Vets are calling on the public to vote for animal health and welfare by choosing hugs not pugs this Valentines day. This advice comes as a quick survey of Valentine’s Day cards being sold by major brands shows animals bred for “cute” looks continuing to feature on retailers’ shelves and online.
Animals with extreme features who have been bred for looks over regard for their health have boomed in popularity over recent years, fuelled by the media, celebrities and the use of these animals in merchandising and advertising. These are breeds that struggle with serious and often life-limiting health problems. For example, dogs and cats with short muzzles (Pugs, French Bulldogs and Persians, among others) can struggle to breathe and can also suffer from a range of other problems including eye ulcers, skin infections and spinal abnormalities.
The British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) “Hugs Not Pugs” campaign, first launched in 2018 as part of the wider #BreedToBreathe campaign, calls on greeting card retailers to stop using images of animals with potentially serious health and welfare issues on their cards and other merchandise to avoid normalising these problems. While the images are meant to be fun, vets fear that further visibility of such pets will only create higher demand for the animals.
BVA President Justine Shotton has written to the Greeting Card Association and several big retailers including Moonpig, Paperchase and WHSmith asking them to pledge to stop using such images in their designs in the future. Justine has said: “Flat-faced dogs and cats like Pugs, French bulldogs and Persians, and ‘long and low’ breeds like dachshunds continue to remain popular on greeting cards and gifts this Valentine’s Day, even four years after vets started the #BreedToBreathe campaign.
“These animals add a ‘cute’ appeal to merchandise, but their looks mask a host of potential health and welfare problems. Valentine’s Day is a day for showing love, so giving a gift or card depicting an animal that can suffer because of how it has been bred is not the right message to give a loved one. That is why we’re asking everyone to choose hugs not Pugs to show your love this year.
“Some card retailers and associations engaged with us when we wrote to them back in 2018, but sadly, we have yet to see any real change. While stock for this year is already in the shops, we hope that card retailers will work with BVA to reduce the visibility and, hopefully, the popularity of these breeds in the future.”
In 2018, the Greeting Card Association had supported BVA’s pledge and had written to its members suggesting that they not use flat-faced breeds in future designs. The following year, BVA expanded its campaign to encompass images of all pets bred for extreme features, such as the “long and low” dachshunds, in line with the launch of its “pets in advertising” good practice guidelines.
More information about the organisation’s #BreedToBreathe campaign can be viewed at on the BVA website. BVA’s good practice guidance on depicting images of pets in advertising or marketing responsibly is available to download.