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Why Is HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ Calling Foul on Dog Breeding?

Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post | April 26, 2014

Why does a 10-month-old bulldog puppy named Trouble have such trouble breathing that he needs surgery? Watch this clip to find out:

HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel takes aim at the dog-breeding industry’s cruel practices in a hard-hitting piece called “Unnatural Selection.” It shows how dogs such as Trouble pay with their health and happiness—and sometimes even their lives—because they have been bred to conform to the unnatural and arbitrary ideas of “beauty” promoted in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) breed standards.

In one scene, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel spins frantically and cries out in agony because of a condition called syringomyelia. More than a third of this breed suffers from this condition, which occurs when their skulls are too small for their brains. In another scene, a German shepherd suffering from hip dysplasia wobbles and struggles to walk on crippled hind legs.

Journalist Soledad O’ Brien takes AKC apologists to task for promoting sordid practices, including breeding dogs for unhealthy, distorted features and inbreeding. She points out that last year’s Westminster “Best in Show” winner was the product of breeding a father dog with his own daughter, yet the AKC refuses to condemn it.

You’ll definitely want to watch the full feature on HBO GO or HBO On Demand and share it with your family and friends, especially those who think they need to have purebreds. It will surely inspire many people always to adopt and never buy their future canine companions and to find something better to watch than contests that exploit “man’s best friend.”

Commenting is closed.
  • K. S. George says:

    The BBC aired something similar entitled Pedigree Dogs Exposed and it is on YouTube as well

  • Doglover says:

    I saw this report and immediately thought about the two purebred Boston Terriers I had, both of which died fairly young. We purchased both from so called breeders that were breeding to AKC standards. The first died of a genetic disorder.

    The second one died as a result of surgery. We believe her breathing issues contributed to her death as she had a bad reaction to general anesthesia. BT’s like other dogs with pushed in in faces(brachycephalic dogs) ie bulldogs, boxers, pugs etc have the same compressed skull structure discussed in the piece. We learned after the fact that this is a recipe for breathing problems due to soft palates and narrow nostril holes. As the story mentions, many breeds are bred to have this skull structure for looks, not health. Unfortunately, no breeder or vet had ever suggested that we have the surgery to widen the nostrils and take away some of the extra skin in the back of their throats as the vet in the story does with bulldogs.

    At the time we got the dogs, we erroneously believed that they were healthy because they met the breed standard as set by the AKC. One of the dogs came from a long line of show dogs. What a farce! AKC cares more about looks than health. And they had no real answers for Soledad as to why they won’t change their practices.

    I hope PETA will continue to highlight this issue. Only public pressure and refusal to support dog shows will get them to adopt new standards. Until they do, my future dogs will be mutts! While there are no guarantees on how long a dog will live, most of the mutts in my family have lived long happy lives while my purebreds have not.