Published: 05:00, 21 June 2022
A charity boss is appealing for donations to help a young French bulldog with a birth defect described as a “death sentence” for pups.
Little Phil, who has a cleft palate, was rescued by the Frenchie and Friends Foundation at three weeks old as his breeder couldn’t keep up with his care.
The condition means he needs to be tube-fed every two hours and he was going to be put to sleep.
But the charity plucked the little pup to safety and is now appealing for urgent surgery costing thousands before he can be adopted.
Warden Bay resident Natalie Batchelor is one of five dog lovers who set up Frenchie and Friends Foundation in 2019, which has volunteers all over Kent helping French bulldogs in need.
The 42-year-old said: “Myself and Cherry May, another co-founder from London, got a call from a vet saying there was a little puppy who was three weeks old, who had a cleft palate.
“The breeder wouldn’t be able to get him the surgery he needed the little Frenchie was going to be put to sleep.
“But the vet called us and we drove up to Reading, picked him up and one of our foster volunteers has been caring for him ever since.”
As a full-time civilian Met Police worker, Natalie didn’t have time to care for Little Phil, so her friend, a receptionist at Aspen Vets in Bexley, took on the responsibility.
Natalie said: “At nine weeks old, Little Phil is eating some solids and making lots of new friends with the veterinary nurses and patients.
“He’s not got a hair lip, which is unusual, but he has a big hole on the roof of his mouth that needs to be fixed through surgery.
“He’s very attention-seeking and sassy, he loves other dogs and he goes and sees other animals that are in the vets for routine and emergency appointments or operations. He’s like a little mascot.”
The Frenchie and Friends Foundation have been quoted between £3,500 and £5,000 for Little Phil’s surgery, an operation he needs at six months old before he can be rehomed.
Natalie, who has three rescued Frenchies of her own, added: “We desperately need funds to help accommodate the cost, it could be even more with after care.
“We have to also consider if anything was to go wrong in the future or if there are complications with the surgery it may be a bigger bill.
“So we’re aiming to raise sort of about £5,000 for his specific operation.
“But then we’ve got all the other dogs that are in care and their needs that need support and money spent on them.”
The charity currently has 19 French bulldogs in foster care and 17 on the waiting list. So far the team have rehomed almost 175 across the UK.
French bulldogs are brachycephalic, which means they have the same amount of teeth and tissue in their mouths as larger breeds. This causes problems with their eyes, their ears, their palates and their breathing.
Working alongside Natalie and Cherry are friends Jacqueline May, Sandra Whiffen and Ross Keeley.
Natalie explained: “We created the charity as the breed has become very popular over the last few years. Many people don’t realise about their health issues, which in turn makes them very expensive to insure, so we started off the charity by buying dogs at risk on selling platforms like pets for homes, Gumtree that were clearly bred and used as cash cows.
“Since then we try to help people that are no longer able to carry on with their dogs, just recently, someone that was made homeless because of the cost of living crisis.
“We’ve had quite a few dogs surrendered recently where a family members found out they’ve got a terminal illness or and sadly, sometimes some of the owners have died. So we’ve taken dogs on that way as well.”
Natalie explained that looking after French Bulldogs of all ages and health can be a challenge and there isn’t a day that goes without an expensive vet bill.
She finished: “Recently we’ve had a little girl who had two broken front legs and we’ve recently just got three three bulldogs that came in with mange fleas, they were in a terrible state and their treatment was £300 each.
“So ideally, we’re looking to raise a million pound. But just for Little Phil’s surgery, £5,000 for just one dog will make all the difference.”
To support Little Phil or the Frenchie and Friends Foundation click here.