Resist the pester power, vets urge parents as ‘unhelpful’ pug film hits screens

25 June 2018

BVA is urging parents to resist pester power

Vets fear that
parents may soon be fielding more requests for pet pugs as Disney's latest
film, featuring flat-faced ‘hero' Patrick hits screens. The British Veterinary
Association (BVA) is urging parents to resist any pester power prompted by the
film because the dogs are prone to painful breed-related deformities.

Health problems in brachycephalic dogs

In an effort to
dissuade families from adding a pug to their household, BVA has released new
statistics showing that 98% of companion animal vets treated brachycephalic
(flat-faced) dogs for health issues last year. Overall 95% of practices treated
at least one brachycephalic dog with eye problems, 93% treated breathing issues
and 89% treated skin problems.

British
Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said:

"We know
from past films that when a dog takes a starring role their breed often
experiences a surge in popularity for years afterwards. That's why a film
featuring a flat-faced pug is unhelpful at a time when vets and other welfare
organisations are desperately trying to discourage ownership of these breeds.

“Filmgoers,
including young children, may well be charmed by the antics of Patrick but the
reality is that thousands of pugs and other flat-faced dogs such as French
Bulldogs struggle with serious health problems, which often require invasive
and costly surgery to correct. Patrick himself may be healthy, but we know from
our survey that almost every vet in the country is seeing pugs in their
practice who are not.

“We understand
that kids watching this film may be convinced that they want a pug in their
home but we're asking parents to resist the pester power and choose a healthier
breed, crossbreed or mongrel instead.”

#Breedtobreathe campaign

BVA launched
its #BreedtoBreathe campaign this year to counter ‘cute' images of flat-faced
animals and draw attention to the serious health issues experienced by
brachycephalic dogs and cats.

Brachycephalic working group

The leading
body for vets in the UK is also a member of the Brachycephalic Working Group
(BWG), which has met with Disney to provide advice and information on how the
company can manage this anticipated interest in the breed. The BWG has fed into
and agreed on a number of actions with Disney including the addition of a
welfare message into the credits section of the film and leaflets describing
the health issues of the Pug breed to be distributed at UK cinemas and a ban on
merchandising of Patrick Pug memorabilia.

Impact of films on sales

Dr Rowena
Packer, a Research Fellow from the Royal Veterinary College said:

“Films are
potentially powerful events that can shape our preferences for many years after
their viewing. Research has demonstrated that the release of films featuring
dogs is often associated with 10-year surges in popularity of the featured
breeds. In light of current efforts to curtail the popularity of pugs and other
flat-faced breeds, the timing of Patrick's release is of real concern.”

“Depictions of
pugs as snoring, greedy, clothes-wearing mini people is potentially damaging to
their welfare, with owners misinterpreting clinical signs of disease as ‘cute'
characteristics of the breed.”

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