The SPCA has apologised after using a photo of a French bulldog dressed in a Batman outfit to advertise for 2018 street collectors.
The image has sparked a backlash from bulldog owners who say the animal protection organisation is being hypocritical and is exploiting the breed's "cute factor".
It follows the SPCA's public support of Trade Me's ban on the sale of British bulldogs, pugs and French bulldogs because of severe breathing problems associated with them.
The ban was announced in January and took effect at the start of this month.
The photo of the French bulldog used by SPCA's Wellington branch on its Instagram page and website was spotted by bulldog owners and Trade Me late last month.
French bulldog breeder Loretta Lovell said the use of the photograph was the height of hypocrisy considering the organisation's stance on the breed.
"To see that photo was just beyond belief that they could be that insensitive."
Lovell said it was especially annoying because of the ridicule and bullying owners faced after the ban and SPCA's vocal support of it.
"It's pretty common really, people walking their dogs, children walking their dogs, who are now suddenly stopped by the public and they're told, 'oh you've got one of those dogs, they can't breathe, why are you walking them?'".
Wellington French bulldog owner Amy Hall also said the use of the image was two-faced.
"To go ahead and use one of these dogs to promote their cause after they've come out against those dogs just seemed really hypocritical to me."
Hall said people were drawn to French bulldogs because they are cute.
"Especially with having the big bat ears and the big eyes.
"Part of the problem with the way SPCA used the photo is that you've got this little dog dressed up in a little Batman costume and talking about animal super heroes and it does just seem to be exploiting the cute factor for their own gain."
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said the image was used "probably because it's cute".
She said they were in the process of "tidying up" things like social media pages as more than 40 independent SPCA centres around the country merged to form a national organisation.
Delegates voted in favour of the move in June last year.
Midgen agreed it was a mistake to use the image as a part of a marketing campaign.
"Our intention was not to offend anybody and it's the last thing we want to do so absolute apologies and we're living and learning and we're trying our best and that's why we're taking it down."
She said the image was being removed from online platforms as quickly as possible.
Midgen said SPCA supported the breed being banned on Trade Me because its health and welfare requirements were compromised and the organisation did not want to see more French bulldogs being bred.
"But that doesn't mean that we don't support the welfare of the ones that are already in existence, of which there's quite a large number, and obviously we want to have the best outcome for them as well."
She said French bulldogs and their owners were welcome to collect for the SPCA.
Its annual street appeal begins on Friday.
Trade Me head of trust and safety Jon Duffy said it raised concern with the SPCA about the image in the past week or so.
"We were surprised because there's a whole lot of animal welfare organisations internationally who've actually said they're not going to use any of the brachycephalic breeds in their advertising because they don't want to be promoting the sale of these breeds.
"But also, there's another side to it that these breeds are abandoned just like other breeds."