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‘Frankenstein dogs’ on the rise as clinics breed freakish pups

The pandemic arises in demand for puppies is being exploited by some breeders prepared to break the law and risk dogs’ health by artificially inseminating them, an investigation found.

Some forms of artificial insemination are legal but the Sunday Mirror discovered ads for a handful of clinics offering a procedure for about £350. It said analysis showed a 10-fold increase in dog fertility clinics in the past two years, some in back rooms of shops.

Only qualified vets can legally perform a transcervical insemination (TCI) under the Veterinary Surgeons Act only. The procedure, which needs specialist equipment, sees sperm deposited through the cervix into the uterus using a catheter.

If not carried out correctly, it can lead to potentially deadly injury and infection. The charity Naturewatch said the number of UK dog fertility clinics had boomed from 37 before the first lockdown to more than 300.

Its puppy farming expert Natalie Harney said: “This is heartbreaking. We are breeding dogs to their absolute limit. Something’s got to give.” And RSPCA chief vet Caroline Allen said: “Some of the breeding we are seeing at the moment is horrendous. There are types of bulldogs who can’t breathe, sleep or exercise properly.

“These people want to bypass vets because they don’t care about animal welfare. They are treating dogs as commodities – just things which will produce money.”

Menus of potential mates



Experts say they are concerned about ‘horrendous’ breeding in the wake of the pandemic puppy boom

Some of the clinics visited by the Sunday Mirror showed menus of dogs as potential mates for customers’ mutts, which experts slammed for slashing the gene pool. One clinic advised an undercover reporter on breaking local authority rules on creating multiple litters by, saying: “You don’t have to be honest.”

Social media pages of the clinics visited were covered with shots of flat-faced pooches – like pugs and bulldogs – created using controversial canine fertility treatment. Decades of overbreeding have caused these animals – brachycephalic dogs – to develop major genetic deformities.

Many cannot get pregnant naturally and have big issues in labor as their narrow pelvises mean puppies often get stuck in the birth canal. Data released last month showed French bulldogs were expected to live to just four and a half. A healthy dog’s lifespan is 10 to 13 years. And 80% of French bulldogs need to have caesareans – putting them at risk of deadly abdominal infections.

Several of the clinics probed had a menu of “stud dogs” charging up to £500 for donor sperm. Flat-faced breeds, most at risk of health problems, dominated these lists. All clinics offered artificial insemination services, some of which is still legal, despite concern from experts.

A handful, including K9 Clinics in Ilford, East London, advertised TCIs. Its website and Instagram page had pictures of bulldogs created via this extremely risky method. Its website said: “Overview of the service: Semen is inserted through the cervix into the uterus by using an endoscope (tube) – allowing to see the cervix and insert a catheter.

“This is known as transcervical insemination, and can be done while a dog is standing up.” Our undercover reporters posed as potential customers at the Ilford clinic, located down an alleyway.

It charged £50 for a consultation for a reporter’s one-year-old cockapoo Luna. Yet the staff member asked no questions about Luna’s medical history or if she had any genetic diseases. He confirmed he specialized in mating bulldog breeds but would do a TCI on Luna for £350. He said TCIs had been carried out on more than 1,000 dogs and that: “Everything we do is legal.”

The undercover reporter asked if there would be any risks to Luna from a TCI, which can cause internal trauma and infections if done improperly. The staff member replied: “No, nothing at all.”

When the reporter queried his qualifications, saying: “We wouldn’t have to take her to the vet?” he replied: “No, no.” Gesturing to certificates on the wall, I added: “I’ve had to do a course, on and off for six years. It’s practical as well. I’ve got all my certification.”



Reporter Geraldine McKelvie with Luna
Reporter Geraldine McKelvie with Luna

The certificates were issued by a firm which was slammed in a BBC documentary last year. The Sunday Mirror said the staff member advised its reported on how to get around laws requiring those breeding multiple litters to apply for a local council licence.

He said: “You don’t have to be honest with them. If they’re personal pets, they probably won’t ask questions.” K9 Clinics refused to comment when the findings were presented to them.

A staff member at Southeast K9 Fertility Clinic in Gravesend, Kent, said artificially inseminating four-year-old toy poodle Honey would cost £450. When asked over the phone he seemed to describe TCI. After an undercover reporter told him this should not be done by an unqualified person he denied the clinic used that procedure.

He then said: “I’m not qualified in this. I just receive calls, I’m the helper. This was my mistake and miswording. That’s not actually what happens.”

Essex Canine Fertility Services in Basildon promotes artificial insemination for dogs who cannot mate naturally due to their sizes. Its website says: “Insemination is a quick and pain-free procedure where fresh sperm is deposited into the uterus either in front of or directly into the cervix (tci).”

When the clinic was approached for comment it said it had never carried out TCIs, adding: “We are going to have the [website’s] wording changed with this ASAP as we can now see this could/has caused some confusion.”

Most dog fertility clinics in England are run by breeders, not qualified vets, and are unregulated.

What the experts say

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons said: “Transcervical insemination is an act of veterinary surgery and may only be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon in dogs.”

RSPCA chief vet Caroline Allen said: “They have come about off the back of irresponsible breeding – breeding dogs for appearance, not health. Where the real health risk comes from is getting dogs who shouldn’t be bred to breed. If you are inserting something into the body of an animal, you need to have the right equipment and know what you’re doing.”

Freak pups seen as ‘novelty’

Experts say the huge increase in dog fertility clinics has prompted a worrying wave of “Frankenstein puppies”. This is when breeds of dogs unable to reproduce naturally are mated in a lab using artificial insemination to create freakish-looking pups.

Last month the Sunday Mirror reported that two breeders running fertility clinics in Scotland were facing court action amid claims they carried out unregulated veterinary procedures. One produces hairless bulldogs which sell for up to £40,000 – believed to be a cross between French bulldogs, pugs and Chinese crested dogs.

Another trend experts have observed across the UK is French bulldogs being crossed with hulking huskies twice their size. And some clinics use fertility treatments to create “pocket bulldogs.”

This is a tiny version of the American bulldog which can suffer from excruciating mobility issues as it has been crossed with other breeds to exaggerate deformities.

Natalie Harney, campaigns manager at Naturewatch, said: “Clinics are coming up with these weird and wonderful combinations to get that novelty factor. Our concern is people mating dogs who have really extreme features with one another. It’s the Instagrammable, headline-grabbing factors that people appear to be going for.

“They are then creating what we would call these Frankensteindogs which are destined to have skin issues, these really flat faces, bulging eyes and stubby legs.”

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