Thursday, 1 December 2011

Super Tiny Morals - a storm in a teacup?

We got a big fat no answer from ITV to our concerned email about this show (link here).

Seems we are not alone.... just in from Dogs Trust:
"It was disappointing that the producers of Super Tiny Animals did not respond to our email in advance about the welfare messaging. Dogs Trust would have expected the inappropriateness of some of the behaviour, such as the constant handling of the dogs and the dressing up shown in the programme to be discussed.
"With the programme airing in the run up to Christmas we do have concerns that many people will watch and request a teacup pet as a gift. Although many of the owners shown represent extreme case studies, not all viewers will be aware of the unsuitability of these animals to be domestic pets or the specialist care they require  and simply be blinded by the cute factor. Dogs Trust did point out to the producers that we have just run a campaign highlighting the increase in abandoned ‘handbag dogs’, many of whom are overweight and under-socialised as a result of being carried rather than walked. It would have been more responsible for this type of messaging to be included in the programme."

Also in Wood Green's reaction to the programme:

Following the airing of ITV’s Super Tiny Animals last night Wood Green, The Animals Charity would like to state that as a charity we cannot condone the breeding of ‘teacup’ or ‘miniature’ animals of any kind.  The subsequent fragility of these breeds combined with on-going medical issues and majorly reduced life expectancy in no way complies with any animal welfare standards that we support. To add an exorbitant price tag to these poor creatures just adds insult to injury.  If mother nature intended them to be that small she would have created them herself, minus the medical issues. Wood Green would also like to urge people to think carefully before considering rehoming a new pet this Christmas. It is important to remember that any animal, whether it be a dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, sheep, chicken or goat, will require care, love and attention throughout its' lifetime and not just over the festive period.
Did ITV acknowledge the KC or Blue Cross?  They all told us they were all also contacting ITV with big worries about the programme?

The BVA - the British Veterinary Association - told me yesterday they still hadn't heard anything from ITV.

Not a word.

But the Teacup pages on facebook are alive with on the one hand 'iccle dog 'must have' frenzy and lively debate from welfare crusaders who keep getting banned!

And on Twitter I saw that TV vet Marc Abraham did half a day filming trying to balance out the negatives and the puppy farming concerns - but his contribution was ended up on the cutting room floor! Why?

Another concerned dog lover on Twitter has been very lucky and has received a reply from ITV... but I think it's a standard one as it does not address any of her very valid points.

She wrote:

To: ITV Viewer Services

Super Tiny Animals.
What were you thinking??
Not only did your programme involve poor journalism but you also managed to glorify genetic conditions (when you could of gone down a factual and informative route) and you have also commodified animals in a disgusting level of consumerism.
Do you have any idea how hard animals welfare charities and groups work? And you have quite easily undone there good work RIGHT BEFORE XMAS. This was either very stupid of you or it was a clearly planned PR stunt.
You have been wholly irresponsible with this programme and I will be writing to Ofcom immediately.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Miss Samantha Edwards.

Dear Samantha
Thank you for your email regarding Super Tiny Animals.
Super Tiny Animals is a documentary about the well-established and well-documented trend for micro-pets both in the US and the UK over recent years.  There are stories about the experiences of individuals breeding, owning and petting micro-pets, which encompass their reasons for their involvement with the animals, the pleasure they derive, as well as the drawbacks and responsibilities inherent in dealing with them.  Within the framework of its focus on the trend there are clear references throughout that informed viewers of the need to deal with responsible breeders, and of the presence within the market of irresponsible ones, make them aware of the health problems some species can encounter, the size that the animals can be expected to reach, the level of care they require and their requirement for owners who are committed to their long-term care
 May I take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to contact us here at ITV as we always welcome viewers’ feedback, and your comments have been registered here at Viewer Services.
 If we can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.
 Kind regards

Hmm, so that's okay then Julia! Let's chew over that claim...

"there are clear references throughout that informed viewers of the need to deal with responsible breeders..."

So why was the only person you interviewed about buying a teacup dog a pet shop owner who actually retails teacup dogs? 
And what nuggets of 'informed' advice did she provide about tracking down responsible breeders?

She cheerfully told the viewers that if you buy carefully, ie from a pet shop, your teacup handbag dog might only have a dash of water on the brain - but you need to buy from someone like her - a pet shop - and not a nasty puppy farm cashing in on a craze fueled by idiots like ITV. 

