Vets call for end to use of flat-faced dogs on greeting cards

Greetings card designers are being urged to stop using pugs and other flat-faced dogs and cats on Valentine’s Day cards as those sold by big retailers show how popular such images remain despite animal cruelty warnings from vets.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the Greeting Card Association and card retailers, including Moonpig, Paperchase, WH Smith, Scribbler, Clinton’s and Funky Pigeon, reigniting a call to action it first made four years ago to ban such images.

Its #HugsNotPugs campaign is aimed at curbing a worrying demand for flat-faced pets. The BVA believes using images of pugs on cards and gifts is normalising these breeds’ short noses and big eyes, which can cause pain for the animal and prove costly for the owner to treat.

Despite raising the alarm in 2018 with its #BreedtoBreathe campaign, the BVA said there had still been no real change on the ground, and a look at Valentine’s Day cards in the shops this year throws up a similar array of animals bred for “cute” looks, it said.

The BVA’s president, Justine Shotton, said: “Flat-faced dogs and cats like pugs, French bulldogs and Persians and ‘long and low’ breeds like dachshunds continue to remain popular on greetings 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 are 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.”

More than half of the brachycephalic dogs and a quarter of the brachycephalic cats that vets see need treatment for health issues related to how they look, according to the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

In a letter sent to retailers, Shotton wrote: “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.

“We appreciate that the images on your cards are meant to be fun, however, we fear that further visibility of flat-faced dogs and cats or ‘long and low’ pets will only create higher demand for the animals.”