Apparently we are still a nation of dog lovers. Most of us are still concerned by the mistreatment of animals. But how long will this last if we are fed messages by the media informing us that pets are disposable or exploitable?
Recent TV shows have managed to use animals as gimmicks to grab headlines and viewers whilst reinforcing the message that they offer the trappings of celebrity without any responsibility.
Keith Lemon recently gave away a Pug puppy to a winning child on his show Lemonaid, which I and plenty of other dog-owners think is rather irresponsible. The show has racked up over 200 Ofcom complaints and a couple of protesting Facebook pages as well as plenty of calls to the RSPCA!
It also prompted various animal charities and bodies to respond. The Kennel Club said they were "extremely disappointed" and "Puppies are not commodities but are a lifelong commitment."
The Dogs Trust said they were "shocked and disappointed". Going on to say: "It is highly inappropriate to promote the frivolous gifting of dogs in this fashion and we are concerned that viewers may follow suit without giving any thought to the life-long commitment that dogs command... his poor attempt at entertainment was ill-judged"
Battersea Cats and Dogs Home felt the show was "highly irresponsible" and fear that "many children and their parents will be influenced by what they saw on this show and will have little understanding of the full responsibilities of pet ownership."
Of course these are the charities that have to deal with the fall out when reality hits and the novelty of owning a pet wears off.
I'm not suggesting the three families involved with the show were being irresponsible as all declared they wanted to own a pet but for those watching at home the message is clear - dogs are items of fun and easily won.
What about popular shows such as The Only Way Is Essex? Where pigs live in suburban gardens and tiny dressed-up dogs are carried around like handbags? If you want to buy into that lifestyle should you buy an animal with your next pair of shoes?
The recent documentary Super Tiny Animals declared it was attempting to 'go behind the scenes of what is fast becoming a multi-million pound industry' whilst filling the screen with cute images of micro piglets, teacup dogs and endangered monkeys. These mutant animals are being bred ever smaller as demand increases for the unusual. And the show probably managed to increase that demand judging by the comments on Twitter. But these are real live creatures with terrible medical problems, not ornaments to be made money out of!
I'm all for animals being on TV (I used to love Pets Win Prizes) but portrayed in a positive and responsible way. Take the recent final of Britain's Got Talent where the outstanding dog Pudsey and his young trainer Ashleigh were voted the worthy winners. A great example of what responsible ownership and training of a pet can do for an animal and its family.
If we are still a nation of dog lovers how about our TV shows reflect that? We already have a huge problem with rogue breeders, dog theft, unwanted pets and animal cruelty. Are we in danger of becoming desensitised to the needs of animals if our TV shows insist on portraying them as disposable lifestyle choices not choices for life?
If you want to make a complaint to Ofcom about any of these programmes you can do so here.
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