We ask News Shopper to change its campaign

Several readers have drawn my attention to the free newspaper News Shopper - available in London and North Kent. They have started a "Shop-A-Dog" campaign.
Now in its second week it publishes grotesque photos of people who have suffered dog bites and a snarling blood-spattered manipulated image of a dog.
They are calling for every Staffie to be muzzled, asking for ownership of a dog who looks like a Pit Bull to carry the same sentence as someone wielding a knife. They are asking readers to shop their neighbours if they have dogs that look like a banned breed. They want the law changed so dogs of a Pit Bull type can be put to sleep immediately.
They are asking their readers to take photos of 'banned' dogs in their area and they will forward them to the police. To reward these informants they will send these people a News Shopper mug.
They claim all this is to reduce 'horrific maulings in your area'.

I have just sent the authors of the campaign the following email, let's see what they say. If you are in their catchment area please indicate your support for a change in emphasis!:

Dear Dan and Kelly
Numerous of our readers have drawn attention to your campaign and I have to say it is causing huge upset as you will have probably realised.
If you really do want to unify and enthuse your readership and actually make things better for the community can I suggest a twist? That you campaign to stop people breeding Staffie puppies - that you join us in calling for a breeding amnesty?
Were you to expose the number of good-natured dogs being killed every day in your catchment I am sure your readership would be horrified - dogs that shouldn't have been bred because there simply aren't enough good owners.
Battersea is bursting with these poor dogs.
Here's some terrible stats from All Dogs Rescue...

  • Three out of every 10 Staffie pups won't live to see its first birthday.
  • 45% of the rest won't reach their third birthday.
  • In the UK one dog every minute is put to sleep and over 90% are Staffies or Staffie cross puppies.
  • If you breed Staffies still knowing this, you have blood on your hands.
We simply now have many more dogs in Britain than ever before - 10.5 million dogs according to the University of Bristol.
80% of the population actively like dogs compared to 45% liking cats.
One in four households now have a dog.
We love dogs, but we now breed too many.
Please consider changing your campaign to the above and we will help you and get behind you.
By being ANTI dog rather than anti the issues that cause dog problems you alienate a huge chunk of your readers.
Please do get in touch and let me know what you think.
We'd love you to encourage neutering and free training advice and other positive things to make dogs and owners live harmoniously in your catchment area.
Please do let me know what you think and if possible give me a comment we can use in our coverage of your campaign.

Best wishes
Beverley Cuddy
Editor and Publisher
Here's a link to a facebook page that has been started by a local Staffie owner. It's called Stop News Shopper's Witch Hunt. Do stop by and like the page and show your support.

Please do get behind this, News Shopper is owned by Newsquest and we would hate this campaign to spread to other papers. A third installment is planned and we have sadly not had any response to our email so far.

Battersea Dogs and Cats home and Dogs Trust have already complained, I would like to include other statements from charities too if there are any. I've heard Foal Farm have also complained.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is very disappointed to read of the launch of the News Shopper’s Shop A Dog campaign.

Whilst our heartfelt sympathies go to every person who is a victim of a dog attack and we share your concerns about vicious and aggressive dogs, we wholeheartedly disagree that this is due to the breed of dog. We believe this is down to how the dog has been trained and socialised by an owner. Any dog can be aggressive when they are in the wrong hands but, in the right environment and with the right owner, dogs such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers can make wonderful, loyal and loving pets.

Battersea, and other animal charities, face the huge problem of being left to deal with the consequences of those who take on bull breed dogs such as Staffies for the wrong reasons and then dump them or neglect them. Last year, Battersea took in 2,472 Staffordshire Bull Terriers, many of which have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous owners who train them to be aggressive or to fight. These dogs are often left injured, neglected and unsocialised through no fault of their own and we have to work extremely hard to help them to trust people again and to become the fantastic family pets they would have been had their owners cared for them properly.

Battersea has long been lobbying the Government to amend the flawed Dangerous Dog Act to place the onus on the owner rather than the dog itself. Breed specific legislation has not addressed the real cause of ‘status’ dogs. We believe that existing dog laws should be modernised to maintain relevance and effectiveness for changing dog control needs. We want the Government to announce new legislation that will support and promote responsible ownership, safeguard public safety and protection of canine welfare.

However, as pointed out in your article, we do agree that legislation should be extended to cover all places, including private property, to afford the same protection to people such as police officers and postmen as those in public places, should an attack happen.

By encouraging Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be seen as dangerous, your campaign is fuelling the abuse and abandonment of a much-maligned breed which does not deserve its negative reputation.