Ah yes. Very good.
Is ITV stupid or just incredibly ignorant? 

Who do they think supplies pet shops with teacup dogs? 
Responsible, caring breeders or... people cashing in on a trend and breeding small dogs for big profits most probably in a puppy farm - even if it is only an 'iccle one? 

Would they ask a drug dealer about the best way to avoid getting addicted to heroin?

A pet shop that claimed "only 70%" of their customers are suitable to buy one of their dogs.
How discerning!
I'm guessing the other 30% can't afford them.

Did ITV listen to ANY animal welfare organisations before they compiled this prime-time Puppy Farm commercial? 

Have they even heard of the "A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas" campaign?

Who in their right mind planned a programme that profiled a series of totally unsuitable mutant and endangered animals in such a sugar-coated unquestioning early evening format three weeks before Christmas? 
For god's sake, I'm told the poor monkey featured is actually on the on the CITES list!!!  
And why did they edit out the 'balancing' section by vet Marc Abraham?

I think we can all predict what's going to be the Xmas number one requested toy this year and it's not going to Barbie. 

Ironically Dogs Trust launch today their Ho No No campaign ... I quote...

"By the end of this week most children would have written their Christmas wish lists so today Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, is launching its “Ho No No” Campaign to take puppies off the Christmas wish list.  Research from the charity reveals that over a third of children have asked for a puppy as a present and worryingly 16% of parents would buy one if their child put it on their list.
"Dogs Trust believes that part of the reason puppies are considered suitable “gifts” is the fact they are sold so easily though pet shops and websites. Despite repeated pleas not to get a puppy from a pet shop over one third of parents would still look for “that doggy in the window”; 18% get a dog online and 9% would search newspaper ads.
As part of the “Ho, No, No” campaign, Dogs Trust is encouraging people to send a FREE Christmas card to their local pet shop or more high profile outlets such as Harrods to “Stop selling puppies at Christmas time”. This mirrors Dogs Trust’s own policy of stopping rehoming dogs in the run up to Christmas and New Year. Anyone wanting to get involved should visit "

Was ITV out of their Super Tiny Minds? 

The hashtag #supertinyanimals was a car crash of people lusting after micropigs, microdonkeys and microhorses and, of course, teacup handbag pups.

What next, are we to get ITV appointing Rosemary West their expert on keeping your children safe and patio design?

Here's a link to what you get in your teacup that you may not want should you still want one. 

Please pass that link on to Santa's 'iccle helpers and try to dissuade a super tiny disaster in rescue this year. 

Be interested to hear what others thought - especially the welfare world who appear to have had the small matter of their very big concerns ignored.

Here's the link to Ofcom and ITV complaints...
who may be a tiny bit super busy this morning.

Next issue January's Dogs Today (out December 8th) has removed the Perfect Pup section of the magazine and is instead profiles 90 good dogs that have been waiting in rescue for a very, very long time. Our rescue system  is already full to bursting with at least 20 healthy but unwanted dogs being put to sleep every day. 
If only ITV had instead featured this welfare disaster and urged viewers not to buy a puppy for Christmas - big or small.


Anonymous said...

Truly horrific and a disgrace to TV broadcasting.
t *U

Dawn Hart said...

I've only just watched "Super Tiny Animals" and I'm horrified by what I have seen! I will most definitely be complaining about this awful program and it's promotion of breeding Hereditary defects and Genetic problems and all just before Christmas, when peole will no doubt be thinking "Oh what a cute present that will make".. With no thought to the animals long term welfare!!! I have a lot more to say but need to think carefully it..

Terri said...

I've had a couple of emails back from them, I got the bog standard one and when I said that it didn't answer my questions I got the one I'm posting below. I've emailed them again telling them what I thought about the programme and asking them to do one on where these tiny dogs really come from ( puppy farms, I've suggested that they look on the Puppy Love website and I've given them a link to it.

