The Netherlands announced on Friday that it aims to make it illegal to own pet breeds prone to suffering and health problems.
In an address to parliament, Dutch Agriculture Minister Piet Adema, set out the far-reaching plans to not only ban ownership of certain designer breeds, but also their use in advertising or on social media.
The list of animals that pet lovers will be prohibited from owning is yet to be confirmed, but immediately likely to be affected are cats with painful folding ears and dogs whose short or flat snouts interfere with their breathing.
We are taking a big step towards a Netherlands where no pet has to suffer from his or her appearance.Piet Adema, Dutch Agriculture Minister
While the Netherlands had already made rulings in this area as far back as 2014, the new proposals seek to fix problems with previous legislation that meant it was still possible to import and illegally trade animals.
In 2020, the European Union issued guidelines around breeding and a range of countries have taken action. This time last year, Norway took a historic decision to ban people from breeding both English bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels because the gene pool was so poor.
English bulldogs suffer with a long list of complaints, including skin, eyelash, kidney and kneecap issues, as well as breathing difficulties caused by their short snouts and squat skulls. Eye and joint problems also affect Cavalier King Charles Spaniels dogs, in addition to heart defects and spinal cord cysts.
“We make life miserable for innocent animals, purely because we think they are ‘beautiful’ and ‘cute’,” Adema said in a statement, adding that pet lovers might well “have the best of intentions but are often unaware of the dark side of their pets’ appearance.”
In drawing up the legislation, the government had been advised by veterinary genetics specialists at the University of Utrecht. The next step entails establishing exactly which breeds will be on the list of proscribed pets. Adema made clear this could be a lengthy process, and that pet owners would not be forcibly separated from their existing pets.
Speculation has however already begun. One national broadcaster has already suggested that pugs could be on the list. Meanwhile there’s likely to be tension on social media platforms, where some influencers have built large followings on the back of the extreme physical features of their pets.