Sunday, 11 May 2008

Jungle Telegraph - very uncivilised journalism

Last week I was far too busy to blog. In fact, I was too busy to get off my chair and go to the kitchen in the office and put my lunch in the microwave - in fact come to think about it, it's still in the fridge. There wasn't any fast food fast enough.
But when a journo called Jasper from the Sunday Telegraph phoned to ask for help with an article on dog health, I dropped everything and gave him an hour or so of telephone support. He later followed it up with sending me his first draft by email so I could tweak it and make sure he didn't screw up.
I was guessing he was young and new to the job. We've all been there. I saved him from making an arse of himself with this sentence... "while Labradors are increasingly prone to infections associated with longer ears, which are seen as a popular characteristic." There were a couple of other howlers - but I'll get to them later.
He dug out my article from a few years ago in the Telegraph and took some facts out of that. Still I don't mind - so long as the story gets told and we educate people to only buy from tested dogs it's got to be a good thing.
I told him about Dial-a-dog, about our Little Black Book. I even got our designer to email him all the pdfs of this incredibly detailed definitive guide to doggie health tests.
So today I get the email version of the paper. Thankfully no more mentions of long-eared Labs or indeed the other one he had in the first draft -"King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are now prone to a painful condition that involves the growth of a cyst at the back of their necks, because their skulls are too small."
But not a single mention of Dial-a-dog, Little Black Book or indeed us at all. Nothing to point people to our website - to get the info they need. No attributed quotes despite most of the facts coming from me! Astonishing behaviour.
But what he does do is direct people to a brand new website - a very recent venture that so far as I can see mentions nothing at all about pet health and certainly gives no one an ounce of information on health tests.
I have to say sometimes my patience is tried. You work so hard to change things, give people all the time in the world that you don't have - and they still cock things up!
But better to have something about health in the paper than nothing I guess!
I've emailed the journo. I was pretty nice, I didn't bite. I just explained how he could have given the readers a website that could have actually informed and educated them - that might have changed things. It's closing the stable door, but in 20 years I've never before been an unpaid sub editor for a national newspaper that then forgets to mention us in the story! If we're a good enough source to check the facts with - shouldn't we have been quoted? An evil part of me says I should have let him go to print on his ridiculous long-eared Labs angle and dogs getting cysts because their skulls are too small!
Will I still take the next call from a fledgling journo stumbling into the complex world of dogs and give them hours of unpaid advice? Of course I will - I'm like a Beardie at heart. I don't hold grudges, or could that be I don't learn from experience?
Here's the Telegraph article. And for those among you who are not Emma Milne fans - perhaps best to to take your tablets now if you are going to press that link. But I have to say I am very pleased that she's bringing up this topic at the vet conference. She may have written a really duff Greyhound article, but I'm with her 100% on this one.

7 comments:

alfmcmalf said...

I agree that even a superficial treatment of the subject is better than none.

I won't make any comment on Emma. People regular to your blog know how courageous (if sometimes flawed) I think she is.

Just today me and Ferdy "inspected" some potential doggy day care at which lives a lovely Bulldog. I was shown her inherited skin condition on her tummy - it was very sad and once Ferdy had been given a nip by her for trying to hump her - quite right too. The nip I mean not the opportunistic hump. He started to lick her tummy where her trouble was. It was very sweet.

These welfare issues are of a scale not fully nor widely enough understood so well done jasper for doing the piece. We need all the help we can get.

Jay said...

Journos ... they'll never learn. But keep trying. Water on a stone and all that.

I am SO not an Emma Milne fan, being a long-time greyhound ownder, but she's right on this one. Some breeds are virtually unrecognisable as the working dogs they once were, and far too many have serious inherited problems.

I'm concerned right now because our friends in the US tell me that the number one cause of death in greyhounds over there is osteosarcoma. We just don't see the same problem over here, so it's likely to be genetic. Dr Couto of the Ohio State University thinks so, he's been doing research into the problem. But what are the breeders doing about it?

Chapstaff said...

What a cheek to not even mention Dogs Today. I hope Jasper was sufficiently embarrassed when you contacted him.

Holly Lee, from the Kennel Club, said: "We're aware of the inherited health problems but we're the best placed to deal with them."

Yes - but are you going to deal with them? As I see it many of the inherited health problem are due to the K.C.'s strict breed standards forcing breeders to use smaller gene pools

Anonymous said...

Hi Beverley
Welcome to the real world.
Dangerous Dogs Act 1990 - ignored.
Animal Welfare Act - ignored.
Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act - ignored.
Unfortunately not only by inexperienced jurnos (I sent Jasper to sleep in one long telephone interview about stray dog arrangements) unfortunately for me its usually those who should know better; but you know that. Beardies can't claim all the credit us terriers keep coming back for more - we're just not as forgiving.
All the best
Cuthbert

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I feel Emma Milnes angle on this is to rid us of breeds like the bulldog rather than turn to the KC and tell them that it is they who have caused the problems by issuing a ridiculous KC standard for the bulldog and other breeds.

I am all for testing and ignoring the ludicrous 'KC standard'but I fear that Emma is so pro crossbreeds that her real aim is to see these troubled breeds 'die out' rather than look to the breeders and the KC to sort themselves out.

I am a very proud bulldog owner. No way would he win at Crufts. His legs are too long, face not flat enough, head not big enough etc, etc, but - he is extremely healthy, loves to run, doesn't make a noise when breathing and is the most adorable dog.

The ending comment by the KC is laughable. Will they deal with it? No. So they are not best placed to deal with it, they have already proved that.

Can I ask why Emma Milne is addressing the British Veterinary Association about this? What is her aim by bringing this up to vets? I am interested to know.

Beverley Cuddy said...

Lovely to hear from you Cuthbert! Glad its not just me that's a mug and keeps helping these people.

Interesting comment about bulldogs, too. We just got a call from a lady who his breeding back to the way Bulldogs used to look. 10-15 years ago another person tried to resurrect the Victorian Bulldog and asked the KC to consider registering them. Even though they had just agreed to let someone else breed Corgis to Boxers to make them have bobtails to subvert the docking ban that was inevitably coming, they said a definitive no. Maybe now the climate has changed and they're under pressure from Defra they may be more open-minded. A dog that we all recognise as the Bulldog, that can breathe normally, run about in all weathers, breed without surgery - wouldn't it be wonderful! And it's not quite so difficult to achieve as you might think.

Anonymous said...

Well, the trouble is we have some British Bulldogs, like mine, who is healthy, but he wouldn't win at Crufts, like I said before. I know there are Victorian Bulldogs/Old Thyme Bulldogs but its just confusing to people. Buyers want 'KC registered' for whatever misguided reasons and so the other types of bulldog are seen as 'not the real thing' purely because as you say they will not allow them to be KC registered.

What needs to happen is that the KC take a long hard look at the KC standard for the British bulldog (ie, the one that will win Crufts which everyone looks at as 'perfect'). By simply changing the 'ideal' to the way the bulldog used to look (more athletic, longer legs etc) they would have so much influence on breeders who would want to and have to breed to that standard to stand any chance of winning any competitions.

I really think Emma Milne should be using her time in addressing the KC rather than a group of vets..

It is solely in the hands of the KC and I don't know whether her aim is to stop the breeding and treatment of certain pedigrees so they 'die out' or work towards a healthier version?