To find out more about how Staffordshire bull terriers can make rewarding and happy pets please visit www.battersea.org.uk

Dee McIntosh
Director of Communications
Battersea Dogs and; Cats Home

Dogs Trust has been alerted to News Shopper’s latest campaign – Shop A Dog by worried supporters. Having looked at the campaign details the charity is extremely concerned by the anti-dog messaging and some of the ill-advised solutions suggested to reduce the number of dog attacks.
In contrast, we are in complete agreement with the newspaper that the existing Dangerous Dogs Act needs urgent revising and the Government must act now to prevent further people and dogs from being injured. Dogs Trust also supports the suggestion that the law is extended to include dog attacks on private land; this is something Dogs Trust has been lobbying successive Governments for. However Dogs Trust is totally opposed to breed specific legislation which has shown to be entirely ineffective. The ‘Shop a Dog’ proposal to force all Staffordshire Bull Terriers owners’ to muzzle their dogs in public will unfairly penalise the majority of good natured family pets and will further damage the breed’s unjust reputation as a dangerous dog.
Dogs Trust accepts that some individual dogs may need to be muzzled and neutered but believes most of the underlying cause of aggression lies with the manner in which the owners train their dogs and that better education of owners would substantially reduce aggression. Ultimately the solution to deliberately aggressive dogs lies in resolving the underlying social issues, not just in amending dog law.
Dogs Trust believes that the current trend of having a bull breed as a status symbol or as a weapon has led to the increase in the number of Staffies crossbreeds being abandoned. We also know of cases where Staffie Crosses are being illegally bred for fighting. Because of these reasons the breed has unfairly gained the reputation of being aggressive and dangerous. In reality they can be excellent family pets as they have a wonderful temperament and are great with people. Irresponsible dog owners are buying bull breeds for the wrong reasons and don’t take the time to properly socialise them. Like all breeds of dog – in the wrong hands and without the right socialisation and training, there can be problems. Because Staffie Crosses are powerful, muscular dogs they can be potentially dangerous if not cared for properly. A tiny dog can be just as aggressive if poorly trained but is built differently so may not have the capacity to hurt to such a degree.
Dogs Trust is very concerned that this type of dog is being abandoned at such a young age. Our rehoming figures show that the majority of Staffies Crosses in our Rehoming Centres are under one year old. This means people are treating them as disposable items that can be ‘upgraded’ after just a few months – some young people will have owned their mobile phone for longer than their dog. The newspaper campaign should look at including educative solutions rather than attempting to criminalize a particular breed of dog.
We would like to invite the journalists working on the Shop A Dog campaign to either visit one of Dogs Trust’s Rehoming Centres to meet some of our Staffie Cross residents to better understand the breed, or to attend one of our City Dog workshops which give advice and practical support to dog owners in deprived urban locations, encouraging them to train their dogs in a reward based way


