Legal Advisory Group on Extreme Conformation in Dogs

Working towards a legal framework for responsible dog breeding.

Our vision is a world where every domestic dog is born free from extremes of conformation that harm their health and welfare. 

Purpose 

Our aim is to use the law to promote the breeding, purchasing, ownership and advertising only of dogs with innate good health, thereby reducing or preventing the suffering that arises due to conformational extremes or inherited conditions at every stage of a dogs’ life. 

Our intention is to promote both more effective use of existing UK law and regulation in relation to extreme conformations in dogs and to also propose options for reform, where appropriate.  

Scope 

Our aim is to inform developments in law and policy related to dog health and welfare specifically in relation to extreme conformations. We are not a campaigning organisation. None of the statements or publications by LAGECDogs should be taken as constituting legal advice in any form.  Any views and comments on these pages are solely LAGECDogs and the individual authors’ opinions and beliefs and should not be regarded as being attributable to any other organisation to which they may belong or be affiliated.  

 We focus on extreme conformation in dogs specifically but also recognise and acknowledge the substantial suffering caused by extreme conformation in other companion animal species, notably cats, rabbits and equines.  

We address the law of the UK but have a current focus on England. 

Composition 

 We are a multi-disciplinary group comprised of lawyers, legal academics, veterinary professionals and animal welfare and behaviour scientists.  

News

EFRA Inquiry update: The EFRA Select Committee has published its Pet Welfare & Abuse inquiry report. It calls for clearer guidance for enforcers of sch 6, para 6 of LAIAR; a public information campaign about the welfare issues associated with ‘designer pets’ to discourage their acquisition; regulation of canine fertility clinics via a new veterinary act; and, extension of LAIAR to cover male dogs kept for breeding, amongst other things.

Extreme breeding in Europe: Eurogroup for Animals has mapped legislation in Europe that exists to tackle extreme breeding and extreme features.

European Commission: The EC has proposed and consulted on new welfare and traceability rules for dogs and cats, which include a requirement for breeding establishments to be approved. Suggested welfare measures include a provision to  “ensure that breeding strategies do not result in genotypes and phenotypes that have detrimental effects on the welfare of the dogs and cats, or of their descendants. “

The Supreme Court in Norway hands down judgment in dog breeding case. Read more: ‘Important victory for the dogs in the Supreme Court.’

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has updated its advice about canine artificial insemination to confirm that it regards both legal types to be acts of veterinary surgery. Read more here. 

Brachy’s in the media. Dutch weigh law to ban cruelly overbred pets (msn.com) Article published on 22 June 2023 about a proposed ban on ‘possessing and advertising all pets with attributes proved to cause medical issues’.

Breed trends. Kennel Club registrations for the English Bulldog have risen from 4,782 in 2012 to 15,403 in 2021 (Kennel Club), and Pets4Homes data shows that French Bulldogs remained the most frequently advertised breed on the selling platform in (Pets4 Homes, 2022). 

Legal journal article. Journal of Animal Law publishes article about the legal issues around extreme conformations and breeding. Read here 

Stakeholder meeting – breeding extreme conformations in dogs.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is not fit for purpose in terms of safeguarding the welfare of dogs and their progeny; so was the unanimous conclusion of stakeholders attending a recent conference on the breeding and purchasing of dogs held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW). The event, run in conjunction with the University of Advanced settings. Read full article.

Discover more about our approach

Penalties for breeding dogs in breach of LAIAR (March 2024)

Read our analysis of the current penalties for breeding dogs in England without a licence or in breach of licence conditions.

Written evidence to EFRA Committee (2023)

Read our written evidence to the EFRA Committee Pet Welfare and Abuse Inquiry addressing harmful conformations. All written submissions to the Committee on this issue can be found here.

Written submissions to DEFRA (2023)

Read our written submissions to DEFRA about  the effectiveness of The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 in relation to dog breeding.

