With some you can only see at second glance that they are not stuffed animals, but living things: so-called teacup dogs, i.e. dogs that are so small that they fit into a tea cup. They are a maximum of 23 centimeters tall, weigh about one and a half kilograms, cost more than a scooter and sometimes have hundreds of thousands of subscribers on Instagram and Facebook. Animal rights activists are critical of the breeding of cute status symbols, which are often presented like fashion accessories or toys: the animals are often degenerate and particularly susceptible to disease.
The German hobby breeder Ivonne Winter from Hanau near Frankfurt specializes in teacup poodles. She is happy about the great demand, which is significantly higher than the supply. « Everyone wants a teacup dog now, but you don’t have them on the shelves. » According to winter, breeding is time-consuming and cost-intensive. The puppies in particular need a lot of attention.
But how are the tiny things bred? « You choose the weakest and smallest animals from a breed to breed with them again, » explains Daniela Schrudde, head of the World Animal Protection Society. That is against nature. The typically large eyes, the large back of the head and the small nose also do not correspond to the anatomy of a healthy dog.
« Such traits do not develop if you breed carefully and mate pure Teacup dogs, » claims Ivonne Winter. The mother bitch had to be at least 20 to 23 centimeters tall, and the male also had to fit her in size. « Smaller puppies can fall, but they are not suitable for breeding, » says Winter. Your mini poodles are just as healthy dogs as any small or large poodle. Lisa Hoth, specialist for pets at the German Animal Welfare Association, sees it quite differently. She reports of animals that tremble frequently because their body temperature is too low. Another problem is hypoglycaemia: this can arise from a missed meal and, in the worst case, lead to death. Wrong developments on the head, for example due to hereditary bone gaps not growing together, can also be observed. In addition, the bones in teacup dogs are generally very fragile and the eyes are disproportionately large, which, according to Hoth, increases the risk of injury.
Minimum size: 20 centimeters
« Big eyes are not the breeding target in Germany and come from America and Asia, just like the round apple heads and short snouts, » says Winter. She has never had a puppy with an open fontanel. They only breed animals that are around 20 centimeters tall. « Even if many people say on the phone that they want a teacup poodle that is only 15 to 16 centimeters tall, they are wrong with me and they can buy a soft toy right away. »
From a legal point of view, things seem clear: Because under the Animal Welfare Act, so-called agony breeding is prohibited in both Germany and Austria. If animals are bred that have body parts or organs that are missing or have been redesigned for their proper use, then this is agony breeding.
« If you look at Teacup dogs, you have to realize that this is practically always the case, » says Daniela Schrudde. The implementation of the law in the form of a breeding ban is obviously not that easy. « So far there have only been isolated judgments against breeding, » says Lisa Hoth of the German Animal Welfare Association. Certain breeding traits such as short-headedness are already known and scientifically examined.
Dogs shipped worldwide
There are numerous pages on the Instagram online portal that regularly present photos and short videos of the tiny four-legged friends. These often come from professional dealers who reach a particularly large number of users. The Instagram page of the provider « Rolly Teacup Puppies », for example, had 740,000 subscribers in early June. The dealer sends the tiny things, which cost up to 8,640 euros, all over the world.
According to the information on the Instagram page, the animals are « perfectly healthy », which health certificates are supposed to prove. But against the seriousness of these providers, according to Schrudde, is the fact that the dogs are shipped worldwide without knowing the future owners.
Teacup dogs are not covered by the breed standards of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI, International Association of Cynologists). Associations of dog breeders and owners from all over the world come together under the umbrella organization. The smallest breed of dog recognized by the FCI is the Chihuahua, whose weight is stated to be at least one and at most three kilograms.
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