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From Russia With Trouble

Frenchies may be Steve Martin’s new best friends—but when these “It” dogs hail from Moscow, watch out!

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What Men in Black did for pugs and 101 Dalmatians did for the black-and-whites of the dog world, Steve Martin and Queen Latifah are about to do for French bulldogs, via the just-opened Bringing Down the House. But anyone who saw Martin mugging with a Frenchie on “Page 6” last week and is inspired to rush out and buy one should know that many of the current “It” dogs sold in pet stores and on the Internet come from Russia. And that can mean trouble.

I should know: My seemingly healthy, one-year-old Russian French bulldog suddenly collapsed and died while playing with our pug not long ago. I later found out that I’m not alone: A growing number of New Yorkers who, like us, purchased a Frenchie shipped from Russia are experiencing dramatic health problems.

The dogs are sold for up to $3,000, but that doesn’t compare with the money owners are shelling out for veterinary bills. “I spent $1,500 for surgery for a throat infection,” says Audra Allen of her Russian Frenchie, Wilbur. “And now I’m saving up for a $5,000 hip-replacement surgery.” Allen, who runs a doggy day-care service, bought Wilbur from a broker who put an ad in the Daily News.

Russian Frenchies from disreputable dealers “are a major problem,” says Charlotte Creeley, founder of the French Bulldog Rescue Network, who knows of two other deaths and countless maladies. “A good deal of the dogs from Russia have no veterinary records. They’re often taken from their mother at four to five weeks, well before the eight to twelve weeks required for small dogs. This can lead to enormous health problems.”

Creeley adds that some Russian dogs exhibit unusually aggressive behavior. “People expect a docile Frenchie, and they end up with a dog that’s more like a bull terrier.” That was certainly the case with our dog, whose run-ins with our pug reached the kind of violent denouements one would expect from a pit-bull fight.

While there are U.S. laws regarding the health of imported animals, Creeley suspects that some Russian Frenchies are smuggled in. “The reputable Russian breeders,” she says, “are as eager to stop this as we are.”


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