Not so Super Tiny Animals?

Here is a copy of the email I have just sent to the ITV press office:

I have already heard lots of people in the welfare world showing grave concern about the upcoming ITV programme about Super Tiny Animals (to be shown Wednesday, 30 November 2011 ITV, 7:30PM - 8:30PM) causing an upsurge in interest in handbag and very small dogs - especially as Christmas is coming. The early evening slot will mean lots of children will be watching the show.

Can I have a quote as to whether the subject will be handled responsibly - will there any reference made to the acquisition of 'handbag dogs' as being a really, really bad idea - or will it be shown as aspirational?

Dogs are an extremely inappropriate fashion accessory as unlike this season's shoes or scarf they can't be pushed to the back of the wardrobe when your idol changes their look. Dogs are sentient beings and should never be bought on impulse as they can easily live 15 years or more and have normal doggie needs and demands no matter how big or small.

The Handbag dog craze has put quite a burden on an already over-stretched rescue system. Britain now has 10.5 million dogs almost double the population of 40 years ago.

Dogs Trust recently went into partnership with Nintendo to make the point that the only dog in your handbag should be a Computer game and that dog ownership is a huge commitment - a message endorsed by the Saturdays. Last year a teenage boy bought a Pomeranian to go with his Christmas outfit and by the New Year his mother had brought the poor little thing into the Dogs Trust for rehoming. Rescue is already full to bursting before Christmas and the last thing we need is a load more people pestering for a handbag dog for Xmas.

Please can I have a statement from the programme makers to assure the animal welfare world that this documentary will not glorify 'handbag' dogs or encourage people to breed extremely small dogs - which in itself has serious health implications.

A copy of this email is on my blog and I would be grateful for a swift response as the rescue world is already beleaguered.

Yours sincerely

Beverley Cuddy
Editor & Publisher

Blue Cross have just issued this statement:

We have seen the number of 'handbag' dogs coming into the charity triple in the past five years so it is definitely something which seems to be a growing concern.

Julie Bedford, head of behaviour at The Blue Cross, said: “We hope that anyone watching the programme will realise you should never get an animal to follow a trend, or for the way it looks. Anyone considering taking on a pet should fully research the breed and its needs to make sure they can give it the happy and fulfilled life it deserves.

“We have seen first-hand the danger of fashion trends with the huge increase in unwanted 'handbag dogs' coming into The Blue Cross.  Dogs like chihuahuas and pomeranians are great pets but they need to be given the stimulation and exercise they need to keep them happy and healthy.  These are little dogs with big personalities and like any pet they must be taken on for the right reasons, not just as a fashion accessory." 

Dogs Trust have also been in touch with ITV and the kennel Club. 

As yet we have received no reponse from ITV.

The BVA have just sent this email, too... people are getting more and more concerned about this programme...

We are concerned that the forthcoming programme ‘Super Tiny Animals’ to be broadcast on Wednesday 30 November 7.30pm-8.30pm, which comes in the run-up to Christmas, might possibly have the potential to encourage people to buy pets such as ‘handbag’ dogs, micro-pigs or exotic species such as mini marmosets, without their giving full consideration to the huge responsibility and lifetime commitment that comes with pet ownership.

We note in the publicity for the programme that it seeks to find out whether the mini-pet industry is ‘a lucrative business or a cruel genetic mutation’.  Given that the programme is also billed as ‘probing and insightful’ we very much hope that sufficient emphasis will be given not only to the demands and difficulties of owning these mini-pets but to the serious welfare needs of these animals.

Sadly there is growing trend for people to buy animals as fashion accessories or status symbols and indeed it is all too easy to take on a pet without realising the responsibilities for the care and welfare of that animal.  Pets are not disposable commodities.  People must understand their obligations under the Animal Welfare Act and, with so many of our animal rescue and re-homing charities stretched to the limit of their resources, we share a responsibility to draw attention to the enormous responsibility and long-term commitment that comes with pet ownership.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards


Helena Cotton
Media & International Affairs Officer
British Veterinary Association


Stuart said…
What a great post, just this morning I was chatting about re-homing centres that are over flowing, as well as fundraising as many of the charities and re-homing centres are not receiving as many donations as they were say 12 months ago!

The number of dogs being put to sleep is scary and with Christmas only 1 month away we know that this problem will only get worse, people will buy dogs without thinking and then very soon afterwards realise they can’t cope with them, afford them or simply that the children who wanted a puppy get bored.

I do hope that ITV respond with a positive answer, and that they have some kind of disclaimer on the programme about the commitment required for owning and caring for a dog.

Please do share the response should you receive one...
April C said…
I am absolutely horrified that this show is being aired on the run-up to Xmas, it shows a flagrant disregard of what is going on with unwanted pets in this country. We are all either part of the solution or part of the problem, no-one operates in a vacuum and ITV would do well to acknowledge this.
Frances said…
It seems to be intended as a critical exploration, rather than an advertisement for cuteness: "From tea-cup Chihuahuas to miniature pigs the demand for mini-pets is growing but is it a lucrative business or a cruel genetic mutation? This documentary goes behind the scenes of what is fast becoming a multi-million pound industry. Candid interviews with breeders and owners reveal the extent of the demand which now extends to supplying tiny cows, pigs, rabbits, horses and even goats. Probing and insightful, Super Tiny Animals is a compelling look in to a world of incessant human intervention."
Helen said…
Excellent post, I look forward to hearing the response. I too am horrified that this show is being aired so close to Christmas. As Stuart quite rightly says, I hope they have a disclaimer and make it clear throughout the show what it takes to care for a dog properly.
Doggy Doogle said…
"Anyone considering taking on a pet should fully research the breed and its needs to make sure they can give it the happy and fulfilled life it deserves."
I agree completely our pets are like our children. Having a child should not be taken lightly. Such as a fashion statement or trend would be. I mean we are talking about a living creature here! Wake up people... Great post to raise awareness.
Sue said…
We seem to have had an influx of 'doggy shows' recently and they all seem to be along the same vein. It’s a shame that a lot of these people seem to be using their dogs as a means to break into the celebrity world, but with little regard for the consequences to their own dog or its breeds reputation.
This programme is just another in the long line of media hungry breeders / owners trying to get on TV to push their ‘tiny’ animals to sell for high prices because of their unique size. Sadly to the detriment of the animals health!
The term ‘Teacup’ is broadcast like a designer label, as if indicating a mark of excellence and exclusivity ....and as with certain ‘designer labels,’ we all know they are actually sub-standard merchandise produced in awful sweat shops.
I wish these programme makes would actually step back from the desire to create freak show entertainment and think about the bigger picture. I wish they would think about the teacup animals left in rescue shelters because the owners didn’t realise they were actually living beings that get ill, need feeding, poo and wee and the ultimate offence ...ACTUALLY GROW TOO BIG FOR THEIR TEACUP!
Anonymous said…
Saw this tonight and thought it totally irresponsible of ITV to show it at this time of the year also.

Did not see "A dog is not just for Christmas" during the ad breaks. Obviously no money in it for ITV. Appalling.
Lucy Jenkins said…
This is really not good news for rescue. The other thing that struck me was their definition of a good breeder - the woman selling 'teacup' dogs from her petshop (where they get 10-15 mins interaction 2-3 times a day, poor little beggars) was described as only stocking pups from responsible breeders. Jo Public just got the message that responsible breeders breed pups that small, don't mind 'a little' hydrocephalus, sell to petshops, charge the earth and don't have appropriate levels of socialisation. Great.

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