'Concerning' dog fertility clinics on rise in UK amid increase in popularity of flat-faced breeds

Canine artificial insemination can have ‘negative welfare implications’ and be ‘of ethical concern’, Royal Veterinary College representative states

Specialist canine fertility clinics have been steadily on the rise in recent years amid an increase in popularity of brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds, an investigation has discovered.

Vet Record, a peer-reviewed medical journal, carried out an analysis assessing the prevalence of canine fertility clinics nationwide, in addition to the services that they offer.

The researchers found that there are at least 37 such clinics across the UK, several of which are not managed by qualified vets.

Furthermore, two of the clinics included in the investigation appear to advertise canine surgical artificial insemination to dog owners, despite the procedure being banned by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) last year.

According to figures calculated by the Kennel Club, there have been more canine artificial insemination births over the past three years than over the 17-year-period from 1998 to 2015.

After conducting research across the internet, Vet Record was able to find “dozens” of canine fertility clinics across the UK.

While some of these clinics do have vets in operation, others “are mobile businesses, have rudimentary websites and offer only an anonymous mobile number for contact”.

More than half of the clinics offered consumers a stud dog from breeds such as English and French bulldogs that have particularly high caesarean rates.

Vet Record said these clinics did not seem to have a vet on site, although they “would still have the option to hire a vet to perform surgeries”.

Dr Madeleine Campbell, a lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), a specialist in reproduction and a European diplomat in animal welfare, ethics and law, explained that while artificial insemination is “ethically permissible in many situations”, it can prove detrimental for certain breeds of dogs.

“Indeed, it can sometimes have positive welfare effects, for example by removing the need to transport animals over long distances or internationally to breed, or through helping to maintain genetic diversity by facilitating crosses between animals who are geographically remote from each other,” Dr Campbell said.

“However, if artificial insemination is being used to achieve pregnancies in animals which for heritable anatomical reasons are not capable of either breeding or giving birth naturally then that has negative welfare implications and is of ethical concern.”

Dr Campbell added that the implications of Vet Record‘s findings that individuals who are not qualified as vets are conducting surgical procedures such as caesareans is “obviously worrying, and would be illegal”.

“The RCVS regulates vets and vet nurses, but it cannot currently regulate those outside of veterinary professions. Owners need to be educated about who can and cannot legally undertake various reproductive procedures,” she said.

“Concerns about non-vets undertaking acts of veterinary surgery should be reported to trading standards and the police.”

According to the Kennel Club, between 2009 and 2018 there was a 153 per cent increase in the number of registered English bulldogs.

There was also reportedly more than a 3,000 per cent rise in the number of registered French bulldogs.

Emma Milne, a vet and welfare campaigner, believes the recent increase in canine fertility clinics across the country may be a result of people “cashing in” on the popularity of flat-faced dogs.

“Personally I think the rise in the number of fertility clinics is to do with the massive boom of brachycephalic breeds, with the vast majority being born by caesarean, and where many can’t mate naturally,” Ms Milne said.

“Just look at the Kennel Club registration numbers for bulldogs, pugs and Frenchies, which have been increasing.”

The figures calculated by the Kennel Club also outlined that over the past three years, at least 1,604 puppies have been born through artificial insemination, in comparison to 1,153 between 1998 and 2015.

One of the two clinics found by Vet Record to be advertising the banned artificial insemination procedure said that they would be removing the advertisement on the website “as soon as [possible]”.

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