breeds of dogs native to Britain are at risk of becoming endangered because new dog owners are opting for celebrity-endorsed breeds like the Chihuahua and the Husky.
The English Setter – the country’s oldest breed and once most popular dog – is the latest name added to the list of native vulnerable breeds with the Otterhound and Deerhound.
According to new dog breed registration figures released on Wednesday, 25 breeds are now considered vulnerable.
Registrations for English setters dropped 33% from the previous year compared to the ‘more fashionable’ Chihuahua, in which registrations rose by a quarter in 2011, the UK Kennel Club said.
A breed is deemed to be at risk of extinction when it numbers less than 300 puppy registrations a year. The Irish Terrier returned to the list after just tipping 300 registrations in 2010, but the breed declined by 22% last year.
However, the organisation also said that the Royal Wedding in 2011 had a positive effect on a once endangered breed – the Cardigan Welsh Corgi has been taken off the vulnerable dogs list as registrations soared by 134%.
Speaking with Yahoo! News on Wednesday, a spokeswoman from the UK Kennel Club said: “There has been a rise in exotic dogs, which have been popularised by the likes of Paris Hilton and Sharon Osbourne. There are breeds not being considered because they are lacking in profile. People don’t realise that most of the endangered breeds are more suitable for people’s lifestyles – unlike the husky. We are worried about the number of exotic dogs in rescue homes as people find it difficult to look after them.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary added: “Celebrities, popular culture and fashion play a big part in today's society and, unfortunately, dogs are not immune from our fickle tastes.”
Former president of the British Vetinary Association (BVA) Harvey Locke agreed with the latest statistics – although said it is usual to see peaks and troughs in breed registrations over the years.
Mr Locke told Yahoo! News: “As handbag and teacup dogs become more in fashion, we see a decline in breeds like the English Setter, which is an absolutely fantastic dog. There is also a fashion for expensive crossbreeds like the Labradoodle and Cockapoo. However, there is a danger that they potentially harbour characteristics and genetics that we don’t fully understand especially when we tamper with nature.”
Mr Locke also associated the changes with economic factors. “In this economic climate, we see a massive difference between large and small dogs. If people live in a small apartment without a large garden, bigger dogs do not fit well. A dog like the Irish Setter requires constant grooming and exercise, which would not suit an owner with a busier lifestyle.”
The BVA recommended never buying a dog on impulse. Mr Locke said speak to a local vet or research websites to find out more about its characteristics, hereditary health problems, how much exercise the type of dog requires, whether it’s friendly and gets on well with children.
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