Standards for breed altered

File/Staff
Uga VII, Georgia's iconic mascot, comes from a long line of English bulldogs.

The British Kennel Club plans to change the look of the bulldog -- the University of Georgia's iconic mascot -- for a newer, sleeker and healthier breed.

 

But the decree across the Atlantic cuts no ice with the owners of the Uga line of bulldogs revered by Georgia fans across the sea.

"I don't care what the British do," said Sonny Seiler, owner of the bulldog line that has become the most celebrated sports mascot in the United States.

Critics in England and in the United States, however, said breeders have transformed bulldogs and some other dog breeds into genetic monstrosities prone to chronic disease and sometimes early death.

A BBC documentary in August detailed the illnesses that victimize bulldogs and other breeds because of the way they've been bred to look. The kennel club subsequently announced it would review breed standards.

On Monday, the kennel club unveiled new standards for more than 200 dog breeds -- including the bulldog, which will have longer legs, a trimmer torso, a smoother face and fewer skin folds.

Bulldogs have unique health problems. Like other dog breeds with short faces, bulldogs can have trouble getting air in and out of their lungs because of the structure of their upper respiratory tract, said Chad Schmiedt, a small-animal surgeon at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

The condition makes the dogs' breathing noisy, makes them prone to snoring and restricts their ability to get around, Schmiedt said.

"They're not going to be athletes," he said of the breed that, at Georgia, serves as an on-the-field mascot.

Because bulldogs' heads are so big, their puppies have to be delivered by Cesarean section. And like other breeds with wrinkly skin, bulldogs are often prey to skin infections, he said.

Animal rights groups in the United States praised the British Kennel Club's adoption of healthier animal standards and said the American Kennel Club should follow suit.

"The English bulldog is the poster child for breeding gone awry," said Adam Goldfarb of the Humane Society of the United States.

Seiler's daughter, Swann, who read a Times of London article about the new bulldog appearance standards, said she agreed with one quote from a British opponent of the changes.

"If they start changing the standards, a bulldog will no longer look like a bulldog, as far as I'm concerned, and we think Uga looks great just the way he is. Uga's not a show dog. He's just a good old-fashioned English bulldog who's really a Georgia Bulldog," she said.

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