French Bulldogs – or “Frenchies” as some like to call them – are now highly overbred, due to a rise in popularity thanks to celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lady Gaga, or Hugh Jackman, posting about their beloved pets on social media.
French Bulldogs are currently the most popular and wanted pets in the United Kingdom, according to the Daily Mail.
Hungary is the place where thousands of Frenchies are bred yearly to please British customers. However, the dogs whose colours are not deemed perfect or are not purchased are often left on the side of some random road, while some are sent to so-called “kill shelters” or to serve as bait in dog fights.
And those purchased and taken to the UK may not find a loving and caring home either, as their new owners realise there is more to owning a pet than posting cute Instagram stories and pictures about them, and when they figure out just how much they have to pay for a visit to the veterinarian, they simply abandon the dogs.
According to Lindsey Scanlon, who runs French Bulldog Saviours, “the craze for French Bulldogs is being driven by celebrities”. They post about how cute their pets are but not about how they are bred or the typical medical difficulties of the breed. “It’s cruel and inhumane how these dogs are treated both in Britain and Hungary, and it has to stop,” she says.
The number of abandoned French Bulldogs in 2016, which was 16, tripled in 2019, with 48 dogs dumped by their owners, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home estimated.
The Breathing Obstructive Airways Syndrome is very much common with French Bulldogs due to their flat faces. The number of surgeries for this has risen by 500% in the past three years, which costs about £1,200.
“French Bulldogs are a classic example of overbreeding – people see celebrities touting them and getting thousands of likes on social media, and they want one for themselves,” says Shaun Opperman, Head Vet of Battersea. “I understand their appeal: with their big eyes and ears, they look like Disney characters, but their appearance is a real burden to them because in many cases, it takes away their ability to act like a real dog. Many of them can’t run or play for long because they struggle to breathe, their skin folds are prone to infection, and they are also susceptible to eye problems.”
Lindsey Scanlon flies to Hungary monthly and estimates that with the help of a Hungarian dog charity, they save circa 20 Frenchies each time. She says that breeding farms do not care about the well-being of the dogs, only about the money they get for them, which could be up to £20,000 in Püspükladány, which is said to be the centre of French Bulldog-breeding in Europe.
British partners of Püspökladány breeders usually sell the dogs on social media, and the dogs with the most unnatural colours cost the most money.
French Bulldog Saviours was started in 2013, and Scanlon believes that about 2,000 dogs were rescued from Hungry since then, many of which found actual loving homes in the United Kingdom.
The charity spent £130,000 on medical services for the dogs to get them back to a healthy state.