08/06/2012 10:25 BST | Updated 08/08/2012 06:12 BST

We Shouldn't Dismiss Pedigree Dog Health Problems as 'Normal'

Last week we were all shocked by the heartbreaking photos of Hope the dog who was found emaciated and half the weight she should have been. She was described by a vet as the thinnest dog she'd seen alive.


Devastatingly I've seen hundreds of similar stories in my 10 years working for the RSPCA. It's completely beyond me how people can allow animals they are responsible for to suffer in this way. There's lots of help out there and yet it continues to happen.

Another serious issue facing dogs - which I think is just as shocking but for some reason seen as more 'acceptable' by society in general - are the health and welfare problems faced by pedigree dogs.

Until the BBC broadcast Pedigree Dogs Exposed, most people weren't aware that the common health problems suffered by popular dog breeds so often dismissed as 'normal' were in fact due to the way pedigree dogs have been bred for looks.

When dog showing became a popular hobby, dogs began to be selectively bred to meet breed standards set by the Kennel Club and emphasise their different physical features, such as short flat faces, folded skin, short legs or long backs.

Many pedigree dogs never appear in shows but are bred by breeders who want to produce show-winning animals and whose surplus dogs are sold as pets. With looks coming first, the effects of health, temperament, welfare and functionality are often secondary.

We're trying to tackle the issue and in order to put pressure on the Kennel Club to review pedigree dog breed standards and put health and welfare above looks, we launched the Born to Suffer campaign at the end of December 2011.

Since then more than 16,000 people have signed our petition - a phenomenal response. Thank you to everyone who has signed up and supported us on this important issue.

Our plan is to present the final petition numbers to the Kennel Club as a demonstration of the scale of public support for a review of the breed standards.

We've also put together a new guide showing the health and welfare problems that some breeds suffer. Visit the RSPCA website to find out more about the Born to Suffer campaign - and please do sign the petition if you haven't already!