Could N.H. lawmakers pull the plug on the pug?

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The bill, sponsored by Representative Ellen Read, would make it a crime to sell or breed the flat-faced dogs that rank among the country’s most popular breeds. The French bulldog, or “Frenchie,” known for its short snout, bat ears, and compact frame, has been the most popular type of dog in the nation for the past two years , according to the American Kennel Club.
A bill to ban the breeding and sale of animals with a medical condition that causes flattened faces and shortened heads is slated for a House vote next week, a measure that critics say would prohibit popular pooches such as French bulldogs and pugs in the state.
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Read’s bill would bar the sale of “an animal that has a birth deformity that causes suffering, such as brachycephaly,” and prohibit “the intentional breeding with the intent to sell, [two] individual animals with the same birth deformity that causes suffering, such as brachycephaly,” records show.
Brachycephalic dogs, such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs, are flat-faced and can experience a range of health issues, according to the National Library of Medicine’s website, which noted that the breeds have seen a “marked rise in popularity” in recent years.
The pets can suffer from “problems with respiration and thermoregulation, as well as gastrointestinal, ophthalmological, dermatological, reproductive and even dental problems,” according to the site.
The bill is scheduled for a vote before the full House of Representatives on March 28. But the bill faced scrutiny when it came up for a hearing earlier this month before the House Environment and Agriculture Committee.
On March 13, the committee voted 14-6 to issue a report designating the bill “Inexpedient to Legislate,” records show.
“While the committee was sympathetic to the problems these dogs face, we found the wording of the conditions that would trigger a cruelty charge unclear and problematic,” state Rep. Peter Bixby, a Democrat, wrote in the panel’s majority report.
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“The bill also contained very vague and subjective language regarding deformities and suffering,” Bixby wrote. “We also heard testimony that investigating and bringing a charge of cruelty with this bill as written would be nearly impossible. Another issue was that many dogs that would be considered brachycephalic do not exhibit these problems, making it hard to define exactly which dogs would be excluded from sale and breeding.”
State Rep. Sherry Dutzy, a Democrat, wrote in the committee’s minority report that six lawmakers favored referring the bill for interim study.
“Although the minority recognizes that most breeders are reputable and take great care to breed healthy dogs, there were concerns that some may succumb to financial incentives to breed dogs with traits that are counter to the breed’s health,” she said.
Read, a Democrat, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning. Last month, she told WMUR-TV that her bill is not “breed-specific.”
“I’m against all breed-specific legislation. What it means is that as a breeder, if you know that one animal has a condition that causes suffering, you can’t intentionally breed the same condition,” Read said.
The animal rights community is solidly behind the proposal, while breeders and kennel operators have registered their opposition.
People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a leading animal rights organization known as PETA, said last month that Read’s bill was the first of its kind to be introduced in the United States.
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“Many flat-faced dogs are unable to do the things that make dogs’ lives joyful and fulfilling — like running, chasing balls, and playing with other dogs — without gasping for air due to their deliberately shortened snouts and deformed airways,” Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s senior vice president of cruelty investigations, said in a statement.
The AKC sees the matter differently, saying in January that the proposal “inaccurately concludes that all brachycephalic animals, including dogs, suffer from serious health issues,” the club said in a January statement. “In reality, brachycephaly does not equal unhealthy.”
Amanda Gokee of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.

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