Animal lovers: Does your Valentine's card show you really care?

08 February 2019

As the trend for pets with extreme features, such as dachshunds, Pugs, Persian cats and Netherland dwarf rabbits, continues to dominate card shops this year, vets are urging lovers who opt for animal cards to show they really care by sticking to healthier breeds.

For several years, the British Veterinary Association has been encouraging card producers to avoid brachycephalic, or flat-faced, animals and urging consumers to give 'hugs not pugs' at Valentine's. This year they are extending their call to cover the many other designer pets with ‘cute’, unusual or extreme features, including Scottish Fold cats and dachshunds.

The ‘cute’ looks of these animals mask a multitude of health and welfare problems, and BVA and other animal welfare organisations are concerned that the high visibility of such breeds is fuelling the rising demand for them as pets. A survey of UK vets carried out in 2017 revealed that the top three reasons vets believe their clients buy Pugs and other brachycephalic animals are because of their looks, popularity and high profile on merchandise and across the media. However, vets also said they believed that the majority of owners were unaware of the breeds’ potential health and welfare problems before choosing their pet.

Vet Simon Doherty, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“Valentine’s Day is meant to be the most romantic day of the year, so giving a card depicting an animal that can suffer serious health and welfare problems as a result of its breeding is not a great way for animal-lovers to show they care. Using pictures of dogs such as pugs and dachshunds or Scottish fold cats on greetings cards and merchandise is unnecessary and only boosts the popularity of these breeds further. Instead we'd ask that romantics choose 'health over looks' and pick an image of a healthy, happy breed, a mongrel or a moggie. There are so many lovely ones to choose from!"

BVA is again calling on the greetings card industry for their help to curb the worrying demand for pets with extreme conformation by avoiding these images. Last year, the Greetings Card Association wrote to its members backing BVA's #BreedtoBreathe campaign and suggesting members not use flat-faced breeds in their designs. This year, BVA is extending that call to include all animals with extreme conformation in line with its recent policy position.

Mr Doherty added:

“It's disappointing to see so many retailers still offering numerous cards with pictures of Pugs, French bulldogs and extreme Persian cats on them. We've repeatedly called for them to take a more responsible approach in their use of animal images and this year we're extending that call to all animals with extreme conformation. But ultimately the power is in the hands of the consumer; by avoiding cards with these images we can all make a difference to the breeds that suffer and show that animal welfare is a real priority all year round.

“We will continue to raise awareness about the potential health problems related to these breeds but in the mean time I would encourage anyone thinking of getting a pet to arrange to speak with their local vet to receive advice on the health and welfare problems associated with certain breed types.”

Vets and consumers who are concerned about the animal images they see in card shops this year are encouraged to support the #BreedtoBreathe campaign by contacting retailers directly using our template letter  

BVA Media Office