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Disney's spotted dogs breed a rash of puppy love

Demand for spotty dog puppies has soared since the pre- Christmas release of the video of the original Disney animated cartoon of 101 Dalmatians and the new film version.

Figures released by the Kennel Club, the registry organisation for pedigree dogs, show that there has been a 200 per cent increase in enquiries about the breed since the video was released last September.

With the film version now on general release in Britain, the news sparked fears among animal groups yesterday that the public would be seduced into buying a Dalmatian puppy after seeing the film, only to find out months later that they cannot handle the highly strung breed.

The Kennel Club said that in the three months previous to October they had received around 90 telephone calls asking for details of non-commercial Dalmatian breeders. However, in the three months since, they have been bombarded with 270 calls on the same subject.

"The increase has been astounding, but it was something which we were expecting," Brian Leonard, a spokesman for the organisation, said. "It's the same story for any breed which is highlighted in a film or television advertisement.

"After the Andrex advert [for lavatory paper] was released we were inundated with calls about yellow labradors and soon after the Dulux paint advert we were inundated with calls about English sheepdogs.

"I just hope that if these enquiries turn into purchases, people know what they are letting themselves in for. A Dalmatian is a lively, demanding animal, not a couch potato dog."

One non-commercial breeder, based in Gillingham, Kent, who did not want to be named, said that her Dalmatian bitch gave birth to a litter of 11 puppies last October. Since then, she has sold them all and has had to turn away around 20 enquirers.

Worried about the threat of reckless owners over Christmas, however, she has refused to let the new owners pick up their purchases until after the festive period.

"Usually I'd keep the puppies for eight weeks but in this case I'm going to keep them for nine," she said yesterday. "I've also had to operate a stringent vetting process as I've had a number of idiots ringing up who quite obviously are not serious owners but have just seen the film and think it would be novel to have one."

The National Canine Defence League, which is running a Christmas campaign warning people to be beware of going "Dalmatian Crazy", was bracing itself for an influx of unwanted puppies after the Christmas period.

"What is particularly disturbing about these figures is the amount of people making formal enquiries when the majority of would-be owners will probably purchase them from commercial puppy farms," a spokesman said.

"A lot of animal groups could have some real problems on their hands in the New Year."