Teddy McDoodle said…
Well said Beverley - I sincerely hope they take you up on your advice.
Kirstin said…
I hope they listen! The Shop a Dog campaign is awful! I used to have two Staffies, one died aged 12 1/2 and my other was 14 1/2, they broke my heart when they died, they were the best natured, most loving dogs.. it is so sad to see so many unwanted & unloved Staffies in rescue centres.
Bev said…
Well done, that is a very good letter. Throwing facts at them that they can not dispute. Take care Bev & Mugly
Anonymous said…
I think your figures are wrong by a huge margin.You state that in the UK one dog a minute is put down.The correct figure is slightly less than one an hour and a lot of those will be dogs that have temperament or behavioural issues that make them unsuitable for rehoming.
Lisa said…
My gosh, that a ludicrous and ill-informed initiative! I hoe they take your considered advice Beverley, and alter their approach.
Sammy said…
To be honest some of the most vicious dogs i have seen are chihuahuas' or similar little dogs. Yet people will cross or walk over the raod to avoid my big Gsd who is soft as anything and is trained up to her eyeballs. Yes i have seen some staffies be vicious one went for my Saluki through our gate yesterday with no provacation but a dog is vicous not through its own personality but through the lack of training that people give them. It should be made compulsory to have a dog licence but to get that licence and keep it you must have attended or be attending puppy classes and KC Bronze class and this should be for ALL DOGS even Handbag ones.Then at least handlers and dogs will have beasic grasp on training. Licence number should be on their ID tag and if a dog is deemed out of control no matter what breed or size then they can be fined or taken to court and ordered to pay for more training lessons the same as for drink driving.
trish, dublin said…
well said as usual Beverley
Anonymous said…
Very well put. Staffies are the most loyal, loving dogs but all the problemns encountered are by what is on the other end of their lead! Good owners bring up good dogs and far, far, FAR too many staffies are being bred.
Pippa Miles said…
Totaly agree with the comments well said Beverley Dogs arent born agresive its us HUMANS that are to blame all the staffies Ive ever met have been great characters. My neighbour has one and he gets on great with our Boxer and loves all the kids. It would be awful if they had to muzzle him every time they went out
Jackie Grimmett said…
As a dog groomer and behaviourist for some 40+ years and having handled many breeds of dogs day to day in running my business, especially GSD's in the training side, working with the services.
I can honestly say of ALL the breeds I've handled over the years, I have only ever ONCE been bitten by a staffie once, and this was a dog that had been bought straight rom the local rescue kennels to me for a bath. No wonder the dog was scared, and yep, it was NOT the dogs fault, but the upbringing of the dog.
And when I have been bitten, the breeds involved were a Rough (lassie) Collie, (RSPCA cruelty case, beaten by owner with piece of wood till almost dead. left scars on my thighs, and thumb. Thought the sweeping brush was a stick and I was going to beat it!)
3 Red Cocker spaniels, all with "cocker rage". a toy poodle (trying to escape through y legs, my fault I reached down and grabbed it, and frightened it)
a West highland Terrier, latched onto my nose, later put down because it went completly mad with "Westie pup rage" and attacked family and furniture) a Scotich terrier (who's owner persisteed in calling it whilst I was trying to prevent it from leaping off table, it tore the ligaments in my arm and had me off work for 5months)and a yorkshire terrier, (1yrs old and NEVER been brushed by owner!) ALL dogs WILL learn to bit if they have learnt to live in fear, or have learnt that biting, gets them what they want.
Bring in proper training & licencing like one needs to drive a car, this would prevent so much suffering. Its never the dogs fault but the person at the other end of the lead!
maggie said…
as said it's not the dog but the owner.
Gull Girl said…
I will never understand why people actively choose to be so stupid and ill- informed. Staffies and Pit-bulls are beautiful, intelligent dogs who do NOT deserve the reputation that has been given them. Because some people like violence and make their dogs fight does not mean that the dog has any choice. To want to kill all these dogs is so very sad. Some reporters will say anything for a story, not caring what damage they inflict. Fiona Phillips from The Mirror said in her column the other saturday, while deploring child-cage fighting, that these people should get a staffie and take up dog fighting and I put these News Shopper people in the same category as Phillips: misinformed, scaremongering half-wits who no-one should pay attention to.It's frightening to think that they could actually wield some power here and legitimise this victimisation of souls who can't speak for themselves. They all need to realise it really isn't the dogs, it's the PEOPLE who use and abuse them - that is the real problem.
Anonymous said…
Perhaps it may be worth finding out from pets As Therapy, how many Staffies, and other so called 'dangerous' breeds work as Therapy Dogs. There surely must be a food few of them.
Chapstaff said…
I wonder if News Shopper has started this campaign for the publicity, good or bad!

I like your email Beverley, also the messages from Battersea & Dogs Trust.

