Breeding of bulldogs and cavaliers sparks debate in Norway: “Further breeding violates the Animal Welfare Act”

Photo: BP Miller / Unsplash

In late January, the Oslo District Court ruled that the breeding of the English Bulldog and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog breeds violates the Norwegian Animal Welfare Act.

The case was brought to court by the Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge), which believes that breeding these breeds violates the Animal Welfare Act (according to which breeding must take place in a way that ensures that the animals are in good health).

On January 31, the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK), the Norwegian Bulldog Club, the Norwegian Cavalier Club, and six breeders were convicted in Oslo District Court for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

However, the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) announced it would appeal the court’s decision in a press release dated February 11, as it believes that only the most responsible breeding actors are affected by the Oslo District Court’s ban.

“This means that irresponsible actors can breed the two breeds just as before. For the sake of dog welfare, we can not leave this decision unchallenged before a higher court,” Tom Øystein Martinsen of the NKK stated at the time.

Norway Today reached out to both the Norwegian Kennel Club and the Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals and asked them to further elaborate on their positions.  

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Åshild Roaldset, the CEO Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals, shared more information on the case with Norway Today.

NT: What is your organization’s starting position on the issue of breeding these two breeds (English Bulldog and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel)?

“Prolonged breeding with the main focus on appearance has led to both problems with inbreeding and health challenges for several breeds.

“The consequence is that more animals live with several different health problems and painful, chronic disorders. At worst, the disorders prevent the animals from performing their natural functions and living normal, pain-free, and comfortable lives. In Norway, we have legislation that requires animals to be bred with good function and health, prohibiting breeding that continues negative hereditary systems. Despite this, the breeding is mainly based on the animal’s appearance and a show judge’s subjective experience of this.

“The Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals believes that both the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the English Bulldog now have such a large burden of disease and are so closely related that further breeding of these breeds is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The situation has become so severe that the only solution would be to cross in a healthy dog from another breed.”

NT: How do you comment on the Norwegian Kennel Club’s decision to appeal the ruling of the Oslo District Court in the case? What are your next steps in the case? What do you hope to achieve as your final goal?

“The appeal was expected, and Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge was prepared for this. The content of the appeal will decide what the next steps will be regarding the court case…

“We hope to achieve structural changes in the way dogs are bred, according to the EU’s guidelines for responsible dog breeding.

“This is how it can be done (link to the organization’s video).

“It is widely known among professionals that breeding must be based on science and estimated breeding values for the animals’ characteristics, health, and function. This requires access to comprehensive data on both health, function, and inbreeding. These data are already available in Norway through different databases. There is no reason we should not use them to improve breeding. It is time to recognize how pedigree breeding can benefit from the advances made in computer technology and genetics.

“Our dogs deserve to be bred with a slightly different look, but with much better health. You do not become less fond of a dog just because it looks a little different. The dog’s welfare must always outweigh the appearance.”

NT: Do you think that regulated breeding of these two breeds can support the wellbeing of the dogs in question?

According to Oslo District Court, it is illegal if you don’t crossbreed. A conviction does not imply a ban on serious breeding of Bulldog or Cavalier, as serious and scientifically based cross-breeding could be a good alternative. 

“In the last 50 years, there has been a rapid technological and scientific development. In Norway, we have both the infrastructure and the technology to achieve good, scientifically based breeding work. Our dogs deserve to benefit from this development. The way we breed dogs must be adjusted according to the best available knowledge. 

“We think it is vital to understand that you can not health test yourself out of the severe problems and inbreeding these breeds suffer from. Crossbreeding is the only way to save these breeds. The case was carefully considered by an experienced district court judge and two co-judges who are veterinarians and geneticists, respectively. Several of the expert witnesses in the case possess the highest professional competence in their fields, and the major health problems these dogs are bred with were thoroughly elucidated.”

NT: How do you respond to claims that a ban creates more space for illegal breeding of these two breeds?

“The verdict has not opened up for such activities, which are already illegal. Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge believes that increased focus on the health problems of these breeds will make puppy buyers ask more questions before buying a puppy.

Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge also works against puppy mills and the illegal import of dogs,” Roaldset stated in an email to Norway Today.

As of February 23, Norway Today hasn’t received a response to our questions from the Norwegian Kennel Club. We will publish the Norwegian Kennel Club’s comments if and when we get them. 

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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