An advert in Birmingham targeting dog breeders which features a white puppy with an “Adolf Hitler” style moustache is not offensive, a watchdog said.

The Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) poster shows a Maltese terrier with a black comb strategically placed across its upper lip and a caption reading: “Master Race? Wrong for People. Wrong for Dogs. Boycott Breeders. Adopt.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected a complaint from the Kennel Club that the ad was offensive.

The ad originally appeared in Birmingham to coincide with the Crufts dog show.

The BBC announced in 2008 that it was suspending coverage of the Crufts dog show pending further investigations into the health and wellbeing of pedigree dogs in the UK.

The decision followed the broadcast of the programme Pedigree Dogs Exposed on BBC One in August 2008, which identified serious issues affecting the health and welfare of some pedigree dogs.

Welfare concerns also prompted the RSPCA to withdraw its support in 2008.

An ASA spokesman said: “The ASA carefully assessed three complaints that we received about Peta’s advertisement but did not consider there were grounds for a formal investigation.

“We acknowledged that the image and text were emotive but did not consider the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence or to mislead. Consumers were likely to understand that the advertisers were expressing their opinion.”

Peta spokeswoman Poorva Joshipura said: “It is not our ad that is offensive but the false and dangerous belief that some breeds or races are superior to others.

“We are asking people to take a bite out of cruelty by boycotting breeders and saving the life of a dog or a cat from a rescue shelter instead.”

The Kennel Club said: “We put a complaint in to the ASA on behalf of all of the responsible pedigree breeders - and indeed pedigree dog owners - who love and care for their dogs and who know that they lead very healthy and happy lives. We believe that to these people the advert is highly offensive and very misleading.

“A great many pedigree dogs breeders take steps to ensure that they health test their dogs so that healthy genes are passed down through the generations and as scientific knowledge develops more and more of these tests are becoming available.

“The Kennel Club is leading pioneering research at the Animal Health Trust’s Canine Genetics Centre that will enable us to understand more about dog health and help us to further improve the health of both pedigrees and cross breeds alike.”