By Bart Biesemans and Charlotte Van Campenhout
UTRECHT (Reuters) -Katja and Ilia bought their French bulldog puppy Abby after being charmed by her scrunched-up good looks. Two years on, the overbreeding that created those characteristics had also led to breathing problems that required surgery.
A new law under consideration in the Netherlands would outlaw possessing and advertising all pets with attributes proved to cause medical issues, such as overly short snouts, which animal rights activists say are cruel.
The young couple became worried when Abby, whom they bought from a breeder as a three-month-old pup, appeared to have difficulty breathing and could not go on longer walks.
"A dog is a friend, a part of the family. So I always worry when something happens with her health", Ilia said in an interview before Abby's operation.
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Dr. Gert ter Haar, a specialist in short-muzzled animals at the AniCura veterinary hospital, widened her nostrils and performed other procedures to improve her breathing.
The operation was successful and Abby appeared to be breathing more easily, although follow-up appointments will be needed to track her condition.
Dogs are being bred for their looks, but people tend to forget about their health, said Ter Haar, who recommended potential pet owners should consult a vet before buying.
"Through breeding, to get to a dog the way people would like, the face has been reduced in length", he said. "The skull has become very crowded. All the things that have to fit inside are squished together."
"That has a massive effect on the airways, but also on the eyes, on the teeth, on the ears, even on digestion. On many, many organs", Dr. Ter Haar said.
Dr. Ter Haar said pugs and French bulldogs are mostly affected, although larger dogs such as boxers and chows can also suffer from overbreeding.
Dutch Minister of Agriculture and Nature Piet Adema has drafted a legal change to ban harmful characteristics after a transitional period during which owners of overbred pets will be exempt.
It is not clear yet how the law would be enforced or what the penalty would be.
(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout, Bart Biesemans; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Barbara Lewis)
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