Problem In The Lab – Vets Call For Compulsory Neutering To Stop Overbreeding

·         82 per cent of veterinarians believe the spaying and neutering of cats and dogs should be compulsory unless the owner is a registered breeder

·         Pet population: Over 1.7 million dogs and 600,000 cats haven’t been neutered or spayed in the UK

·         Labradors named as the most overbred dog in the UK


New research1 from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals the majority, 82 per cent, of veterinarians in the UK believe the spaying and neutering of cats and dogs should be compulsory unless the owner is a registered breeder. Every vet questioned felt overbreeding was a significant problem for several dog breeds in the UK, including the most popular, the Labrador2.


UK vets highlighted the three most overbred types of dog as Labradors (81 per cent), Pugs (32 per cent) and Golden Retrievers (24 per cent). Overbreeding occurs when a bloodline is continuously mated, amplifying negative attributes of the breed.  It also puts the dog giving birth at increased risk of issues like dystocia, difficulty in passing the foetus through the pelvic canal, when it is forced to have more litters than its body can safely handle.


Overbreeding isn’t the only issue, one in seven (14 per cent) vets believe pet owners aren’t aware of the risk of cross breeding, such as mating a Poodle and Labrador to create a Labradoodle, where the animal can suffer from health conditions related to both breeds. Almost all (99 per cent ) of vets believe that there has been an increase in pregnancy complications in pets due to crossbreeding. 

Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “Increased neutering and spaying of animals would reduce the health risk for thousands of pets and help reduce the chronic problem of abandoned and stray animals.  Vets are clearly in favour of greater restrictions on the breeding of dogs and cats, having seen first-hand the complications and genetic defects that can result from overbreeding and crossbreeding.


 “With breeds such as Labradoodles, Cockapoos and Pugs selling for thousands of pounds, there’s the temptation for unlicensed breeders to mate animals without checking their lineage.  Owners concerned about the potential health risks their animal faces should consider pet insurance, which can help reduce the stress if a cat or dog is ill or injured.  Emergency trips to the vet, or a course of sustained treatment, can cost thousands of pounds and not everyone has access to these funds when needed.”


Vets are in favour of reduced breeding, with a fifth (21 per cent ) also stating pet owners are unaware of the benefits of neutering and spaying.  With an estimated 1.7 million3 dogs and 600,000 cats in the UK that haven’t been spayed or neutered, vets believe more needs to be done to educate owners about the benefits of these treatments.  Having a female pet spayed can reduce the risk of uterine infections and breast cancer4, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats, while neutering prevents testicular cancer. 

Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse, Direct Line, said: “There are major behavioural and medical benefits to neutering and spaying your pet, which can lead to them living a longer and healthier life. It can be the single best decision you make for their long-term welfare.

“However, as we continue to ease out oflockdown, many clinics are operating at reduced capacity, so waiting times for face-to-face consultations and treatments may be longer than normal. If your pet needs to be neutered/spayed in the meantime, owners should enquire with their local vet for the services and treatment that are currently available to them, as this can vary between clinics.”

Stopping pets from breeding prevents unwanted litters, which would help reduce the huge problem of abandoned and stray animals in the UK, or the horrible practice of owners illegally killing kittens and puppies shortly after birth.   When considering if neutering or spraying animals was a significant factor in the number of stray cats and dogs in the UK, 96 per cent of vets surveyed who felt qualified to offer an opinion said it was.  

Dog owners that haven’t or wouldn’t have their pet neutered or spayed, said it was because they believed it wouldn’t have any behavioural benefits (30 per cent5) or because they thought it was cruel (30 per cent).  Less than one in five (19 per cent ) didn’t believe there would be any health benefits for the animal, despite research showing the opposite is true.  For cat owners, the majority of those opposed to neutering and spaying thought it was cruel (33 per cent) or didn’t think there would be any behavioural benefits (26 per cent). 

Dog owners that believe in neutering and spaying pets state they do it to prevent unwanted pregnancies (48 per cent), because they believe it encourages calm behaviour (37 per cent) and reduced the risk of certain cancers and infections (33 per cent ). More than a quarter (26 per cent) believe it is important to prevent over population.  Amongst cat owners the most popular reasons for neutering and spaying are to prevent unwanted pregnancies (61 per cent), prevent over population (45per cent) and to reduce the risk of certain cancers and infections (35 per cent ).

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors


1 Research carried out among 100 veterinary surgeries across the UK between 24th February and 13th March 2020


3 Analysis based on pet population figures released by PFMA (


5 Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults between 24th and 27th March 2020

For further information please contact:

Akshay Patel

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 145

Email: [email protected]

Samantha Stewart

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 025 6497


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