Snapping at the heels of ITV's Dangerous Dogs and Channel 4's Going to the Dogs, Channel 5's Dangerous Dog Owners and Proud (aired 4 August 2014) was the third programme in a row to give airtime to dog abusers and irresponsible owners.
Why is it that the moral compass of programme makers goes haywire when filming programmes about dogs? Why are they allowed to film and show scenes of animal abuse when they would never dream of filming scenes of child abuse in the same way. Dogs are covered by legislation too.
We witnessed pit bull Sergeant's owner freely admitting that in training he had 'punched him, hit him and hit him and if he stops I punish him. He is not allowed to stop'. Even more shockingly we saw one of his 'mates' kick the dog twice in the back as he was hanging off a tree branch.
They also continued filming whilst another owner was trying to separate her two pit bulls that had got into a fight. She was in very real danger of being bitten herself until her friend arrived and had to practically strangle one of the dogs to break up the fight.
The moral lines were also blurred as the 'dangerous owners' boldly affirmed that their dogs are used for personal protection. Staffie Anna's owner claimed 'I don't care if she kills somebody. I'll do what I want with my dogs' and Sergeant's owner delighted in the fact that if his dog could rip apart a Guy Fawkes-type dummy of a man, imagine what he could do to something that is fighting back - 'this is gonna be your blood, your ******* liver, your spleen and your ******* pancreas'. Are people allowed to be shown on TV walking in the park, brandishing knives and making the same threats?
Those owners will care if their dog is responsible for a death or serious injury to a person because the Dangerous Dogs Act now covers public and private property and comes with much tougher sentences. The only voice of reason who was given too little air time was the owner of K, an elderly 'retired status dog', who had seen his dog attack someone. He spoke about the impact it had on him and those who witnessed it - it seems that despite the bluster and threats, the reality is unpalatable. The account and photos of a recent attack by a pit bull on four year-old Riley Fox are a horrific reminder of the injuries a dog can inflict.
Which leads to the scary fact that most of the owners featured allowed their dogs to be around their young children. We watched Sergeant visiting his owner's two year-old son, Anna play fighting with her owner's 10 year-old son in a manner that will soon escalate out of control, and Red, Joo-chee and Tyra, the supposed 'family dogs' of Jolie and her 12 year-old son, apparently spending most of their time crated in separate rooms. What happens when her son is with her when a dogfight breaks out or if Sergeant's owner is playing rough and tumble with his son and the dog misinterprets what is happening? Dogs trained to be protection dogs do not make family pets - dogs cannot make the distinction in the same way as humans. All those dogs are ticking time bombs.
As the programme focused mainly on pit bulls and some Staffies, it unfortunately served to perpetuate the common perception that it is the bull breeds that are to blame, a fact that continues to anger responsible Staffie owners like me.
So come on the BBC, the other channels have tried and failed, and it is now your opportunity to put the record straight and make a programme that responsibly tackles the issues of dangerous dogs, not dangerous breeds, and ask right questions of their reckless and ill-informed owners. Look behind the social issues that have led to the rise in ownership of status dogs, the fact that dogs have become just another disposable commodity in our consumer-focused world and the expectations many owners have of their dogs just to fit into our lives without any form of training or understanding of their needs and behaviours. Dogs are becoming pariahs in many towns and cities - let's give a voice to the responsible dog owners before we read of another tragic dog attack that could have been avoided.Suggest a correction