Shared on Facebook
peggysmum said…
ive been on the newsshopper site and read most of the comments regarding this and most people are disgusted, there are an awful lot of staffies and staffie crosses in this area and there owners are up in arms about it and commenting so. some have already been had a go at in the street one poor lady who has a amer bulldog has been threatened several times because people think she is a dogo. such stupidity. this article is and will cause a lot of heartache and pain to a lot of people and dogs and for what 2 stupid young journalists who know nothing. this is a free paper so not even worth paying for. i dont think the paper will back down or change anything because it is all good publicity for a worthless rag that most people in the area dont even bother to read.
Anonymous said…
I'm afraid I'm in support of the News Shopper campaign and I'm fed up with the political correctness that says all dogs are the same.
I work on another paper, similar to the News Shopper, and the reporters of the NS story are only doing their job. They are not inventing stories.
On my paper, I've covered endless stories of horrific attacks and you probably won't believe me, but this is true - they were all carried out by Staff-type dogs.
In six months alone, there were three South London women who had to undergo extensive plastic surgery as a result of unprovoked attacks by Staffs. One was a concert pianist, who was wheeling her toddler up a garden path when two unleashed Staffs wrestled her to the ground and savaged her.
Then there was the police officer who had to be sent to A&E after being pinned to the ground by two Staffs. He had 15 deep bite wounds and had to be rescued by a colleague.
In the past year, two rangers on Wimbledon Common have had had their horses attacked while they were riding them! Each time the dog went for the horse's throat.
Did you see the picture of the Staff in the Evening Standard, hanging from the neck of one of the cows in the field at Petersham, near Richmond?
Then there was the OAP on Putney Heath whose sheltie was killed by two Staffs, the dachshund puppy that was killed on Tooting Common. I can assure you, we are not making it up and these dogs were not labs!
What annoys me is the patronising attitude of the charities. Look at how the Dogs Trust invites the reporters to visit their rescued place and meet some Staffs (meaning, see how nice they are, then you won't write awful things about them).
Well I'd like to invite their boss into the newsroom. What would she say to the people whose child or dogs have been maimed?
This problem has been brought about by the vogue among youths for fighting dogs and it is dishonest not to recognise that these dogs have been selectively bred to fight, in the same way the collie has been bred to round up sheep, or the pointer to point.
They have been bred to attack instantly and not to let go, and because they have such powerful jaws they can inflict appalling injuuries.
What would be more helpful, instead of laying into the News Shopper, would be to recognise that these dogs need careful management and to work out what best to do about the situation so that children and "ordinary" dogs (dogs not bred for fighting) can be protected.
My spaniel was almost ripped apart by two Staff-type dogs.
Of course there are nice ones, but the fighting genes are in the breed.
Julia Lewis
Sputnik said…
News Shopper is recognising a number of scientifically accepted realities. Also the realities of the social situation regarding these status dogs.

Reading the responses of Battersea and the Trust is like reading the babblings of madmen (actually, more like pathological liars or religious fanatics).

If you look well at their texts, you see that they admit:
Huge numbers of status dogs are dumped in shelters
The dogs are still being bred for fighting
Even when (and above all if) they are wonderful, it's only with people
Their build makes them more dangerous than other dogs
The owners they hope to educate keep their cell phones longer than they keep the dog
A social issue [Me: gang culture] underlies the popularity of the bull-type dogs
The dogs are widely abused and neglected
They eat up huge amounts of shelter resources (besides space and food -- training etc)
They only believe it's training that underlies the aggression [Me: belief is why religion is called religion and why we also have something called science]
The dogs can be good pets in the right hands [Me: with normal dogs, it's not a tenuous possibility, but the greater likelihood)

And yes, then the condescending thing of 'you need to get to know the breed', which assumes we don't already, poor stupid us...but which also means 'come meet the one or two at the shelter that look normal part of the day'. Once you've done that, you will of course agree that we should keep breeding these dogs so they can fight, kill other animals, help keep gang culture alive, be abused and neglected, and be massively dumped at shelters.

It's a form of insanity, and certainly nothing to do with love of animals.

I'd like to know what the owner of this blog suggests to decrease the animal suffering on all sides -- from the many, many animals attacked by these breeds of dogs up to and including the 90% of born gripping dogs that end up killed. Dontcha think it might be better for all if they don't get born? Save the animals they savage...but if you don't care about that, save that 90% from having been born only to be early killed?

Where's the real concern for animals, including the bullies, in this post of yours? I surely don't see it!
Beverley Cuddy said…
Sputnik, not sure what planet you are on, but if you re-read what we suggested we are calling for a breeding amnesty, asking for fewer dogs to be bred.
Anonymous said…
you say what plant is Sputnik on, but what part of his or her message to you disagree with?
It seems to me that he or she makes a series of very good points that no-one could disagree with.
It's certainly true that gang culture has brought about this massive increase of fighting dogs, that shelters are full of them, that they are taking up resources, that ordinary dogs are in danger and also that the Staffs themselves are suffering.
What probably annoyed this correspondent was also what annoyed me, though I did note your breeding amnesty idea, which is good: it is this idea that Staffs (and their crosses) are no more dangerous than any other dog, when there is so much evidence that this is not true, despite what Battersea and Dogs Trust day.
This fact needs to be recognised. There needs to be a bit more honesty about why these dogs are like they are, which is because they have been bred to go instantly on the attack and that characteristic, combined with their ultra-powerful jaws, makes them a threat.
Then we need to work how to how deal with the problem.
No one is saying there are not nice Staffies but even most Staffie owners would say they are not good with other dogs.
Alexandra said…
Dear Beverly, actually, I did read what you wrote. Trouble is, you are still pretending that so-called Staffies are only the victim of some general problem of breeding too many dogs altogether. If only there were enough 'good owners' for the fighting breeds, then there wouldn't be a problem. You pretend that the high percentages of specifically these fighting / status breed dogs being dumped and euthanised isn't because these breed have special killing qualities, but because there are just too many dogs in general.

