Image Credit: CalculaPR
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a Facebook post, one which advertised a pug pop up café taking place at the Revolution in York in late February. The advert in question pictured a pug gazing up at the camera adoringly, sitting in a bathtub filled with colourrful balls. The advertisement proclaims that this event will be the first-ever ‘pug edition’ of the event, which kind of felt as though they were presenting pugs as some limited edition commodity, like a hand-bag. For the low price of just £10 a ticket, this event promises dog lov-ers the opportunity to ‘mingle with up to 50 other pugs and owners’ as well as unlimited free puppucinos for all pugs, tunnels, toys, and a multitude of other pug related trade stands.
I, however, found the event’s promise of a competition, a parade of sorts for the ‘best-dressed pups’ that attend the event, a little unsettling. It became abundantly clear that this pop-up pug cafe is an overt attempt to fuel and then monetise the British public’s obsession with this breed of dog, an extremely problematic obsession which must stop. This event seems wholesome and harmless, but there’s nothing cute about encouraging the breeding of pugs, a breed of dog which is prone to so many debilitating health issues it defies belief.
All breeds of dogs are susceptible to certain health issues but the pug is predisposed to a whole host of painful health problems. The very reason why pugs are so popular with the British public are the very same reasons they suffer. Their layered, wrinkly skin which so many people fawn over is highly suspectable to lip-fold pyoderma, a condition which results in the skin becoming sore and infected, particularly around the mouth. Their cute, round, pudgy heads means they’re more likely to suffer from epileptic fits. Their huge bulging eyes mean that they have a greatly increased risk of corneal ulcers. All pugs suffer from brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome to different extents, as a consequence of their snub noses. This often causes the pug to suffer from serious breathing difficulties that cause the pug a large amount of distress, along with their snoring which is often seen as cute. This condition requires surgery to alleviate.
In 2016 the British Veterinary Association urged dog owners to very carefully consider the multiple health problems pugs can and inevitably will suffer from before choosing the breed as a pet. Multiple organisations have since campaigned for an end to the dedicated breeding of pugs, or at a very minimum stricter regulation as to how pugs are bred.
Despite these attempts, large companies have continued to exploit the seemingly cute appearance of pugs in their advertisements, celebrities still insist on continuing to show them off like this seasons’ hottest summer accessory. The Brit-ish public’s demand for pugs and other, similar, breeds with shorter, smushed heads has only increased over time, despite the debilitating breathing difficulties and extreme discomfort these dogs are likely to inherit.
I take no issue with pop-up dog cafes as a concept though; I think they provide an excellent opportunity for dog owners and enthusiasts to bond with others who share the same interests and give advice regarding how best to care for their pets. I sincerely hope that the company running this event, Pup up café, continues to host the more generalised ‘doggy based events’ they advertise on their website. I can get behind those events that do not exploit pugs. However, I also hope they realise the danger of running breed-specific pop up events, especially when those breeds are brachycephalic, as pugs are.
We as a country, and society as a whole, should at least be starting to move towards banning the use of pugs in advertisements and potentially banning their breeding completely. We should not be dressing them up and splatter-ing their image across social media. This event seems to do exactly that: why else hire a professional photographer for the event or provide props to take pictures with the dogs with? I am not ashamed to admit that I agonised a long time over whether I should even write this article. I hesitated for a long time because I feared that this piece would be looked upon as a disparagement of small businesses, or dog enthusiasts. This was not my aim. This article was not written with the aim of disparaging Revolution or Pup up Café. This article was not written to attack loving pug owners or their pets. I wrote this with the hope of encouraging York’s students and society as a whole to fully research the various health problems pugs commonly inherit, before support