Norway Bans Breeding English Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in Court Ruling

english bulldog standing next to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
english bulldog standing next to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Norway has effectively banned the breeding of English bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels after a court ruled that breeding the brachycephalic pups has only resulted in unhealthy dogs.

The Oslo District Court delivered its ruling Monday, saying selectively breeding the dogs violates Norway's Animal Welfare Act, which requires the country's breeders to breed healthy dogs, the Daily Mail reports. Animal Protection Norway, the animal welfare group who brought the suit, argued that the bulldogs and Cavs bred in the country—to fit certain appearances—already have too many health problems, making it impossible to breed responsibly.

"The man-made health problems of the bulldog have been known since the early 20th century. This verdict is many years overdue," Åshild Roaldset, Animal Protection Norway CEO, said on the organization's website.

Norwegians, however, could still parent crossbred dogs with bulldog and Cavalier ancestry, Animal Protection Norway notes. Ideally, that would prevent some of the health problems both breeds face.

Brachycephalic Breed Health Problems

In the United States, bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are two of the nation's most popular breeds. Bulldogs came in at No. 5 on the American Kennel Club's 2020 most popular breeds list, while Cavs made the list at No. 17. (The AKC ranked 195 breeds in all.)

While they're incredibly popular—and loving, sweet dogs loved by many families—owning one of these breeds usually means plenty of visits to the veterinarian.

Cavs are susceptible to mitral valve disease, which can lead to heart murmurs and, in the worst cases, fatal heart failure. Many of the dogs also develop syringomyelia, a condition that affects the spine and brain, sometimes causing pain or even paralysis.

And like bulldogs, they're a brachycephalic dog breed. These "flat-faced" breeds are susceptible to brachycephalic syndrome, which can cause vomiting, exercise intolerance, obesity, and trouble breathing.

The short, stout bulldogs can also suffer from joint pain and failure along with their breathing difficulties. According to researchers, selective breeding changed the size and shape of the bulldogs' body to fit our human desires—making the face flatter and the body heavier—and putting the bulldog's health at additional risk.

Obviously, these are still dogs worth loving, but if you've decided to adopt one, make sure you do so through a reputable breeder who does the necessary health checks on your potential new dog.

Will the Ban Lead to Healthier Dogs?

While Animal Protection Norway applauded the ruling, its critics—including the groups targeted in the original 2018 lawsuit—argued that it might not have the desired effect.

A spokesman for the Norwegian Kennel Club told the Daily Mail that the club, the breed clubs, and the breeders named in the Animal Protection Norway lawsuit breed responsibly, working to produce healthy dogs.

"For us, it is obvious that the answer to solving the health challenges lies in working with registered dogs. In this way, we can ensure that healthy animals are used in breeding, and that the sick are excluded," Kjetil Johansen told the Daily Mail.

He and Bill Lambert, an executive with Britain's kennel club, worried the ban could empower irresponsible breeders who still want to sell the very popular dogs. (Norwegians can still own bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.)

"This absolute approach, which will be difficult to enforce, could further fuel the ongoing crisis of irresponsible breeders, illegal puppy smuggling and uninformed puppy buyers, and actually worsen the issues the legislation seeks to address," Lambert told the newspaper. Along with cross-breeding, there are breeders around the world who are working to improve the health of brachycephalic breeds—like breeding French bulldogs with longer snouts.