Alas for you, breeding less poodles, retrievers, pointers, and other non-fighting, normal dogs won't make a bit of difference to how many of these 'staffies' end up in shelters. It also wouldn't make a shite bit of difference to the horrible maulings and deaths the fighting breeds are responsible for -- both of humans and of other animals.

I guess you are inexperienced, otherwise you wouldn't say the photos of blood-smeared pit-bull type dogs are 'manipulated'. They aren't. I've seen this often enough in reality -- thanks heavens never yet human blood, but to my great sadness very often dog or horse or cat blood. The staffie smiles at you through the blood, 'didn't I do just great there!' You seem to think this smile at you excuses everything -- it's smiling at ME, so it must be a good-natured dog.

All, but really all, scientific evidence shows that the aggression of this type of dog is genetically determined, not to be influenced or controlled by upbringing, and that where these dogs are banned (and the ban enforced) horrific maulings and killings drop back to zero.

Breeding amnesty? Bit late for that. Everywhere there has been a ban on these monsters, there has been a grandfather clause. Existing pit-bull type dogs (of which your 'staffie' is only one) didn't have to die. They just mustn't be bred. It isn't, thus, the law that's responsible for killing pit-bull type dogs born after the laws were introduced. It's owners who didn't care and were willing to have pups born with a known death sentence hanging over their heads. And people like you, who present the poor-poor 'staffies' as victims, and only now are coming around to 'maybe we shouldn't keep breeding them'. Twenty years too late.

And if you know anything, but anything, about dogs, you wouldn't in the least object to a muzzle order. Any good trainer can teach a dog to wear a muzzle without a whit lessened life-enjoyment for the dog. So the muzzled dogs aren't the problem -- it's your public (as you imagine it), that worries about its image if it has to walk around with the dog muzzled. Or maybe also worries that its choice of dog won't be so intimidating to others if the dog is muzzled, thus as harmless as every other, NORMAL dog on this planet? There's a reason why people choose a pit-bull type dog instead of a poodle, ya know...

Which brings us back to your question: Which planet are you living on? Your catering to the pit-bull public is, IMO, rather short-sighted. You don't seem to realise how many NORMAL dog owners there are out there who are sick of watching dogs being savaged by these fighting breeds. It might serve your commercial interests better in the long run to take the side of reality, instead of this fleeting and phony 'moral high ground' that is quickly becoming a sign that the author doesn't really care much about dogs (or animals) as such.

Dare you, but really DARE you to publish this instead of cutting it as moderator. If you do, I will publish it elsewhere with notice that you cut it.

Meanwhile, people have an absolute right to report any dog in their neighbourhood they feel threatened by and to ask that the law be enforced. If that's 90% 'staffies', well, go figure, go think about which planet you're living on.
Anonymous said…
Everyone know BSL doesn't work, there is no definition of "pitbull" type that is enforceable.

I had a staffie, she was probably the greatest dog I have ever come across. Gentle with children, patient to the nth degree, unlike a labrador we had as kids who was fine with us but hated other children. She was also great with other dogs, I never saw an ounce of aggression in her. And bear in mind this is a dog who was rehomed twice before she was 9 months old.

They are not bred to instantly attack, where does that come from? They are taught to attack, staffies form such strong bonds with humans that they will do anything for approval, this is one of the problems of their nature. Yes of course you will get some "bad" dogs, indisicriminate breeding causes this, dogs with aggressive streaks that should never be bred from are bred from by unscrupulous people.

And yet there again that is the problem, PEOPLE, we treat animals as commodity, as possessions, as toys, as disposable income earners. What is the point in legislating against an animal? It's an animal, it doesn't ask to be born, to be maltreated, to be used in a horrific manner. You need to legislate against the owners/breeders.

I saw the head of Harmsworth Hospital talking about staffs on London Tonight not so long ago and he called for 100% sterilisation of all existing dogs and bitches and that this should be enforced until such time as there are not enough dogs for owners. He's quite right.

As for this "Shop a Dog" campaign it's wrong, it should be "Shop the Owner" - people who raise dogs to fight = SCUM. People who have dogs and don't bother to control or train them are not far off that. There has to be a sea-change in how people approach owning animals, if you can't do the basics to ensure that not only people are safe but also the animal you shouldn't own one, simple. And that goes for ALL animals, not just dogs.

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