Dear Terri

Thank you for your further email our response is as follows:

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns regarding our forthcoming programme. Super Tiny Animals is a documentary about the well-established and well-documented trend for micro-pets both in the US and the UK over recent years. There are stories about the experiences of individuals breeding, owning and petting micro-pets, including the pleasure they derive as well as the drawbacks. Within the framework of its focus on the trend there are clear references throughout to the need to deal with responsible breeders, and the presence within the market of irresponsible ones, the health problems some species can encounter, the size that the animals can be expected to reach, the level of care they require and their requirement for owners who are committed to their long-term care.

I hope this answers your concerns.

Thank you for taking an interest in our programme.

Kind Regards

Annie Macfarlane said...

I cannot for the life of me understand the reasoning behind this light-hearted documentary. Jane Horrocks' narration made the whole issue sound comical. When are they going to get decent researchers involved in the production of "documentaries" about animals? I had to walk out the room last night at the end. I cannot bear to see dogs dressed in those ridiculous outfits. The fact that "pink" not only is the dog's colour but the owner's colour too said it all. Dogs are dogs no matter what size; they need to be treated like dogs. Pigs are pigs no matter what size etc., etc., The little pink coloured Westie broke my heart but by far the most concerning part of the "documentary" was the pet shop owner in the US who reported that the little chi - only had a little hydrocephalus. The little guy looked terrified - as did most of the others. Can you imagine what the world must look like from their point of view? Selling runts for $10,000 is criminal! I remember the days when breeders either kept these little dogs or gave them away. Now there's a huge market for them due to public demand. Does nobody listen to all the advice given out there? Clearly ITV haven't! Yes, this was nothing more than an hour long commercial to promote bad breeding and puppy farming. While we're all out there trying to get the message across about never buying from a pet shop and how to recognise a reputable breeder; ITV just took the cause back 20 years in one hour. Thanks for that ITV! What about social responsibility? Anything to get viewers watching. Makes you feel physically sick doesn't it? A complaint is on its way from me!

Anonymous said...

The one good thing is that it is only 3 weeks to go, so there isn't enough time for even more litters to be produced to beat the rush, if this programme had been shown in Sept or October it might have been even worse.

Alice said...

Joanna Page off Gavin and Stacey is really getting behind the anti "Super Tiny Animals" on Twitter. Can you ask her for a quote Bev? Celebs always seem to help get voices heard.

Helen said...

Excellent post and I agree wholeheartedly with the comments that have been made. I am also going to make a complaint and I won't be fobbed off with their bog standard response. I will calm down before I write my letter of complaint as being rude isn't going to achieve anything.

Steve Dill-Russell said...

I was in a large petshop in High Wycombe on Tuesday and there were 4 girls in there all carrying their "handbag dogs"'s started already and this ridiculous program will make it worse. Poor things need exercise and socialisation not shopping trips. I don't think they let these dogs walk.
I e mailed ITV and got the same standard response as everyone else.

Helen said...

Couldn't stop thinking about this issue, I am writing a post about it on my blog and have asked readers to let myself and you know if they receive any response when complaining to ITV.

Karen Wild, Dog trainer and behaviourist, APBC member said...

I totally share the concerns about the way tiny dogs were portrayed in the ITV programme.
I also have a tiny dog (rescue, crossbreed) and she walks in the mud and rolls in fox poo and generally charges around with all the other dogs. From time to time I do carry her, and she comes on the train and Underground with me and she is very portable as well. I have a pet carrier with shoulder strap to transport her because it makes life less stressful for me and for her at times. She is also on the cover of Dogs Today this forthcoming January issue along with a Great Dane. I have no issue with tiny dogs per se - they are still dogs of course.
The bigger and essential message is not to choose your animal on size or looks but on health and temperament and suitability to your lifestyle. And of course, permanence. What a shame ITV did not convey that in any way at all.

Harrods said...

Harrods reduces the number of puppies in-stock around the Christmas period and no longer sells puppies after the 19th December. During this time our Pet Kingdom staff follow the same strict protocol regarding livestock sales that we adopt throughout the year.
All customers purchasing livestock undergo a detailed interview process by our handlers ensuring every family member (human and pet) is met by our team to ensure that any livestock being purchased is a commitment and not a “seasonal gift” or “surprise”.
As with every shopper purchasing livestock at any time of the year, our handlers will highlight the reality of being responsible for a pet and discuss with the customer their own lifestyle habits to ascertain whether they will be suitable for pet ownership. Purchase will be refused if customers do not meet Harrods standards.