UK Dog Fertility Clinic Boom Raises Welfare and Ethical Issues | Veterinary Medicine

Canine fertility clinics have exploded in the UK during the pandemic, experts have revealed, amid growing calls for greater industry scrutiny.

The clinics offer services ranging from artificial insemination to ultrasound, semen analysis, progesterone testing and in some cases caesarean section.

Such clinics can be used to support good breeding, but their rise has raised concerns due to a lack of regulation and the focus by many on flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs. French.

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Dr Justine Shotton said there has been a huge increase in canine fertility clinics over the past two years.

“It’s really a new trend,” she said, noting that possible drivers included the increase in pet ownership during Covid and the rise in popularity of new dogs such as breeds. hairless and flat-faced.

The latter often have difficulty mating naturally due to their conformation, and their puppies usually have to be delivered by caesarean section due to their large heads.

“With this help, and because of the huge prices that some of these puppies are asking for, there’s a financial incentive for the clinics to exist and do this kind of work,” Shotton said.

But the situation had caused consternation, she said. “We are concerned about the welfare and ethics of whether we should help dogs give birth and breed unnaturally, especially when we know they have issues in terms of disease or illness. hereditary or conformational conditions.”

It was estimated that there were at least 37 canine fertility clinics in the UK in 2020, and according to work by the Naturewatch Foundation there were at least 120 in October 2021 and at least 339 in June 2022 – although the charity notes that some appear to be inactive or to have gone out of business.

Naturewatch campaign manager Natalie Harney agreed that money was likely to be a motivating factor. “The pandemic demand for puppies has prompted more people to try dog ​​breeding due to the supposed high profits involved,” she said. “For new breeders or those who just want to make a quick buck, canine fertility clinics seem like a convenient one-stop-shop, despite the fact that the people involved may be totally unqualified to provide the services and advice they offer.”

Harney also raised concerns about the focus on flat-faced breeds, adding that in addition to a lack of oversight or accountability, there was a “perfect storm in which canine fertility clinics are helping people to breed dogs indiscriminately using procedures that could cause serious problems. animal welfare risks in the wrong hands”.

Shotton said there is a wide range of clinics, from those operating with full veterinary oversight to those run by people without veterinary qualifications, and even some that are fronts for organized crime networks involved in such activities. than smuggling puppies.

One problem, she said, was that while some laypersons had taken a training course, there was no official accreditation, and those courses did not allow them to perform veterinary surgery such as the blood test.

“The problem is that there is not this robust mechanism to investigate the legality of the clinics’ activities,” she said.

Harney also called for action. “We need the loopholes in the law to be closed to ensure proper oversight of these businesses, and this needs to be backed up by the training and resourcing of law enforcement officers,” she said.

The question of who is to blame for the rise in canine fertility clinics, and what can be done, will be debated at the BVA Live event on Friday at the NEC in Birmingham. A previous session explored whether there should be a ban on flat-faced breeds.

Recent research has revealed that these dogs have one of the shortest life expectancies and that the myriad of disorders that pugs face mean that they can no longer be considered a typical dog from a health perspective. health”.

Shotton, however, said a ban may not be the answer. “We’re really concerned that a ban, as we’ve seen in other countries, won’t necessarily solve the problems, because it could potentially drive things underground. And if there’s still demand there- low, then that could lead to even worse well-being and even worse reproduction,” she said, adding that educating the public might be a better approach.

“They have a good temperament, they’re cute dogs, but we really need to get people to think from an animal perspective and start breeding better conformation,” she said.

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