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victims of 'vile' trade - born to struggle for breath.

Byline: TYLER MEARS Reporter

HORRIFIC health issues, squalid puppy farms, social media ads and dogs being sold from the back of vans - this is the sad reality behind the "vile and cruel" trade of back street breeding flat-faced dogs.

Producing thousands of pounds for backstreet breeders every year, flatter-faced dogs like French bulldogs and pugs are becoming increasingly popular.

More people are buying them, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), after being inspired by celebrities and social media.

By the end of the year French bulldogs may overtake labradors as the most popular breed in the UK, the Kennel Club has predicted, after a 47% increase in popularity in the last year.

As the trend for flat-faced dogs begins to peak, more and more are ending up in pounds and rescue centres - as one Welsh animal charity has discovered only too well.

Susie James, chairwoman of Friends of the Dogs - a charity dedicated to supporting lost, stray and abandoned dogs in Cardiff Dogs Home and Newport City Dogs Home - says the charity has seen a rise in the number of brachycephalic dogs, or flat-faced dogs, being taken into their care.

Ms James said: "It's just a fact of life. It's not a one off. One day last week we had seven Frenchies in.

"We see more of these dogs straying and wandering than puppies. It's a trend. People go on social media and see a celebrity with a certain bag or dress and holding a certain dog.

"A year later when that bag goes out of fashion, they'll sell it on eBay. But when they can't sell the dog - well, they just end up on the streets.

"It's just grim."

Figures from the BVA show 56% of flat-faced dogs that see vets need treatment for how they look, including breathing difficulties, skin problems, eye ulcers or dental problems. "We see poor skin conditions. We see poor digestive systems - sometimes the whole system is compromised, from the throat to the bowel," Ms James said. "We see food intolerances and nostrils pinched so tight the dogs can't breathe through their noses. It's like having a peg stuck on your nose and can't take in any air through your nostrils."

Tallulah - a three-year-old French bulldog - is just one in a number of Frenchies being cared for by the charity who have fallen victim to these types of problems.

"Tallulah is particularly bad. She's supposed to have big, round nostrils - but due to poor breeding, they're so squashed. You can hear her - it's almost like she's snoring."

Similarly, Martha a young French bulldog, was found straying and had a prolapsed uterus - which had been left untreated.

But there is one French bulldog who's story really highlights the horror behind the snowballing trend of backstreet breeding.

Kizzy was taken in by Friends of the Dogs after being found in a "horrific" state.

When she was found, Kizzy had developed a mammary mass, which eventually burst, leaving the little dog in a "frail" state and "unable to eat".

She died not long after being rescued.

A post on the Friends of the Dogs Facebook page read: "We only met her hours before she died. Her tumour had burst, she couldn't eat, all we could do was syringe fluids into her frail little body, and watch her die in our arms.

"The vets believe she had a torn atrial wall - literally, a broken heart."

The post added: "Dogs like Kizzy are still being kept in squalid puppy farms and backyard breeders all over the UK.

"Their babies are sold via small ads, Gumtree and social media pages and in pet shops.

"Do not buy a puppy from a small ad. Never buy a puppy without seeing the mum. Because if you knew that your cute puppy's mamma was a dog like Kizzy, how could you be a part of this vile and cruel trade?" Unfortunately, cases like Kizzy are not uncommon, with the charity warning the trend could have disastrous consequences in years to come. "Every single badly bred bitch is like Kizzy - it happens all the time," Ms James said.

"All the breeders think is: 'If I put this Frenchie with this Frenchie I'll get PS1,800 per puppy'.

"Kizzy would have given them around PS10,000 over the years - but the price of just one puppy could have paid for her vet treatment.

"People don't consider them as pets - they're just revenue and income streams."

There are currently around 108 ads for French bulldogs for sale in Wales on Gumtree, with prices ranging from PS600 to PS4,000.

While some of the dogs are listed as being vet checked, microchipped, vaccinated and KC registered, others are listed with nothing more than a price and contact details.

As well as French bulldogs and pugs, Friends of the Dogs say dachshunds are also becoming increasingly popular. But, badly bred they can also suffer a number of health issues.

"Dachshunds can get really bad back problems," Ms James said.

"The trend for Frenchies and pugs is just starting to peak and I think dachshunds will be next.

"We've had two dachshunds in with us over the past two years, but I can guarantee that in a couple of years rescue homes will be absolutely full of them."

Friends of the Dogs is now supporting the Lucy's Law campaign.

It aims to ban the sale of puppies by third parties, a trade which relies on dogs bred in commercial puppy farms here and abroad, often in dreadful conditions.

The campaign is named after Lucy the cavalier spaniel. After being rescued from years on a puppy farm she became the poster girl for the campaign and had almost 70,000 Facebook followers before she died.

"Puppy farms are absolute cesspits," Ms James said. "They will bulk sell puppies to third parties, who then put ads on Facebook and in small ad sections. They make it easy - say they will deliver it to you.

"I remember last Christmas there was a van parked at Junction 33 of the M4. A man would go up there and meet people and start selling puppies out of the back of the van.

"Lucy's Law is not just a movement - we're campaigning and asking MPs to ban the sale of puppies unless people can see the mum and exactly where they were born."

Lucy's Law is being supported by a number of charities, dog homes and animal welfare centres, including the Dogs Trust, which says it "wants to see an end to breeding methods that have no regard for animal welfare".

A statement on its website said: "We firmly believe that intensive breeding methods should be illegal in all circumstances.

"In particular, Dog Trust objects to any breeding methods which result in bitches being bred to the point of exhaustion and where the bitch and/ or puppies' health, welfare and early life experiences (socialisation/habituation) are not optimal.

"We are calling on the government for all litters to be traceable via registration and licensing, with anyone producing more than one litter per year to be licensed with the local authority.

"This would mean inspection of the premises to ensure compliance and minimum model licence conditions."

| You can find out more about Lucy's Law by visiting cavalier. For more information about Friends of the Dogs visit dogswales


Cardiff Dogs Home manager Maria Bailie with Tallulah RICHARD SWINGLER

Kizzy the French bulldog died after suffering a mammary mass which burst

Martha with Dale Kitch, Cardiff Dogs Home pound attendant RICHARD SWINGLER
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 28, 2018
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