Simon R. Platt
BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN
University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
Simon R. Platt, BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN, is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests include ischemic disease of the central nervous system, canine brain tumors, and epilepsy.
Dr. Platt is a member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force and a founding member of the Southeastern Veterinary Neurology Group. He has authored or coauthored more than 190 journal articles and 50 book chapters and is the co-editor of three textbooks: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Neurology, Manual of Small Animal Neurological Emergencies, and Canine and Feline Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Management. Dr. Platt received his veterinary degree from University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) and residency in neurology and neurosurgery at University of Florida.Read Articles Written by Simon R. Platt
While pandemic life brought more dogs of all breeds into the nation’s households, the future list of available breeds may be about to get shorter. Several countries have started to look at ways to reduce the numbers of breeds that we have—more specifically, bringing in anti-brachycephaly laws. For decades, many extremes of body shape have been rewarded by national kennel clubs, and in some breeds it has obviously led to serious health and welfare issues.
Norway and the Netherlands have led the way. The Dutch Kennel Club became the first such organization in the world to end registration for 12 brachycephalic breeds. These breeds include English and French bulldogs, pugs, cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS), and Boston terriers. The reproduction of English bulldogs and the CKCS is now banned in Norway, with courts ruling that it breaches existing animal welfare legislation. The ruling’s implication for imports also is being considered. The Norwegian government has been willing in the past to ban importation of certain breeds.
The health and welfare issues experienced by these breeds are well documented, including but not limited to respiratory, neurologic, and cardiac diseases. But what does it take for us as a profession to really stand up and make our voices heard if we agree that the “designer dog” has gone too far? Is there widespread agreement among the veterinary profession? Importantly, what are we agreeing to? Because we know all too well that health issues are not just limited to brachycephalic breeds. Is it time to discriminate?
Animal welfare supporters hope the latest ruling in Norway will be a catalyst for rule changes in other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. As expected, many national breed clubs and kennel clubs have expressed outrage, showing concern that this could mean the end of these breeds. However, support of such measures is growing within the veterinary profession, with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations endorsing lobbying campaigns to develop anti-brachycephaly laws. A “Vets against Brachycephalism” campaign was launched in Europe and looks to expand and support similar legislation around the world. After all, if we don’t have a say in dog breeding guidelines and laws, then we cannot complain about the resultant health and welfare problems. It is easy to argue, though, that if we are not cautious, discriminatory laws may lead to unscrupulous mechanisms to usurp the legal system and reduce the access to necessary care for these dogs. It is also easy to say that a better way forward is for veterinarians, breeders, and welfare organizations to work collaboratively with evidence-based actions to improve the health issues faced by these breeds. However, this takes time. And how possible will it be to have a healthy brachycephalic breed? One study published on English bulldogs suggests that it is too late for that aim, with the genetic pool in this breed being too shallow.1 This is likely to be the case in other breeds too. While drastic, breed discrimination may be one of the only remaining solutions.
Kennel clubs may slowly release new accepted breed standards in an effort to avoid outright bans, but for some breeds time could be running out. If we are advocates for our best friends, our profession needs to determine the best way to put its influence in action.
1Pedersen NC, Pooch AS, Liu H. A genetic assessment of the English bulldog. Canine Genet Epidemiol. 2016;3:6. doi:10.1186/s40575-016-0036-y