Puppy yoga 'commodifying cute animals' MPs told after ITV News investigation

Many have called for puppy yoga to be banned after an ITV News investigation found the baby dogs were being put at “serious risk” in classes, Correspondent Dan Hewitt reports

MPs have been told puppy yoga classes are "commodifying cute animals for human gain" after an ITV News investigation found puppies were being put at “serious risk” in classes.

Our undercover filming found puppies as young as six weeks old being denied access to water, sleep and worked for hours at a time. 

The RSPCA and The Kennel Club both said the classes should be banned after we shared the evidence we gathered.

During an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (DEFRA) meeting Dr Justine Shotton, Senior Vice President, British Veterinary Association said "we have serious concerns about the welfare of those puppies."

Shotton added that their concerns would be that "it's a sort of marketing tool for puppy sales and irresponsible puppy sales."

An ITV News investigation by Sam Leader, Daniel Hewitt, and Imogen Barrer uncovers the dark side of a growing wellness trend

Dr Sean Wensley, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon said the sessions raised "issues of respecting animals and commodifying cute animals for human gain."

Wensley noted that "it could, with guidance enforcement potentially be done in a way that was welfare compatible, but we would definitely recognise a welfare risk."

The sessions where young dogs roam around your yoga class have gained popularity with celebrities and influencers in recent years.

Organisers say it’s good for a puppies socialisation but the RSPCA said they see nothing in the environment they would “consider to be beneficial to the health, the welfare or the behavioural lifelong development of these animals.” 

Esme Wheeler, science and policy officer for dog welfare and behaviour at the RSPCA said: "This is entertainment, in my view, which is operating under the guise of socialisation. But this is not to the benefit of the dogs.” 

Sarah Carr, CEO of Naturewatch speaks to the DEFRA committee

Sarah Carr, CEO, of Naturewatch Foundation told the DEFRA committee about the difficulty of keeping animal welfare regulation updated.

Giving evidence she said, "somebody has come up with a new idea and some ideas obviously are more about financial incentive rather than welfare".

Sir Robert Goodwill MP chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee said in a message to event organisers, “stop doing it”.

Image: Sir Robert Goodwill MP expressed concerns over the welfare of the puppies

“It isn’t that we need to change the law, it’s already against the law to be cruel to animals, and I believe this is cruelty,” he said.

“These puppies are being exploited, there’s no evidence in the film that the animals were enjoying the contact with people.”

Elsewhere, Love Islander and guide dogs campaigner Faye Winter said “we banned animals in circuses […] decades ago so why are we using dogs for yoga?

“I don't think they should be carrying on. I think there's no need for them.”

“If you want to go and see a puppy, go the RSPCA, go and help out, go to the guide dogs and help out there.”

Love Islander Faye Winter reacts to our investigation

Over several months we went undercover to investigate a number of classes and found an array of basic welfare requirements, deemed necessary by animal welfare experts, were not being met.

Whilst visiting a session by 'Puppy Yoga Essex' hosted by 'The Bully Barn' in Wickford, we found puppies were denied access to water for an hour.

The yoga teacher taking the class responded with “oh no no, [it] might make them pee more”. 

Elsewhere we attended a class organised by Puppy Yoga Liverpool where puppies were repeatedly woken up to play with customers.

Wheeler told us: “sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and there's no reason to assume that this won't be as damaging to these dogs.” 

Whilst at a at the Nottingham class, we were told by the breeder that the puppies had just turned eight weeks old, to have found out later "they've done loads, they do like three [lessons] a day".

That's at least nine lessons they took part in before they were eight weeks old, up to three times a day. That’s up to four hours in these spaces with a fifteen minute gap inbetween.

Puppy Yoga Essex in Wickford, operated by The Bully Barn, declined to comment on the findings of our investigation.

Puppy Yoga Nottingham, Puppy Yoga Liverpool, and Puppy Yoga UK did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.

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