We talk a lot about the problems of uncared for street dogs in Sri Lanka, we talk about the animal welfare issues facing owned dogs that are permanently chained and kennelled but there is a another group of dogs here that can suffer pretty much in plain sight,  breed / pedigree dogs.

I have a breed dog and this long (sorry) post is his story

My dog is called Bruno  , he is a 2-year Rottweiler, he was brought from a pet shop for 35000rs at around 4 weeks of age, and his new owners handed him to a rescuer a few weeks later claiming they had found him as a stray. Bruno came to me a very troubled pup, underweight with a very poor coat, eye discharge and a number of behavior problems, some potentially caused by being separated from his mother too early, some due to the beatings he had received with a broom (he was very reactive and scared of brooms) and I suspect due to pain.

From the outset we suspected Bruno would develop Hip dysplasia, a leading Colombo Vet told me practically every Labrador or Rottweiler she sees has hip dysplasia, those dogs should never be breed from but they are and often interbreed with close family members. Bruno’s diet, exercise were carefully managed, he was put on imported supplements but by 7 months the first signs of the Hip Dysplasia was started to show, he was stiff, had difficulty rising, abnormal gait and limping, at 7 months old he was basically still a puppy, x rays a few months later confirmed his diagnoses and showed evidence of osteoarthritis which is a degerative form of arthritis a secondary condition all dogs with hip dysplasia develop.

pedigree rottweiler bruno sitting on the beach

Bruno is luckier than most dogs here; he has been diagnosed, is monitored closely and has vets in Sri Lanka and the UK jointly managing his care. But and this breaks my heart to write, he is never going to have a normal life or a normal lifespan, he cannot tolerate long walks and by long walks I mean anything more than 10 minutes and he will never reach old age. His condition will continue to deteriorate until it reaches the point that the pain can no longer be managed once that happens I will have to put him to sleep because I will not let my darling boy suffer and he will be suffering. I have been told by a number of vets this will happen by his fifth birthday and most likely younger, I have friends in the UK who have lost dogs by 3 from this condition. Most dogs here like Bruno are not diagnosed, those dogs live their entire lives in  horrific pain and discomfort  every single day and many are being used for breeding so the next generation of dogs is born with just as many health issues.

Just to add insult to injury Bruno’s tail was also docked as a puppy, a practice that is totally legal here and is either done by breeders or vets when the pups are around 1 week of age.

sri lanka pedigree doberman puppies about to have their tails docked

So in Sri Lanka as in many other parts of the world breeders create a dog that looks like its breed on the outside but inside is deformed and in consent pain and then mutating it by surgically removing its tail for human vanity, just so it looks like the human ideal for that breed. The worst thing is that dogs like Bruno are not pitied, they are desired, they are prized status symbols , rehoming groups that struggle to place perfectly healthy vaccinated, socialized Sri Lankan puppies can receive multiple offers for a breed dog in minutes of posting them online.

I am sure there are some ethical breeders who do care about improving breed health but lets be blunt here the overwhelming majority of dogs that are supplied in pet shops are from back yard breeders who breed bitches from the first season until they can no longer produce, these dogs are often breed with close relatives and they don’t have any health checks before they are mated. The pups are then sold on to pet shops where they are crammed into cages often with no water until they are sold on. Current animal welfare legislation seems powerless to stop this so the answer is 100% with the consumer , these dogs are bred to satisfy the demand, if people don’t buy people wont breed.

roadside caged dogs for sale kandy 2016 ©KACPAW

Whilst I would personally never buy a dog here I know that some people want a breed dog , so if your reading this and you are going to buy a breed dog in Sri Lanka please consider the following:

  • Don’t buy from a pet shop or via an ad online / paper
  • Go directly to the breeder, ask to see both parents and check their health and temperament, a nervous or aggressive dog will pass those traits on its pups.
  • Take your time, I see posts from people wanting to buy dogs all the time the same day, seriously people take more time to buy a car than a dog! A good breeder will have a waiting list
  • Research your breed , what was the breed originally desgned to do ? Dalmations are bright active dogs that need many miles of exercise each day and mental stimulation.
  • Are you fully aware of the potential health issues that affect your breed ? Can you afford the medication and veterinary treatment your dog might need? (Bruno’s medication / supplements costs over 20000rs a month)
  • Ask how the puppies have been socialized, for more info on why this is crucial and how to socialise your pup visit the puppy plan
  • Don’t buy puppies under 8 weeks of age, they need to remain with their mother and siblings during this time
  • Ask to speak to the breeders vet and other owners of previous litters
  • If your desired breed is traditionally docked breed ask the breeder not to dock your puppy, a dogs tail is not cosmetic it’s a vital body part used for communication
  • And most importantly consider please adopting a Sri Lanka pup or dog, they are in no way inferior to any pedigree breed 

I love Bruno, he is my friend, my companion and a part of our family, I would not wish his condition on any animal or the heartbreak I am going to face losing him at a young age on any owner

Samantha Green

InCountry Director, Dogstar Foundation