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RSPCA overwhelmed by entries for its alternative dog show, as new poll highlights the need for an independent review of breed standards which prioritise looks over health and welfare.

The RSPCA has launched ‘Ruffs 2014’– the charity’s first ever online dog show. Unlike traditional shows which judge dogs primarily on looks, ‘Ruffs’ celebrates them for their welfare and happiness.

The finalists have been decided by a team from the RSPCA (including a dog welfare scientist) and owners were also asked to send a write -up explaining why their animals are so special to them.

One of the finalists in the ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ category  is one-eyed Bob, who was just eight weeks old and weighed less than a kilo, when he was found dumped in the car park of a veterinary practice. Huddled by a cardboard box, he was shivering from extreme cold and in agony from a ruptured eyeball. Now he is a happy, healthy much-loved pet!

Voting for the finalists opens online today (Wednesday 5 March) on and each of the category winners will go forward to the ‘Best in Show’ category, which will be voted on and announced on Sunday (9 March).

“We are fed up with dog shows like Crufts judging dogs primarily on looks and rewarding those people still breeding dogs with exaggerated features, particularly as it’s those looks which can often cause dogs to suffer,” said James Yeates, RSPCA chief veterinary officer and head of companion animal science department.

“The RSPCA thinks dog shows should prioritise the health, welfare and happiness of dogs over their looks. That’s why we launched ‘Ruffs’ – to celebrate dogs who will never be ‘perfect’ according to ‘breed standards’, but we think are champions in their own right, whether they are pedigrees, crossbreeds, rescues or otherwise!” 

The Ruffs categories are:

Happiest Hound – pictures of dogs at their happiest.

Perfectly Imperfect– ‘wonky’ dogs who will never be perfect according to a set of arbitrary standards, but are perfect anyway.

Best Transformation– ‘before and after’ pictures of rescued dogs.

Best rescued ex-breeder – the many dogs discarded when they’re no longer ‘useful’.

Best in show -the winner of each the above categories will go forward, and following a public vote the overall winner will be announced on Sunday 9 March.


To view and vote for your favourite – please go to the RSPCA’s Facebook page:

Sadly, many pedigree dogs suffer with lifelong and crippling deformities and chronic health issues because of the way they are bred to achieve a certain look according to the ‘breed standards’ held by the Kennel Club.

TV vet Emma Milne said: “As a vet, one of the most frustrating and saddening things is repeatedly seeing dogs suffering with pain caused by them having being bred with such extreme physical exaggerations to their features that it actually causes them to suffer.”

“What needs to change is the mentality that these health and welfare problems are ‘just the breed’, it seems to just be accepted that some dogs will suffer because of their looks. That mentality needs to be flipped on its head and people need to realise it doesn't have to be this way."

"It’s not right some dogs struggle to breathe or can’t give birth naturally because their looks have been put before their welfare. These features were bred in and they can be bred out, but this change must come from the top, an independent review of the Kennel Club's breed standards is sorely needed to protect our pedigrees"

The results from a sample poll of vets* by the RSPCA appear to share our concerns about the breed standards, with 96 per cent of those who responded supporting an independent review of the breed standards to prioritise the health, welfare and temperament of the dogs over appearance.

The survey also showed that 98 per cent of responses from vets showed a clear concern about the way many pedigree dogs are bred prioritising the way they look over health and welfare.

“Although this is only a small sample of independent vets across the country, it highlights the fact that the health and well being of many breeds of dogs is being compromised by adhering to current breed standards,” said James Yeates, RSPCA chief veterinary officer.

“We must be careful not to tarnish all breeders with the same brush. Good breeders care very deeply about the health, welfare and temperament of their animals, and that is why we are urging them to join us in calling for an immediate independent review of breed standards.”


Notes to editors:

For photos of the finalists, case studies and interviews please contact the RSPCA press office on 0300 123 0244.

*Vets Survey on the health and welfare issues in SurveyMonkey pedigree dogs – 53 qualified vets (all independent of the RSPCA).

The survey also found:

When presented with six different exaggerated features, 90 per cent of respondents were concerned about brachycephaly (complications caused by short, flattened faces such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Boston terriers), 66 per cent were concerned with folded or furrowed skin (as seen in breeds like Shar Peis and Bulldogs) and 60 per cent with protruding or sunken eyes.

When presented with the 13 high profile breeds, eighty eight per cent of respondents were concerned about the health and welfare of the Bulldog and the Pug. High numbers of respondents were also concerned about the Shar Pei (81 per cent) and the Pekingese (64 per cent).

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
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