Earlier in the summer, International Cat Care took part in a lunchtime discussion held at the European Parliament in Brussels, entitled ‘Animal Health and Welfare: Breeding for extremes in dogs and cats’. The event was organised by The EU Dog and Cat Alliance, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA). International Cat Care is proud to be part of The EU Dog and Cat Alliance, a group of dog and cat welfare organisations from across the EU established to call for EU action to build a better Europe for dogs and cats.
The focus of this discussion was on enhancing awareness of the health and welfare issues involved with breeding for extreme looks (known as extreme ‘conformation’) in dogs and cats, to highlight the need for EU and national legislation on this issue, and the need to raise awareness and promote responsible ownership. The event included presentations by experts from across the EU, followed by a discussion.
The event included presentations by experts from across the EU
Marlene Mizzi MEP, who hosted the event along with Petras Auštrevičius MEP, pressed in her opening statement that, ‘The engineering of animals needs to be addressed before it becomes more disgraceful than it already is. Animals have rights and dignity and deserve our respect.’
‘Extreme breeding is the selection of animals for a particular look to the point of animal suffering,’ explained Monique Megens, representing FECAVA. She gave the example of brachycephalic animals that had ‘too much tissue’ in their shortened heads so that they were struggling to breathe. But also other genetic features such as folded ears, sloping backs and hairlessness were causing animal suffering. ‘Health and welfare should go before looks,’ she urged.
The main objective of the event was to highlight the importance of urgent collaborative action to stop the suffering of dogs and cats that develop serious health issues as a result of extreme breeding to exaggerate features such as flat faces, narrow nostrils, skin folds and protruding eyes.
During the discussion, it became clear that in order to do this, raising public awareness is key. Some suggested to find ways to make these animals less ‘fashionable’, e.g. by promoting ‘normal’ dogs and cats, and by educating the public on what a healthy dog and cat should look like. It was also suggested to adopt breed-specific instructions for show judges, to involve veterinarians and veterinary associations in setting healthy breed standards and to open up stud books to improve the gene pool.
The three organisations behind the event created an infographic explaining the problems with breeding for extreme conformation, to explain this issue in an easily understandable way. To view this infographic, click here.
Section of the infographic
All participants agreed that extreme breeding was a serious issue, which had reached excesses in recent years, compromising animal welfare and needing urgent action. A conclusion of the event was that ‘Stakeholders should collaborate to ensure dogs and cats were bred on the basis that health and welfare go before looks’.
At International Cat Care, we are strong believers in collaboration. The charity works collaboratively with all entities responsible for cat welfare: owners, breeders, cat care professionals, welfare organisations, veterinary professionals and governments. This year, marking the organisation’s 60thanniversary, iCatCare published the ‘International Declaration of Responsibilities to Cats’, a document outlining a framework for all these entities to work together to enable meaningful change to be made for cats, both owned and unowned. The Declaration puts responsibility on breeders and on owners, who create a demand, to ensure that cats do not suffer from health or welfare problems because of genetics or conformation.
Only by working together is it truly possible to make the world a better place for cats, whether they live in our homes or on the streets. For more information on the Declaration and to show your support by signing it, visit icatcare.org/declaration.
To read an article on how Scottish Fold cats are suffering for their looks, click here.