of genetic diseases and conditions – to explain what they are and why they cause pain or discomfort as well as how they impact on the animals’ quality of life.  This section of UFAW’s website can be accessed here https://www.ufaw.org.uk/genetic-welfare-problems/.  UFAW has also supported studies that have examined breathing problems in dogs with short muzzles and the high risk of eye disease in dogs bred for exaggerated facial features. 

Full details on the proposed new legislation can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2018/9780111165485