It’s arrived at last; a crackdown on breeders who knowingly create kittens (and puppies) with cute appearances because they carry a genetic mutation but which also causes health problems in the cat or dog. There was a trend in the middle and late 20th century when cat breeders desperate to create new breeds latched onto discovered cats which looked peculiar because they carried a genetic defect. They turned these cats into cat breeds but they can be inherently unhealthy which causes suffering.
Until now it was thought that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the Act) did not cover the situation of creating inherently defective but cute looking cats and dogs. Now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have decided that the Act can be interpreted to cover these circumstances. Breeders will become liable for prosecution because they will be committing an offence. This is fantastic news because I’ve been writing about this for years.
Celebrities, in fact, have been promoting these sorts of companion animals. I can refer to Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, for example, both of whom own a Scottish Fold. This cat has cute ears which fold onto the top of the cat’s head but the genetic defect which causes this can also cause health issues in the cat. The genetic defect prevents the cat from forming cartilage, a connective tissue, which results in lifelong arthritis.
A spokeswoman for DEFRA said:
“Anyone knowingly breeding animals with genetic defects could be considered to be committing an offence under the 2006 act.”
I’m pleased to state that British veterinarians campaigned against the breeding of these defective companion animals. It was led by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The BVA’s senior vice president said:
“Celebrities, advertisers and the public inadvertently normalise and even celebrate extreme physical features, which appear cute but which are the result of breeding without consideration for welfare.”
Well said. There has been far too much focus on appearance at the expense of animal welfare amongst the cat breeding fraternity.
The RSPCA unhelpfully said that they would undertake prosecutions only if they received a complaint from the public. They have received no complaints but await developments with interest. I would have hoped and thought that they could have moved against these breeders without having to wait for a complaint.
As it happens, the premier cat association in the UK, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, does not recognise breeds such as the Scottish Fold. As I understand it, they also do not support the extreme flat face of the American version of the Persian cat. The flat face Persian has breathing problems and tear duct overflow as a result of extreme breeding but as this is not a genetic defects I wonder whether it would be included in this change in interpretation if there are any British breeders of this cat. It probably does.
Without wishing to blow the trumpet of British veterinarians, I cannot for the life of me see American veterinarians campaigning in the same way against genetically deficient cats and dogs because they see nothing wrong in declawing cats for the convenience of their owner to the extreme detriment of the cat’s health and welfare – not a sign that they have the welfare of animals at heart.
Amongst dog breeds the French Bulldog is an equivalent example.