Our open response to a student question about dog breeding

We were recently contacted by a student of further education who wrote I’m struggling to find relevant court cases. Is it the case that very few people are taken to task about their breeding methods because it’s perhaps a relatively new problem, or is it just too difficult to get to that point?’ Read Dr Helena Howe’s open response.

Listen to Dr Helena Howe’s podcast series…episode  1 out now. 

The English Bulldog is on trial in Norway. The future of the Bulldog hangs in the balance as the Norwegian Supreme Court decides whether breeding of this much-loved breed should be banned. The dogs have done nothing wrong; the fault lies with us. We may find extreme physical features like big eyes, very flat faces or deep skin folds on dogs cute but these traits can cause our dogs to suffer throughout their lives. In the UK we claim to be a nation of animal lovers. Yet we are breeding and buying dogs for their looks despite the evidence of harm. What is the cause of this problem and what should we do about it? Dr Helena Howe explores how the case for a ban reached the Norwegian Supreme Court and talks to leading experts in the field about how the law can help us to help dogs.  

Meet the committee

Dr Helena Howe, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Sussex

Helena a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex. Her research lies at the intersection of Environmental Law, Animal Law and Agricultural Law and she has a research interest in the breeding and ownership of dogs.

Vanessa Barnes, Solicitor (non-practising), Animal Welfarist (PG Dip. Animal Welfare Science), Legal Advisor at APGAW

Vanessa worked for several years as a solicitor. She has a PG Dip in Animal Welfare Science, Policy and Legislation at Hartpury University and now works on behalf of APGAW (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare) as a legal advisor, helping to guide and support APGAW’s work to improve legislation and drive policy development in the field of animal welfare

Dr Fiona Cooke: Head of Research (UK and Europe) Donkey Sanctuary

Fiona completed her PhD thesis on companion animal welfare. She is a member of the Dog Breeding Reform Group (DBRG).

Natalie Harney, Naturewatch Foundation, Campaign Manager (Companion Animal Breeding)

Natalie has worked in the animal welfare sector since 2018. She currently leads Naturewatch Foundation’s campaign to end low welfare and illegal companion animal breeding, and her interest in extreme conformation and the law stems from her work around canine fertility clinics. She is also a volunteer and Trustee for the UK Centre for Animal Law.  

Tamara Katamine, doctoral candidate at Queen Mary, University of London

After completing an LLB and MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law, Tamara began a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. She has experience with the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals, mainly rescued from war zones and the illegal trade. Her interests lies with companion animals and her research focuses on breed-related health and welfare concerns and breeding to extreme conformation.

Dr Dan O'Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at RVC

Dan has extensive knowledge of the issues around brachycephalic breeds. He is Chair of the UK Brachycephalic Working Group and co-editor of Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-Faced) Companion Animals: A Complete Guide for Veterinary and Animal Professionals (Taylor & Francis Group 2021).

Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science, RVC

Rowena is a lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science, RVC and editor (with Dan O’Neill of Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-Faced) Companion Animals: A Complete Guide for Veterinary and Animal Professionals (Taylor & Francis Group 2021)

Mike Radford OBE, Reader at the University of Aberdeen with significant expertise in Animal Law

Mike is a Reader at the University of Aberdeen with significant expertise in Animal Law. He is author of the legal textbook, Animal Welfare Law in Britain: Regulation and Responsibility (Oxford University Press).

Chairperson

Dr Helena Howe is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex. Her research lies at the intersection of Environmental Law, Animal Law and Agricultural Law. Her current work focuses on breeding and ownership of dogs with extreme conformations, farmed animal welfare and the development of Earth law. 

Disclaimer

Whilst the information on this website has been carefully prepared, it does not constitute legal advice. This publication should not be used or relied upon and you should not act or refrain from acting, upon the information contained within this publication.

A-LAW, its trustees, volunteers and agents do not accept or assume any responsibility or duty of care in respect of any use of or reliance upon this publication. Accordingly A-Law does not accept any liability for any loss arising from any action taken or not by any person in reliance on this publication or any part of it.

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